satyr drama

Music theatre for piano, open ensemble and video score [22′]

Satyr Drama (video score) from yannis kyriakides on Vimeo.

A fragment of a Satyr play by Sophocles, Ichneutai, found in 1912, published in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and consists of about 400 lines of text, about half of the play, and it is remarkable in being the only other preserved 'Satyr' drama, albeit in fragments, other than Euripides' Cyclops.

The fragments of text are projected in sync with oscillating beats and samples, together with imaginary stage directions. The musicians improvise through the characters described in the play.

The story of Ichneutai revolves around the myth of Hermes. Apollo discovers that his cattle is missing and he employs the Satyrs, lead by Silenus, to search for them. In exchange he offers them freedom from slavery. Tracking their footprints they come to a cave where they hear a sound which they have never heard before. They freeze in terror and refuse to enter the cave. The mountain nymph Cyllene explains to them that the sound is of baby Hermes tuning a 'lyre' an instrument he has created using the cowhide stretched over the shell of a tortoise. Since the satyrs also do not know what 'music' is, this has to be explained to them:

It's all he has to cure and comfort him when he's unhappy. he enjoys being crazy and singing a song; it simply transports him to ring changes on the lyre. So that is how the child invented a voice for the dead creature.

Sophocles' fragment stops just after this, but we know form the Homeric Hymn that soon thereafter Apollo appears, and Hermes in order to make up for his theft and killing of Apollo's cattle, offers him this new instrument to make amends for his crime. This is then the origin of Apollo's lyre.

performance history