New ancestral music for the recreated lyres of antiquity - these enigmatic melodies are perfect soundtracks for relaxation, meditation or prayer; for yoga, reiki, aromatherapy or massage; the perfect musical antidote to living in our stressful world...
This compilation album features a selection of some of my most meditative compositions for archaic replica lyres featured in my previous ancient-themed albums, in some of the most hypnotic, mesmerising ancient Greek intonations and musical modes I have so far experimented with. The tracks all feature the use of geometrically pure musical intervals in just intonation, many of which feature the subtly more calming effect of using a reference tuning pitch of A at 432 Hertz. These enigmatic melodies are perfect soundtracks for relaxation, meditation or prayer; for yoga, reiki, aromatherapy or massage; the perfect musical antidote to living in our stressful, spiritually deprived, aesthetically deprived contemporary world...
We live in a bland and relentlessly manufactured 'musical' world. To me, it feels soulless. It’s as if the stonking beat of rock’ n roll was replaced by a drum machine and suddenly a thrumming heartbeat was silenced in the world. Somehow this replacement pacemaker doesn’t quite measure up!
So, I have a musical mission. An obsession, some might say to open a portal to a time that has been all but forgotten - I dream to rekindle the very spirit of our ancient ancestors. To capture, for just a few moments, a time when people imagined the fabric of the universe was woven from harmonies and notes. To luxuriate in a gentler time when the fragility of life was truly appreciated and its every action was performed in the almighty sense of awe felt for the ancient gods.
With its capacity to transport our thoughts and imaginations, truly there must only be one true magic left in this realm. Music, I say! For, in nothing more than an instant the notes from an ancient melody can carry us right back into the heart of ancient society. Hark...can you hear the lyres and lutes strumming victories and love songs of ordinary people living under these same skies, so many thousands of years before?
Listen here to experience life, at a different rhythm. Close your eyes and through the strange and enigmatic notes, plucked on strings lost through time, let the ancestors sing you their songs...
A unique compilation album, featuring excerpts from Michael Levy's highly acclaimed albums & singles of solo lyre music...
A MUSICAL ADVENTURE IN TIME TRAVEL!
This album is a unique compilation of some of the very best tracks from my many albums which attempt to evoke the lost sounds & playing techniques of the lyres of antiquity. On this “Musical Adventure in Time Travel”, I attempt to recreate a lost vista of ancient landscapes, transporting the listener to a distant, ancient past...
Our voyage through ancient landscapes begins, with a journey back in time, almost 4000 years ago, to the cradle of civilisation, to ancient Mesopotamia. The track featured on this album to transport us back to this ancient land, is my arrangement for solo lyre, of one of the oldest known written musical fragments so far discovered in History, in my performance of Dr Richard Dumbrill's interpretation of the 3400 year old Hurrian Hymn (Text H6) from ancient Ugarit in Mesopotamia. In January 2011, a video of my performance of this piece recently featured in "The Biblical Archaeological Review.”
Hurrian Hymn (Text H6) was discovered in Ugarit in Syria in the early 1950s and was preserved for 3400 years on a clay tablet, written in the Cuneiform text of the ancient Hurrian language. Although 29 musical texts were discovered at Ugarit, only this text, (text H6), was in a sufficient state of preservation to allow for modern academic musical reconstruction. In short, the Cuneiform text clearly indicated specific names for lyre strings, and their respective musical intervals – a sort of “Guitar tablature”, for lyre!
Although discovered in modern day Syria, the Hurrians were not Syrian – they came from modern-day Anatolia. The Hurrian Hymn actually dates to the very end of the Hurrian civilisation (c.1400BCE). Indeed, the ancient Hurrian civilisation dated back to at least 3000 BCE. The evocation of the ancient Kinnor Lyre from neighbouring Israel, on which I perform the piece, is almost tonally identical to the wooden asymmetric-shaped lyres played throughout the Middle East at this amazingly distant time...
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 god.
