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Examples of Monodic and Polyphonic Music

Manuscript of the Musical Offering. Wikimedia. Public Domain

Ashish, the Geek Wrestler, once asked me for a sort of introduction to Western music. The reason I’m writing this is to save him from metal rock. But the topic is immense and greater than my knowledge, so I guess I can write brief notes on specific aspects, like this one.

One of the characteristics of Western music is polyphony, e.g. music made of melodies that travel independently throughout the composition though harmoniously combined with one another. This whole thing, of combining different melodies together, began in the Middle Ages, possibly by chance, and progressed in the subsequent centuries.

Western music can also be monodic, the opposite of polyphonic, whenever there is either just one melody (monophony) or when a melody prevails over other sounds that serve as mere accompaniment to the main star, the melody itself.

In this nocturne for piano solo by Frédéric Chopin (op. 27 no. 2) we have a cantabile melody, sometimes doubled and with ornaments, accompanied by arpeggios and bass sounds. It is evident here that the melody is the main protagonist, despite the surrounding notes and some voice layering here and there.

Let us first listen to the real thing (we chose Maurizio Pollini for his unromantic interpretation of this romantic work) and we’ll then listen to and view a computer graphical representation of the same work, which favours analysis.

In the computerized version below (by Stephen Malinowski) we notice that the double notes of the melody are not always parallel, which creates like a secondary voice. At the end of the piece there is some slight hint of polyphony. But on the whole this is not a polyphonic piece. Chopin is mainly monodic. Only at the end of his life he inserted some polyphony in his most mature works.

Let us now plunge into the great polyphony of Johann Sebastian Bach (Brandenburg Concerto No.4, iii, Presto.) This music – whose clockwork complexity I hope will not hopelessly bore an unaccustomed ear – is such hard stuff I prefer to propose a computerized version first (also by Stephen Malinowski.)

Different colours and timbers help to mentally separate the different voices. The exercise of following the voices separately is highly educating and can result in great pleasure. No easy thing at first though. I should have chosen a music with less voices (2 or 3 maximum,) but I couldn’t find a Midi music as satisfying as this one, although being able to identify 3 voices (hard already) or  just 2 can be all right at first. The representation is what one usually gets on a Midi sequencer, i.e. a computer software, such as Steinberg Cubase.

Now a version with real players (the performers being unknown to me).

The music of Bach here presented is a fugue (or fugato). In a fugue voices (parts) are not all equal. There is a subject or theme (like a main melody) that is repeated many times at different levels of pitch. It is good exercise as well trying to identify, among the bunch of voices, the subject of a fugue whenever it pops up here and there, which is pretty often.

The study and practice of “the relationship between two or more voices that are independent in contour and rhythm” is called counterpoint. It was highly developed during the Renaissance and was common practice later, during the Baroque period (Wikipedia).
Independent in contour and rhythm. Very important in polyphony. If played or sung separately, voices or melodies still make sense!

One last music by this great German composer: the Brandenburg Concerto No.3 – iii, Allegro, rich with tremendous energy and beauty.

About Man of Roma

I am a man from Rome, Italy. I’m 60 and a Roman since many generations. In my blog,, I’m writing down my meditations. The idea behind it all is that something 'ancient' is still alive in the true Romans of today, of which few are left.

69 responses »

  1. Man of Roma, ave,
    Thank you for allowing me to relive the wonderful experience of polyphony. Admitted at 15 in my school’s Schola Cantorum, I had the challenge and pleasure of singing some Palestrina and much gregorian chant. It was pure delight.
    On a more prosaic level, did you notice that after looking at the graphic representation of the music, when you looked down at the text on the screen it seemed to move?
    Paul Costopoulos

  2. yes, Ashish must indeed be saved from rock music.

    I knew that songs are polyphonic and monodic, thanks to kind of musical ringtones we have on our phone. All songs are new for me, so my unaccustomed ear will have a try at them. Thanks for posting these!

  3. @amisdejeanguy

    Thank you Paul, and welcome! Music is pure bliss. I envy your voice experience. Mine is mainly instrumental.
    Palestrina and Gregorian chant … I have on purpose avoided to mention Roman polyphony and monophony, to not obsess my readers too much, although I greatly love these two types of music.

