The World’s Oldest Music

This is a pagan hymn from about 1400 B.C., produced by an ancient Near Eastern people we call Hurrians. The music score is in cuneiform, preserved on a clay tablet. The instrument on which it is played, here, is a reproduction of a lyre, as reconstructed by archaeologists. If the translation of the tablet is accurate, then we are listening to a piece of music from 3,400 years ago.

Was this similar to the music Saul heard, when David played for him? When David first composed the Psalms, did he set them to music that sounded like this?

It’s possible that what we have here is a true window into the remote past, and a live connection with a portion of the Bible. It may be as close as we can ever come to actually hearing the Psalms as David sang them.

Which is really, really something, when you think about it.

8 comments on “The World’s Oldest Music

    1. That is awesome. The structure is completely compatible with modern music. It sounds like it could have been from a Crosby Stills & Nash album. There was also an element quite reminiscent of a tremolo as played on Classical Guitar.

      To my sensibilities, this reveals something notable: the ancients had music which was sophisticated. Long before the Classical masters, there were songs that employed structures recognizable and pleasing to the modern listener.

    2. You were 100% right on that one, Lee.

      When all is restored, I hope that I can meet some of the originators of ancient music. I think that music would prove itself to be the universal language, because that music is completely comprehensible to a musician in our age, and I suspect that my music would be comprehensible to the person whom wrote this.

      Probably the biggest difference would be thousands of years advancement in musical instruments. A lyre must be a bear to play well. OTOH, an ancient lyre player would probably think that the Bigsby whammy bar on my Gretsch was pretty nifty. 🙂

  1. Every time I read in the gospels that Jesus and His disciples sang a psalm after their Last Supper, I wonder what Psalm it was and how it sounded. And when I read the Psalms, I wonder what the melody was.

    Very unusual, yet somehow familiar.

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