Music has been around for centuries. From the well-educated music scholar to those who merely listen for enjoyment, this is not something new. However, a discovery in the 1950s by French archaeologists opened up doors to the lengthy history man has had with the art form.
In 1972, Professor Ann Draffkorn Kilmer saw on one of those excavated tablets, a complete hymn in full notation along with directions as to how to tune the instrument used for the song. The tablet, estimated at 3400 years old, was created in approximately 1400 B.C. In his essay titled “Evidence of Harmony in Ancient Music”, Robert Fink explains the tablets had :
…markings called cuneiform signs in the hurrian language (with borrowed akkadian terms) that provided a form of musical notation. One of the texts formed a complete cult hymn and is the oldest preserved song with notation in the world.
The discovery of this song shows evidence that musical notation and scales were a part of human existence long before the Greeks; the time when most believe notation of scales began to take form. Kilmer created an audio version of the song complete with harmony. Using Kilmer’s analysis, Fink wrote a book. Titled the “Origins of Music”, it discusses how this hymn was the first introduction of the diatonic scale. It also brings to light the theory in which harmony in music was alive and well in ancient culture.
But, Kilmer is not the only person to interpret the tablet and make an audio version. Many have made their own interpretations. According to an article published in 2007 by Kay Bell, another scholar from the Netherlands made an audio version of the hymn and presented it at The University of Chicago campus in 2007. In Bell’s article she explains,
The song is a hymn to the moon god’s wife, Nikkal, and Dr Krispijn’s haunting and sad interpretation is entitled The Prayer of an Infertile Woman…
While there are many different modern versions including Kilmer’s and Krispijn’s, the unveiling of the oldest song illustrates not only the rich and deep history of music, but also shows music has played a very important role in the lives of humans. From religious ceremony to contemporary dances and clubs, the symbiotic relationship between man and music will certainly continue for many centuries to come.
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© 2012 Jenna Cornell, All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without prior permissions from the author or Clarity Digital Group LLC d/b/a quadrust.com