    By the way, is your surname Greek? (plus your nick seems French). I talk a lot of both folks in this blog.

    Yes, the screen (and the entire room) seems to move to the right, while the music bars flow to the left. Who knows, it might be our brain trying to balance or sort things out a bit. On the whole, computers are awful for eyes. But I love them nonetheless.

  4. @Poonam

    I think it is always a wonderful thing to get involved into music, into any music.

    yes, Ashish must indeed be saved from rock music.

    So far the effect of my music preaching has been negligible. But I’m sure he desires a change. A person like him cannot be caged forever by Black Sabbath! I refuse even the idea of it :-)

    Maybe the works by Bach proposed are too complicated for an unaccustomed year. Plus Bach is severe, austere, a real Lutheran. But his music is mystical and conceived as a continuous prayer to God. This might appeal to Indian minds like yours and Ashish’s.

    Glad every time you pop in.

  5. Yes, my surname is Greek, my Christian name is Paul, I’m french-canadian-greek and live in Longueuil in the province of Québec. I define myself as primarily francophone and bilingual (french/english).

  6. @amisdejeanguy

    Someone French here! And of Greek origin!

    Finalement de la francophonie dans mon blog! Et au même temps quelqu’un de la Grèce! Wow! J’en suis heureux!

    French is beautiful, and Greek too, but the latter is very difficult. I can read and understand some ancient Greek, when it is not too difficult and especially koinè Greek. I hope you will comment again. My blog could appeal to a French-Canadian Greek.

    Au revoir!

  7. Je suis heureux de votre réaction. Je ne parle, ni ne lis le grec…mais j’arrive encore à déchiffré les textes classiques, mais sans les comprendre car j’ai laissé tout cela voilà plus de 50 ans.

  8. Thank you! I also just begun on Indian Classical music with Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia’s Call of the Valley. Can’t wait to start on this. [Sadly the stupid cold renders me unable to understand anything. :| ]

    yes, Ashish must indeed be saved from rock music.
    I think it’s too late for that! :P You don’t know the beauty of listening to Heaven and Hell, then Stargazer and jumping to Ahir Bhairav just yet!! :P

  9. @Ashish

    I also just begun on Indian Classical music with Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia’s Call of the Valley.

    Glad to hear that. Not that I don’t like rock, I’m still listening to it now and then. It’s just that a mind needs all types of nourishment I believe. It is already a wonderful thing that you love music so much! I’m sure you’ll find in Indian classical music depths unknown to Sabbath. (it might be stupid to compare 2 totally different things, but I don’t think I said anything entirely absurd)

  10. @Ashish


    *rethinking of it all, hours later*

    Hey dude, I kept asking you to indicate some Indian classical music to me, and all you proposed was Genesis, Pink Floyd and Sabbath!! :-)

    Ahir bhairav? I checked, it seems to be a Hindustani classical raga. I wish I had some knowledge of Indian ragas. It has been a myth of my generation, think of the Beatles.

    Why then don’t you flood me with links?

    Why don’t you become just a bit (or a lot) a Man of India – instead of repeating about yourself: ‘The British left, but left him’ …? :-)


    So you can happily follow me in the habit of *counting cars* ;-)

  11. I enjoyed this presentation, Man of Roma, and I look forward to more of your music lessons.

  12. @100swallows

    Hi, welcome back! I am not in a position to give lessons. I can blabber about things. But I believe in these man-of-the-road writings and discussions.

    A chacun son boulot!
    A toda la gente su trabajo! (bad, I know)
    A ciascuno il suo lavoro! (this is good, but it’s my mother tongue)

  13. I still own two very old vinyl records: «Folk songs and dances of Northern India» and «Greece today in HiFi». The former is a Period SPL1614 record, the latter, a Colonial HiFi record. Both are about 40 years old. If you play them back to back, the music is eerily similar and the beat not far from the Beatles’s. Yet both contain ages old music.
    We live on a small planet and we are all rather close kins, are we not?
    Paul Costopoulos

  14. @amisdejeanguy

    Yes, we are close kins, and analysing history (and evolution) proves it. This planet is small and beautiful. In my twenties young people felt they were brothers all the world over. Now there is some racism and culture clashing growing.

