Listen to the Oldest Song in the World: A Sumerian Hymn Written 3,400 Years Ago

In the ear­ly 1950s, archae­ol­o­gists unearthed sev­er­al clay tablets from the 14th cen­tu­ry B.C.E.. Found, WFMU tells us, “in the ancient Syr­i­an city of Ugar­it,” these tablets “con­tained cuneiform signs in the hur­ri­an lan­guage,” which turned out to be the old­est known piece of music ever dis­cov­ered, a 3,400 year-old cult hymn. Anne Draf­fko­rn Kilmer, pro­fes­sor of Assyri­ol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, pro­duced the inter­pre­ta­tion above in 1972. (She describes how she arrived at the musi­cal notation—in some tech­ni­cal detail—in this inter­view.) Since her ini­tial pub­li­ca­tions in the 60s on the ancient Sumer­ian tablets and the musi­cal the­o­ry found with­in, oth­er schol­ars of the ancient world have pub­lished their own ver­sions.

The piece, writes Richard Fink in a 1988 Arche­olo­gia Musi­calis arti­cle, con­firms a the­o­ry that “the 7‑note dia­ton­ic scale as well as har­mo­ny exist­ed 3,400 years ago.” This, Fink tells us, “flies in the face of most musicologist’s views that ancient har­mo­ny was vir­tu­al­ly non-exis­tent (or even impos­si­ble) and the scale only about as old as the Ancient Greeks.” Kilmer’s col­league Richard Crock­er claims that the dis­cov­ery “rev­o­lu­tion­ized the whole con­cept of the ori­gin of west­ern music.” So, aca­d­e­m­ic debates aside, what does the old­est song in the world sound like? Lis­ten to a midi ver­sion below and hear it for your­self. Doubt­less, the midi key­board was not the Sume­ri­ans instru­ment of choice, but it suf­fices to give us a sense of this strange com­po­si­tion, though the rhythm of the piece is only a guess.

Kilmer and Crock­er pub­lished an audio book on vinyl (now on CD) called Sounds From Silence in which they nar­rate infor­ma­tion about ancient Near East­ern music, and, in an accom­pa­ny­ing book­let, present pho­tographs and trans­la­tions of the tablets from which the song above comes. They also give lis­ten­ers an inter­pre­ta­tion of the song, titled “A Hur­ri­an Cult Song from Ancient Ugar­it,” per­formed on a lyre, an instru­ment like­ly much clos­er to what the song’s first audi­ences heard. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, for that ver­sion, you’ll have to make a pur­chase, but you can hear a dif­fer­ent lyre inter­pre­ta­tion of the song by Michael Levy below, as tran­scribed by its orig­i­nal dis­cov­er­er Dr. Richard Dum­b­rill.

via WFMU

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

What Ancient Greek Music Sound­ed Like: Hear a Recon­struc­tion That is ‘100% Accu­rate’

Hear The Epic of Gil­gamesh Read in the Orig­i­nal Akka­di­an and Enjoy the Sounds of Mesopotamia

Learn Latin, Old Eng­lish, San­skrit, Clas­si­cal Greek & Oth­er Ancient Lan­guages in 10 Lessons

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (94)
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  • ahmet issever says:

    Con­sid­er­ing con­tem­po­rary immu­ni­ty in music this dis­cov­ery per­fects anoth­er phase in times and lives of mankind. I appre­ci­ate the work to bring to audi­tion ances­tral inher­i­tance. Salutes in peace

  • William says:

    I don’t think this melody actu­al­ly exist­ed that far back. There is no evi­dence of the dia­ton­ic scale being used until the time of Colum­bus, and the dia­ton­ic scale is tech­ni­cal­ly a mod­ern inven­tion that goes against all the ele­ments of nat­ur­al tonal­i­ty. Noth­ing in nature is even­ly spaced, just look at the dis­tance from from your should to your elbow to your wrist, gold­en mean, major thirds, fifths, they only func­tion in the dia­ton­ic scale. This has mod­ern west­ern tonal­i­ty writ­ten all of over it. I think what­ev­er nota­tion, if it is even music nota­tion, was mis­in­ter­pret­ed great­ly. It hap­pens, even late works of Bach are still try­ing to be trans­lat­ed.

  • bh says:

    Very cool to hear this. Are you sure it’s Sumer­ian, though? I think Ugar­it was an inde­pen­dent city-state, with ties to Egypt, around the time this tablet would have been com­posed.

    The Hur­ri­ans (“A Hur­ri­an Cult Song…”) were a peo­ple cen­tered around North­ern Mesopotamia and west­ern Ana­to­lia. Their clos­est mod­ern descen­dants are Arme­ni­ans. I did­n’t think Ugar­it itself was Hur­ri­an — instead, they were Amor­ites, a pro­to-Semit­ic group — but it makes sense that they’d have con­tacts with Hur­ri­ans, since they’re in the same gen­er­al area.