There are several such interpretations of this melody, but to me, the fabulous interpretation by Richard Dumbrill just somehow sounds the most "authentic". Dr Dumbrill explains the method by which he managed to decipher the melody from the Cuneiform text in his video here. Below is a link to the sheet music, as interpreted by Richard Dumbrill and arranged by Clint Goss:
My first arrangement of the Hurrian Hymn originally featured in my album, “An Ancient Lyre”. In my new arrangement featured in this compilation, I play the melody on my new hand-made lyre, tuning my lyre as the ancients once did, using the pristine purity of the just intonation of antiquity.
In just intonation, to achieve absolute purity of each musical interval in a scale, the ratio of every single musical interval is precisely calculated in rational numbers. As the ratio of each interval is very slightly different in just intonation, since the time of Bach, modern equal temperament eventually came to predominate - as all the intervals in equal temperament are artificially made equal, this enables the seamless transposition to different keys, without any change in the ratio of the intervals.
However, although seamless transposition & modulation between keys is therefore possible in equal temperament, the terrible consequence of equal temperament is that apart from the octave, all the other intervals are all artificially made slightly out of tune! Indeed, out of tune “wooowooowoo” sounding beat waves can clearly be heard, whenever a triad is played on a piano.
The effects of hearing music in the lost purity of just intonation, is a much more serene, yet at the same time, inspiring feeling, with much more intensity of the emotion. Music performed in poor compromise of equal temperament is, in comparison, like a rose without its scent...
In this new arrangement of the melody, I also use much more authentic-sounding natural fibre strings on my lyre, for the finishing touches to the ancient timbre I wish to convey. The strings of my lyre were made of wound silk by ancient musical string technology expert, Peter Pringle – the nearest match in tone, to the unpolished wound gut strings once used in antiquity.
In the repeat featured in my arrangement of the melody, I explore a heterophonic development of the 3400 year old melody deciphered by Dumbrill, featuring an ancient Mesopotamian percussive style of lyre playing, whereby the strings of the lyre, instead of being plucked with either the fingers or a plectrum, are hit with a wooden baton (similar to a modern hammered dulcimer). This technique can be seen on the famous Bas Reliefs of musicians from the ruins of the Palace at Nineveh - these reliefs date back to c.700BCE.
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. In all my solo lyre playing, I also experiment some basic homophony – contrary to the “urban myth” of the monotony of monophony in the ancient world...
There is also a fascinating modern arrangement for piano & orchestra of Dumbrill’s interpretation of the melody of Hurrian Hymn Text H6, by the Syrian pianist & composer Malek Jandali, entitled “Echoes of Ugarit”. However, to my knowledge, my arrangement of the melody in this compilation is quite possibly, for the first time in 3400 years, that the Hurrian Hymn has been authentically performed on an actual lyre with natural fibre strings, in the pristine purity of the just intonation of antiquity...
In the next instalment of this “Musical Adventure in Time Travel”, I attempt to recreate the musical landscape of ancient Egypt. I explore an evocation of the music of ancient Egypt, in my arrangements for solo lyre & archaic arched harp, of both traditional Egyptian folk melodies & in my performance of an improvisation on one of the actual known ancient Egyptian scales, as deciphered by the late Professor Hans Hickmann of the Museum in Cairo, from chironomy gestures... Chironomy is an ancient form of musical notation dating back to the 4th Dynasty (c.2500 BCE) whereby specific hand gestures represented specific changes in the pitch of a melody:
The improvisation on the minor pentatonic ancient Egyptian scale deciphered by Professor Hans Hickmann from ancient Egyptian chironomy, which features in this album, is my composition “Ancient Harps of Kemet” - from my album “The Ancient Egyptian Harp”. “Kemet” is a transliteration of the actual ancient Egyptian word “kmt”, describing the land of Egypt itself, literally meaning “black land” – describing the life-giving, dark fertile mud left behind each Spring after the annual flooding of the Nile.
In my album “The Ancient Egyptian Harp”, I attempted to recreate the sound of the ancient Egyptian shoulder harp of the New Kingdom (c.1500 BCE) on an incredibly archaic 9–string African arched harp still played in Uganda today, known as the Adungu. Virtually identical to the ancient Egyptian arched harp, the Adungu also has a skin soundboard – like a surviving examples of an ancient Egyptian shoulder harp preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the strings of the Adungu are also attached to the resonator via a horizontal wooded pole running directly below the skin soundboard.