    ‘Non prevalebunt’, they will not prevail on a global scale. I mean, people cannot be that moronic – especially with all those nukes around. After all everybody wants to grow families and be happy.

    Btw, I know tons of Greek songs. I met my wife in Kerkira or Corfu (a Roman, weirdly) 36 years ago. From that day we often spent holidays in Greece. And the songs were heard there ALL the time. I remember words like s’agapò etc. but not the names of the songs.

  15. Well I’ve never been across the Atlantic but, although remote, the culture is still there.

  16. @amisdejeanguy

    Do it for yourself and your family, cross this sea. Greece and the Mediterranean – I will now use a phrase by an Italian-Canadian when he first visited Europe and Italy – will ‘blow your mind’.

  17. Alright, this needs some explaining.

    You see, I am NOT a music person. All this passion for music started when we started the cyber cafe as background music when I worked. The problem was that the hindi [indian] songs were too much intrusive and I couldn’t concentrate so I loaded up my playlist with english ones. Slowly I listened to the music, started liking it and when I bought a new MP3 player I started listening a week.

    Currently, on my holiday’s I usually go out for long walks early in the morning for I dislike meeting people. So what to do during the day when for the most part of 12 hours there is no electricity? How to relieve myself from the world? Thats where rock saves me. ;)

    It’s not like I “hate” Indian music. It just seems more vocal focused. Whoever has the best voice wins. Heck, I even dislike modern rock as you know and prefer the 70’s or 80’s act meself. It’s the music.. so much different, myriad filled with epics, dragons [Ronnie Dio happens to be my favourite vocalist] or drugs!

    As for becoming Man of India well there are too many Men of India preaching this and that. I prefer not being tied to a region or place. The world is free I think to live whereever I want, like whatever I want, eat whatever I want. :) [This is a rant not for you but for everyone who advises in regionalism.. one of them idiot’s currently bringing shame to the state as of now. lol. How can I rant to my Imperial Historian?!]

    Btw, Tony Iommi >10 lac x times greater than Any Indian or for that matter every musician.! :P

    PS. No not trying to learn an instrument. I would like to learn the flute along with guitar and violin but not possible right now. :(

    PPS. Thanks for the post. Looking forward to tuesday to listen to something. I don’t have time to listen to music everyday y’know. I prefer to take a deep listen. :P

    PPPS. So my Roman Historian is familiar with the Greeks too! Good for me I say! Hopefully you can cook me some exotic greek dish… :twisted:

  18. Oh and Indian music post coming up soon. Have the material ready but can’t find a moment to type it up. :(

    It’s going to be Marathi only though. I’m not “well informed” in Hindi music. :P

  19. Oh and do tell me if theres some Roman thingy for this infernal cold. :cry:

  20. Ashish,
    try to get «Beatles go baroque», Naxos 8.990050F, original Beatles’s songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney arranged by Peter Breiner in the styles of Handel, Vivaldi or J.S. Bach. A real treat. It was recorded in 1992, in Bratislava by the Slovak Philarmonic. The beat and the music is there with a special flavor.
    Paul Costopoulos

  21. Paul, you live on the South Shore?

    Well, that changes everything.

    MOR, if must know, I live on the North Shore – Laval. It’s a better place. ;<)

    I’m starting to like Ashish. He pulls out the Sabbath.I like to listen to hard stuff every once in a while. Why, just today I was blasting The Ramones.

    But what a long walk from the beautiful masterpieces of Western classical music to rock.

    Let’s see Western musical heritage: classical, ragtime, jazz, blues, country, bluegrass, rock, hard rock, motown, disco, punk, techno, grunge – interesting evolution.

    I know. An incomplete list and definitions. But you get the picture.

  22. @amisdejeanguyn (Paul)

    I am on a small trip in the North of Latium. I’ll sure reply as soon as I can. Ciao to all of you!!

  23. Paul: Thanks for that! Thats seems like some Beatles I can stomach! [I have their greatest hits package but don’t listen to it that much.] Will try to find this! Thanks very much! :)

    The Commentator: LOL. Thankyou! :) I’m just getting into the stuff actually. There is so much music and so little time! lol.

