How old is the traditional Western music scale? Well, according to the discovery of “the oldest known song” on a few clay tablets in the Middle East, it’s a lot older than musicologists once thought! Check out the videos below to hear this haunting melody from 1400 B.C.-era Syria:
The Oldest Known Melody (lyre portrayal)
And here’s a MIDI version of the tune:
The Oldest Song in the World (MIDI version)
The first person to translate this song, Prof. Anne Kilmer, discovered it in 1972 after years of research and work on clay tablets unearthed in Syria during the 1950s. One of the tablets, written in the Hurrian language, contained complete words, music, and performance instructions; she found that it was a religious hymn to the moon god’s wife, Nikal, and was likely sung with accompaniment provided by a harp. Many people have since recreated it using modern musical notation and instruments, as the first embedded video above demonstrates.
This discovery changed much in the study of music history; it proves that “Western” music scales predated ancient Grecian culture, which was previously thought to be where modern music got its start. Amazing, huh? (And even more amazing, we can actually experience a tune from so long ago, hearing it just as its original listeners did!)