  • kari says:


  • Dean says:

    What do the crit­ics think about this? To my knowl­edge the ear­li­est forms of music nota­tion date back to the Renais­sance peri­od when monks began to write neumes on church song-books, which then evolved to the nota­tion we have today. What about the dia­ton­ic har­mo­ny being used? Does it relate in any way to the har­mon­ic prin­ci­ples dis­cov­ered dur­ing the devel­op­ment of homopho­ny, and lat­er on polypho­ny? (mid­dle ages, c.1500–1600s)

  • Johannes Laukko says:

    Vio­lin­ist Pekka Kuu­sis­to told about old fen­no-ugri­an folk song. it coud be from before broz age. Finnish epos Kale­vala told those times.

    We think music comes about 2000 bCr (ab 4000 years ago) and made some where Kare­lian and Bjarmi­an lads north from Now­gorod (was not buid yet).

  • Joe Monzo says:

    I stud­ied the Hur­ri­an Hymn in 2001 and came up with a very dif­fer­ent inter­pre­ta­tion.

  • kat russell says:

    Ear­ly Africans made plen­ty of music. There are still a few groups that make music that is prob­a­bly sim­i­lar to the ancient songs.

  • Dr. Smartman says:

    As a com­menter on the inter­net, I agree with the pre­vi­ous posts as my per­son­al opin­ion based on per­haps a broad and cur­so­ry knowl­edge of a slight­ly relat­ed sub­ject gives me great author­i­ty over years of detailed research, dis­cus­sion and peer review.

  • Jerome S Colburn says:

    William, Pythago­ras explained the dia­ton­ic scale some 2000 years before Colum­bus. He described the octave and the per­fect fifth, which we hear as nat­ur­al res­o­nances, in terms of string length ratios of 2:1 and 3:2; we under­stand them as the cor­re­spond­ing fre­quen­cy ratios. (The “mod­ern inven­tion that goes against all the ele­ments of nat­ur­al tonal­i­ty” is equal tem­pera­ment, which does­n’t apply to ancient music.) There is a tablet from Ur from about 1700 BC or so that describes how to tune a stringed instru­ment into what we would call dif­fer­ent key sig­na­tures, using pairs of strings that behave exact­ly the same way fifths do in tun­ing accord­ing to a Pythagore­an scale.

    bh, Ugar­it had both Canaan­ite and Hur­ri­an pop­u­la­tions, and they also used Akka­di­an for busi­ness and diplo­ma­cy. The musi­cal texts are in Hur­ri­an; the lyrics are, and the names of the string pairs also appear as Hur­ri­an­ized loan words from Akka­di­an. For exam­ple, the pair made of the 3rd and 5th strings is titur ishar­ti “bridge of the ‘nor­mal’ ” in Akka­di­an, but in the Ugar­it musi­cal texts it’s “titimisharte.”

    The nota­tion of the Ugar­it tablets is in the form of a series of ele­ments each con­sist­ing of the name of a string pair fol­lowed by a num­ber (plus an indi­ca­tion of which tun­ing was to be used, cor­re­spond­ing to our key sig­na­ture). The lyrics are in a sep­a­rate sec­tion (above the dou­ble line in the sketch), not matched to the musi­cal ele­ments.

    Kilmer’s great con­tri­bu­tion was to inter­pret each ele­ment as the string pair played as a two-note chord the spec­i­fied num­ber of times. Most of the musi­co­log­i­cal world at that time refused to believe that any­one in the ancient world was play­ing two dif­fer­ent notes simul­ta­ne­ous­ly (even though they would have had to do so to tune the instru­ment), but today that notion is no longer con­tro­ver­sial.

    Kilmer’s orig­i­nal inter­pre­ta­tion, which we hear in the first video, has been super­seded in some of its details. Most obvi­ous to our ears, there are two ways of con­struct­ing the scales implied by the tun­ing instruc­tions: up or down. In the 1960s every­one believed that the pitch­es went up from string 1 to string 9, but sev­er­al lines of evi­dence dis­cov­ered since then show that they went down instead. This leads to the more “minor” tonal­i­ty heard in the sec­ond video; how­ev­er, Dum­b­rill believed that the num­bers rep­re­sent­ed lengths of melod­ic runs based on the string pair, not num­bers of rep­e­ti­tions of a chord. There have been many dif­fer­ent attempts to orga­nize the music and match it to the lyrics, includ­ing Mr. Mon­zo’s.