    MoR: It seems I’ve effectively steered the conversation [or rather ‘history’] to Rock for a post! Go me! :P First Aphrodite and now this! :P Have a great trip. :)

  24. @Ashish

    My mobile allows wireless connection but I don’t have any time for non stupid answers. So I’ll just say THIS:

    **My next 20 posts will be on “Aphrodite, Venus and Tony Iommi”!!**

    Hope it’ll quench your crave for a couple of months, dude.

  25. Commentator, North Crown or South Shore, we all live in the shadow of Montreal and get wafts of it’s pollution. Laval has lovely small developments, so does Longueuil. Anyway, I long for the time I spent in the Laurentians and go back each time I can.
    Man of Roma, have a nice trip in the north of Latium. Watch for wolves and the Horaces and Curiaces.

  26. @amisdejeanguy

    Ah ah ah, even if Rome was born from a she-wolf, no wolves anymore north of it. To the east of Latium, instead, on the mountains of Abruzzo, where the descendants of the Marsi etc. live, all fierce ancient opponents of Rome, still a few wolves surviving. Amazing Extinct, they brought them back there. Guess in Canada there are still a lot.

    When I’m back, I’ll reply to all of you plus check Laval and Longueuil on Google Earth!

    @Man of India Ashish: Thanks for the post on Indian music! I’ll comment soon! Pls tell me a town close to you so I can get to you with Google Earth too. Kolkan is not there.


  27. Bah. Who am I kidding? Laval is poorly run. Speaking of pockets, I live in Val-des Arbes. As you know, the island of Laval is larger than Montreal. Yet, large parcels of it remain undeveloped.

    MOR, LOL. As pretty parts of these cities may contain, I wouldn’t bother! Unless you’re curious to see how we live. But the Laurentians, as Paul mentions, is worth a peek. Also, try ‘Revolver’ by The Beatles. I think you’ll appreciate that album.

    Were the Marsi indigenous to Italy? I believe they revolted in around 89 B.C. so I’m thinking they’re not of Germanic origin?

  28. Longueuil, Laval whatever. It’s still -30 ’round these parts.

  29. MoR: Search for Khed. [Mine is the Khed, Ratnagiri one. Not the Pune one. :P] Also check out Dapoli, Dabhol and Mahabaleshwar. :)

  30. Ça c’est magnifique, mon ami, la musique, l’informatique, le français (though my school French is over several centuries old …) et le grec! Moi, je vais linker ce post. Au revoir tout le monde! ;-)

    Ciao, grazie

  31. Man of Roma, les loups, ici marchent sur deux jambes. Nous avons quelques coyotes et des renards. À laval et à Longueuil, dans les boisés, nous avons beaucoup de cerfs (deers). As for wolves, all over Canada they have been hunted to near extinction. In British Columbia’s Rocky mountains there are still some and they are making a come back sneaking over the American border, without passports nor visas.
    A rivederci.

    MoR. Ah ah, ok, I understand, here also two-legged wolves all around. But as far as the real ones, incredible! How could they destroy the wolves in such a huge territory! You know, here in Europe, where ALL is so tiny, we have so much admiration and longing for the great spaces you have in the New World, and of course we can be naive about the uncontaminated nature etc. one can find there. In any case, let’s face it, I’ve been recently to California and except Los Angeles I didn’t find much pollution, and such great vast territories (!): and Canada cannot be worse, I’m sure. Offtopic, I LOVED the movies by the French Canadian director Denys Arcand!

  32. Commentator, sorry for spelling Laval without the upper case L in my last post.

  33. @Ashish

    It’s not like I “hate” Indian music. It just seems more vocal focused.

    Cannot say much but I know there are lots of instruments that are complex and exciting to Western ears. Drums are rich and delicate (I love drums,) bow string instruments like Sarinda and Sarangi, stringed instruments like the sitar (a great myth of my generation because of the Beatles: a friend of mine learned it – well, tried to learn it) and many others of which I don’t know the name.

    Probably Indian music is monodic, so melody plays a great part, and of course voice (but I think not only) can be central. What I like very much is the way Indian people treat the melody (voice or instrumental), fascinating for its sensual ornaments and quarter of tones (!!) which make the mind fly in exotic spiritual lands and add effects unknown to Western ears. So I guess Indian scales are more complex than ours. The methods of composition are also mysterious to me (ragas etc.). I need a higher authority on all this.