“Awe of the Aten” also originally featured in my EP, “The Ancient Egyptian Harp.” The Aten was the ancient Egyptian word for the Sun Disc – venerated in the new monotheistic worship of the Aten by the Pharaoh Akhenaten.
I then explore the ancient landscape of Biblical times, with my evocation of the Music of Ancient Israel, featuring a selection of tracks (some renamed for this compilation), originally heard on from albums, "King David's Lyre; Echoes of Ancient Israel" & “King David’s Harp”.
The track I have entitled “Exodus of the Israelites” in this compilation, is my arrangement for solo lyre of the traditional Klezmer melody “Odessa Bulgar” – first featured in track 10 of my album "King David's Lyre; Echoes of Ancient Israel". “The Tablets of Moses” (based on the traditional sacred Jewish melody “Noch Havdallah”) featured in my album “King David’s Harp”.
These albums explore an evocation of the sound of the 10-string Biblical "Kinnor" - the 10-string lyre once played by my very own, very ancient Levite ancestors in the Temple of Jerusalem to accompany the singing of the Levitical Choir...
We then move on our "Musical Adventure in Time Travel" to recreate the landscape of ancient Greece. The names of musical modes in use today, (e.g. Dorian, Mixolydian etc) although having the same names as the original Greek musical modes, were actually misnamed during the Middle Ages! Apparently, the Greeks counted intervals from top to bottom. When medieval ecclesiastical scholars tried to interpret the ancient texts, they counted from bottom to top, jumbling the information. The misnamed medieval modes are only distinguished by the ancient Greek modes of the same name, by being labelled “Church Modes”. It was due to a misinterpretation of the Latin texts of Boethius, that medieval modes were given the wrong Greek names. According to an article on Greece in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the original ancient Greek names for species of the octave included the following (on white keys):
B-B: Mixolydian E-E: Dorian A-A: Hypodorian D-D: Phrygian G-G: Hypophrygian C-C: Lydian F-F: Hypolydian
For what Plato & Aristotle had this to say about these ancient musical modes, please see this fascinating link:
My composition “Orpheus’s Lyre: Lament for Solo Lyre in the Ancient Greek Phrygian Mode” (originally released as an extended length single) was inspired by the timeless ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice:
"Eurydice and Orpheus were young and in love. So deep was their love that they were practically inseparable. So dependent was their love that each felt they could not live without the other. These young lovers were very happy and spent their time frolicking through the meadows. One day Eurydice was gaily running through a meadow with Orpheus when she was bitten by a serpent. The poison of the sting killed her and she descended to Hades immediately. Orpheus was son of the great Olympian god Apollo. In many ways Apollo was the god of music and Orpheus was blessed with musical talents. Orpheus was so sad about the loss of his love that he composed music to express the terrible emptiness which pervaded his every breath and movement. He was so desperate and found so little else meaningful, that he decided address Hades. As the overseer of the underworld, Hades heart had to be hard as steel, and so it was. Many approached Hades to beg for loved ones back and as many times were refused. But Orpheus' music was so sweet and so moving that it softened the steel hearted heart of Hades himself. Hades gave permission to Orpheus to bring Eurydice back to the surface of the earth to enjoy the light of day. There was only one condition - Orpheus was not to look back as he ascended. He was to trust that Eurydice was immediately behind him. It was a long way back up and just as Orpheus had almost finished that last part of the trek, he looked behind him to make sure Eurydice was still with him. At that very moment, she was snatched back because he did not trust that she was there. When you hear music which mourns lost love, it is Orpheus' spirit who guides the hand of the musicians who play it” (Taken from Thomas Bulfinch and retold by Juliana Podd in Encyclopaedia Mythica)
In this piece, I explore modulating between the incredibly poignant-sounding ancient Greek Phrygian mode (this was misnamed the ‘Dorian’ mode in the Middle Ages) to evoke the yearning of Orpheus for his forever lost love, and the dreamy, sensual & feminine-sounding ancient Greek Hypolydian mode (misnamed the ‘Lydian’ mode in the Middle Ages), to paint a picture of Eurydice - the lost love for which he forever yearns...
