Jan 082018

ancient syria

Professor Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, a professor of Assyriology at the University of California and a curator at the Lowie Museum of Anthropology in Berkeley, California, has developed an interpretation of the oldest written piece of music discovered to date. Written on tablets on dated at about 3,400 years old, the music and words found in the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit in the early 1950’s and is approximately 1,400 years older than what was thought to be the oldest written music at the time.

Professor Kilmer developed an interpretation of the song based on her study of the notation. She wrote a book (“Sounds from Silence”) about her work. Amazingly, the oldest written music is based on the diatonic major scale. Professor Kilmer is quoted as having said, “We are able to match the number of syllables in the text of the song with the number of notes indicated by the musical notations.” Harmonies, rather than a melody comprised of single notes, are the result. The chances that the number of syllables would match the notation numbers unintentionally are astronomical.

The idea that music was written using the seven-note diatonic scale and harmony 3,400 years ago is astounding. That blows up all of the theories and concepts of the evolution of Western music.

The sheet music and sound recordings of the oldest written music ever discovered are both available online and off-line. The music is not bad. It is not awe-inspiring, but it is not bad either.

Those who are genuinely interested in music and the way that music has evolved over the centuries will be curious enough to track down a copy of this music. Music does last forever!