Kinyras: The Divine Lyre

  Franklin, John Curtis. 2016. Kinyras: The Divine Lyre. Hellenic Studies Series 70. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Appendix D. Kinyrízein: The View from Stoudios

In medieval Christian usage, psállein regularly means simply ‘to sing psalms’ of the Davidic canon. In earlier centuries, however, it also described ‘private’ religious compositions. C. H. Cosgrove has recently shown that dinner parties and symposia, key loci of private performance in the Greco-Roman world, continued for early Christians as a venue for the musical expression of religious feelings. [4] The validity of such performances was grudgingly conceded by Clement of Alexandria and other church fathers, [5] who otherwise campaigned against the use of instruments in the liturgy itself—these being associated with popular spectacles and festivals patronized by pagan deities. [6] Their concessions, in accommodating lyre-music specifically, perpetuate ancient ideas about the instrument’s salubrious properties (versus the unsettling aulós). [7] This early ‘Christian lyric’ finds its semantic diapason in psállein itself, which literally refers to plucking a stringed instrument with the fingers—a technique sometimes specified for the kinnōr/kinýra, versus the plectrum usually used for the kithára. [8] The same conjunction of instrument and technique is also assumed in Gk. psaltḗrion (Lat. psalterium), which often translates Heb. kinnōr (when kinýra itself is not used). [9] It is no accident, therefore, that the well-known Christian hymn with musical notation, from the late third century, is in the Hypolydian tónos—one of the basic citharodic keys—and spans the typically ‘lyric’ range of an octave. [10]

Such ‘private’ compositions, whose free texts opened the door to heretical sentiments, were condemned for liturgical use by the Council of Laodicea (360 CE), which allowed only hymns based on the canonical psalms; that this edict was only partially successful is indicated by the renewed strictures of the Council of Braga (563 CE). [11] While the general trend was to exclude instruments from the liturgy (except for the organ), [12] private devotional poetry must have continued. It seems counterintuitive to reject as pure allegory the opening verses of the ninth hymn by Synesios, bishop of Ptolemais (ca. 370–413), with its invocation of a ‘clear-sounding lyre’ (lígeia phórminx), several fond and well-informed allusions to the history of lyric, and its Anacreontic meter so suitable for sympotic music-making. [13] Augustine (354–430) describes how, upon his mother’s death, “Euodius snatched up a psalterium and began to sing a psalm, to which we, the whole house, gave the responses.” The incipit of Psalm 101 follows; but psalterium here must refer to an instrument, not a psalm-book or Psalter (the word can mean both), for these were surely known by heart. [14] That the context is not liturgical but domestic strengthens the argument, since the aforementioned sources for ‘Christian lyric’ all relate to devotional music outside of the church itself. And given that Euodius’ performance was at the bedside of the deceased, one must recall Eustathios’ definition of kinȳ´resthai as singing “over the dead when they were laid out, using the kinýra.” [15]

This reading of kinyrízonta obviously requires the word kinýra itself to have remained current, kept alive perhaps by its Biblical connotations. The idea needs some defense given that lyres became generally obsolete during the transition from antiquity to the Middle Ages, when various kinds of lute (and later ‘bowed lutes’) came to dominate. [21] This was the culmination of a long-drawn process in the Greco-Roman world. While lutes were known in Mesopotamia from the third millennium, and in the Levant from at least the second, it was only in the Hellenistic period that they really entered the Greek sphere. [22] Conversely, Greek lyre-morphology and terminology moved eastwards. [23] Both trends follow from the demographic revolutions occasioned by Alexander and his successors. This was also the era in which Greek art-music had become increasingly complex and chromatic, driven by developments in the aulós. [24] While lyres reacted with additional strings, lutes offered ready and pipe-like advantages, notably facility of modulation and sustainable tones (through tremolo). [25] The lute’s progress can be traced iconographically. In late antiquity, one sometimes finds ‘lutes’ played in an upright, lyre-like position. [26] The body-shapes of several ‘Coptic’ and other lutes, from the third to ninth centuries CE, are also distinctly lyre-like. [27] In Byzantine iconography, King David gradually came to be represented as a lute- or fiddle-player. [28] The eventual triumph of the lute class can be seen in widespread semantic shifts, with Gk. lýra, [29] kithára, [30] bárbitos, [31] and Heb. kinnōr all eventually coming to denote lutes and/or fiddles. Similarly, several Medieval Arabic sources compare the kinnāra to other types of lute, not lyre. [32]

franklin fig48

Figure 48. David and his musicians. Chludov Psalter, ninth century, Moscow, State Historical Museum, MS D.129, fol. 5v. Drawn from Currie forthcoming pl. 2.

One way or another, Theodoros’ kinyrízonta is amenable to the musical reading the parallel passages make us expect.


[ back ] 1. See p206–210, 316–318.