I derive my ancient lyre playing techniques by both inferring the playing styles illustrated in ancient depictions of lyre players, studying the lyre playing techniques still practiced today throughout the continent Africa and also by a process of creative elimination, in my quest to discover just what was conceivably possible for the imaginative lyre player of antiquity to play on the instrument...
Indeed, the lyre lends itself to almost limitless heterophonic possibilities in improvising around the texture of the melody – different combinations of gentle harp-like finger plucked tones contrasting with brighter guitar-like plectrum plucked tones, strumming rhythm by means of ‘string-blocking’ (blocking notes not required to sound with the left hand notes whilst strumming the open strings with a plectrum in the right hand – a technique still practised today, by the Krar lyre players of Eritrea), the use of plectrum-plucked tremolo effects (a technique used by Egyptian Simimiyya lyre players) and instead of just plucking the strings, it is also possible to hit the strings with a wooden baton, like a hammered dulcimer - a technique derived from illustrations of musicians found in bas reliefs from the ruins of the palace of Nineveh, c.700 BCE, where the lyre players are clearly depicted performing this percussive style of lyre playing. In this composition, I tune my lyre to the wonderfully pure just intonation of antiquity.
“Ode to Aphrodite” (also composed in the Hypodorian Mode) featured in my album, “The Ancient Greek Lyre”. Aphrodite was the ancient Greek goddess of Love...
"Spirit of the Kithara” (composition in the Dorian Mode) originally featured on my album "The Ancient Greek Modes" . The Kithara was the large 7-string wooden lyre, once favoured by the professional musicians of ancient Greece...
A track on this compilation which originally featured in my album “Apollo’s Lyre” is “Ode to Athena” (original composition for lyre in the ancient Greek Hypodorian Mode). Athena was the ancient Greek goddess of Wisdom. The Parthenon in Athens was dedicated to the goddess Athena, in which once stood a magnificent statue of the goddess...
“Vapours of Delphi" (composed in the ancient Greek Phrygian Mode) can be heard on track 3, from my album "A Well Tuned Lyre – The Just Intonation of Antiquity". Throughout antiquity, the Pythia (the Delphic Oracle) would breathe the sacred vapours of Delphi and enter a shamanic trance, in which she was said to then be able foretell the future...
This compilation album also features my extended length single, “The Battle of Thermopylae: Paean For Solo Lyre” – a spontaneous improvisation for lyre in the ancient Greek Dorian Mode. According to the writings of Plato & Aristotle, the ancient Greek Dorian Mode was the manliest of all the ancient Greek Modes - when played with vigour, music played in the ancient Greek Dorian Mode could even inspire bravery in battle! In Classical antiquity, a Paean was a song of triumph. It comes from the Greek παιάν (also παιήων or παιών), meaning "song of triumph, any solemn song or chant."
Typically the paean was in the ancient Greek Dorian mode (equivalent intervals as E – E on the white notes of the piano) and was accompanied by the kithara, which was the instrument of the ancient Greek god of music, Apollo. Paeans meant to be sung on the battlefield were accompanied by aulos and kithara
A "Musical Adventure in Time Travel"! The Music of Ancient Mesopotamia, the Music of Ancient Egypt & Israel, the Music of Ancient Greece & Rome - let the magical Journey commence...
This album, is a unique compilation of some of the very best tracks of my 10 Albums of Ancient Lyre Music. The repertoire on this album includes my arrangement on replica 3000 year old Lyre, of the oldest known written musical fragment so far discovered, in my performance of Dr Dumbrill's interpretation of Hurrian Hymn (Text H6) from ancient Ugarit in Mespopotamia (a video of my live performance of this piece, recently featured in the world-acclaimed "Biblical Archaeological Review").
