Oldest written melody in history

January 17, 2011

There is the oldest known animated cartoon, 5,200 years old.  There is the oldest known musical instrument, between 7,000 and 9,000 years old.

Now, also, here is the oldest known written melody, too – from 1400 BCE.

Are we to assume that for at least 5,000 years, music was all improvised?  Would that make jazz the oldest musical form?

In the YouTube comments, there is what may be oldest known copyright dispute, too.

Michael Levy performs on the lyre in the video, and he’s the authority on ancient music who put the thing together.  His explanation and website offer a lot more that teachers of world history might use to bring these ancient arts to life.  He explained at YouTube:

This unique video, features my arrangement of the 3400 year old “Hurrian Hymn no.6″, which was discovered in Ugarit ,ancient northern Canaan (now modern Syria) in the early 1950s, and was preserved for 3400 years on a clay tablet, written in the Cuneiform text of the ancient Hurrian language – it is THE oldest written song yet known! Respect, to the amazing ancient culture of Syria…السلام عليكم

Although about 29 musical texts were discovered at Ugarit, only this text, (text H6), was in a sufficient state of preservation to allow for modern academic musical reconstruction.

In short, the Cuneiform text clearly indicated specific names for lyre strings, and their respective musical intervals — a sort of “Guitar tablature”, for lyre!

Although discovered in modern day Syria, the Hurrians were not Syrian — they came from modern day Anatolia. The Hurrian Hymn actually dates to the very end of the Hurrian civilisation (c.1400BCE) . The Hurrian civilization dates back to at least 3000 BCE. It is an incredible thought, that just maybe, the musical texts found at Ugarit, preserved precious sacred Hurrian music which may have already been thousands of years old, prior to their inscription for posterity, on the clay tablets found at Ugarit!

My arrangement here, is based on the original transcription of the melody, as interpreted by Prof. Richard Dumbrill. Here is a link to his book, “The Archeomusicology of the Ancient Near East”:
http://bit.ly/d3aovp

A photograph of the actual clay tablet on which the Hurrian Hymn was inscribed, can be seen here:

http://phoenicia.org/music.html

The melody is one of several academic interpretations, from the ambiguous Cuneiform text of the Hurrian language in which it was written. Although many of the meanings of the Hurrian language are now lost in the mists of time, it can be established that the fragmentary Hurrian Hymn which has been found on these precious clay tablets are dedicated to Nikkal; the wife of the moon god.

There are several such interpretations of this melody, but to me, the fabulous interpretation just somehow sounds the most “authentic”. Below is a link to the sheet music, as interpreted by Clint Goss:

http://www.flutekey.com/pdf/HurrianTa…

In my arrangement of the Hurrian Hymn, I have attempted to illustrate an interesting diversity of ancient lyre playing techniques, ranging from the use of “block and strum” improvisation at the end, glissando’s, trills & tremolos, and alternating between harp-like tones in the left hand produced by finger-plucked strings, and guitar-like tones in the right hand, produced by use of the plectrum.

I have arranged the melody in the style of a “Theme and Variations” – I first quote the unadorned melody in the first section, followed by the different lyre techniques described above in the repeat, & also featuring improvisatory passages at the end of the performance.

I am also playing the lyre horizontally – a much more authentic playing position, as depicted in ancient illustrations of Middle Eastern Lyre players:

http://www.hebrewhistory.info/factpap…

This also seems a much more stable playing position to me, and I find it much easier to improvise with string-blocking etc when the lyre is held in this manner.

My arrangement of the melody is much slower than the actual academic interpretation – I wanted the improvisations in the variations on the theme to stand out, and to better illustrate the use of lyre techniques by a more rubato approach to the melody.

All of my 9 albums of mystical, ancient lyre music are now available from iTunes . . .