    The songs from Ugar­it are no longer the old­est attempt to make a musi­cal nota­tion. A few tablet frag­ments from Nip­pur, from about 400 years before the Ugar­it texts, show a very dif­fer­ent sys­tem, still using the string and string pair nomen­cla­ture, used to rep­re­sent the accom­pa­ni­ment to a song that was prob­a­bly in Sumer­ian. That nota­tion (on which I pub­lished an arti­cle in Jour­nal of Cuneiform Stud­ies in 2009) was more com­plex and labor inten­sive to write, which is prob­a­bly why there are not more texts con­tain­ing it.

  • Rolf Løndal says:

    William. With respect. I feel you may be under­es­ti­mat­ing our ances­tors. Har­mon­ics exist in nature and there­fore in us. As an engi­neer and musi­cian I am con­stant­ly impressed at the way nature appears and is inter­pret­ed to prac­ti­cal advan­tage. Not just by humans but by oth­er ani­mals.

  • JSintheStates says:

    Damn! I sid­n’t know the 12-tone West­ern Music Scale was 3.4 millinnia old!

  • Sherry Taylor says:

    Why is it if it isn’t Judeo-Chris­t­ian it’s referred to as a cult? It was a reli­gion.

    • Daniel Hale says:

      A cult is any seg­ment of a pop­u­la­tion that reveres any giv­en deity.. the Cult of YHWH just hap­pens to be one cult that per­sist­ed and who’s writ­ings are best pre­served and con­tin­u­al­ly main­tained

  • David Rensberger says:

    Sher­ry: The word “cult” is used in a dif­fer­ent way in the aca­d­e­m­ic study of reli­gion. It does­n’t refer to a fringe group, but to wor­ship as such. One def­i­n­i­tion in Web­ster is “a sys­tem of beliefs and rit­u­al con­nect­ed with the wor­ship of a deity or a spir­it or a group of deities or spir­its.” A “cult hymn” in this sense means some­thing like just a “hymn” in the Chris­t­ian tra­di­tion, a wor­ship song used in the Hur­ri­an reli­gion. The author of the orig­i­nal post should prob­a­bly have clar­i­fied this, since it’s a spe­cial­ized use of a word that most peo­ple under­stand dif­fer­ent­ly.

  • Raymond Howard says:

    I love it when some­one like, Jerome S Col­burn knows exact­ly what their talk­ing about hav­ing actu­al­ly stud­ied the sub­ject thor­ough­ly, and prob­a­bly with as much note a coniseur of Clas­si­cal music from most every peri­od that is chron­i­cled to date being ‘doc­u­ment­ed’ in script of such.

  • James says:

    Many thanks for ren­der­ing what could have been an incred­i­bly mov­ing moment with the worlds old­est music into a crap midi key­board sequence that sound­ed like the intro music to an Atari game in 1984.

  • Eilidh says:

    I’m struck by how sim­i­lar the Hur­ri­an song is to The end­ing OST from the ani­me Flow­ers of Evil.

  • Jim says:

    Why does the title of the arti­cle say “Sumer­ian” when every­thing in the arti­cle refers to the Hur­ri­ans? What have the Sume­ri­ans to do with this?

  • Jim says:

    bh — Tablets writ­ten in Hur­ri­an (as well as oth­er lan­guages) have been found at Ugar­it. I doubt any­body there ever spoke Sumer­ian.

  • Pete says:

    It says it’s a song. Isn’t a song sung? Sounds like a ter­ri­ble Casio key­board.

  • Linda Bell says:

    Loved read­ings of the tid­bits, but stills and all in between the tid­bits. past 19 yrs. worked off & on with finest Anishin­abequek on choir songs for play Mag­ni­fi­cat about con­tact. We are not Catholics but actors, musi­cians, singers and much more. Orig­i­nal songs from church with old organ turned rock and next opera. Love con­nect­ing the world neigh­bor­hood; fb way aces!

  • Jess says:

    Should be 6/4 instead of 4/4. 73–80 beats per minute would be bet­ter.

  • chelsea fisher says:

    In response to your ques­tion Dan Col­man, Bass­nec­tars face­book page brought me here.

  • brian says:

    sounds almost iden­ti­cal to some runescape midi back­ground music

  • Jett Pink says:

    Any the­o­ries on what they tuned to? My guess would be 432

  • noah saber freedman says:

    the old­est song in human his­to­ry, played on a MIDI key­board. sur­re­al.

  • David says:

    Where can I down­load the MIDI file? (I assume that after 3,400 years the copy­right has expired!)

  • Silvia says:

    I have reached this web­site via “Lin­guis­ti­ca in pil­lole”, on Face­book, today.