The track "Shadow of the Ziggurat" was originally recorded for my album, "Ancient Visions - New Compositions For An Ancient Lyre". This album features original compositions for my replica 3000 year old lyre, inspired by ancient Mesopotamia. "Shadow of the Ziggurat" explores an ancient percussive style of lyre playing, wherby the strings of the lyre, instead of being plucked with either the fingers or a plectrum, are hit with a wooden baton (similar to a modern hammered dulcimer). This technique can be seen on the famous Bas Reliefs of musicians from the runin of the Palace at Nineveh - these reliefs date back to c.700BCE.
I also explore an evocation of the music of Ancient Egypt, in my perfomance of improvisations on some of the actual Ancient Egyptian minor pentatonic scales, as deciphered by the late Professor Hans Hickmann of the Museum in Cairo, from chironomy gestures - chironomy is an ancient form of musical notation dating back to the 4th Dynasty, whereby specific hand gestures represented specific changes in the pitch of a melody. These improvisations are "Echoes of Ancient Egypt" (from my album, "An Ancient Lyre") & "The Music of Moses" (from my album, "King David's Lyre; Echoes of Ancient Israel").
I also further experiment at evoking the music of Ancient Egypt, in my arrangement for lyre, of some traditional Egyptian folk songs from Port Said in my albums "An Ancient Lyre" & "Apollos' Lyre" - the track "Hymn to Horus" (originally from my album "Apollo's Lyre") is my re-named arrangement for my replica lyre, of the Egyptian folk song, "One Day We Blamed Eachother"
I then explore an evocation of the Music of Ancient Israel, with a selection of tracks (some renamed for this album), originally heard on from albums, "King David's Lyre; Echoes of Ancient Israel", "Lyre of the Levites" & "The Ancient Biblical Lyre"....
The tracks "The Music of Moses", "The Temple of Jerusalem" & "Ark of the Covenant" are taken from my album "King David's Lyre; Echoes of Ancient Israel" & "Lyres of the Levites" can be heard on track 1 on my album, "Lyre of the Levites". These 2 albums explore the sound of the 10-string Biblical "Kinnor" - the 10-string lyre once played by my very own, very ancient Levite ancestors in the Temple of Jerusalem to accompany the singing of the Levitical Choir...now that's what I call "Roots Music"!
The tracks "King David Danced" & "Ashir Shirim" can be originally heard on my album, "The Ancient Biblical Lyre". This album explored the sound of the elusive Biblical "Nevel" - a 12 string lyre also played by the Levites in the Temple of Jerusalem. From the writings of Flavius Josephus & the Mishna (an early Rabbinical text), there is evidence to suggest this was a skin-membrane lyre, similar to the ancient Greek Lyra or Barbitos...
We then move on our "Musical Adventure in Time Travel" to hear some of the actual music of Ancient Greece! The tracks "Epitaph of Seikios", "The First Delphic Hymn To Apollo" & "Lament of Simonides" were originally heard on my album, "The Ancient Greek Lyre". This album explores the Kithara - my replica Biblical Kinnor is almost identical to the Ancient Greek Kithara - the large wooden lyre, once favoured by the professional musicians of Ancient Greece.
On our exploration through Ancient Greece, some of my own compositions for Kithara-style lyre can be heard - "Apollo's Lyre" can be heard on track 1, from my album "Apollo's Lyre" and "Hymn To Zeus" also features on this earlier album. "Glory of the Parthenon" & "Procession of the Olympians" originally featured on my album "The Ancient Greek Modes" - a unique EP of original compositions for Kithara-style replica lyre, in each of the 7 original Ancient Greek Modes (as described in the writings of Plato & Aristotle, some 2400 years ago).
We then arrive in ancient Rome, with the track "Roman Banquet", originally heard on my EP album, "Echoes of Ancient Rome". This album features 7 original compositions for lyre in a selection of authentic ancient musical modes. The compositions on this album were mainly inspired by the Temples of Ancient Rome...
This compilation closes with my mediative composition for replica 3000 year old Lyre, "Ancient Vibrations"...track 1 from my album, also entitled "Ancient Vibrations". This album explores the healing aspects of King David's Lyre, as so vividly described in the Biblical text, of how King David soothed the troubles of Saul, with the sound of his Lyre (the 10-string Biblical Kinnor). This album is suitable for reiki, relaxation & spiritual contemplation...
