KITHARA OF THE GOLDEN AGE - Ancient Greek Themed Album

The enchanting sound of the kithara of the Golden Age of Classical Greece; the lyre of the professional musicians of Classical antiquity...



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MICROTONAL MUSIC FOR LYRE (ETUDE IN THE ARCHYTAS ENHARMONIC GENUS) - Ancient Greek-Themed Single


This single features a completely spontaneous improvisation for solo replica ancient Greek chelys (tortoise shell form) lyre based on a hauntingly evocative documented microtonal scale from ancient Greece, known as the "Archytas Enharmonic Genus"

The use of quarter tones in this ancient Greek scale adds an intensity to the resulting music improvised in it in an entirely different dimension to the artificial constraints of our monotonously standardized 12 note chromatic system. The feeling of intensity in this microtonal scale is further enhanced by the authentic use of the clearly focused intervals, tuned here in just intonation.

In this improvisation, I also demonstrate the rhythmic potential of the reconstructed tortoise shell form lyre by using the greater mass of my replica ancient Greek carved bone plectrum to also occasionally beat rhythm on the skin soundboard; in much the same manner that acoustic guitarists today can beat rhythm on the soundboard of their guitars whilst they play.

For me, this distinctively intense ancient Greek scale conjures up in my mind, kaleidoscopic  imagery of fearsome ancient Greek mythological monsters and heroes - enjoy the 'musical magic carpet ride'!



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THE SACK OF TROY - PAEAN FOR ANCIENT GREEK KITHARA - Single

"A peek into an epic past...

In this new release, Michael Levy treats us to the apotheosis to date (he should like that interesting Greek word) of his musical and ethnomusicological skill. Combining the Greek Dorian mode (in Ptolemy's intense diatonic tuning), a state-of-the-musicological-art kithara replica from Lutherios in Greece, fascinating melodic and rhythmic playing techniques (all very much in the spirit of what we know about ancient Greek music), and the sensibility of a born improviser, Michael gives us a peek into an epic past which I can't help but think even Homer would applaud."

Johanan Rakkav - iTunes (USA) Review of "The Sack of Troy: Paean for Ancient Greek Kithara"


In ancient Greek Classical literature, there was a lost ancient Greek epic by the title of "The Sack of Troy" - which was one of the Epic Cycle, which told the entire history of the Trojan War in epic verse. In creating this this new composition for replica ancient Greek kithara, it was therefore my intention to evoke the sort of ancient Greek 'paean' style melody (an ancient Greek hymn of thanksgiving, typically accompanied by kithara in the ancient Greek Dorian Mode) to which that lost epic of ancient Greece could have been recited...




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THE ANCIENT GREEK KITHARA OF CLASSICAL ANTIQUITY - Ancient Greek-Themed Album

" 'The Kithara of Classical Antiquity' seems to have a different kind of vibe to Michael Levy's other records. The most immediately recognisable difference is that this is the first record which he sings on, using minimalist vocals and strummed intros which work well to highlight the melody of each track. The vocals don't take over, leaving the lyre itself always centre piece. These vocal intros give the record a feeling of being one long performance, instead of individual tracks, a feeling which becomes more apparent and mesmerising upon repeated listens and indeed when played in random order.

One of the true delights is that there are some very nice double hand picking sections throughout, and having been playing the lyre myself for a while now I can further appreciate the skill needed to play these pieces. The fact that Michael is using an expertly handcrafted Kithara makes this perhaps his most authentically "Greek" record yet, with some class whammy guitar effects spread throughout.

Stand out tracks include "The Death of Agamemnon" which evokes an appropriately mournful feeling and opener "Odysseus and the Sirens" which combined with its oceanic backing and variety of techniques is a piece one simply never tires of listening to.

In short, this would serve as the best introduction yet to one of today's most distinct musical artists."


Le Temps Revient - Review of "The Ancient Greek Kithara of Classical Antiquity"


The
kithara was the highly advanced, large wooden lyre favoured by only the true professional musicians of ancient Greece, which reached its pinnacle of perfection during the “Golden Age” of Classical Antiquity, circa 5th century BCE. My album "The Ancient Greek Kithara of Classical Antiquity" features the wonderfully recreated Kithara of the Golden Age of Classical Greece - hand-made in modern Greece by Luthieros Ancient & Modern Music Instruments




Since late 2014, I have been collaborating with Luthieros in their inspirational "Lyre 2.0 Project" - dedicated to reintroducing the wonderful lyres of antiquity back into the modern world, to make these beautiful instruments accessible to each and every modern musician.

This new series of recordings hopefully demonstrate why the kithara was so venerated in antiquity, as the instrument of the professional musician - perfect for both accompanying the human voice and for as an incredibly versatile solo instrument.


In particular, I attempt to demonstrate the wonderfully reconstructed 2500 year old vibrato mechanism, for which there is an almost overwhelming body of visual evidence to support this theory.


The main musical concept of the album is to imagine the sort of melodies which once may have accompanied recitations of some of the classic legends and epic poems of ancient Greece, which would have almost certainly have been accompanied by the kithara; the lyre of the true professional musicians of Classical antiquity. Indeed, almost all the great works of literature from ancient times were originally meant to be sang; the music giving weight and emotional emphasis to the text and in doing so, helping to convey its true meaning...

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THE ANCIENT GREEK TORTOISE SHELL LYRE - Ancient Greek-Themed Album

"Historically Informed... or historically inspired?

There are - so far as I know - exactly two lyre players (out of a surprising number out there) who have made their instrument and the music they play on it transcend any given genre. One is the long-world-renowned Luis Paniagua of Spain. The other is that relentless up-and-comer, Michael Levy of the UK. And if Michael keeps on going as he is, I think he and Luis will increasingly be mentioned by *cognoscenti music critics in the same paragraph.

Michael presently collaborates with Lutherios Musical Instruments in Greece, using their carefully reconstructed editions of ancient Greek lyres. This album features the second tortoise-shell lyre which Michael has received from his donors. It has a fine and fascinating sound, one that is clean and crisp. My favorite work on Michael's latest album is the first track, "The Golden Age of Pericles". I care not at all what the ancient Greek philosophers, least of all Plato, would think of me for preferring the delightful mode that piece is in.

Michael's reviewers often either mistake his music as "Historically Informed Performance" (that is sort of a buzz phrase in early music circles these days), or else deride his music because what they do themselves is, at least in their own eyes, "HIP-per than thou". The fact is Michael's music, which is largely improvised using documented compositional, tuning, and playing techniques, is best described as "historically inspired". He manifestly doesn't seek to "reconstruct" ancient music, but rather to breathe new life into it for the modern age. The more he goes on, the better he gets at doing so. I can hardly wait to hear what he does with a kithara, once he gets one!"

Johanan Rakkav - iTunes (USA) Review of "The Ancient Greek Tortoise Shell Lyre"


This album was inspired as a tribute to the great philosophers of ancient 
Greece, performed on an inspirationally authentic replica tortoise shell lyre, hand-made in modern Greece by Luthieros Ancient & Modern Music Instruments, with an actual tortoise shell for the resonator, an authentic replica 2500 year old carved bone plectrum, gut strings and actual goat horns for the arms of this magnificent musical instrument of the ancient Greek gods...



Here is a video presentation featuring clips of some of the tracks:



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THE LYRE OF HERMES - Ancient Greek-Themed Album

"According to Greek myth, it was Hermes who invented the tortoise shell lyre and that is the premise from which Michael Levy begins his latest collection of lyre pieces. The lyre of Hermes certainly has a richer quality of sound, helping to distinguish it from the more commonly heard sound of the harp. Stand out tracks include "Lampades (Nymphs of Hades)" which demonstrates Michael's growing virtuosity along with other techniques he is developing with this new lyre. So if you want to deepen the mood whilst reading the classics, this is the perfect thing to listen to."
Le Temps Revient - Amazon (UK) Review of "The Lyre of Hermes"


This album is the sequel to my album, "The Lyre of Apollo - The Chelys Lyre of Ancient Greece". Both of these albums are part of an exciting collaboration between myself and Lutherios Ancient & Modern Music Instruments for their inspirational "Lyre 2.0 Project" - dedicated to reintroducing the beautiful lyre of antiquity back into our much aesthetically poorer, bland modern world. Their vision is one I share and which continues to inspire me - maybe, someday soon, the beautiful lyre of antiquity will once again resonate the 21st century and beyond, with its haunting, ancient beauty...




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THE LYRE OF APOLLO: THE CHELYS LYRE OF ANCIENT GREECE - Ancient Greek-Themed Album

"The 'Firstfruits' of The Lyre 2.0 Project...

In ancient Greece, as in ancient Israel, the very "first" or "firstfruits" of the produce had to be offered to God (or to one or more of "the gods", if you were Greek) so that the rest of the produce could be accepted for human use. I can't help but be reminded of that historical fact when I listen to Michael Levy's first and splendid EP in collaboration with The Lyre 2.0 Project by Lutherios in Greece. The lyre he plays is made by Lutherios and it is unlike anything he has used on recording before: more rustic, and yet more "authentic" to its time. Like the symbolic "firstfruits" of ancient religion, this recording presages what is to come after in Michael's career.

Listening to Michael play, I'm reminded of what one might've heard in one of the more genteel Greco-Roman drinking parties, where Apollo's ascribed nobility, not Dionysius' ascribed sensuality, ruled the hour. Not for nothing was Apollo said to be the patron of the lyre, for the lyre was "the" noble instrument of antiquity - whatever "noble" meant to whatever person or people used it.

Michael's dedication and skill, wedded with Lutherios' equal dedication and skill, can only be described as mythic. Some of my readers should know accordingly, I can appreciate such wedding as a pure musician without agreeing with the ancient metaphysics behind it - yet hearing the results can be instructive, no matter who you are, no matter what metaphysics you hold dear"

Johanan Rakkav - iTunes (USA) Review of "The Lyre of Apollo: The Chelys Lyre of Ancient Greece"

This album is the culmination of an exciting collaboration between myself and Lutherios Ancient & Modern Music Instruments for their inspirational "Lyre 2.0 Project" - dedicated to reintroducing the beautiful lyre of antiquity back into our much aesthetically poorer, bland modern world. Their vision is one I share and which continues to inspire me - maybe, some day soon, the beautiful lyre of antiquity will once again resonate the 21st century and beyond, with its haunting, ancient beauty.

The 'chelys' was the iconic ancient Greek lyre which had a resonator either made of an actual tortoise shell, or in wood in the form of the shell...

 

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A WELL TUNED LYRE: THE JUST INTONATION OF ANTIQUITY - Ancient Greek-Themed Album

"Just Tuning...

We in the West have gotten so used to hearing music out of tune (since the era of Bach's Well-Tempered Klavier, that the spiritual purity of music and its calming effect on our psyches and society has been tragically absent. Michael Levy, amongst other "Pythagorists," is exposing our jaded ears to the music of the ancients and to their wisdom, inherently an integral part of the tunings and modes. This music will simultaneously calm and inspire the listener. Nirvana anyone?"

Dr Juan V. De Sirrera - Amazon (USA) Review


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s

THE ANCIENT GREEK LYRE - Ancient Greek-Themed Album

 "Extremely Talented Artist!

I was fortunate enough to come across Mr. Levy's music as I was conducting research o the music of Ancient Greece. I work for the Teaaching Company, a well-known U.S. production house that specializes in educational video and audio courses. Mr. Levy's rendition of "The First Delphic Hymn to Apollo" expodentially enhanced the academic content and production value of our course "The Great Tours:Greece and Turkey", giving our audience a realistic sense of the music and culture of the ancient world.

Mr Levy's music deserves to be heard and appreciated by all who have a sincere interest in understanding the evolution of music and the sounds of ancient times. Or anyone who simply appreciates good music!"

S.B TGC - iTunes (USA) Review


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THE ANCIENT GREEK MODES - Ancient Greek-Themed Album

"Instructive and at the same time relaxing...

This is how I can best describe Levy's take on introducing the listener to some of the Ancient Greek Modes. Dorian, Hypolydian, Lydian, Hypophrygian, and Phrygian they are called, and I remember my music classes in college and I wished the instructor had had a practical musical talent comparable to that of Levy. Just like in his other works he invites us to a colourful musical landscape, made accessible by his puristic style: just the strings of his lyra instrument and a gentle reverb effect. Great work"

Von Idris Raihi - iTunes (Germany) Review 

 

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APOLLO'S LYRE - Ancient Greek-Themed Album

"Transport your imagination...

Let Michael Levy be your tour guide. Transport your imagination into the ancient past. Visit the temples of ancient Greece. The sea breeze tugs gently at your toga as the wind whistles through empty temple ruins. The sound of a replica lyre brings to life the history of a thousand years and you find yourself revisiting a past life. You are mute witness on the courts of the ancient past to what passed for everyday entertainment and inspirational sounds. Cherish this peek into a life with the ancients"

DarkDayRobin - iTunes (USA) Review   

Primarily evoking the music of ancient Greece, featuring mainly original compositions for solo lyre in a selection of the original ancient Greek modes, this album also features an improvisation in an ancient Egyptian scale and an improvisation in one of the enchanting ancient Hebrew modes...


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ORPHEUS'S LYRE: LAMENT FOR SOLO LYRE IN THE JUST INTONATION OF ANTIQUITY - Ancient Greek-Themed Single

This composition was inspired by the timeless ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice:

 

"Eurydice and Orpheus were young and in love. So deep was their love that they were practically inseparable. So dependent was their love that each felt they could not live without the other. These young lovers were very happy and spent their time frolicking through the meadows. One day Eurydice was gaily running through a meadow with Orpheus when she was bitten by a serpent. The poison of the sting killed her and she descended to Hades immediately.

 

Orpheus was son of the great Olympian god Apollo. In many ways Apollo was the god of music and Orpheus was blessed with musical talents. Orpheus was so sad about the loss of his love that he composed music to express the terrible emptiness which pervaded his every breath and movement. He was so desperate and found so little else meaningful, that he decided address Hades. As the overseer of the underworld, Hades heart had to be hard as steel, and so it was. Many approached Hades to beg for loved ones back and as many times were refused. But Orpheus' music was so sweet and so moving that it softened the steel hearted heart of Hades himself. Hades gave permission to Orpheus to bring Eurydice back to the surface of the earth to enjoy the light of day. There was only one condition--Orpheus was not to look back as he ascended. He was to trust that Eurydice was immediately behind him. It was a long way back up and just as Orpheus had almost finished that last part of the trek, he looked behind him to make sure Eurydice was still with him. At that very moment, she was snatched back because he did not trust that she was there. When you hear music which mourns lost love, it is Orpheus' spirit who guides the hand of the musicians who play it."

Taken from Thomas Bulfinch and retold by Juliana Podd in Encyclopedia Mythica 

 

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