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Craig's List: Five Music Deities of the Ancients

June 2, 2014

Ancient astronauts? That’s so passé! Let’s set the way-back machine to ancient Greece and Rome, and discover the real roots of electronic music.

Casio, the father of Casiopeia, displeased Zeus by crossing a calculator with a musical instrument—and was forced to cross the river Styx (“Come Sail Away”) and accept banishment to the underworld. But there he befriended the demigod Synthesus, who taught Casio the true meaning of keyboards. Disguising himself as a calculator/watch, Casio eluded the guards, escaped, and in tribute to his master, vowed never again to create a synthesizer that could be useful while shopping for groceries.

Maximus was the Roman god of tastelessness, B-movies, and excessive noise levels. But the gods, tired of his yelling, wagered that Maximus could not create a sound louder than Heavius Metallus. If Maximus lost the wager, he would have to wed Minimus the Radio Shack loudspeaker—but the clever Maximus stole the secret of excessive multiband maximizing from Dynamicus. To this day, bad mastering on pop tunes reminds us that unfortunately, Maximus won the wager.

Chorus was the sister of Hydra but instead of having multiple heads, had a single head with multiple voices. She would have been but a footnote in mythology had the Sirens not tried to use the sweet sound of Chorus to ensnare Ulysses. Legend says Ulysses had himself tied to his ship’s mast to avoid the sirens’ lure, but according to contemporaneous accounts from Eudemus of Rhodes (not to be confused with Eudemus of Fender Rhodes), Chorus’s battery died at an inopportune moment.

Modulus was the most powerful of the ancient gods because of his ability to incorporate all the powers of the other gods. But he became boastful and incurred the wrath of Zeus—who punished Modulus by letting him keep his powers, but allowed them to be manifested only by untangling an infinitely huge collection of tangled patch cords. However, Modulus extracted his vengeance by marrying Medusa—whose hair, contrary to myth, consisted not of snakes but 1/4" cables.

Little is known about Tremulus, the first of the effects gods, who controlled the cycles of loudness and softness. To make matters worse, he was often confused with his brother Vibratus, the god of the cycles of sharpness and flatness. Their constant bickering (along with getting Athena seriously plastered one night) caused the gods to curse them to forever being confused with each other. Even today, you still hear guitarists invoke the name of Tremulus when describing pitch-bending guitar tailpieces.

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