1)”An Ancient Lyre”: http://bit.ly/dhCozi

2)”King David’s Lyre; Echoes of Ancient Israel”: http://bit.ly/9PCIua

3)”The Ancient Biblical Lyre”: http://bit.ly/9hTDje

4)”Lyre of the Levites”: http://bit.ly/9baWuM

5)”Apollo’s Lyre”: http://bit.ly/dhCozi

6)”Ancient Times — Music of The Ancient World”: http://bit.ly/aRF5PD

7)”The Ancient Greek Modes”: http://bit.ly/cZks0o

8)”The Ancient Greek Lyre”: http://bit.ly/bxO7Ra

9)”Ancient Visions — New Compositions for an Ancient Lyre”: http://bit.ly/dCPmRN

Physical CDs are also available anywhere in the world from CD Baby, for 3 of my best selling albums:

“An Ancient Lyre”: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/mlevy4

“King David’s Lyre; Echoes of Ancient Israel”: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/mlevy

“Lyre of the Levites”: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/mlevy2

For full details about my albums of lyre music, and the fascinating ancient historical background, please visit my official website:

http://www.ancientlyre.com

Tip of the old scrub brush to Pharyngula, who used the video only in passing, oddly enough.


World history teachers, take quick note! Paleolithic sources

September 7, 2010

More accurately, sources on the paleolithic.

K. Kris Hirst at About.com blogs about archaeology at least weekly – I just subscribe to her stuff and get it when it comes.  So, file this under “I get e-mail.”

This week, she’s got stuff world history teachers could use on the old stone age.  See if this doesn’t pique your interest:

From K. Kris Hirst, your Guide to Archaeology

It’s the beginning of a new school year, and as every one knows, World History begins with the Paleolithic period–the Old Stone Age, the evolutionary moment from which all of our amazing human culture derives. Keep that trowel sharp!

Guide to the Stone Age
The Stone Age (known to scholars as the Paleolithic era) in human prehistory is the name given to the period between about 2.5 million and 20,000 years ago. It begins with the earliest human-like behaviors of crude stone tool manufacture, and ends with fully modern human hunting and gathering societies…. Read more

Control of Fire
The discovery of fire, or, more precisely, the controlled use of fire was, of necessity, one of the earliest of human discoveries. Fire’s purposes are multiple, some of which are to add light and heat, to cook plants and animals, to clear forests for planting, to heat-treat stone for making stone tools, to burn clay for ceramic objects…Read more

The Invention of Footwear
Believe it or not, we humans have worn shoes of one sort or another for some 40,000 years! Read more

The Ileret Footprints
Not as well known and much younger than the Laetoli footprints are the Ileret footprints, two sets of fossilized footprints of a possible Homo erectus or Homo ergaster discovered at the FwJj14E site, near the modern town of Ileret in Kenya. Read more

See what I mean? Go see what else she’s got.  Some of us are going into the third week, and are already past that lecture . . .


4 Stone Hearth 68 + remote central = good convergence

June 5, 2009

4 Stone Hearth’s 68th incarnation rises at remote central, among my favorite archaeology/anthropology/ancient history blogs.

Tim has done an outstanding job of shaking good stuff out of the internet tree:  Did cooking make humans smartKris Hirst on the human transition to agriculture (every history teacher needs this one);  The new discovery of a Miocene era ape, in Europe; and returning to a topic I spend so many years listening to at the Senate Labor Comittee, is tobacco worse than cocaine?

That’s just scratching the surface.  Go see.


Four Stone Hearth #64 at Quiche Moraine

April 12, 2009

Do you have to know geology to get the title of that blog?

Four Stone Hearth 64 is hosted by Quiche Moraine.  Lots of good stuff.  F’rinstance:

With a few hours, an ambitious teacher could get 20 or 30 good bell-ringers out of FSH.  Bell ringers based on real research — what a concept.

A modern version of an ancient hearth - State Cooking Pot of Utah, the Dutch oven - photo by Jason Slemons

A modern version of an ancient hearth - State Cooking Pot of Utah, the Dutch oven - photo by Jason Slemons


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