"...look into all things with a searching eye” - Baha'u'llah (Prophet Founder of the Baha'i Faith)


Aug 12, 2013

Early Music (4000 B.C. - 400 A.D.)

Archeological findings of ancient instruments demonstrate that humans have made music from the earliest times. While we don't know how this early music sounded, it's clear that Western music, as we know it, evolved from ancient Near Eastern culture.

Ancient Egyptian society regarded music as a gift from the gods. The appearance and the sound of early musical instruments had symbolic significance in Egyptian culture, where music played an important role in religious practice.

Some of the earliest-known instruments were stringed harps and lutes, known to be played in Egypt as early as 4000 B.C.; lyres and double clarinets were played as early as 3500 B.C. and percussion instruments were added to Egyptian orchestral music ca. 2000 B.C., while the tambourine was known to be used by the Hittites ca. 1500 B.C., along with the guitar, lyre, and trumpet.

All ancient Mesopotamian societies - including the kingdoms of Akkadia, Assyria, Babylonia, Chaldea, and Sumeria - made music central to their religious rites and festivals. Starting around 1800 B.C., Babylonian liturgical services were known to include a variety of psalms and hymns. The musical style was antiphonal, with two different voices alternating in chant. Instruments of the time included harps, flutes, drums, and lyres.

The earliest-known written music dates to Sumeria, ca. 800 B.C., in the form of a hymn written in cuneiform on a stone tablet. The first-known musical scales, incorporating five and seven tones per octave, began to appear in Babylonian music during the same period.

The central role of music in Hebrew society is documented in the pages of the Bible. Music was known to be a part of both secular and non-secular Jewish life; the Old Testament tells of trumpet signals in war, of victories celebrated with women's choirs, and of music played in religious festivals. During this period, the Levites were appointed to perform both instrumental and vocal music in the church – using stringed instruments, harps, and cymbals, according to the First Book of Chronicles. Music of this era was primarily monophonic, meaning that it contained a single melody line with no harmonic accompaniment. ('The New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge’)