A series of 7 spontaneous improvisations on my magnificent replica of the 3,500 year old ancient Egyptian lyre; recreated from the original dimensions of the remarkably surviving ancient Egyptian lyre preserved in Leiden:
The lyre was custom made for me, by Luthieros:
These type of distinctively asymmetrical shaped lyres almost certainly were introduced into Egypt during the reign of the Canaanite Hyksos kings, from circa 1,600 BC - these type of lyres were very common throughout the ancient Near East.
Fascinatingly, this type of lyre is also probably about the nearest we can get to what the lyre of King David might have actually looked like - there is an almost identical form of lyre depicted on an ivory carving from Megiddo from circa 1,300 BC; just a few centuries from before the traditional Biblical period of David!
The buzzy timbre of my lyre is due to the flat, bench-shaped grooveless bridge. Since almost all the lyres still played throughout the African continent today have this buzzing timbre (in particular, the Ethiopian begena), it is far more likely, that the first lyres introduced into Africa from the ancient Near East (probably via trade routes with Egypt), also had this distinctive timbre.
An evocation of the practice of magic of ancient Egypt - through nothing more than the timeless spells of music!
In the creation of this other worldly sounding, ancient Egyptian-themed EP, I am delighted to announce an ongoing international collaboration between myself, the Egyptian film score composer & ethnic Egyptian wind instrumentalist, Remon Sakr.
Also featuring in the first two tracks of this album, is the haunting sounds of the Cairo cellist, Jan Abadier, whose intense cello playing weaves dark threads of sound across the timbre of my lyres and exotic Egyptian rhythms...
"Outstanding and inspiring!This music truly is fabulous! I think Michael Levy is a genius. I find this music to be quite inspiring as a composition music student at university. I will certainly be purchasing more of his work! I highly recommend this artist!"
iTunes (Australia) Review of "The Ancient Egyptian Harp"
Recreating the mystical sound, of the 4500 year old Ancient Egyptian Arched Harp...
This album is my attempt to recreate the lost sound of the archaic arched harp – the harp played over 4500 years ago in ancient Egypt, from the Old Kingdom’s basic bow harp to the beautifully ornate arched harps of the New Kingdom, 3500 years ago – some of which are miraculously preserved in museums around the world.
Incredibly, an almost exact descendant of the ancient Egyptian arched harp is still played on the African continent today, in the form of the 9-string Adungu harp of Uganda (the instrument on which I recorded this album).
Preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is an ancient Egyptian arched harp from the 18th Dynasty (1390–1295 B.C) whose similarity to the Ugandan Adungu arched harp is quite stunning! Here are some detailed explanatory notes about this exhibit, quoted from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website:
“Egyptian arched harps from Dynasty 4 onward coexisted with a great variety of harps in different shapes and sizes. Two harp types were most common—the arched harp with a curved neck, like this one, and the angled harp with a neck sharply perpendicular to the body. Unlike most European versions, ancient Egyptian harps have no fore pillars to strengthen and support the neck. Older forms of arched harps had four or five strings, this harp has twelve strings. Skin once covered the open, slightly waisted sound box. Rope tuning rings under each string gave a buzzing sound to the soft-sounding tone produced. Topping the arched frame of the harp is a carved human head.
This type of portable, boat-shaped arched harp was a favourite during the New Kingdom and is shown in the hands of processional female musicians performing alone or in ensembles with singers, wind instruments, sistrums, and rattles. Prior to the Middle Kingdom, depictions of harpists feature men as the chief musicians. Harps and other instruments were used for praise singing and entertainment at ritual, court, and military events. Today, arched harps derived from these ancient Egyptian forms are still used in parts of Africa and Asia” (http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/43.2.1)
Like the Adungu arched harp, this preserved example of an ancient Egyptian arched harp, also had a soundboard of taut leather. Just as on the Adungu, the strings are attached to the body of the harp on a wooden pole beneath the leather soundboard – the tension of the strings pulling on this wooden bar keeps the skin soundboard above it taut. Many examples of the Adungu harp also have similar rings behind the strings to produce a buzz (although the Adungu harp I was lucky enough to find in order to create this album does not). My arched harp has 9 strings, made of some sort of natural fibre (possibly silk), which produces a very gently tone, quite different to the brighter, more resonant tone of modern high tension nylon harp strings.
Incredibly, along with remnants of the actual ancient Egyptian language, chironomy is still practiced today in the Coptic Church – an incredible musical legacy, maybe dating back some 5000 years!
In the title of this track, “Kemet” is the transliteration (k.mt) of the actual ancient Egyptian word for the land of Egypt. “k.mt” actually translates as “Black Land” – which to the ancient Egyptians, meant fertility: referring to the colour of the fertile black soil deposited each season by the Nile floods.
“The Celestial Nile” – to the ancient Egyptians, the Celestial Nile was that pathway of stars through the Heavens, known to us today as the Milky Way. On this great star-spangled river, the soul of the Initiated, sailing in a Ship of Light, travelled through the Gateway of the Zodiac to the domain of Isis.
“Ode To Osiris” – Osiris was the ancient Egyptian god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead. He was the oldest son of the Earth god Geb, and the sky goddess Nut, as well as being brother and husband of Isis, with Horus being his posthumously begotten son.
“My Hear Was Burnt By Love” – a traditional Egyptian folk melody from Port Said, arranged for archaic arched harp. A different arrangement of this tune, on replica 3000 year old lyre, can be heard on my album, “An Ancient Lyre”
“Awe of the Aten” – Aten was the ancient Egyptian name for the Sun disk, venerated during the Armana period of the 18th Dynasty, under the reign of the Pharaoh Akhenaten – the actual time when the ancient Egyptian arched harp preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, may last have been played...