New Delhi: The history of music is as old as humanity. Making rhythmic sounds by clapping our hands and soulful voices dates back to prehistoric times, and the echo of it can be found in primitive cultures all over the world. But now you can be transported further back in time by listening to the worlds oldest known song, which has captured a glimpse of life in the Middle East almost 3,500 years ago.
The song is a cult hymn, also knows as the Hurrian hymn to Nikkal that was discovered on a set of tablets found in the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit in the early 1950s.
The Hurrian Songs, as they are now known, were meant to be played on a kind of lyre. The most complete of the songs is the Hurrian Song to Nikkal, and scholars have been able to recreate the melody.
Nikkal was the Akkadian goddess of Orchards, and the song offers praise to her, but beyond that the meaning of the text, written in the Hurrian language, has been proved difficult to accurately translate. There are also different versions of the music available; since it was first transcribed in 1972 at the University of California; other music experts have recorded their own versions of the hymn. It just goes to show that all music is open to interpretation and innovation.
The oldest song to have been recorded is a much more contemporary matter. That dates back to April 9, 1860, when French printer and bookseller Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville used his invention, the phonautograph, to record a version of Au Clair De La Lune. The singer was male, probably the inventor himself, and although it predated Edison’s phonograph by seventeen years it was Edison’s invention that became famous, possibly because the phonautograph was intended to only create a visual way to study sound rather than to reproduce it. It wasn’t until 2008 that audio historians found a way to play back the recording.
The version in the video is played by Michael Levy, a musician and composer, who focuses on intensively researching and recreating the ancient playing-techniques of the lyres of antiquity.