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By Carol E.R. Collins

     My thesis is a musicological study of Euripides’ ancient Greek tragedy Bacchae (The Bacchantes) that won first prize at its posthumous premiere in the Athenian Theatre of Dionysus in 405 BCE. My goal for the thesis is to ‘discover’ what the music of Bacchae, in particular the choral opening of the Parados, might have sounded like. Thus, I follow what I have termed a ‘path of discovery.’

     First, I review trends in the study of ancient Greek music. This includes current reconstructions and reconstitutions of selections from, or entire plays of, Euripides such as Helene, Herakles, and Orestes. I also review scholarship on ancient Greek music theory, including Aristoxenus of Tarentum, the so-called ‘first musicologist.’ The thesis provides information on the history of the dithyramb—music to celebrate the god Dionysus—and on the subsequent dithyrambic contests in the Greater Dionysian Festivals of Athens of the 5th century BCE. The work briefly addresses Aristotle’s assertion that the dithyramb fostered the birth of tragedy. Next, I make some observations regarding the ‘New Music’ of Euripides and the specific music of Bacchae. This includes a historical review of the role of the aulos and an examination of staging elements.

     To continue my ‘path of discovery,’ however, I focus upon a methodology for composing my own New ‘New Music’ for the Parados or the opening six-part choral section of Bacchae. By examining scansions of the text, setting them to metrics, examining the dance form, choosing instruments and mode, and composing melody, I finally create plausible music for each part of the Parados. This music may be performed on modern-day instruments that replicate the pertinent ancient instruments.

     This enables the performers to bring the ‘sound of Bacchae’ to contemporary audiences for the first time since the 5th century BCE.


Advisor:  Musicology Professor David Gutkin of the Johns Hopkins Peabody Institute

© 2023 Carol E.R. Collins                                                                      [Revised February 7, 2024]

All Rights Reserved

Please download a full resolution PDF file of my complete thesis here.

The six MP3 files below contain music for the Bacchae Parados that I composed to support my thesis submission. Parados parts 4 and 5 share a melody, Thesis explains this.

Bacchae Parados 1Carol Collins
00:00 / 01:51
Bacchae Parados 2Carol Collins
00:00 / 01:32
Bacchae Parados 3Carol Collins
00:00 / 01:37
Bacchae Parados 4Carol Collins
00:00 / 01:27
Bacchae Parados 5Carol Collins
00:00 / 01:27
Bacchae Parados 6Carol Collins
00:00 / 02:26
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