  • K Dianne Lutz Stephens says:

    con­sid­er­ing “tem­pered” music arrived with Bach I won­der about the inter­pre­ta­tion of this music — sound­ing very “west­ern” as well

  • James Louder says:

    Sev­er­al pre­vi­ous com­men­ta­tors have remarked that this sounds all too like it’s played in the mod­ern 12-tone, equal-tem­pered scale. That’s because…it IS! In the first YouTube file, that is. But this is not the fault of the schol­ars, rather of the elec­tron­ic instru­ment used to record it, which, like vir­tu­al­ly all MIDI devices, defaults to mod­ern equal-tem­pera­ment. Most peo­ple who used these things don’t know that any oth­er sys­tem exists, let alone how to tune it. The MIDI device should have been re-pro­grammed to pro­duce pure inter­vals, i.e. the beat­less octaves and fifths that Jerome S. Col­burn men­tions in his excel­lent con­tri­bu­tion above.

    But it does­n’t stop there. Equal­ly impor­tant are just thirds and sixths, both major and minor. On the open strings of ancient harps and lyres, oth­er notes could only be pro­duced by touch­ing the nodes of the natural–i.e. pure or ‘Pythagorean’–harmonics. Thus their into­na­tion was nec­es­sar­i­ly ‘just.’

    Much more con­vinc­ing is the sec­ond YouTube clip, played on the lyre by Michael Levy. His thirds are always pure, but his fifths (per­haps between strings) seem to beat a tiny bit–adding an expres­sive shim­mer that is most enchant­i­ng.

  • James Louder says:

    Just to respect­ful­ly cor­rect a few things from var­i­ous com­ments that aren’t quite accu­rate…

    West­ern Euro­pean musi­cal nota­tion goes back to the time of Charle­magne (ear­ly 800’s), in the form of squig­gles called ‘neumes’ writ­ten above texts of Gre­go­ri­an chant as mem­o­ry aids. Staff-nota­tion of the sort we’re famil­iar with, seems to have been invent­ed, whole cloth, by Gui­do d’Arez­zo cir­ca 1025. Gui­do was also the one who gave the notes of the scale the names we use to this day: Ut (Doh),Re, Mi,Fa,Sol,La (Si or Ti came lat­er).

    Tem­pered scales began to be used a bit before 1500, as instru­men­tal music took on new and more elab­o­rate dimen­sions. Key­board instru­ments (harp­si­chord, clavi­chord, and above all, the organ) were typ­i­cal­ly tuned in a sys­tem called Mean­tone, which has flat­tened fifths and pure major thirds. (It can only be used in cer­tain keys, but in those keys it sounds rav­ish­ing.) Fret­ted instru­ments, such as lutes and vio­ls, were tuned in what we would con­sid­er equal tem­pera­ment. How­ev­er, since the frets were only tied on, they could be tweaked a bit to improve the into­na­tion.

    In the late 17th and ear­ly 18th cen­turies com­posers were exper­i­ment­ing with oth­er sys­tems of tem­pera­ment that allowed one to play in all keys. Bach real­ly threw down the gaunt­let with his “Well-Tem­pered Clavier” (1723). How­ev­er, most schol­ars agree that Bach was still using a tem­pera­ment that was not per­fect­ly equal. Just what Bach’s tem­pera­ment real­ly was is a sub­ject upon which much ink has been spilled, with more sure­ly to come. It is a vexed ques­tion that prob­a­bly will nev­er be defin­i­tive­ly answered.

  • James Louder says:

    I just lis­tened to Michael Levy’s per­for­mance again, so allow me to amend my ear­li­er remarks. Most of his fifths are indeed pure, but there is still the odd one that beats a lit­tle bit. This could be, as I said, a slight tem­per­ing between strings. But if his instru­ment (which I know noth­ing about) is set up to be his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate (more or less), then it would be strung with ani­mal gut. Because it is a nat­ur­al mate­r­i­al, gut is nev­er per­fect­ly con­sis­tent. Gut strings can–and do–go slight­ly false on cer­tain par­tials. So per­haps that accounts for the shim­mer­ing fifths I found so beguil­ing.

  • Kakha Georgian says:

    I lis­ten and I like him. This tune is very sim­i­lar to the ancient Geor­gian melodies. This once again proves that the peo­ple of Geor­gians and the Sume­ri­ans are relat­ed peo­ple. Their cul­tures are too sim­i­lar. This tune is one more con­fir­ma­tion of the uni­ty of the peo­ple of Sume­ri­ans. How­ev­er, sci­en­tif­ic stud­ies have found any oth­er con­nec­tions, which are exhaus­tive­ly indi­cates this relat­ed­ness. Thank you very much for this melody.
    P.S. Geor­gian and Sumer­ian lan­guages are relat­ed to each oth­er. They have a lot com­mon lin­guis­tic fea­tures. Oth­er lan­guages (Eng­lish, French, Span­ish, Ara­bic, Per­sian …) does not show this fea­ture.