[ back ] 2. Theodoros of Stoudios Great Catechism 91 (651.3–19 Papadopoulos-Kerameus 1904): καταλείψωμεν πάντα τὰ θελήματα ἡμῶν … καὶ μὴ εὕροιμί τινα ὡς ἔτυχε λαλοῦντα, ἢ προσγελῶντα, ἢ κινυρίζοντα, ἢ τροπαρίζοντα … καιρὸς γὰρ τῷ παντὶ πράγματι. καιρὸς λαλιᾶς; λαλήσατε. καιρὸς σιγῆς; σιγήσατε. ψαλμῳδίας; ψάλατε.

[ back ] 3. HBMH:171–179. Cf. PGL s.v. τροπάρι(ο)ν: “any metrical composition sung in church services.”

[ back ] 4. Cosgrove 2006:260–265, 282.

[ back ] 5. See especially Clement of Alexandria Tutor 2.4.43: Οὗτος ἡμῶν ὁ κῶμος ὁ εὐχάριστος, κἂν πρὸς κιθάραν ἐθελήσῃς ἢ λύραν ᾄδειν τε καὶ ψάλλειν, μῶμος οὐκ ἔστιν, with a literal (not allegorical) reading of this and other passages well defended by Cosgrove 2006:260; cf. John Chrysostomus Exposition of Psalm 41 (PG 55:158, 15–17).

[ back ] 6. See e.g. Clement of Alexandria Tutor 3.11.80, Exhortation 2.15.3, 2.24.1, 12.119.2–120.2; cf. HBMH:94–97.

[ back ] 7. Cosgrove 2006:260–261.

[ back ] 8. In the LXX, psállein and cognates almost always reflect some form of Heb. zmr (‘sing/play’) in contexts clearly involving stringed instruments (Botterweck and Ringgren 1997–2006:97). Both plucking and picking are attested for the kinnōr, with the difference probably relating to performance contexts. When David soothes Saul, plucking is in order (1 Samuel 16:23; Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 6.166: ψάλλειν ἐπὶ κινύρᾳ), cf. 6.168. When he transports the Ark, the greater force of a pick was desirable (Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 7.85: ἐν κινύρᾳ . . . κροτoῦντος), cf. 7.306 (τύπτεται πλήκτρῳ, contrasted with the νάβλα(ς), which τοῖς δακτύλοις κρούεται); David has a plectrum in the Gaza synagogue mosaic: see p193–194.

[ back ] 9. See e.g. Augustine Confessions 3.8.32, City of God 15.17.35, etc.; and further below, n14. Note also Augustine’s comparison of cithara and psalterium in Commentary on Psalm 32, Sermon 1.4–5 (with a typically allegorical spin), which shows that he did not fully understand the Biblical kinnōr.

[ back ] 10. AGM:324–326; Pöhlmann and West 2001 no. 59; Hagel 2009:318.

[ back ] 11. HBMH 147.

[ back ] 12. Quasten 1930:166–172, 244, et passim; McKinnon 1968.

[ back ] 13. Synesios Hymns 9.1–15. Cf. HBMH:150–152.

[ back ] 14. Augustine Confessions 9.12.25: psalterium arripuit euodius et cantare coepit psalmum. cui respondebamus omnis domus: misericordiam et iudicium cantabo tibi, domine. Augustine’s famous sympathetic discussion of liturgical singing (Confessions 10.33) permits no definite conclusion about instrumental accompaniment.

[ back ] 15. See p188.

[ back ] 16. Hymnography at Stoudios: HBMH:229–234; Lemerle 1986:140. According to the second Life, Theodoros’ monks included “top calligraphers and sacred-psalmists, composers of kontákia and songs, first-rate poets and readers, melodists and cultivators of singing” (σοφώτατοι καλλιγράφοι καὶ ἱεροψάλται, κονδακάριοί τε καὶ ᾀσματογράφοι, ποιηταί τε καὶ ἀναγνῶσται πρώτιστοι, μελισταί τε καὶ ἀοιδοπόλοι, PG 99:273C). Note also the detailed evaluation of Theodoros’ musical ‘program’ and its theological rationale in the first Life, PG 99:167B–C.

[ back ] 17. Theodoros of Stoudios Great Catechism 91 (648.12–16): τὰ τῆς αἰσχύνης ἔργα, θέατρα, ἀκούσματα, θεάματα ἱπποδρομικά, ὀρχηστικά, αὐλητικά, μουσικά, ὀργανικά, κτλ.; 651.3–4: καταλείψωμεν πάντα τὰ θελήματα ἡμῶν.

[ back ] 18. This is well argued by Currie forthcoming.

[ back ] 19. McKinnon 1968.

[ back ] 20. A similar polemic against the vulgarization of sacred song is found in Isidore of Pelusium Epistles 1.90 (PG 78:244D–245A, fifth century).