  34. @Commentator

    As far as Laval and Longueuil I’ll get a deep understanding of where you Canadian guys live, thru Google Earth! Minus 30? Really??? How much do you guys spend for heating? (I’m wondering). Here it is + 13 and we are already freezing, and probably Ashish is freezing at + 20 or even more. So life goes. In any case don’t worry. Greenhouse effect will sort out things for you and we’ll all come to Canada then.

    Marsi had nothing to do with the Germans. They were hardy mountain people, linked to the Samnites, also very hardy and fierce. They were Indo-europeans and, if I’m not wrong (and like the Samnites) were sort of Osci. These folks were so strong and well organized that the Romans had such hard times to beat them. It has been said that one of the reasons why the Romans became so strong it is because they encountered such fierce opponents which obliged them to develop battle techniques and survival skills that made them the great Romans we all know from history.

  35. Heating costs vary according to your heating system: electric,gaz or oil. Oil is very expensive, gaz is much cheaper and electricity, in Québec, is the cheapest but still over 1000$ a year on average depending on wether we have a balmy winter or a deep freeze as we have experimented for the last week or so. On the whole, it is probably no more expensive than air conditionning homes in Rome.
    Paul C.

  36. Depends on the size of the house. I have no idea if what we pay is higher or less than other places. I suspect it’s cheaper as a whole. Heating bills are not that bad. A few hundred bucks. Many people heat with fireplaces which helps to keep costs down.

    Yeah -20 and a lot of snow.

    Interesting about the Marsii. There’s so little about them. I took a Barbarian Invasion of Rome course in university. The professor was boring to the point of my wanting to stab my own eye but the content was most interesting. Through the “clash” of these civilizations we see how modern Europe was born.

    Paul, your grammatical chivalry is appreciated but not necessary. I’m hardly one to get offended.

  37. @Paul
    So I think heating there is cheaper than here. It can depend on many factors, from corruption to us being more dependent on foreign oil and gas. Hard to say. Electricity here is also much more expensive.
    Paul, I appreciate you writing in English here for my readers, even though I’d much prefer French, a language I adore.

    @The Commentator

    Yes, we don’t know much about the Marsi. I checked: there was a Marsi folk in Germany, but they probably were different people. The Marsi close to us had their chief town in Marruvium (today’s San Benedetto de’ Marsi) close to L’Aquila, today’s main town of Abruzzo. They had priests linked to witchcraft, weird medicine and snakes. The cult of their goddes Angitia seems also linked in some way to the snakes. Fascinating warriors, among the best.

    Fighting against Marsi and Samnites taught the Romans many things, if I recall well, especially to fight on any terrain, even mountains, and the Roman legion was for this reason subdivided into maniples and centuries, much more flexible as a weapon, while the Greeks were at their best only on flat land with their rigid phalanx armed with extremely long spears (like Alexander’s phalanx), which resulted less powerful than the Roman legion when the Romans invaded Greece.

    But, to be honest, the Greeks the Romans encountered outside Italy were already at their decadence. I always wondered what would have happened if Alexander the Great headed West instead of East or classical Athens and Sparta (or Alexander) ever met Caesar. But of course this is either illogical or absurd. Illogical since Alexander had little interest to invade the West, which was poor and backwards compared to the East (plus the eastern Persians at that time were Greeks’ great enemy). Absurd because Caesar belonged to a much later epoch.

  38. Very interesting, MOR.

    Yes, but it’s still a fun question to pose. Like the one I think I posed here: what if the Italians were unified during the age of exploration? I wonder if Italian would be a principal language in the Americas. Then again, many considerations would have to be factored in this “what if?” question. But they did have the know-how, technology, funds etc.

    Paul, how could I neglect the heating system? When I lived in an apartment (5 1/2) it was about $180 a month. My parents in Val des Arbes with a house of 3000 sq ft living space (9000 lot) pay about $400 a month.