  • JE says:

    Of course, Sumer­ian music was much more expres­sive­ly played than this dry syn­the­sized ver­sion. It would be inter­est­ing to hear a musi­cian’s per­for­mance.

  • Edward says:

    Did any­one else feel like they were play­ing an old Nin­ten­do ver­sion of Zel­da while lis­ten­ing to this?

  • JoryG Kenneth says:

    I’m sure it sound­ed great, and prob­a­bly still does. I tell my music stu­dents that there was ALWAYS great music, EVERYWHERE. In the post I bring here there’s a some­what dif­fer­ent view. It’a fine col­lec­tion of music dat­ing from 1950 BC to 300 AD. More music exam­ples too, as in oth­er sites pre­sent­ing this record.

  • JoryG Kenneth says:

    Anoth­er point: Con­trary to what the arti­cle orig­i­nal­ly post­ed says there’s info spelled out regard­ing the Sumer­ian king­dom com­ing to an end cir­ca 1700 b.c.

  • Chris Merwin says:

    There is no men­tion any­where of the 42,000–82,0000 Nean­derthal bone flue. Tuned to a dia­ton­ic scale appar­ent­ly.
    Of the many instru­ments I play the Japan­ese shakuhachi flute is in many ways my main instru­ment so it is of spe­cial inter­est to me. It is the old­est known instru­ment (the Nean­derthal flute).

  • Chris Merwin says:

    I left out some words — I’m sure it’s obvi­ous but what I meant to write was 42–82,000 year old flute.

  • Frank MacGill says:

    It sounds a lot like the ancient Neil Young song, Like a Hur­ri­an.

  • Rachel Holmes says:

    Fas­ci­nat­ing stuff — thanks for post­ing.

  • Amano Khambata says:

    Damn ! I had no idea they had Casio key­board back in those days ..

  • Remi says:

    Even if we admit that there was such thing as a dia­ton­ic scale at the time, the notion that the midi ver­sion might give us an idea of what this might have sound­ed like is (to say the least) very ques­tion­able, as the only cor­rect thing we get is the melody.

    Why should melody be the only thing that mat­ters? Rhythm is impor­tant, and tex­ture as well. So unless we have some clues as to the rhythm and the actu­al instru­ments used to play those tunes, we can­not say we real­ly know how this sound­ed.

  • Arhi Kuittinen says:

    West­ern cul­ture was born in sumer­ian cul­ture in every aspect.
    State church with cloned tem­ples, army priests, social ben­e­fits, bankers, war as bankers’ wars, Tax­a­tion tables. Diplo­mat­ic code for state inter­ac­tions is iden­ti­cal with present diplo­mat­ic code.

  • JS Miller says:

    Thank good­ness it’s pub­lic domain; it sounds a lot like “Let’s Get It On”

  • Delirieuse says:

    *Salutes you*

  • Ed says:

    Nice! Thanks for shar­ing.

    I must admit, when I heard the midi ver­sion, I did think it might suit a much slow­er pace — fune­re­al, even — per­haps played on wind instru­ments.

    The lyre ver­sion is cool!

  • Alton says:

    The recon­struc­tions reflect some impres­sive schol­ar­ly work. I’m glad we have these!

    William: We are not lis­ten­ing to ‘dia­ton­ic’ scales here (and in using that word you often seem to have in mind equal tem­pera­ment, which described anoth­er thing). We are lis­ten­ing to a sys­tem more akin to what we call the ‘modes’ of ancient Greek music.

    Octaves and fifths as well as some oth­er inter­vals are relat­ed to nat­ur­al acoustic phe­nom­e­na. Peo­ple mak­ing stringed and wind instru­ments find these rela­tion­ships as a mat­ter of course. We also know that cul­tures through­out the world make use of ‘home tones’ when chant­i­ng; oth­er pitch­es are heard in rela­tion­ship to the home tone.

    Sub­se­quent tonal sys­tems sim­ply devel­op these basic musi­cal ele­ments in var­i­ous ways, depend­ing on taste and locale.

  • Alton says:

    A recon­struc­tion can only go as far as the sur­viv­ing mate­r­i­al allows. Ask­ing ‘Why should melody be the only thing that mat­ters?’ is like look­ing at the Aphrodite of Milos and ask­ing ‘Why should the tor­so be the only thing that mat­ters?’

    It’s not a ques­tion of ‘the only thing that mat­ters’. When recon­struct­ing ancient art, the mate­r­i­al that sur­vives is the mate­r­i­al you have to work with. The rest is con­jec­ture.

