Crossing Borders: Musical Change & Exchange through Time

Publications of the ICTM Study Group on Music Archaeology, Vol. 2

Alexander the Great’s Travels and Musical Encounters

Donatella Restani

This chapter presents the first stage of a project which examines Alexander the Great’s travels,
focusing on their musical and anthropological legacy. As is well known, the Macedonian king
spent about twelve years travelling – from Spring 334 BC until his death in Summer 323 BC.
During that period Alexander crossed many borders, both geographical and musical.

The aim of the project is to systematically collect the documentation of musicians, performances, and musical traditions of “other” peoples he met, as well as examining the functions of musical instruments in different groups and societies, and analysing sound events at different times and in different contexts. This chapter presents some examples of this documentation, relating to the beginning of the expedition, the march, and the encounter with “other” peoples. What I am interested in is primarily the meaning that writers attached to sound and music in giving shape to Alexander’s image in different times and places, from Antiquity to the Modern Age. The first part of the chapter will focus on some examples from Greek and Latin texts, especially chronicles and historical and literary tales concerning Alexander’s deeds.

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