The actual surviving music of ancient Greece, evocations of ancient Egypt and a performance of of the 3400 year old "Hurrian Hymn" from ancient Mesopotamia....
The concept of this unique album, is a meditative "Musical Adventures in Time Travel"! On this Voyage, I will take you back to the entrancing sounds of ancient Egypt, examples of some of the the actual surviving musical fragments of ancient Greece, and indeed, to the oldest fragment of written melody so far ever discovered, in my arrangement for solo lyre, of the 3400 year old "Hurrian Hymn " from Mesopotamia!
The lyre I play is a replica of the 10- string Lyre of the Ancient Hebrews (known in Hebrew as the "Kinnor" ( כנור ). This incredible lyre also features in my earlier albums available from cdbaby, "King David's Lyre; Echoes of Ancient Israel" and "Lyre of the Levites". For full details into all the fascinating historical background and research into these albums, please follow the link on the left to my "Official Website". My replica 3000 year old Kinnor Lyre of the Ancient Hebrews, is almost tonally identical to the wooden lyres played throughout the Ancient World - for example, the type of lyre played 3000 years ago in the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt ( as seen on the see album cover) and the anceint Greek Kithara Lyre. Therefore, I came up with the inspiration of this concept heard here, of creating an album featuring music from all these amazing Ancient Civlilizations...
1) "An Ancient Lyre" - my meditative prelude to the album, consisting of a spontaneous improvisation on a mesmerizing, hypnotic, dreamy ancient Middle Eastern "Hijaz" scale...
2) "Hurrian Hymn no.6" - My performance of the 3400 year old "Hurrian Hymn"heard here recently featured in the Internationally renowned pages of "The Biblical Archaeological Review: http://bit.ly/dIeTgb
The 3400 year old "Hurrian Hymn" (Text H6) which was discovered in Ugarit in Syria in the early 1950s, and was preserved for 3400 years on a clay tablet, written in the Cuniform text of the ancient Hurrian language - it is THE oldest written song yet known, in History! Respect, to the amazing ancient culture of Syria.. .السلام عليكم
Although about 29 musical texts were discovered at Ugarit, only this text, (text H6), was in a sufficient state of preservation to allow for modern academic musical reconstruction.
In short, the Cuneiform text clearly indicated specific names for lyre strings, and their respective musical intervals – a sort of “Guitar tablature”, for lyre!
Although discovered in modern day Syria, the Hurrians were not Syrian – they came from modern day Anatolia. The Hurrian Hymn actually dates to the very end of the Hurrian civilisation (c.1400BCE) . The Hurrian civilization dates back to at least 3000 BCE. It is an incredible thought, that just maybe, the musical texts found at Ugarit, preserved precious sacred Hurrian music which may have already been thousands of years old, prior to their inscription for posterity, on the clay tablets found at Ugarit!
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.
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.
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...
3) "Echoes of Ancient Egypt" - this improvisation on the lyre, uses a genuine pentatonic ancient Egyptian scale...last heard, some 3000 years ago! Although tragically no actual written music from ancient Egypt has survived, we do know from many ancient illustrations, that the ancient Egyptians did use a form of musical notation, whereby specific gestures of the hand represented specific changes in pitch in a given musical scale - this is ancient form of musical notation is known as "Chironomy". We also know some of the specific scales once used in ancient Egypt, thanks to the discovery of serveral ancient Egyptian flutes, still in playable condition! The ancient lost art of Chironomy, and details of this haunting, ancient Egyptian scale are discussed at length in this fascinating article:
The minor pentatonic scale I am using in this improvisation, was deciphered from ancient chironomy gestures by the late Professor Hans Hickmann, of the Museum in Cairo.
This improvisation is therefore my attmept to evoke the sounds of the Lyres heard in the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, over 3000 years ago...
Tracks 4 - 8 of the album continue my attempt to evoke the sounds of ancient Egypt, in my arrangements for solo lyre, of a selection of my favourite tradtional Egyptian folk songs from Port Said, where the Simsimyya Lyre is still played toady by the local musicians - a lyre which has its origins stretching back almost 4000 years ago, to the Middle kingdom of Ancient Egypt...