    Just as a tor­so offers an idea about the orig­i­nal sculp­ture, so a melody offers an idea about a musi­cal piece. Frag­ments, by def­i­n­i­tion, don’t offer com­plete pic­tures. But they are some­thing.

    Also, as not­ed else­where, the scale employed is not ‘dia­ton­ic.’ Some read­ers hear it that way because they are con­di­tioned to hear music this way, and some of those are attribut­ing the bias to the researchers.

    It’s an impres­sive feat at this his­tor­i­cal dis­tance sim­ply to decode the ancient nota­tion. Thanks to the par­tic­i­pat­ing musi­col­o­gists for shar­ing a remark­able and fas­ci­nat­ing achieve­ment.

  • Anne Croucher says:

    I have been told that my under­stand­ing of Greek modes is unusu­al. I smile and say ‘real­ly? I had­n’t realised.’ because the the­o­ry of music has always elud­ed my under­stand­ing. I just sing — or play the recorder. The blow it type, not the record­ing device.

    Lis­ten­ing to the Michael Levy ren­di­tion I was moved to tears at sev­er­al points.

  • Micah Pick says:

    Hilary Hah­n’s (the vio­lin­ist) FB post­ed a link.

  • Jim Zamerski says:

    The old­est song on Earth… very cool. If you want to hear songs that are lit­er­al­ly mil­lions of years old…

  • Terry says:

    Mmm. I’m not a musi­cal the­o­rist or expert of any sort. But it sure­ly would­n’t have been dif­fi­cult for an ancient one who was musi­cal­ly gift­ed to find the two notes of an octave and build a pleas­ing sequence of notes between them. Which is what we real­ly have with the dia­ton­ic scale — a pre­dictable and even nat­ur­al sequence of notes.

  • Terry says:

    I don’t think it would have been dif­fi­cult for an ancient one who was musi­cal­ly sen­si­tive to find the two notes of an octave and then dis­cov­er a pleas­ing sequence between them. This is after all is what we have in the dia­ton­ic scale — a pre­dictable and even nat­ur­al musi­cal sequence.

  • Marcella Lenarduzzi says:

    Thank you so much for post­ing it.
    I am par­ti­c­u­raly inter­est­ing in the ori­gin of music, any kind, tomor­row’ ssa well.

  • jane says:

    not every­thing revolves around african peo­ple. smh

  • jane says:

    you peo­ple are sup­pose to be edu­cat­ed and your fuss­ing over the music or song… all they did was give us an idea of what the music might have sound­ed like back then. we have to remem­ber they was not as advanced with musi­cal instra­ments as we are now. get a grip and enjoy

  • Juna says:

    Speak­ing from igno­rance I’ll say this: this “music” is incred­i­bly repet­i­tive and bor­ing. My the­o­ry is that ancient music was much more inter­est­ing and beau­ti­ful than this. We think we’ve “evolved” since then and that’s why our music now is so much more pleas­ing and melod­ic. Well, in many ways ancient peo­ples were just as “evolved” and capa­ble of cre­at­ing great beau­ty as we can see in the remains of their oth­er ancient arts.

  • sync says:

    very good, very good.

  • Tony says:

    that’s my jam.

  • DJ H says:

    This web­site is soooooooooooooooo help­ful!!! It’s amaz­ing how long music has been around!

  • DJ H says:

    oh come on juna it might be bor­ing but it’s so cool how that song is from the 14th cen­tu­ry B.C.E.

  • Nigel says:

    It’s got a nice beat and you can dance to it.

  • Rachel Minnaar says:

    Pri­or to Chris­tian­i­ty becom­ing a state reli­gion and well estab­lished through­out the roman world, it would have been con­sid­ered a cult. Ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty was a small but steadi­ly grow­ing group of ancient hebrews. Just because it was a cult does­n’t mean it does­n’t have valid­i­ty, it just means it was­n’t always a “reli­gion.”

  • N. Campbell says:

    What about the name…the lyrics.…anybody? Accord­ing to Jose­phus, what was the name of the Queen of She­ba? Despite the age…mystery…

  • Christopher Oneal says:

    Still bet­ter than Kanye.

  • Питащият says:

    You have to try dif­fer­ent rhythms includ­ing irreg­u­lar because they are char­ac­ter­is­tic of the Balka­ns to India.

  • Kurt Bredenberg says:

    Jerome, what an amaz­ing and coher­ent expla­na­tion that even a lay­man like me can under­stand. Kudos.

  • Sue says:

    Not a music major or the like, but it sounds like New York Pro Musi­ca to me.

  • Reinier Post says:

    This very inter­est­ing con­tri­bu­tion is two years old now. I great­ly enjoy it (and the ensu­ing dis­cus­sion), but … maybe it’s time to fix the title?

