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The Music of Ancient Rome

Music of the Romans can be heard again thanks to Scottish songwriter

MaryAnn Tedstone Glover records album of instruments last heard beside the Tiber

The Times 14.09.21 

The sounds of a toga party by the Tiber are set to be heard again thanks to the kind of four-piece band that disappeared when the Roman empire collapsed.

This extraordinary sound has been brought together by MaryAnn Tedstone Glover, a Scottish songwriter turned academic, who aims to recreate the street music of the ancients.

MaryAnn Tedstone Glover is thought to have been the first person in the world to study the music of the Romans when she went to university in Bath

Tedstone Glover used evidence from mosaics, pottery and other artefacts, along with literature and her own musical knowledge, to create an album, Music from Ancient Rome, which she said “a Roman would listen to and know exactly what I had done”.

Composer and academic solves historical puzzle to bring the sounds of Ancient Rome to life

Sunday Post 20.09.21

Composer MaryAnn Tedstone Glover’s work has been heard on classic modern TV hits like The Apprentice and The Great British Bake Off.

But for her latest project she’s delved back thousands of years to solve a musical puzzle unearthed by her lifelong fascination with Ancient Rome.

As part of her PhD at Bath Spa University, the songwriter turned academic has pieced together evidence and artefacts to reproduce the sounds of ancient street music.

While there are historical records of architecture, fashion, cuisine and more, until now there has been no thoroughly researched and evidence-based recreation of authentic Roman music.

“I really wanted to find out what the ordinary person on the streets would’ve heard, not the music of the Olympics or in an emperor’s court,” she said.

“I was always really interested and thought it was a real puzzle that we knew what it looked like and there’s so much written about Ancient Rome, but we can’t hear it.”

“If you can hear the actual original music, it’s a really tangible link that films would be missing a trick not to use.”

The Romans were the first civilisation to use music on a large scale at events and celebrations. It would be played at gladiatorial arenas, festivals, religious gatherings and around the streets of the Empire.

But despite music being a part of everyday life, those playing it tended to be of lower socio-economic status.

Most art of the period showed street musicians playing the tibia/aulos (a type of pipe) and the harp-like lyre alongside percussionists and singers.

Paintings show the difference in quality between the instruments held by those of higher class in comparison to those playing on the street.

“I realised that the expensive instruments you see in museums weren’t what these people would’ve been playing,” Tedstone Glover said.

“Once I realised that they had only access to cheap instruments and wouldn’t be able to read music because they weren’t educated enough, things became a lot simpler.

“It became a question of trying to fit those instruments together and working out how it sounded.”

How Ancient Rome hit the charts

Composer and academic MaryAnn Tedstone Glover has brought the music of the Roman Empire back to life 

The New European  18.11.21

Released in digital form early last month and in physical form this week, The Music of Ancient Rome quickly entered the iTunes USA World Music Album Chart, prompting Tedstone Glover to muse whether it was “the first album of ancient Roman music to chart in close to 2000 years.”


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