4)"My Heart Was Burnt by Love" - a traditional Egyptian folk song
5) "Salah" - a traditional Egyptian folk song
6) "Baghanni" (I Sing) - a wonderful traditional Egyptian folk song from Port Said.
7) "Sar A Lay" - a traditional Egyptian folk song from Port Said.
8) "I Saw The Moon" - a wonderful traditional Egyptian folk song from Port Said.
9) "The First Delphic Hymn to Apollo" - This is my arrangement for solo lyre, of the famous "First Delphic Hymn to Apollo" - a precious surviving fragment of music, which is an amazing legacy from the mostly lost musical culture of ancient Greece! My replica "Kinnor" lyre of the Ancient hebrews (based on illustrations found on ancient Jewish coins), is virtually identical to the ancient Greek "Kithara" - the large wooden lyre favoured by the professional musicians of ancient Greece (with the small exception, that Kithara had 7 strings, whereas the Kinnor had 10 - no doubt to represent the Ten Commandments?)
There are two Delphic Hymns that have been discovered, and they were dedicated to the god Apollo. The two Delphic Hymns have sadly not survived in their complete form. However, they do survive in substantial fragments...giving just a tantalizing taste of the glory of the tragically lost, magnificent musical culture of ancient Greece!
The two Delphic Hymns are dated c.138 BC and 128 BC. My rendition here, is of the earlier of them; the First Delphic Hymn. Although it has unfortunately not survived in its complete form, the First Delphic Hymn to Apollo is THE earliest unambiguous surviving fragment of notated music from anywhere in the Western World! It is written in the unambiguous alphabetical musical notation system used in ancient Greece, whereby alphabetical notation describing the pitch of the melody, is written above the text of the song, as can be clearly seen in this image of the actual Delphic Hymn, as it was found, inscribed in marble:
The rhythm can easily be inferred from the syllables of the text.
The First Delphic Hymn to Apollo was discovered in 1893 by a French archaeologist. It was inscribed in marble, carved on an outside wall of the Treasury of the Athenians at Delphi.
All that is known about its composer is that it was written by an Athenian, around 138 BC, since the part of the inscription giving the name of the composer is too difficult to read. The Second Delphic Hymn is slightly more recent, and has been dated to precisely 128 BC; evidently it was first performed in the same year. The name of the composer of the Second Delphic Hymn has also survived, in a separate inscription: he is called "Limenius". The occasion of the later hymn was the Pythian Festival, and this one, the earlier hymn, was probably written for the boys choir at the Pythian Games in 138 BC.
The translation of the fragment of text which has survived of the this, the First Delphic Hymn to Apollo, is as follows:
"Hear me, you who posses deep-wooded Helicon, fair-armed daughters of Zeus the magnificent! Fly to beguile with your accents your brother, golden-tressed Phoebus who, on the twin peak of this rock of Parnassus, escorted by illustrious maidens of Delphi, sets out for the limpid streams of Castalia, traversing, on the Delphic promontory, the prophetic pinnacle. Behold glorious Attica, nation of the great city which, thanks to the prayers of the Tritonid warrior, occupies a hillside sheltered from all harm. On the holy alters Hephaestos consumes the thighs of young bullocks, mingled with the flames, the Arabian vapor rises towards Olympos. The shrill rustling lotus murmurs its swelling song, and the golden kithara, the sweet-sounding kithara, answers the voice of men. And all the host of poets, dwellers in Attica, sing your glory, God, famed for playing the kithara, son of great Zeus, beside this snow-crowned peak, oh you who reveal to all mortals the eternal and infallible oracles. They sing how you conquered the prophetic tripod guarded by a fierce dragon when, with your darts you pierced the gaudy, tortuously coiling monster, so that, uttering many fearful hisses, the beast expired. They sing too, . . . ."
10) "Hymn to the Muse" - a hauntingly beautiful surviving fragment of the mostly lost music of ancient Greece. This piece was written almost 2000 years ago, by Mesomedes of Crete...