  39. Yes, I could use some brushing up on my French.

  40. ManofRoma: Nay, you’re talking Indian Classical music. I was talking about the regular – which is mostly film music and most all of which is vocal focused. But like I said above, the bug of classical music has bitten me now and I’m ready to dive in that ocean. :P

    Ashish is freezing at + 20 or even more
    If I ever come there, I’m bringing a trailor of winter clothes! :P

  41. @exposrip

    What if the Italians became a unified nation during 1400 AD? They probably would have been a great power. Hard to say if America would now speak Italian. Surely some parts of America would, but only parts of it, I believe. Italians had many things: technology, funds, probably even better war tech but they were not on the Atlantic Ocean, somehow a disadvantage.

    I could use some brushing up on my French

    Wonder how is your French. It cannot be bad. I’d like so much this whole blog to be in French, but Man of Roma speaks English lol (so to say), and there’s no way back. Plus now English is THE language of the world. It has well deserved it.

  42. @Ashish

    Oh and do tell me if theres some Roman thingy for this infernal cold.

    Yes, braziers, a metal pan for holding burning wood etc., but now this technology is not very handy. Ah yes, they had steam going under house floors, but it took dozens of slaves to make it work. Well, you being Emperor …. :-)

    the bug of classical music has bitten me now

    This is a great thing. I loved the music you presented in your post (btw, pls do change the first one, it is still not working): the songs reminded me of my stay in India – I was a lot in Bombay, as you know, so I guess most of the songs I heard on the streets were probably Marathi songs – and, as I said, I like how you guys treat voices, but the classical Ahir Bhairav is much more profound, there is a total difference in depth. You’re right, this is the depth and ocean one has to delve into. Especially at your age! It’ll get deeper into your blood. It is important to have deep and complex experiences at your age. They can change you forever.

  43. Manofroma: I didn’t mean cold as in “shivering weather cold”. Was talking of the common cold. :P

    btw, pls do change the first one, it is still not working
    It was the only video. :( I did upload a link to download the song but it requires [free] registration…

    but the classical Ahir Bhairav is much more profound, there is a total difference fo depth
    That is what I liked about it. You could just lay back and watch as the music danced in front of your eye with varied textures.

    Have a great day MoR! :)

  44. I just saw the clips you embedded above [could only watch 2.. takes time to load.]. The solo performed my Maurizio Pollini was the one bro liked. I preferred the Bach concerto you embedded at the end. Simply SUPERB!! Now THAT is music! [Apart from Sabbath that is.. :P ] Thank you! Now to find more of Bach. :P

  45. @Ashish

    Bach is super, but some people here don’t like his music. Too … Northern and austere. Try catch some melodies at the same time with your mind (2 are ok, 3 already very difficult). Sometimes melodies run one after the other, like in the piece you liked best. This is probably one of the big differences between Western and Indian Music: playing of melodies at the same time: = polyphony = counterpoint.

    Have a good day!

    Once you know something about Raga, pls tell me, ok?

  46. @Ashish

    If Westerm music has polyphony, Indian music has other things. For example, in the first notes of the song Hur Hura Asathe you have embedded in your post I think one can experience quarters of tone.

    On a keyboard, the distance in pitch between for example a C note and a D note (two white keys) is called a tone and this tone is cut into two halves by Western music (C-C#; C#-D).

    So – to make things more confusing – between note C and note D we only have one possible note in between: C#. That makes three notes: C-C#-D.

    In Indian music instead that distance in pitch is cut into 4 different notes! Which means that between C and D (the two said white keys of a keyborad, e.g. a tone), you have 3 possible notes in between. This provides a much wider variety of melody textures, since we have C-X1-C#-X2-D. Which makes 5 notes instead of three.

    One reason why the first notes of the mentioned song (and also other parts of that same song) sound vague to my ear, which increases their fascination.

    I don’t think it is by chance btw that in Italian, vago (= vague) means both vague and beautiful.

    Of course this is my Western ear and mind. No idea what an Indian ear/mind can experience out of quarters of tones.

    This whole inter-cultural thing is of course fascinating.

