BMCR 2007.05.14

Response: Prauscello on Lomiento on L. Prauscello, Singing Alexandria. Music Between Practice and Textual Transmission

Response to 2007.04.57

Response by

I am sincerely grateful to Dr. Lomiento for having considered my book worthy of a more than 5000 word long review. Unfortunately less comforting, especially for a productive advancement of the debate on Alexandrian scholarship and musical notation, is to see that L. either simply refuses to engage in a real discussion of the data provided, limiting herself to a mere restatement of critical stances that have been narrowly scrutinized and tested by the author (see, e.g., her treatment of my section on Dion. Hal. De comp. verb. 11. 22-3 Auj.-Leb., or my discussion of the honorary decree of Satyros of Samos and Themison, only to quote a few examples) or misrepresents the author’s words through a determination to adhere to previously expressed views. Since it is my concern to avoid abusing the reader’s patience and time, I shall point out only a few instances of what I mean.

A more careful reading of my words would quickly have disposed of one of L.’s main points of criticism (‘if colometry is something strictly related to the book, one should not properly speak of colometric function in a score, but a score could offer helpful clues to catch the metrical outline as originally conceived by the poet’). The complementarity of the musical and rhythmical functions of musical signs and scores is repeatedly and explicitly argued in my book: see, e.g., 126 n. 12 (with proper bibliographical references), 139-40 (‘to ascribe a musical/instrumental function to Z does not mean at all to deny its inherent rhythmic value: both functions must be understood not as mutually exclusive but as closely complementary’), 141-3 etc.

As for the Pseudo-Arcadius passage and the alleged use of a written musical score by Aristophanes, the analogical context itself, the distinctive use of the verb ὁράω as opposed to σκέψαι and its only other occurrence at [187] ll. 14f. Nauck governing τὴν ἔξω τοῦ μέλους λέξιν κτλ. make it unequivocally obvious that the verb refers to the notion of ‘recording mentally an empiric datum perceived by the auditory-faculty’ (see p. 36 with n. 104).

L.’s discussion of the scholia of Melampus and Heliodorus rests on a self-evident short-circuiting: Melampus explicitly says (by the way, in a non counterfactual manner: the εἰ καί clause is as usual concessive of a fact and contains a primary tense verb, μεμνήμεθα, which could not occur in a contrary-to-fact condition) that not only do we not remember the music of the ancient poets but that that music has not been transmitted down to us ( μὴ παρελάβομεν).

As for my treatment of Dion. Hal. De comp. verb., esp. 11. 19-21 Auj.-Leb., it is reassuring to see that L. regards this passage as ‘less relevant to the problem of the correspondence between musical tempo and metrical rhythm’ since ‘[it] provides examples of tonal mismatches between speech and song,’ since its alleged relevance (argued by others) is exactly what I have challenged.

With regard to Lomiento’s criticism of the other sections of Chapter One, I refer the reader to what I have already argued in the course of the book, given that a mere repetition would be pointless.

As to Chapter Three, L. considers it ‘somewhat surprising’ that I consider colometry performatively relevant to the metrical structure of Theocritus’ imitation of Lesbian lyric but ‘rule it out’ (not an accurate description of my argument) for the format of the Alexandrian editions. The implication is that she perceives some contradiction. There is none. Nor have I through ‘error’ overlooked the separation of protasis and apodosis at Theocr. 29. 16-7. The criteria which I have used for the definition of enjambment (derived from Stinton) are clearly stated at p. 189 for anybody to read or to criticise, but not simply to ignore.

While, as I have said, I am grateful to L. that she considers my book worthy of such extensive treatment, I nevertheless find her review deficient in its basic task as it does not indicate (but rather misrepresents) the respects in which my arguments relate to previous scholarship and presents the latter as a refutation of the former in a way which could only mislead a reader of the review who has not first read the book. Whether there is a wider lesson to be learned about the wisdom of using reviewers who themselves have much at stake in the issues under debate is a question I leave to others.