INTRODUCTION


My albums are dedicated to recreating the music of ancient Greece, evoking the sounds of ancient Egypt & Mesopotamia, evoking the sounds of the lost music of ancient Rome...and for the first time in almost 2000 years, evoking once more, the mystical refrains of the Biblical Lyres of Antiquity - the lyres of the ancient Hebrews, once played during the actual time of Jesus, by my very own, very ancient Levite ancestors in the Temple of Jerusalem, to accompany the legendary singing of the Levitical Choir - now that's what I call "Roots Music"... 


Levites playing their Lyres in the Temple of Jerusalem (http://www.blallen.com/) 

 

Some of the lyres I play, are evocations of the lyres of the ancient Hebrews, known in Hebrew as the "Kinnor" (כנור) & "Nevel" ( נבל). The design of my lyres are based on illustrations found on ancient Jewish coins, from the time of the Simon Bar Kokhba Revolt against the Roman occupation of Judea in the 2nd century CE:

 

The Biblical Kinnor  

 

Illustration of the Lyre of the Ancient Hebrwes on an ancient Jewish coin, c.135CE 

 

The Biblical Nevel 

 

Possibly The Biblical Nebel, as depicted on a Simon Bar Kocba Coin, c.134CE

 

My evocation of the 3000 year old Kinnor of the ancient Hebrews, is almost  identical to various types of portable lyres once played throughout the Ancient World - for example, the type of lyres played in Canaan some 4000 years ago, in the New Kingdom of ancient Egypt some 3500 years ago & later, the Kithara of both the ancient Greeks & Romans. Therefore, I came up with the inspiration of creating a myriad of albums, to evoke the sound of the lost music of all of these ancient civilizations... 

 

The Ancient Canaanite Lyre c.1900 BCE  

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The Ancient Egyptian Lyre of the New Kingdom c.1500 BCE

 hermes_lyre_egypt.jpg  

 

The Ancient Greek Kithara, c.400 BCE

kithara player_resized

 

The Ancient Roman Kithara, c.1st century  BCE

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T
his section is one of the most detailed & fascinating section of this website - describing the incredibly ancient spiritual background & historical research behind my attempts to recreate for the first time in almost 2000 years, since the tragic destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the actual sound of the lyres of the Ancient Hebrews.

In my extensive research at restoring the sound of the amazing Biblical Lyres, I have also discovered incredible parallels to the other lyres played throughout the ancient world, which to me, strongly suggest the possibility of many ancient cross-cultural musical connections...

This seems evident in the similarity between the Biblical lyres & the lyres played in Canaan & Mesopotamia, the lyres played during the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, over 3000 years ago, and also to the Kithara & Lyra lyres played in Ancient Greece over 2000 years ago. There is also fascinating new archaeological evidence discovered in Crete, that one of the Biblical lyres known as the "Nevel", may have actually been adapted by the Israelites from an instrument of Philistine origin!

 


THE BIBLICAL LYRES ONCE PLAYED IN THE TEMPLE OF JERUSALEM


Developing from the very first portable Canaanite lyres depicted in the Beni Hasan Mural (circa. 1900 BCE), during Biblical times in ancient Israel (circa 1000 BCE), there eventually evolved two specific types of lyres, played in the Temple of Jerusalem, from the time of Solomon's Temple, c.900 BCE to the time of the destruction of Herod's Second Temple by the Romans, in 70 CE - these were the "Kinnor" & "Nevel"...  


 

THE LYRES OF THE LEVITES


The video below is a general introduction to the historical background behind my attempts to restore the sound of the Lyres of the Levites...


 

 

KABBALAH AND THE SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE NUMBER OF STRINGS ON THE BIBLICAL LYRES?


I recently have realized an absolutely astonishing implication about the number of strings used on the Biblical Kinnor and Nevel Lyres, which I am quite dumbfounded that nobody else to my knowledge, seems to have realized before! The Kinnor specifically had ten strings - what is the most likely reason for this? The most obvious explanation to me, is as a reminder of the Ten Commandments?

What of the specific number of twelve strings on the Biblical Nevel? I am almost certain, that this also was not just a random number, but that this specific number of strings also had profound spiritual significance - the most obvious reason to me, that the Nevel was made with 12 strings, was surely to represent the Twelve tribes of Israel? Indeed, the Levitical Priests of the Temple of the Jerusalem also wore a breastplate with 12 gems to represent the 12 Tribes.

I then realized another astonishing fact - the total number of musical tones which could be played on the Kinnor and Nevel, were 12 tones on the 12 strings of the Nevel, plus 10 tones produced on the 10 strings of the Kinnor - totalling22 possible tones...corresponding to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet!