  • Robert Conger says:

    Not say­ing that this isn’t legit, but you have a point…and the inter­view still does­n’t tell how they arrived at the spe­cif­ic fre­quen­cies of the notes… not say­ing that they could­n’t… but did the notes they find through trans­la­tion cor­re­spond to some ancient instru­ment they found? Could they mea­sure the lengths of the strings (or what­ev­er made the sound)?

  • Ron Tish says:

    I was under the impres­sion that Pythagorus invent­ed or fig­ured out the dis­o­nance and nota­tion sys­tem of the tem­pered scale. Who adapt­ed or trans­lat­ed the writ­ings into the mod­ern sys­tem and who checked or could have checked the accu­ra­cy?

  • J.C.Tournier says:

    Le plus vieil air con­servé au monde ?

  • Robert Holmén says:

    No dia­ton­ic scale before Colum­bus? :D

    Clear exam­ples of dia­ton­ic melody exist before Colum­bus.

  • Adesen says:

    This is not a Sumer­ian cuneiform tablet !!!! This tablet is an Assyr­i­an which real­ly it does­n’t mat­ter because Sumer­ian are Assyr­i­an but it will be bet­ter to men­tion it right

  • Richard Szabo says:

    Cuneiform used by “sume­ri­ans” can only be ful­ly trans­lat­ed by Mag­yar Runic!!!!!! Same goes for Egypt­ian hiero­glyphs, Mayan pic­tographs as well as ancient Latin which like it or not, is trans­lat­ed in its most com­plete form by not Ital­ian, greek, french etc but rather using Mag­yar Runic. Sooooo, rather than voic­ing much of this non­sense many of you seem to defend mea­ger mind­ed­ly, do some research and think again!!!!!

  • Richard Szabo says:

    an arti­cle enti­tled: Das Aus­land, stat­ed
    that the Sumer­ian noun and verb suf­fix­es
    were iden­ti­cal to those of the Turan­ian
    1875 — OSCAR PESCHEL, a Ger­man
    ethno­g­ra­ph­er, pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Leipzig, wrote: “The most ancient cuneiform writ­ing was devel­oped in the city of Ur, the so-called Sumer­ian-Akka­di­an writ­ing. This ancient peo­ple was called Turan­ian.”
    1876-DOPHUS RUGE, a Ger­man schol­ar, in his work: Die Turanien in Chal­dae, stat­ed:
    “Now, among the Turan­ian peo­ples, a peo­ple of first-class cul­ture has appeared — the Sume­ri­ans.” 1879
    — ZSOFIA TORMA, arche­ol­o­gist and
    researcher, on the encour­age­ment of Floris Rómer, in 1875, began arche­o­log­i­cal
    exca­va­tions on the banks of the Maros Riv­er in Tor­dos and its vicin­i­ty and found 10,387 arti­facts with Sumer­ian char­ac­ters. Among the 4,500 year-old ceram­ic shards, she found four with Szek­ler runic script. She sug­gest­ed the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the writ­ings on the Tor­dos finds were con­nect­ed to the Assyr­i­an
    and Baby­lon­ian writ­ings. She came to the
    con­clu­sion that the ancient peo­ple of
    Baby­lon belonged to the Sumer­ian-Akka­di­an peo­ple who were a Turan­ian peo­ple.
    Sor­ry for the his­to­ry les­son BUT one must dis­re­gard all opin­ions and stick to facts when in search of FACTS and sup­port such claims. The musi­cal scale is a Mag­yar cre­ation but is com­mon­ly not pre­sent­ed. So, Mesopotamia, vis­i­ble in the city/state names is obvi­ous­ly Magyar/Hun aka Mag hur/sabir/sumèr/scythian/Etruscan etc and well maybe just for a sec­ond or two, one must dis­re­gard the fal­si­fied Semit­ic zion­ist com­e­dy of inten­tion­al errors!! Big­otry at its finest. And the beat rolls on.….. eGY aZ iSTeN.

  • Ben Leeds Carson says:

    William, you have a few mis­un­der­stand­ings. Dia­ton­ic scales were used in ancient Greece and (less often) in Chi­na; “dia­ton­ic” means “made of two dis­tinct types of tones.” It’s first tes­ti­fied to *explic­it­ly* in music the­o­ry by Aris­tox­enes, as one of three “gen­era” of musi­cal scales, no lat­er than the 4th cen­tu­ry BCE. But recent work on lyre tun­ing in Mesopotamia makes it very clear that Sume­ri­ans had dia­ton­ic sys­tems.