Mesomedes of Crete was a Greek lyric poet and composer of the early 2nd century AD. More information can be found at:
It is written in the ancient Greek "Dorian" mode; E-E on the white note of the piano - not to be confused with the MEDIEVAL "Dorian" mode, which was D-D! Due to a misinterpretation of the Latin texts of Boethius, medieval modes were given the wrong Greek names! For the CORRECT names of the ORIGINAL ancient Greek modes, see:
For what Plato & Aristotle themselves had this to say about these ancient musical modes, please see this fascinating link:
The most challenging aspect of playing this piece, is attempting to play the many accidentals required by the melody - on a DIATONICALLY tuned lyre...WITHOUT the aid of any fancy sharpening pedals, which are to be found on almost all modern harps!
According to the musicologist Curt Sachs, the ancient Greeks managed to get around this by a technique I have been working on, called "finger-stopping" - an accidental can be played, by increasing the pitch of a lyre string by a semitone; this is achieved by pressing the string (about a centimeter in from the tuning peg), with a finger of the left hand which shortens its vibrating length, and therefore increases the pitch of the note the string produces.
The translation of the words to this ancient Greek song are as follows:
'Sing for me, dear Muse, begin my tuneful strain; a breeze blow from your groves to stir my listless brain...Skillful Calliope, leader of the delightful Muses, and you, skillful priest of our rites, son of Leto, Paean of Delos, be at my side'. (translation by J. G. Landels).
11) Ancient Greek Fragment - This simply mesmerizing fragment of ancient Greek music, is catalogued simply as "ANONYMI BELLERMANN 97" . It was preserved in an ancient Byzantine manuscript:
Conspectus codicum: V. Venetus Marcianus appl. cl. VI, saec. XIII-XIV N. Neapolitanus graecus III. C4, saec. XV F. Florentius Ricc. 41, saec. XVI
I first heard this amazing piece performed on the album "Musique de la Grece Antique" (Atrium Musicae de Madrid, 1979)
12) "Song of Seikilos" - the final track on my album, is unique in musical history, as it is the only piece of music from antiquity in the entire Western world, that has SO far been found, which has survived in its COMPLETE form, and unlike much earlier surviving fragments of melodies that have been found, this song is written in a totally unambiguous ALPHABETICAL musical notation, which can be played, note for note, as it was written...about 2000 years ago:
This melody is an amazing musical legacy from ancient Greece; a precious remnant of a long-forgotten musical culture now forever lost in the mists of time. It is written in the ancient Greek "Hypophrygian" mode; the equivelant intervals as heard in a scale of G-G played on the white notes of the piano. (This mode confusingly has exactly the same intervals as heard in the MEDIEVAL "Mixolydian" mode -the ORIGINAL ancient GREEK "Mixolydian" mode, was, in fact, B-B!).
In this version, I have tried to utilize EVERY conceivable lyre-playing technique I could think of, which may have also been used in Antiquity! This includes experimenting with "string blocking" at the beginning (blocking certain notes to form chords with the left hand to enable rhythm to be strummed on the lyre; just as on a guitar!), alternating between finger-plucked and plectrum plucked tones, the use of basic harmony below the melodic line, a touch of improvisation between phrases and plenty of tremolos & glissando's...in order to inject some new life into this beautiful ancient melody...
This is a more lively rendition than some of the "dire dirge-like" renditions of the song I have heard on some older recordings of it - I have recently learnt that "The Song of Sekilos" is, in fact a DRINKING SONG! (What a GREAT idea of the ancient Greeks to put a drinking song on a TOMBSTONE - I want one to be on MINE!!). The ancient Greek term for a drinking song like this was called a "Skolion".
About 2000 years after it was written, this melody was rediscovered in 1883, in its complete & original form. It was found inscribed in marble on an ancient Greek burial stele, bearing the following epitaph: "I am a portrait in stone. I was put here by Seikilos, where I remain forever, the symbol of timeless remembrance".
The timeless words of the song are:
"Hoson zes, phainou Meden holos su lupou; Pros oligon esti to zen To telos ho chronos apaitei"
Translation - "While you live, shine Don't suffer anything at all; Life exists only a short while And time demands its toll"