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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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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