  47. MoR, le français demeure une langue importante. Il demeure la langue de la philosophie. L’anglais, la langue de la puissance dominante du moment, comme le latin de l’Antiquité, est la langue du commerce et de la politique. Mais nous devrons tous, pas moi, je n’y serai plus, apprendre le Mandarin.
    Paul Costopoulos

  48. @amisdejeanguy

    Yes, French is important, and it is the foreign language I LOVE most, for many reasons, for what you are saying (even though German is also well positioned for philosophy), for its suave musical sound, high refinement and complexity and for its outstanding musical prose. I would say it is much more … arts-oriented than English, which has its elegance, no doubt, but which is inferior in its prose in my view (poetry, instead, English poetry being superior to French poetry on the whole in my opinion). I mean, Proust, Chateaubriand, Balzac, Stendhal etc. I am particularly fond of Proust. Il est vraiment magnifique!

    Yes, the analogy Latin-Greek vs English-French is interesting. The language of real culture during Roman times was Greek, not Latin. Marcus Aurelius wrote his philosophy in Greek, and he was a Roman emperor! Unfortunately French is losing ground as language of culture, which it surely was until the first half of the last century (while English was the language of commerce etc.).

    One problem also being that French – like Italian, out of the contest in any case – is much more difficult than English: structure, pronunciation. This also counts, difficulty. A thing that might hinder Mandarin’s expansion too, even harder, especially for the terrible writing. (this whole topic of French, English etc. is interesting: hope we get back to it some day)

    Not a problem of mine either, the expansion of Mandarin. I won’t be there any more non plus.

  49. While it’s true what Paul says, I would submit that Italian is a language of culture as well. English is beyond a language now. It’s like a computer language. It may be the language at the “moment” but it will be the main dominant language for the foreseeable future.

    My French is fine – but could be better.

    Last, yes, German is an “under rated” language in my view; especially for philosophy.

  50. I propose Paul writes in French all the time.

  51. I would agree with the Commentator.
    Paul C.

  52. Paul Costopoulos

    I agree with The Commentator. When I spoke only of English and French I was refering to the two most widely, after Mandarin, spoken languages. Spanish is also a language to be recognised and is expanding even in the USA.

  53. @Commentator

    I propose Paul writes in French all the time.

    Here? What about my readers? Well, ok, I guess it’s all right. One writes in the language he/she prefers. I’ll reply in both languages. The reason I replied to Paul in English is my readers plus the fact that I practice English more so it is quicker for me to type.

    Another thing: if you French-speaking people want French not to disappear pls simplify the accents etc. One needs a French keyboard to write decent French (or any spelling correction). Yes, Spanish is expanding. In a way I am glad, it’s the legacy of Latin and Rome that goes on.

  54. Paul Costopoulos

    Look, here in Québec language is a political football. Let’s not get into that here. J’écrirai en français, parfois, in English, at other times. French is not easy and not having a French keyboard, whether QWERTY or the other one, is a real hassle.
    As for the Latin heritage, Portuguese and Romanian are also part of it, yet one seldom hears about them. Romanian is spoken by a few, but Portuguese was an empire’s language although I’m ignorant of Portuguese poets or philosophers…probably too busy navigating and discovering.

  55. @Paul
    Oui, le français c’est pas du tout facile. L’écriture plutôt conservatrice au cours des siècles et les verbes en plus qui dérivent de la consecutio temporum Latine, très dur pour ceux qui ne partagent pas l’héritage Romain.

    Translation. Yes, French is hard, with its conservative writing plus the complex verbs deriving from Latin.

    I would say this was not a problem for the European élites, but for the masses it is different. I too think that Portuguese, Brazilian and Romanian cultures are fascinating, problem being life is not long enough. I would not under estimate the Portuguese culture, which seems rich.

    This whole conversation has been interesting and full of pleasing digressions. From Western and Indian music to the Marsi, from Maharastra to Canada, from classical music to metal rock etc. I could make a few posts out of it, if you don’t mind.

    Paul, isn’t there a blog where I can reach you? Even in French?

  56. Paul Costopoulos

    I’m afraid not. I have no blog for myself. I wander, as the Commentator does on Neil McKentie’s blog, in English only, and on a friend’s blog who is in Mexico for the winter. This one is a password protected blog where he relates his trip to some friends.
    I must thank The Commentator/Exposrip for introducing me to your blog through a reference he made on Neil’s one.
    Nous devrons continuer à converser, un peu, ici.

