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Ancient music

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Ancient music

Ancient Roman music | Music of Mesopotamia | Aulos | Barbiton | Rhapsode | Seikilos epitaph

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Eras of European art music
Ancient music 1500 BCE - 476 CE
Early music 476 - 1600
Common practice period 1600 - 1900
20th century classical music 1900 - 2000

Ancient music is music that developed in literate cultures, replacing prehistoric music.

The development of writing took place in different time periods in different geographic areas. The first examples of structured linear writing have been found in the lower Danube Valley and date from around 5000 BCE. The first examples of Sumerian writing in Mesopotamia date from around 4000 BCE. So this is when the era of ancient music began. In Europe it ended in 476 CE, and was followed by the Early music era of European classical music. For Arab music, ancient history ended in 622 CE.

Very little remains of music from Ancient Greece or Rome. The epics of Homer and the lyrics of Sappho, for instance, were meant to be sung with instrumental accompaniment, but nothing remains of their scores. Fragments of Greek music are, however, extant, most notably scraps from tragedy (a choral song by Euripides for his Orestes and an instrumental intermezzo from Sophocles' Ajax), a few hymns by Mesomedes of Crete (2nd century CE), and the Seikilos epitaph (dated variously between the 2nd century BCE and 1st century CE). Of Roman music, there remains but one meagre scrap: a line from Terence's Hecyra set to music by his composer Flaccus.

Until recently, it was generally believed that all music of antiquity was monophonic and that polyphony was an invention of the Middle Ages, but archaeological evidence indicates that this view is no longer tenable. The "oldest known song" in cuneiform from Ur, 4,000 years old, deciphered by Prof. Anne Draffkorn Kilmer (University of California at Berkeley), was demonstrated to be composed in harmonies of thirds, like ancient English gymel, and was also written using a diatonic scale. Neither harmony nor the diatonic scale can still be considered developments belonging only to "Western" music.

In addition, double pipes, such as used by the Greeks and Persians, and ancient bagpipes, as well as a review of ancient drawings on vases and walls, etc., and ancient writings (such as in Aristotle, Problems, Book XIX.12) which described musical techniques of the time, all indicate harmony existed.

One pipe in the aulos pairs (double flutes) likely served as a drone or "keynote," while the other played melodic passages.

The term "ancient music" may also refer to contemporary, but traditional or folk, music which is considered to continue its "ancient" style and includes much Persian music, Asian music, Jewish music, Greek music, Roman music, the music of Mesopotamia, the music of Egypt, and Muslim music. See also: authentic performance.


The Harps of Ur

In 1929 Leonard Woolley discovered pieces of at least three harps while excavating in the ruins of the ancient city of Ur located in what was Ancient Mesopotamia and is contemporary Iraq. Some fragments are in Pennsylvania, some in the British Museum in London, and some in Baghdad. They have been dated to 2,750 BCE. Various reconstructions have been attempted, but none were totally satisfactory. Depending on various definitions, they could be classed as lyres rather than harps. The most famous is the bull-headed harp, held in Baghdad. It survived both Iraqi wars, and attempts are being made to play a replica of it as part of a touring orchestra.

Harps from Syria and Egypt

Assurbanipal (705 - 681 BCE) was king of Assyria. At his capital at Nineveh is a bas-relief showing the fall of the Judean city of Lachish. In the procession is the Elamite court orchestra, containing seven lyre-players and possibly a hammer-dulcimer player. The lyres appear to have seven strings. True harps are shown in murals from the time Ramesses III of Egypt, about 1200 BCE. "The Tomb of the Harpists" contains a bas-relief with two blind musicians. James Bruce described it in 1768 and it sometimes known as Bruce's Tomb.

See also

External links

Ancient music
Music of ancient Rome
Preceded by Prehistoric music | Succeeded by Early music

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.