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Michael Levy - "Hurrian Hymn no. 6" (c.1400BCE)

Michael Levy
Listen"Hurrian Hymn no. 6" (c.1400BCE)

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The 3400 year old Hurrian Hymn from ancient Mesopotamia, is the oldest known fragment of written music so far discovered, in History!

This is a clip of the Hymn, arranged for solo lyre - the complete piece can be heard on track 2 of my album, "An Ancient Lyre" - available from Apple iTunes &

The 3400 year old "Hurrian Hymn" was discovered in Ugarit in Syria in the early 1950s, and was preserved for 3400 years on a clay tablet, written in the Cunieform text of the ancient Hurrian language.

The replica of the ancient Kinnor Lyre from neighbouring Israel, on which I am performing the piece, is almost tonally identical to the wooden asymmetric-shaped lyres played throughout the Middle East at this amazingly distant time...when the Pharaoh's still ruled ancient Egypt.

A photograph of the actual clay tablet on which the Hurrian Hymn was inscribed, can be seen here:

The melody is an interpretation by Richard Dumbrill, from the ambiguous Cuneiform text of the Hurrian language in which it was written. Although many of the meanings of the Hurrian language are now lost in the mists of time, it can be established that the fragmentary Hurrian Hymn which has been found on these precious clay tablets are dedicated to Nikkal; the wife of the moon goddess.

There are several such interpretations of this melody, but to me, the fabulous interpretation by Richard Dumbrill just somehow sounds the most "authentic". Below is a link to the sheet music, as interpreted by Richard Dumbrill and
arranged by Clint Goss, and also to Richard Dumbrill's own website:

In my arrangement of the Hurrian Hymn, I have attempted to illustrate an interesting diversity of ancient lyre playing techniques, ranging from the use of "block and strum" improvisation at the end, glissando's, trills & tremolos, and alternating between harp-like tones in the left hand produced by finger-plucked strings, and guitar-like tones in the right hand, produced by use of the plectrum. My arrangement of the melody is much slower than the actual arrangement by Richard Dumbrill - I wanted the improvisations in the variations on the theme to stand out, and to better illustrate the use of lyre techniques by a more rubato approach to the melody...

I have arranged the melody in the style of a "Theme and Variations" - I first quote the unadorned melody in the first section, followed by the different lyre techniques described above in the repeat, & also featuring improvisatory passages at the end of the performance.

For full details, please visit:
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