Die Orgel Im Altertum

The American Organist, November 2007 | Go to article overview

Die Orgel Im Altertum


DIE ORGEL IM ALTERTUM, Michael Markovits. Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2003. xxiv, 783 pp., ill. ISBN 90-04-12575-2. $293. The early history of the organ is properly the province of a scholar in the classics, not the average musicologist or organ historian. Sources are primarily in Latin and Greek with a sprinkling of Hebrew, Syriac, and Arabic. With Die Orgel im Altertum ("The organ in Antiquity"), Michael Markovits, a scholar with the necessary skills, has given the organ world a comprehensive treatment of the organ of Antiquity and the early Middle Ages.

Die Orgel im Altertum is divided into six parts, the first of which constitutes almost half the book and is the most important. Here are detailed descriptions of the 136 sources on the ancient organ, from pre-Christian times to the seventh century. Of these original sources, 92 are texts, 41 are pictures, reliefs, or other iconographie evidence, and three are archeological finds. For each source, Markovits gives the item's description, a transcription with a translation in German (if a text), an analysis of the text or item, and a review of previous literature treating this source. The second part contains the results of Markovits's research with a review of the early organ in the culture of its time and a look at ancient organ construction. Part three examines "The heritage," primarily how words and technical terms related to the organ were used in the Middle Ages and how ancient organbuilding methods may have been applied in later periods.

Part four is a fascinating look at the historiography of the ancient organ, a topic never before explored in this detail. From the 16th century to the turn of the last century, Markovits traces how the sources from Antiquity and the early Middle Ages have been (mis)interpreted and the early organ viewed. …

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