The Oldest Music In The World

The Oldest Music In The World

There is archeological evidence of music as far back as 50,000 years ago, perhaps even being practiced by Neanderthals. Prehistoric instruments have been found at archeological sites in the Indus Valley, China and Europe.

But these findings don't tell us much about the music that was played. The video below is of the oldest surviving piece of notated music, performed by Michael Levy.

 
 

Song Information 

  • The song is commonly known as Hurrian hymn to Nikkal, but also Hurrian cult hymn, A Zaluzi to the Gods, or Hurrian Hymn no.6.
  • The musical notation comes from clay tablets excavated in the 1950s from the ancient city of Ugarit, located in modern day Syria. 
  • These clay tablets date to 1400 BCE.
  • The arrangement featured lyrical and musical instructions. 
  • Nikkal was worshiped as a goddess of orchards. 
  • 36 different hymns have been identified from these tablets but Hymn no.6 is the only one that is complete enough to form music
  • The transcription of the notation is controversial, with several modern interpretations existing. 

While "Hurrian hymn to Nikkal" is the oldest piece of music, it is not the oldest complete composition. This record goes to "Seikilos epitaph" which can be listened to below. 

 
 

Song Information

  • The melody and lyrics were found engraved on a tombstone in the Hellenistic town of Tralles, located in modern day Turkey. 
  • The gravestone has been dated to 100 CE
  • The arrangement also featured lyrical and musical instructions. 
  • The lyrics consist of the following four lines (translated into English):

While you live, shine

have no grief at all,

 life exists only for a short while

and time demands an end.

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