Sappho & the Arts: Dance, Music and the Visual Arts

* Dance, Music (and poetry of course): It is known that dance, music (and poetry) constituted a single art form (μολπή) for Sappho and other Greeks.  Its transmission is dependent upon direct access to its performance or in lieu thereof graphic representation.  

* Visual Arts: Though her appreciation of the visual arts is at least implicit in her poetry, there is no way of knowing to what extent she may have been involved in the actual production of the nascent forms of Greek visual arts during her lifetime.  Nevertheless, it is easy to prove her influence on the visual arts beginning in the Renaissance.  S.31 was warmly praised by Longinus for constituting a "coincidentia oppositorum" (his Greek is very close that more famous Latin phrase); Longinus has recently been noted for his influence on a wide range of artistic disciplines (see Translations of the Sublime, Caroline van Eck, et al (currently live link here).  I hope to write on this more but the link below to "God Is A Sphere" is a start.

Here are links to what I have written on this:

Μολπή and Applied Mathematics

Sappho's Meters are relevant to this but that is a very arcane area for most people.  A good place to at least get a start on what is implicated is this short piece I did on the most famous of Sappho's meters, the Adoneus.

I also want to write about how silence (and its equivalent in other art forms (a lift or leap in Dance, darkness or openness in the Visual Arts (including open spaces in architecture) encourages contemplating the interrelationship of art forms.  In Sappho's poetry there are, in addition to the intra-line pause (caesura or 'pure word'), pauses between lines (it is difficult to be sure how long these may have been) and between stanzas and then even between poems that seem to have been arranged as medleys.

Because all of this seems to have developed in an interdependent way (i.e. with no one form of expression privileged relative to another) and therefore it is appropriate that it is associated with sphericity as a common organizing principle (circular dance; ring composition in poetry, etc.). The guiding principle is thus identical to the one Parmenides articulates: ξυνὸν δέ μοί ἐστιν/ ὁππόθεν ἄρξωμαι γὰρ πάλιν ἵξομαι αὖθις: it is all the same to me where I start for that is where I shall return (Fragment 5--basically the theme of the Odyssey--as Coxon so ably demonstrated).  This also means μολπή (that perhaps should be defined to include the visual arts as well) is a relatively robust cultural principle, as any one form of its expression ultimately can be related to forms that are otherwise lost or only partially preserved.  It also justifies making cross-cultural comparisons, especially to those cultures where graphics (artwork) has traditionally been far more important than in the West (e.g. China (Taoism) and the regions it strongly influenced such as Korea and Japan).

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