  57. Pingback: On Black Sabbath and Indian Classical Music « Man of Roma

  58. You’re welcome, Paul. I knew you and MOR would get along. In fact, I’m sure the gang over at Neil’s would enjoy it too.

    Mr. Roma, I apologize for doubling your workload!

    Ha, ha.

    MoR. Don’t worry, Mr. Commentator, LOL. Listen, I owe you much, you introducing me little by little into an alluring world of new things (Canada etc., North America etc., friends of yours like Paul) with the mediation of our common Italian heritage. I mean, I’m sorta studying you guys, especially your political thought and way of approaching things, so different from here altogether.

  59. Conrad Phillips

    Hi Man of Roma,

    I just came across your blog as I was learning about polyphonic music. I bookmarked your interest in Montaigne and like the Platonic dialogue connection. I conduct a text based dialogue at our local library. What is the context for your study of koinè Greek. Your blog interests this german-french- englishman although not canadian, italian or greek.



  60. @Conrad

    Well, a German-French Englishman seems pretty intriguing, these being the three foreign languages I have studied, which implies an interest in the culture & people connected to them. So you are really welcome to my blog, Conrad! You can be part of our discussions any time you like, and I can be part of any discussion elsewhere.

    Koine Greek or Hellenistic Greek I got interested in at school, when I realised that it was very easy Greek to read, compared to classical Greek. So I bought the Septuagint and the Gospels in Greek and from the day I started reading them my progress was so quick I became good in classical Greek as well.

    That was almost 45 years ago though. Now my knowledge of Greek is not as it used to be, but of course I make use of it in my study of the classical world, which is a sort of retirement hobby, a great passion of mine.

    Hope we can discuss again on anything you like, Conrad!

  61. Thanks for the quick response. How many active participants do you engage with on your various pages. I look forward to exploring more.

    My koine Greek studies began about 35 years ago in the study of the New Testament. Since then I have studied classical Greek, Hebrew, Hieroglyphics, Latin and Spanish. I am interested in language, but regret not being in Europe to nail down the use of spoken languages. Perhaps reading your blog will be as helpful for language as reading about your Roman interests (like my Latin interests).

    How does Montaigne and narcissism fit into your background?


  62. @Conrad

    I hope I will not disappoint you, many of my posts being mind wanderings. It is my flippant side some guests share with me, which is though fun (and a bit philosophical, I believe).

    Greek, Hebrew, Hieroglyphics, Latin and Spanish seem quite tough skills. I wonder what your main interests are and where do you live.

    Well, narcissism, a sort of a jest in my bio info page, although there is some (annoying) narcissism in the Mediterranean people, born in the sun, something for example the Britons – from clouds and rough weather – reproach us, not without reason.

    But the beauty of classical or Renaissance art cannot be quite understood without considering a certain narcissistic component, in my view. Works of art (like Palladio’s villas or palaces) were for great families who sought distinction, éclat. The elegance of a Julius Caesar (I wrote a post on *this side* of him), or of most toreros for example, or of the French, who like to correct you when you speak their language, is explained by some narcissism as well. It may be a Roman and Greek thing, don’t want to ennoble it, quite the contrary, but it is us.

    Montaigne is a constant dialogue I have. He mythicizes the Ancient world as much as I do, he talks of himself without any self-love, a sort of high level country philosopher, and a spontaneous philosopher.

    I prefer ideas that unfold through scattered notes rather than finished books, more sedentary in my view and less thought provoking.

    All my best regards, Conrad


  63. Here is the direct URL to the album (Beatles Go Baroque, 8.990050) that Paul Costopoulos was mentioning.

  64. @Vinko

    This comment seems like an ad. I’ll keep it only because useful for the above discussion.

  65. Actually @ManOfRoma

    Sorry I did not mean to place a comment that is an ad. I just understand how our current search engine on the site is, and the way Paul Costopoulos had entered the reference your readers may not be able to find the album he was referencing.

    MoR. Don’t worry. This is the reason why I kept it, being a contribution.

  66. Pingback: Can Narcisissm Partially Explain Beauty in the Latin Cultures? « Man of Roma

  67. Interesting Blog. I should recommend it to some friends as well. I am particularly interested in polyphonic music.


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