September 15, 2016

Listen to the oldest melody in the world — 3400 years old.

"The hymn was discovered on a clay tablet in Ugarit, now part of modern-day Syria, and is dedicated the Hurrians’ goddess of the orchards Nikkal...."
The clay tablet text, which was discovered alongside around 30 other tablet fragments, specifies 9 lyre strings and the intervals between those strings – kind of like an ancient guitar tab..... The notation here is essentially a set of instructions for intervals and tuning based around a heptatonic diatonic scale.

52 comments:

David said...

Discovered in the ruins of an ancient wellness spa.

Harold said...

So, how many people in the world can define or explain a heptatonic diatonic scale? I have no clue.

Rob said...

As the kids used to say on "American Bandstand" when they were rating a new record, I'd dance to it but I wouldn't buy it.

Susan said...

Needs more cowbell.

MayBee said...

That video is hilarious

wholelottasplainin' said...

@ Rob: Actually, "Bandstand" kids would say, "I like the lyrics, but the words don't seem to make much sense."

(What class were you at "Wossamotta U."?)

And, I've always rated Schwepps as the highest on the diatonic scale.

EDH said...

Playing the lyre would come naturally to Hillary.

...discovered on a clay tablet in Ugarit, now part of modern-day Syria...

What about Aleppo?

Big Mike said...

Wow.

traditionalguy said...

Those Orchard Goddesses are hard to please. But they say their fruits are succulent and sweet when you get through to them.

tim maguire said...

It's not very good. Are they sure they're playing it right?

Paddy O said...

selah

EDH said...

Off topic, except for worlds smallest violin...

Warren and four of her Democratic colleagues in the U.S. Senate fired off a letter on Monday demanding the committee hold "immediate" hearings [Sept 20th] to "fully investigate the matter...This was a staggering fraud," Warren told CNN last week, adding that she's skeptical Wells Fargo management was unaware of illegal activity of this scale.

The timing couldn't be better. If this breaking story pans out, Hillary could be in a world of hurt.

Exclusive: Hillary Clinton Campaign Systematically Overcharging Poorest Donors

Hillary Clinton’s campaign is stealing from her poorest supporters by purposefully and repeatedly overcharging them after they make what’s supposed to be a one-time small donation through her official campaign website, multiple sources tell the Observer.

The overcharges are occurring so often that the fraud department at one of the nation’s biggest banks receives up to 100 phone calls a day from Clinton’s small donors asking for refunds for unauthorized charges to their bankcards made by Clinton’s campaign. One elderly Clinton donor, who has been a victim of this fraud scheme, has filed a complaint with her state’s attorney general and a representative from the office told her that they had forwarded her case to the Federal Election Commission.

Wells Fargo fraud department inundated with calls from low-income Clinton supporters reporting repeated unauthorized charges.
Hillary for America processed a total of $94 in unauthorized charges to Carol Mahre’s US Bank account. This follows a pattern in which unwitting donors are charged multiple times, but always for a total of less than $100, which is a key trigger point for banks’ internal action systems.


http://observer.com/2016/09/exclusive-hillary-clinton-campaign-systematically-overcharging-poorest-donors/

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

A heptatonic diatonic scale is basically what we've grown up with. Heptatonic = seven steps to the octave. Diatonic = only half- or whole-steps. I'm kind of amazed that something that old should sound so new, and a bit suspicious that it mightn't be as new as all that.

madAsHell said...

The Rolling Stones...."Their Satanic Majesties Request"

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

As old as all that, obviously. Stupid fingers.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Yeah, I can definitely hear the similarity between that and Stairway to Heaven. I bet Page and Plant will claim that they never even heard this one either.

YoungHegelian said...

So, how many people in the world can define or explain a heptatonic diatonic scale?

It's a seven note scale, with only whole tones, no half tones. "Diatonic" is fine. "Heptatonic" instead of "seven note" is just being a pompous dick.

All these reconstructions have to be taken not just with a grain of salt, but with a metric ton of it. There is no music in the world that has a better attested & documented history than Western liturgical plainchant (commonly called "Gregorian" chant). We have the manuscripts that cover as the notation moves from "unstaffed" ("in campo aperto", in open field**) to the Guidonian staff much like modern music is notated. But, even with all that wealth of manuscripts, an unbroken chain of performance, & quite a few Medieval treatises on musical theory, we have no idea of the rhythm of Gregorian chant. This is the sort of question that occasions gang rumbles at musicological conferences.

In other words, we have no idea of the rhythm of anything in western music until Perotin (around 1200). For the rest of the world, it's even worse. We know that all the world's cultures had flourishing musical traditions since time immemorial. The Egyptians had orchestras. Homer & the Greek tragedies were all sung. The ancient Chinese & the Indus Valley civilizations as well. But waddya we got to show for it? Absolutely jack shit, is what! There's no surviving manuscripts for any of it!

It's so frustrating. Music is probably the oldest art. But in terms of what survives, it's by far the youngest.

** my own little contribution to pompous dickdom for the evening.

Mr Wibble said...

Vanilla Ice has already sampled it for his next hit.

MadisonMan said...

@EDH...Wow!!

I'm sure it's not what it seems though. Things never are with the Clintons.

(I'm glad the Muslims overrunning Syria did not destroy the tablets.)

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

No, really. Take "Do, a deer, a female deer" and run through it. You've just traversed a heptatonic diatonic piece. Seven notes to the octave, all of them either a whole-step or a half-step apart.

