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Chapter 3 - Remembered but Not Recorded

The Strange Case of Rome’s Maiden Chorus

from Part II - Music, Body, and Textual Archives

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 October 2021

Lauren Curtis
Affiliation:
Bard College, New York
Naomi Weiss
Affiliation:
Harvard University, Massachusetts
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Summary

This chapter analyzes Livy’s narrative of the events of 207 BCE, when Roman officials addressed a pressing religious and military crisis by commissioning an innovative musical event – a Greek-style maiden procession with a hymn composed by Rome’s first known poet, Livius Andronicus. Livy’s account asks us to confront the question of how Roman musical and ritual traditions were created and remembered, by inviting the reader to witness a tradition in the very process of being invented. On the one hand, great emphasis is placed on how the hymn’s ritual actors created a collective memory of its success and incorporated it into the religious traditions of Rome. On the other, Livy refuses to record the hymn himself on the basis of its primitive aesthetics, with the paradoxical result that a significant document in the history of Roman music is simultaneously remembered and forgotten. Self-consciously aware of ritual song and narrative history as differently constituted repositories of collective memory, I propose, Livy draws attention to the processes by which his account of Rome’s early song culture shapes his reader’s musical memory.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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