If I am correct in there being an intended spiritual significance in connection with the relationship between the total number of 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet corresponding with the total number of 22 tones capable of being played by the combination of the ancient Kinnor and Nevel lyres once played by the Levitical Ensemble in the Temple of Jerusalem, then this must surely be one of the earliest examples of Kabbalistic philosophy...

Kaballah is an ancient form of Jewish mysticism, and amongst its many fascinating views of the Universe, it places enormous significance on the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet - according to the Kabbalists, since it was the "Word of God" which brought about Creation, and the "Word of God" was spoken in Hebrew, the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet are therefore regarded by the Kabbalists as the literal "Building Blocks of Creation"... 


358446313_3d09996ea7.jpg 


Below is a link I found, with further information on this intriguing aspect of Kabbalah:


http://www.inner.org/hebleter/default.htm


Another possibility about the reason for the use of these particular numbers of strings used on the Biblical Kinnor and Nevel was also  recently suggested by Peter Pringle:

"The curious thing about the importance of the numbers 10 and 12 to the Jews of ancient time, is that 10 was relevant to the Egyptian numeral system based on 100, while 12 related to the sexagesimal system (based on 60) of the Mesopotamian Akkadians and Sumerians. What you have is the 12 of Abraham the Mesopotamian, and the 10 of Moses the Egyptian." 

 


THE SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE NUMBER OF STRINGS USED ON MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS THROUGOUT THE REST OF THE ANCIENT WORLD


In a fascinating dialogue with two other members of the Facebook discussion group, "The Lyre", between myself, Daphne Lykeion & Peter Pringle, the following gems of wisdom were gleaned, regarding the spiritual significance of the number of strings used on other instruments,played throughout the rest of the ancient world...

According to Daphne Lykeion, the number of strings used on the various lyres played throughout ancient Greece, (the Phorminx, the Kithara & Lyra) also possessed spiritual significance:

"The original 4 strings represented the four heights of the sun (two equinoxes and two solstices). The five strings however is a sacred number associated with the sun itself. In the Orphic Hymn to Helios the hymn addressed the sun as a player of the lyre. Lastly the seven stringed lyre is addressed to Apollo, the god who was born on the seventh day of the month, and as such 7 is a sacred number to him" 

Peter Pringle had the following to say on the spiritual significance of numbers in music, as found in other ancient civilizations:

"For many ancient cultures, musical theory and the number of strings, sound holes, etc. on a musical instrument, had more than a superficial symbolic significance. It also had a practical, occult, magical significance as well. According to Jewish scripture it was trumpets, not the Israelite army, that brought down the walls of Jericho!


Many societies have believed that certain master musician/saints of the past have been able to do such things as bring rain, and control other forces of nature strictly through their music. Orpheus was so adept and compelling on his lyre that he even charmed Hades, the king of hell himself, with the beauty of his playing. The Irish Celtic mythical Dagda, King of the Tuatha de Danan, had a magical harp with which he could do all sorts of wonderful things. At one point, he put an entire army of malevolent Formorians out of commission by singing the Song Of Sleep to them. They all promptly went to sleep!


The Jews have a long tradition of association between music and the mystical tradition known as Cabalah, and there are a number of books available on the subject. There are also many books on the subject by so-called "hermetic" cabalists (mainly late 19th century non-Jewish European "magicians" and occultists). These latter writers have no problem at all weaving Greco-Roman folklore and mythology into their essentially cabalistic view of things. ..........or should I say they have no problem weaving Cabalah into their essentially Greco-Roman view of things. An anathema to the Jews!


The cultures that have really raised the art and science of musical mysticism to its height are those of Northern India and China. I don't know that much about the Chinese tradition because relatively little about the subject has been translated from the original Chinese. I do, however, know something about the Indian tradition because I used to live in India MANY years ago, and studied music with (among others) the late Pundit Ravi Shankar. Through his teacher, Allaudin Khan, Ravi Shankar traced his musical lineage back to the legendary saint and mystic/musician of the 15th century, Tan Sen, who is said to have been able to accomplish great miracles through his music. He was what the Hindus call a "nad-siddha", one who possessed complete mastery over sound. Wikipedia says of this man:


"Among the legends about Tansen are stories of his bringing down the rains with Raga Megh Malhar and starting fires with the legendary raga Deepak. Other legends tell of his ability to bring wild animals to listen with attention (or to talk their language). Once, a wild white elephant was captured, but it was fierce and could not be tamed. Finally, Tansen sang to the elephant who calmed down and the emperor was able to ride him. Such was the power of his music that when he used to sing in the court of Akbar, it is said that candles used to light up automatically. Many aficionados are convinced that his death was caused by a conflagration while he was singing the raga Deepaka."


I could write reams on this subject but I shall spare you! There are a couple of things, however, that you might find important in your own investigations of sound and the effect it can have on the conscious experience of those who hear it and, more importantly, those who make it. 


