Le sifflement du serpent : du son inarticulé à la mise en musique

Sylvain PERROT

fr Anthropozoologica 47 (1) - Pages 345-362

Published on 29 June 2012

This article is a part of the thematic issue Ophiaca. Diffusion and Reception of Ophidian Lore in Antiquity

The hissing of the snake: how is it possible to set an inarticulate sound to music ?

For a Greek mind animal cries cannot be associated to human logos, for being inarticulate sounds. One of the best examples is the snake, whose cry is usually transcribed by the consonant [s], without any vocalizing. Therefore, snakes seem not to be musicians: melody is produced by vocals, according to Greek treatises on music. However, snakes are considered as musician animals by Greeks, like cicadas. The word syrigma, that Greeks used to define the hissing of the snake, means also the sound of the Pan flute. Moreover, Pytho’s hissing becomes a theme of a musical composition that every musician has to make and to perform at the Pythian Games, the nomos pythikos: in one of its parts, he has to depict, with his Pythian aulos, the hissing Pytho gives when it is killed by Apollo’s arrows. By consequence, he has to set to music something that is properly not musical.


Snake, Music, Hissing, Aulos, Delphi, Pythian.

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