William said...

Walk on music that Trump can use without the artist or his estate complaining. The music, however, more accurately reflects Hillary's energy levels, but she probably wouldn't want to be associated with a barren, dessicated fertility goddess. Besides Cher, of course.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Assyria's Got Talent!

Curious George said...

"Rob said...
As the kids used to say on "American Bandstand" when they were rating a new record, I'd dance to it but I wouldn't buy it."

"wholelottasplainin' said...
@ Rob: Actually, "Bandstand" kids would say, "I like the lyrics, but the words don't seem to make much sense."

Nope. It's "I like the beat but it's hard to dance to. I'll give it a 67"

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

YoungHegelian, it can't be a seven-note scale without half-tones, because six whole tones make an octave. There are half-tones in there because there need to be.

YoungHegelian said...

@MDT,

You right, I wrong, on diatonic. There are half tones, just no accidentals.

Curious George said...

That's the B Side of Whole Lotta Love.

mockturtle said...

Sounds like a cross between a sitar and a samisen.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

YH: There is no music in the world that has a better attested & documented history than Western liturgical plainchant (commonly called "Gregorian" chant). We have the manuscripts that cover as the notation moves from "unstaffed" ("in campo aperto", in open field**) to the Guidonian staff much like modern music is notated.

That's simply not true. Not the history, I mean, but the idea that it's better documented than anything since. It's maybe better studied than anything since, but I doubt even that. My own field of study was Haydn, and I'd wager that we know a lot more about Haydn than about plainchant, even given that there's a lot less of the former than of the latter.

YoungHegelian said...

MDH,

I'm sorry to be a wee bit unclear. I meant among ancient music, meaning anything older than let's say 1200, when we have manuscripts that we can unequivocally transcribe.

For post-Baroque music, you are completely correct. But, I'll still pick an argument with you on lots of Renaissance & Baroque music. While we have lots of manuscripts & treatises, we don't have an unbroken chain of performance for e.g. Vivaldi, like we do for Gregorian Chant.

Rob said...

@Curious George
The most endearing aspect of rating the new songs on Bandstand was the nerd who was appointed to be the mathematician. His job (it was always a he) was to add the three ratings and divide by three. Not many of the kids on the program were up to the task.

Laslo Spatula said...

'Smoke On The Water' is the oldest melody known to Man.

Anything that pre-dates it is just Tuning Up.


I am Laslo.

coupe said...

It could be used in a Clint Eastwood western. The little scribble sound easily could be the tormented Mexicans in the pueblo that the Gringo's rape and slaughter to take land for their cattle.

The up beat is when the man with no name comes in and kills the man in the black hat, and the Mexicans light a candle for him as he rides off into a mirage.

Jay Vogt said...

It did take a while, but historians now have been able to prove that Syrians are shitty at absolutely everything.

EC in NJ said...

But which mode of the diatonic scale is it?

Fabi said...

I just played it backwards, and it said 'I buried Saul.'

Mac McConnell said...

Jay Vogt
Since it's your fault, what's the best way to get coffee out of a keyboard?

Brad said...

I enjoyed listening to this melody. You know what listening to this makes me think? Star Trek is wrong; we are not "evolving". Rather Ecclesiastes is right, there is nothing new under the sun because people are still motivated and inspired by virtually the same things.

Ipso Fatso said...

Somewhere James Brown is shouting "Macio, take me to the bridge!"

Darrell said...

There's a YouTube video of the Syrian National Orchestra performing the same song in 2010 that is completely different. Scratch marks in a clay tablet can be interpreted in an infinite number of ways, apparently.

urbane legend said...

So jazz was actually invented in Syria by really cool heptonic cats?

jaydub said...

"Listen to the oldest KNOWN melody in the world." Fixed the headline for you.

Nurse Rooke said...


Indeed there's much uncertainty about how to interpret the directions on the tablet--tuning, notes, rhythm. I found this essay from the U of Toronto site helpful (the first section is about the words, the 2d and more interesting to me section is about the music).

http://www.individual.utoronto.ca/seadogdriftwood/Hurrian/Website_article_on_Hurrian_Hymn_No._6.html

sykes.1 said...

It would sound much better with Sumerian beer:

http://www.openculture.com/2015/03/the-oldest-beer-recipe-in-history.html

Sharc said...

Finally placed it. Yes: "It Could Happen": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeVgcIFEh3I

Michael McClain said...

Interesting in concept, but boring in the execution.

The Cracker Emcee said...

" I just played it backwards, and it said 'I buried Saul.'"

Freakin' brilliant. First and (since I plan to spend the day doing lawn work and scrubbing grout) best laugh of the day.

Jason said...

I could Babylon about it.

Jason said...

If played as written, it seems like polyphony and harmony (as opposed to a melody over a single pedal tone or drone) has a longer history than thought.

Which doesn't surprise me.

mockturtle said...

" I just played it backwards, and it said 'I buried Saul.'"

Freakin' brilliant.


X2

mikee said...

So the oldest musical documentation is for a religious use. Interesting.

I suppose the goatherds' songs to the young ladies of the region went unrecorded, but went something like, "I wanna hold your hand...."

Eclectic Kelvin said...

Listening to it i am sure that they read the tablet from right to left when it was supposed to be left to right. That would explain why it sounds like it is played in reverse.Or did it give specific instructions on how to listen it it which i missed

Jason said...

"Hey, girl...

Your hair is like a flock of goats."