    You’re cor­rect that exact­ly even­ly-spaced tun­ing sys­tems were not worked-out in detail until much lat­er… equal tem­pera­ment isn’t in wide use until the 19th cen­tu­ry. But that’s not a part of the def­i­n­i­tion of “dia­ton­ic”; the whole of the Euro­pean tra­di­tion, and most Baby­lon­ian and Byzan­tine tra­di­tions, are dia­ton­ic as well.

  • John Dixon says:

    It’s an infec­tious­ly joy­ous melody.

  • jordan says:

    The first song sound like a much ear­li­er time then 3400 years ago
    and it sound­ed like a vio­lin but i searched up when it was made and it said it was made in the 16th cen­tu­ry.

    If i am wrong about the instru­ment please cor­rect me.

    Im doing work for school and one of the assign­ments is the worlds old­est song and who wrote it.

  • David says:

    Ugar­it is in Syr­ia, in the north­west­ern part of the “fer­tile cres­cent” region. Ana­to­lia was in the north­ern part, while Sume­ria formed the south­east­ern part of the cres­cent.
    A great deal of writ­ing was found in Sume­ria, espe­cial­ly in Eridu. Abra­ham of Bible fame trav­eled from Ur, a neigh­bor of Eridu, to the region around Ugar­it. Ana­to­lia much resem­bles the Eden of his Gen­e­sis sto­ry, while the sto­ry con­cept also appears in writ­ings found in Eridu.
    So, it’s like­ly that these peo­ple trav­eled from area to area. The music tablets could have come from any­where in the fer­tile cres­cent region. They were prob­a­bly left behind by a young boy who’s par­ents insist­ed he prac­tice his music les­son while on fam­i­ly vaca­tion.

  • Ken says:

    Nope. The Greeks had writ­ten music. (QUOTE)At about the turn of the 5th to 4th cen­tu­ry BCE the tonal sys­tem, sys­tema teleion, had been elab­o­rat­ed in its entire­ty.

  • Maria says:

    Any­one spend­ing time in nature hears the music of birds, winds, hol­low bones and reeds, ani­mals sounds which share pitch, tonal­i­ty. Ear­ly hunters and all humans would be walk­ing with open ears to hear the poten­tial prey as well as the safer back­ground sounds of the nat­ur­al world which form part of every­day life. Com­mu­ni­cat­ing with ani­mal spir­its might also encour­age respond­ing vocal­ly, all of which start us on our jour­ney to song and music. Mim­ic­ry alone would lead us to music.
    On a prac­ti­cal note, when butcher­ing an ani­mal, the dried sinews and gut would make sounds when taunt, when tight­ened into bow strings or rope. It would take about 5 min­utes to notice that dif­fer­ent lengths of string make dif­fer­ent tones, like the human voice plays with tone, and bird songs too. Human voic­es might also attempt to repli­cate bird songs as a hunt­ing mech­a­nism, lur­ing mech­a­nism, and just out of sheer play­ful­ness and joy. Music is very very ancient, like lan­guage.

  • Richard Dumbrill says:

    Per­haps if you read my book: Semit­ic Music The­o­ry, you might change your mind.

  • Richard Dumbrill says:

    There is no such place as ‘Sume­ria’ It is called Sumer. Your hypoth­e­sis is flawed. The tablets were found in archae­o­log­i­cal con­text, as all know.

  • Richard Dumbrill says:

    How there­fore do you account for the Hur­ri­an texts being dis­cov­ered at the Roy­al Palace of Ugar­it?

  • Richard Dumbrill says:

    You should read a bit more…

  • Stephen says:

    .…@ David ! …Love this take !, Esp. Your last sen­tence — cute , fun­ny and qui­et pos­si­bly some­what true :)!

  • Stephen says:

    @ Maria ! — Absolute­ly right on… — in fact it might be argued that vocal , and even oth­er forms of Music came BEFORE Ver­bal lan­guage !

  • Cina Shirinvar says:

    Hey , any­one knows any­thing about the process of trans­la­tion of those man­u­scripts? I’m ful­filled by ques­tions.
    I mean, the orig­i­nal is hiero­glyph and it’s so unlike­ly that there were alpha­bets ref­ered to tones at the sumer­ian time. If there were, how did the pro­fes­sor fig­ured that out?
    Does each of those hiero­glyph let­ters a note? Or it’s just an impli­ca­tion?

  • yolo says:

    The link in this arti­cle to the inter­view with Anne Draf­fko­rn Kilmer does­n’t work. Would you be able to pro­vide a work­ing link?

  • laura says:

    Thank you for this extra infor­ma­tion! Fas­ci­nat­ing and well informed.

  • Dave Wazzup says:

    This is amaz­ing to lis­ten to! It is so sooth­ing. And the fact that I am lis­ten­ing to some­thing from sheet music(rock music) from over 4000 years ago is insane!

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