Expressions of Apollon’s Music

In my last post I spoke specifically of the funerary music of the flute in relation to Apollon’s worship, and so I thought that though I have spoken of different expressions of Apollon’s music before that I will just run through them again all in one place. So I apologize in advance for any repetitiveness ūüôā

Cosmic music: This is perhaps the first function of Apollon’s music and the most primary, as such it isn’t music in the most literal sense but the ordering of harmonic movement of all bodies, all matter, and all life. In this form of his music we can understand the personification of the strings of his kithara as his daughters who work to his bidding to effect the cosmos.This is the form of music particularly spoken of in his Orphic hymn, the music that turns the seasons as life moves through nature from birth to death to birth again, and all life sustained in perfect balance. It is the source of the vibrations, even as the string of the kithara vibrates and emits effect,¬†distributing the currents of light (and thus also sight in association), of sound, of air and the sea.

Spiritual music: This is the music that is created by all life, the vibration of the soul that becomes more beautiful and more complex through lifetimes. Though all souls and all gods possess their own music of the soul, it is in this context that we see Apollon as a god who is challenged in music contests by evolved souls, to which they invariably end up loosing the contest but win a greater prize in the end. Because Apollon is the god of the gate and boundary, and lord of cosmic music, he is appropriately the god who is associated with this kind of music as he and his court (the Muses) determine the excellence of the soul before him. For Apollon in particular his spiritual music is Truth, the form of Logos particular to Apollon, and as such in souls it is also the music which is called philosophy by Socrates as an expression of the soul seeking to know Truth (the music of Apollon).

Beautiful music: This is the best way I could think to describe this music. This is the music of joy and worship. It is often carried out by the performance of the kithara whose measured tones was commented to be the perfect music for dancing and singing. This form of music is often intentional and formulaic in its creation for a specific purpose or form of worship. All instruments used in worship in this sense belong to Apollon as leader of the chorus. His rulership of this possibly has something to do with why his Pythian games were initially musical contests in which people vied to create hymns to please the god.

Bakkhic music: Before anyone gets their panties in a twist regarding this one, yes this is also an expression of Apollon’s music, even though it is performed in honor and under the influence of Dionysos. There is a reason that very few deities aside from Apollon and Artemis are called Bakkhic in the Orphic Hymns, and I believe this has to do with their mystical relationship to Dionysos. Apollon is the leader of the chorus/leader of initiates. When Apollon and the Muses encounter Dionysos on Parnassos Apollon hails him and the Muses rave like Maenads, likewise the first Thyiad of Delphi was beloved of Apollon and by him the mother of Delphus according to myth. This is not to mention the role of Apollon as father of the Corybantes, and the leader of the chorus of the armies of Dionysos according to Diodoros Siculus. I believe that this has the strongest relationship altogether for the meaning behind Apollon being called Bakkhic, it is because he is the leader of the chorus of worshipers who dance and sing for Dionysos. Apollon is addressed as a god who carries the Bakkhic spirit, who revels with the revelers. Therefore his music in this case is the ecstatic music which is inspired by proximity to Dionysos by which the soul vibrates strongly with the god. Apollon due to his close relationship with Dionysos is supremely effected by this and it therefore effects his music when the two gods are in close accordance with each other. This is not to downplay Dionysos, for he is at the heart, the source for this inspiration.

Paian (Healing and Martial music): As I address above the music of Apollon effects the wellbeing and expression of the soul and the bodily energy which is attached to it. Thracians believed for instance that sickness in the body was due to a spiritual imbalance, and thus they incorporated music for healing in order to restore this balance. Music itself was believed to be very influential to the emotional body of the soul as well, and as such there have been those in the past who have suggested regulations on music in order to encourage only specific¬†preferred reactions and¬†discourage music that produces unfavorable reactions. ¬†Therefore music can be said to influence the healthful balance of the body and soul, but also to inspire courage, fear etc depending on how the music was used. This nature of musical energy and influence is directly part of Apollon’s domain and it is also how he is attributed two myths for the origin of the Paian. In the Delphic origin the village men and Leto call to Apollon in paian to strike the Delphic serpent. As such we see the paian being used throughout Hellas as a martial song, and perhaps most especially among the Spartans. It is through the paian that Apollon was the Marshaller of the Host, to encourage such high spirits that it would quell the enemy with fear. The other origin of the paian is Spartan in which Apollon, having slain Hyakinthos, tries to bring him back to life with the paian. The paian in this form tries to remove the corruption that brings death, restore balance, and ward off death and/or evil result. This is the functional form of Apollon’s music as used by human beings religiously.

Funerary music: I have already covered this in my last post but I will just sum up here to say that this is the Music of Apollon who is protector of the tomb, lord of the ashes and decay. This is the music which greets the end of life and is thus the kind of music most often played with the flute. Incidentally that the Spartans sang the paian to the music of flutes as they marched to battle is likely significant for Spartans would either win or die. A battle itself was a potential for meeting ones end gloriously.

Bridal music: The music of Apollon in the wedding ceremony, either played by Apollon directly or more typically by his son, the erote Hymnaios. The wedding song is important because a wedding is the joining of two individuals into a new whole through the creation of a new oikos. In a sense it is the death of the individual and the birth of the new singular household, and as such is joyous in its nature. Here we see Apollon in intimate relationship with the workings of Aphrodite. I would even say that courting music, designed to sway the heart and align two individuals, is a form of this in a kind of preliminary function of his bridal songs.





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