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Hurrian Hymn No. 6 — 3400 years old

This one’s dedicated to RAB. :)

Video, appx. 6 minutes. From the long, interesting description:

This unique video, features my arrangement for solo lyre, of the 3400 year old “Hurrian Hymn no.6″, 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!

. . .

It is played here, on a replica of the ancient Kinnor Lyre from neighbouring Israel; an instrument almost tonally identical to the wooden asymmetric-shaped lyres played throughout the Middle East at this amazingly distant time….


  1. NickM says:

    I think RAB knew them before they were famous ;-)

  2. RAB says:

    Very droll my Blondie worshipping friend (dig duly administered) :-)

    Talking of before they were famous; Jerry Dammers dropped in to see me the other day. he had the room next to mine in a massive student house we dubbed Fort Apache, the Meadows, Nottingham, in the dim and distant past. We used to jam and spliff it up a bit in those days. Who knew the shy kid with no front teeth and Rupert the Bear trousers would become…. I really must do a down memory lane post on those days.

    Julie, thank you so much for that. And how contemporary it sounds. That would get a standing ovation at a WOMAD Festival today, and not sound out of place at all.

    Nothing new under the sun in music really is there? After all there are only 8 notes, but the combinations are sheer bliss arn’t they?

    And you had no way of knowing, but I come from a family that was famous for Harp playing once upon a time. My great Grandfather was a Headmaster in Caerphilly, but also taught the Harp. I have pictures of him and his troupe of lady harpists (he was rather fond of the ladies… had two mistresses) playing for Edward VII on his Grand tour of the UK, when he ascended the Throne. And two of his sons Fred and Tom, used to do private gigs for Queen Victoria at Buck House. Fred died on the boat back from America after having played Carnegie Hall.

    There were two concert Harps in the front room of my grandmothers house. I wish we still had them, I’d love to have a go at a harp, I think I have the thumbs for it;-) But they were sold when she died.

    My wife had the opportunity to take up the Harp when she was at the Castle School of Music in Cardiff (same one Ffion Hague went to) but decided to concentrate on piano instead. She has often regretted it.

  3. Paul Marks says:

    The Welsh and their harps – and the Hurrians with their close-to harps.

    Both hill people.

    Although the city the tablet is found in is from the sea coast (it was not a Hurrian city).

    I like the Hurrians – they seem to have been a people with a sense of freedom.

    I even like to think that the modern Kurds are in some way connected to them.

  4. Mr Ed says:

    Did the musician ‘let rip’ at the end? It seemed to me as if the last bit was entirely different, the rest of it sounded to my unmusical ears not unlike a mediaeval English piece.

    From what I have heard, folk music around Europe is remarkably similar, from England, Portugal, Catalonia and the Czech lands. I wonder how far instruments were traded in that distant past.

  5. Penseivat says:

    I understand Bonio of U(seless) 2 is re-releasing it as a Christmas single. You can only buy it if you agree to waive any debt that Syria owes the UK, as opposed to the tax Bonio is not paying by having his money in tax advantageous accounts.

  6. RAB says:

    I wonder how far instruments were traded in that distant past.

    About as far as any commodity was I should think, Mr Ed. For instance, pre the Roman invasion, the largest Copper mine in Europe was in North Wales and coupled with the tin from Cornwall was a mainstay of the Bronze Age. Far from being a tiny island at the far flung edge of things, we were centre stage with trading links over the whole of Europe and beyond.

    But with musical instruments, well just the idea of them once seen will suffice. First was the drum, everyone developed that. Then came the flute, as in simple penny whistle types whittled from hollow reeds and branches. Then someone got sophisticated and came up with tuneable strings made of animal gut, and off music went around the world. The Banjo is often thought to be an uniquely American instrument, but the White Americans merely tidied up what their Black slaves put together from memory from Africa (well they didn’t get much time to pack for the journey did they?); animal skin covered gourds with tuned strings, like a Kora.

    Musicians are prolific thieves, be it melody, lyrics or instruments. Once something is seen to work and be good, someone else has it away on their toes with it. The purity arguement and can Blue men sing the Whites thing never cut any ice at all with me.

  7. Julie near Chicago says:

    RAB, you’re very welcome. :)

    And thank you for the bit of family History of the Harps and so forth. Very interesting. So you did not spring full-blown from the head of Orpheus! Were Fred and Tom harpists?

    Another of your “trips down memory lane” is eagerly awaited. :) again.

    Please console your wife: Harps be blessed and all, but she and he who swear service to the Real (acoustic!) Piano ahead of all other Instruments of Music, and who prove worthy priestesses and priests, SHALL be admitted by St. Peter upon their first appearance, no questions asked. Besides, who wants to be just one more harpist up there in an entire Kingdomful of harpists!

  8. RAB says:

    Oh yes Fred and Tom were harpists alright, bloody good ones too! There are recordings of Fred playing, on the web, which I’m trying to track down. If I manage to find one I’ll post it up.

    A musician friend of mine gave me this recently, and very good it is too…

  9. Julie near Chicago says:

    RAB, that would be great! Meanwhile, thanks for the link. Looks interesting…hope to chase it down later this evening.

  10. RAB says:

    Well here we go… My illustrious Great Uncle seems to have recorded a lot of stuff, but I’m buggered if a computer idiot like me can access the files. What do I need to do to hear his dulcet tones? Can any of you computer nerds help me out here?

  11. NickM says:

    Sorry, can’t help there. Sorry about the quip. It was just envy you know. Number of folks you’ve met.

    As to trade… A few years back in Ulster they un-earthed a tomb of an iron-age chief with the skelington of a monkey in the tomb…

  12. RAB says:

    I liked the quip, it gives me the chance to riposte back. :-)

    Bugger! I’m going to have to get on to those folk and get them to sell me a CD of Great Uncle Fred’s Greatest Hits then.

    They’ve found a Unicorn’s Lair in North Korea you know. Can’t miss it, it says “Unicorn’s Lair” in big letters right above the door. Tee Hee!

  13. NickM says:

    Yeah, but Kim (the current) is the sexiest man alive! It must be a bitter blow to Johnnie, George and Brad… I can go down the street and just buy a pie something you can’t do in Norkland. God alone knows what I’d do with a unicorn mind… The only mythological personage to ever give me the right horn was Cate Blanchett as Galadriel. Who hasn’t fancied a Noldor Queen? I have. It’s the feet. Blanchett walks down to her water-feature to talk with Frodo with a grace that was gorgeous. Just right. As a fully paid-up Tolkienista I can criticise much about the movies but not the casting.

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