[ back ] 21. ‘Lute’ here refers generically to instruments with a neck/fingerboard. For the general obsolescence of Greco-Roman lyres by the sixth century, cf. MGG 5:1036 (Lawergren).

[ back ] 22. ANE/Egyptian evidence: Eichmann 1988; RlA 6:515–517 (Collon, *Leier B); MGG 5:942–951 (Eichmann). Greco-Roman: Higgins and Winnington-Ingram 1965, especially 68–69; SIAG:185–186; AGM:79–80.

[ back ] 23. For Hellenistic morphological influence in the NE, see p180–181, 194. Apollo Kitharōidós as a calque, p210–211, 462, 495–496. Kithára is used in the second–third century CE Syriac Odes of Solomon (6.1, 14.8, 26.3); even if these come from Greek originals (Franzmann 1991:3 with references), it would remain significant that this word resisted translation. An undated Nabataean inscription from Jebel Ethlib (Mada’in Saleh, Saudi Arabia) may identify a certain Zaïdu as a ‘kitharista’ (CIS 2 268; reading disputed by Jaussen and Savignac 1909–1920 1:217–218). The ninth-century (?) Syrian rhetorician Anton of Tagrit also uses the Greek word in his musical discussion: Rhetoric 5.10 (trans. Watt 1986:45.30–48.22).

[ back ] 24. See now Hagel 2009.

[ back ] 25. Note that Nikomakhos Manual of Harmonics 4 (MSG 243.15–17) includes phándourous (v.l. pandoúrous, i.e. the pandoúra) among instruments that are midway between winds and strings (μέσα δ’ αὐτῶν καὶ οἷον κοινά); cf. Higgins and Winnington-Ingram 1965:65–66.

[ back ] 26. See e.g. MgB 2/5:130–133 no. 75–78 (sarcophagus-reliefs from Italy).

[ back ] 27. Coptic lutes: see Eichmann 1994, pl. 23 et passim; MGG 5:951 fig. 7 (Eichmann). Several seeming lyre-lute hybrids are found in illustrated manuscripts of the ninth century (e.g. Utrecht Psalter, ca. 830; San Paolo Bible, ca. 875; Vivian Bible, ca. 846), although how far they reflect musical realities (of their own or an earlier period) and/or a true fossilization of lyre-morphology, is debated: Behn 1954:155 with pl. 91; Eichmann 1994:111–112; Burzik 1995:223–224 fig. 50–52, 241–250 and fig. 61–63 et passim.

[ back ] 28. For an excellent and well-illustrated survey, see Currie forthcoming; further material in Maliaras 2007.

[ back ] 29. That lýra had made the transition by the ninth century is shown by the Arab historian Al-Mas‘ûdî (died ca. 956) who, citing a brief account of Byzantine musical instruments by the Persian Ibn Ḫurdāḏbih (died ca. 912), describes it as having five strings, and equates it with the rabâb (SOM 2:536, 538; Farmer 1928:512).

[ back ] 30. Kithára of course eventually produced ‘guitar’—the meaning it bears in modern Greek—seemingly by way of Ar. qīṭārah, which in a tenth-century source is called a Byzantine instrument and equated with the ṭunbūr: see Eichmann 1994:111–113, discussing the word’s still obscure history in Arabic; also SOM 1:272; Hickmann 1970:67; Shiloah 1995:81.

[ back ] 31. Persian barbaṭ, also a kind of lute, must derive from Gk. bárbitos, perhaps by way of the Ghassanid kingdom of the Byzantine era as Farmer suggested: SOM 1:86, 155 (cf. 129), 2:107–108; MgB 3/2:24, 26 et passim; Shiloah 1995:7.

[ back ] 32. See SOM 2:161, where the frequent confusion of later Medieval authorities suggests the word’s obsolescence in general Arabic usage by the eleventh or twelfth century (it does not appear in the Arabian Nights: SOM 1:85). Ibn Ḫurdāḏbih (died ca. 912) may also have mentioned a Nabataean *kinnāra and compared it to other lutes; but the form in the text is corrupt (Farmer 1928:512, 515–516; cf. MgB 3/2:24). The Indian kinnarî is also of the lute-type: AOM:224 (Bake).

[ back ] 33. Chludov Psalter, Moscow, State Historical Museum MS D.129, fol. 5v: see Currie forthcoming:3 and pl. 2. Corrigan 1992:124–134, discusses the provenance of the Chludov Psalter, reviewing the case for Stoudios; for this important scriptorium and the problems of identifying its manuscripts, Lemerle 1986:141–145.

[ back ] 34. Maliaras 2007, fig. 1, 3, 9, 23–24, 26, etc.; Currie forthcoming:4 and pl. 4.

[ back ] 35. See for instance MgB 2/5:102–103 no. 57. Compare also the evidence for the epigóneion: AGM:78.

[ back ] 36. See now generally Creese 2010.