First of all, if a particular phenomenon occurs through sound (and I can assure you, wild white elephants notwithstanding, these things do happen) it is not just the sound itself that does it. It's YOU. Think of it as a flashlight where the sound is the battery and YOU, the bulb.


Secondly, prior to modern times pitches were not fixed and even today A-440 is a bit flat of what is commonly used. It is not the frequency of a particular note itself that produces an effect. It is the interval, or intervals, between two or more notes that can potentially create a state of consciousness in which certain things are possible if conditions are right. 


I highly recommend Hans Cousto's fascinating book, THE COSMIC OCTAVE which can be downloaded on the internet. 


Yes, I know, all this belongs to the realm of pseudo-science and metaphysics but it is nevertheless quite interesting: "Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it does not." Chief Dan George in the film LITTLE BIG MAN (1970)" 

The spiritual significance of the number of strings used on the Biblical lyres would therefore seem to not be a unique phenomenon - throughout the rest of the ancient world, the spiritual significance attached to numbers & mathematics seems to have been part of the very fabric of the philosophy through which the ancients strived to seek some meaning to the Universe in which they found themselves.


FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS 

 

Josephus Flavius

 

Josephus (AD 37 – c. 100), also known as Yosef Ben Matityahu (Joseph, son of Matthias) and, after he became a Roman citizen, as Titus Flavius Josephus, was a first-century Jewish historian who survived and recorded the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 CE...

 

Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem 

 

His writings in the 1st century CE, give an important insight into first-century Judaism, including an invaluable extra-Biblical description of both the Kinnor & Nevel Lyres, once played by the Levitical Ensemble in the Courtyard of the Temple of Jerusalem, to accompany the singing of the Levitical Choir.

 

Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 7, Chapter 12, Paragraph 3:

 

(Whiston translation with footnotes) 

 

            3.  (305) "And now David being freed from wars and dangers, and enjoying for the future a profound peace,{a}{This section is a very remarkable one, and shows that, in the opinion of Josephus, David composed the Book of Psalms, not at several times before, as their present inscriptions frequently imply, but generally at the latter end of his life, or after his wars were over. Nor does Josephus, nor the authors of the known books of the Old and New Testament, nor the Apostolical Constitutions, seem to have ascribed any of them to any other author than to David himself. See Essay on the Old Testament, pp. 174–75. Of these meters of the Psalms, see the note on Antiq. 2.16.4. However, we must observe here, that as Josephus says, Antiq. 2.16.4, that the song at the Red Sea, Exod. 15:1–21, was composed by Moses in the hexameter tune, or meter; as also, Antiq. 4.8.44, that the Song of Moses, Deut. 32:1–43, was an hexameter poem; so does he say that the Psalms of David were of various kinds of meter, and particularly, that they contained trimeters and penta meters, Antiq. 2.12.3; all which implies, that he thought these Hebrew poems might be best described to the Greeks and Romans under those names and characters of Hexameters, Trimeters, and Pentameters. Now, it appears that the instruments of music that were originally used, by the command of king David and Solomon, and were carried to Babylon at the captivity of the two tribes, were brought back after that captivity; as also, that the singers and musicians, who outlived that captivity, came back with those instruments, Ezra 2:41; 7:24; Neh. 7:44; Antiq. 11.3.8; and 4.2; and that this music, and these instruments at the temple, could not but be well known to Josephus, a priest belonging to that temple; who accordingly gives us a short description of three of the instruments, Antiq. 7.12.3; and gives us a distinct account, that such psalms and hymns were sung in his days at that temple, Antiq. 20.9.6; so that Josephus's authority is beyond exception in these matters. Nor can any hypothesis of the moderns that does not agree with Josephus's characters, be justly supposed the true meter of the ancient Hebrews; nor indeed is there, I think, any other original authority now extant, hereto relating, to be opposed to these testimonies before us. That the ancient music of the Hebrews was very complete also, and had in it great variety of tunes, is evident by the number of their musical instruments, and by the testimony of another most authentic witness, Jesus, the son of Sirach, Sir. 1:18, who says that, at the temple, in his days, "The singers sang praises with their voice; with great variety of sounds was there made sweet melody."} composed songs and hymns to God, of several sorts of meter; some of those which he made were trimeters, and some were pentameters.  He also made instruments of music, and taught the Levites to sing hymns to God, both on that called the sabbath day, and on other festivals.  (306) Now the construction of the instruments was thus: The viol [kinnor] was an instrument of ten strings, it was played upon with a bow [plectrum]; the psaltery [nevel] had twelve musical notes, and was played upon by the fingers; the cymbals were broad and large instruments, and were made of brass.  And so much shall suffice to be spoken by us about these instruments, that the readers may not be wholly unacquainted with their nature."

 

The complete writings of Josephus can be viewed in the link below:

 

THE COMPLETE WORKS OF FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS 

 

 


 

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