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The Lyre of Megiddo

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This track attempts to evoke the actual timbre of the Canaanite lyre depicted on the Megiddo ivory carving:

"The illustration is etched onto a sliver of a hippopotamus tooth, and probably adorned the lid of a box or some other decorative item. Since the hippo is found in the waters of the Upper Nile River, in Egypt, this piece shows the enormous range and influence of Egyptian culture throughout the Middle East in that period." (Peter Pringle)

The piece is a spontaneous improvisation on my replica of the Canaanite form Leiden lyre; which, since the actual dimensions of this original surviving Canaanite form Egyptian lyre are known, it is therefore probably about the closest we can get to what a Canaanite lyre depicted on the Megiddo ivory carving might have actually sounded like!

My replica of the Leiden lyre dates to around 1500-1300 BCE – almost exactly the same time frame from which the Canaanite lyre illustrated on the Megiddo ivory dates to.

To get even closer to what the original timbre of these ancient lyres may have once sounded, my replica lyre is fitted with a more authentic, wider bridge with a distinctively 'bench-shaped' top, similar to most actual ancient illustrations of lyre bridges seen in a few examples of ancient artwork.

A consequence of having a wider surface area at the top of the bridge, is a distinctive, almost mystical buzzing timbre - similar to the Ethiopian begena; a fascinating 10-string bass register lyre still performed in Ethiopian sacred music to the present day; a lyre which just may be the last direct ancestor of one of the ancient Biblical lyres - the bass register 'Nevel Asor'; once played in the Temple of Jerusalem, along with the treble register 'Kinnor':

Also, even more fascinatingly, since the traditional time period of King David is only a few centuries after the Megiddo ivory was carved and from the same lands, the lyre which he once composed the Biblical Psalms to and which was later played by my ancient Levite ancestors in the Temple of Jerusalem (namely, the Biblical 'Kinnor'), almost certainly both looked and sounded like the replica of the lyre I am playing.

There are 2 sound holes at the bottom of the original ancient Egyptian lyre which have been reproduced in my replica instrument - as can be heard in this experimental recording, when the left hand partially mutes either of these holes, eerie 'wah' effects can be easily produced - certainly capable of waking the ancient Canaanite gods from their ancient slumbers!

For more fascinating details of the musical exchange of ideas between ancient Egypt, Canaan and ultimately, later Israel, please also see my website blog: