Hurrian songs

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A drawing of one side of the tablet on which the Hymn to Nikkal is inscribed[1]
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The Hurrian songs are a collection of music inscribed in cuneiform on clay tablets excavated from the ancient Amorite[2][3] city of Ugarit which date to approximately 1400 BC. One of these tablets, which is nearly complete, contains the Hurrian hymn to Nikkal (also known as the Hurrian cult hymn or A Zaluzi to the Gods, or simply h.6), making it the oldest surviving substantially complete work of notated music in the world. While the composers' names of some of the fragmentary pieces are known, h.6 is an anonymous work.

History[edit]

Ugarit, where the Hurrian songs were found

The complete song is one of about 36 such hymns in cuneiform writing, found on fragments of clay tablets excavated in the 1950s from the Royal Palace at Ugarit (present day Ras Shamra, Syria),[4] in a stratum dating from the fourteenth century BC,[5] but is the only one surviving in substantially complete form.[6] An account of the group of shards was first published in 1955 and 1968 by Emmanuel Laroche, who identified as parts of a single clay tablet the three fragments catalogued by the field archaeologists as RS 15.30, 15.49, and 17.387. In Laroche's catalogue the hymns are designated h. (for "Hurrian") 2–17, 19–23, 25–6, 28, 30, along with smaller fragments RS. 19.164 g, j, n, o, p, r, t, w, x, y, aa, and gg. The complete hymn is h.6 in this list.[7] A revised text of h.6 was published in 1975.[8]

The tablet h.6 contains the lyrics for a hymn to Nikkal, a Semitic goddess of orchards, and instructions for a singer accompanied by a nine-stringed sammûm, a type of harp or, much more likely, a lyre.[9] One or more of the tablets also contains instructions for tuning the harp.[10]

The Hurrian hymn pre-dates several other surviving early works of music, e.g., the Seikilos epitaph and the Delphic Hymns, by a millennium, but its transcription remains controversial. A reconstruction by Marcelle Duchesne-Guillemin may be heard at the Urkesh webpage, though this is only one of at least five "rival decipherments of the notation, each yielding entirely different results".[11]

The tablet is in the collection of the National Museum of Damascus.

Notation[edit]

The Entrance to the royal palace at Ugarit, where the Hurrian songs were found.

The arrangement of the tablet h.6 places the Hurrian words of the hymn at the top, under which is a double division line. The hymn text is written in a continuous spiral, alternating recto-verso sides of the tablet—a layout not found in Babylonian texts.[12] Below this is found the Akkadian musical instructions, consisting of interval names followed by number signs.[13] Differences in transcriptions hinge on interpretation of the meaning of these paired signs, and the relationship to the hymn text. Below the musical instructions there is another dividing line—single this time—underneath which is a colophon in Akkadian reading "This [is] a song [in the] nitkibli [i.e., the nid qabli tuning], a zaluzi … written down by Ammurabi".[14] This name and another scribe's name found on one of the other tablets, Ipsali, are both Semitic. There is no composer named for the complete hymn, but four composers' names are found for five of the fragmentary pieces: Tapšiẖuni, Puẖiya(na), Urẖiya (two hymns: h.8 and h.12), and Ammiya. These are all Hurrian names.[15]

The Akkadian cuneiform music notation refers to a heptatonic diatonic scale on a nine-stringed lyre, in a tuning system described on three Akkadian tablets, two from the Late Babylonian and one from the Old Babylonian period (approximately the 18th century BC).[16] Babylonian theory describes intervals of thirds, fourths, fifths, and sixths, but only with specific terms for the various groups of strings that may be spanned by the hand over that distance, within the purely theoretical range of a seven-string lyre (even though the actual instrument described has nine strings). Babylonian theory had no term for the abstract distance of a fifth or a fourth—only for fifths and fourths between specific pairs of strings. As a result, there are fourteen terms in all, describing two groups of six strings, three groups of five, four groups of four, and five different groups of three strings. Astonishingly, there are no known terms corresponding to a single note, or to intervals of a seventh or seventh.[17] The names of these fourteen pairs of strings form the basis of the theoretical system and are arranged by twos in the ancient sources (string-number pairs first, then the regularized Old Babylonian names and translations):[18]

1–5 nīš gab(a)rîm (raising of the counterpart)
7–5 šērum (song?)
2–6 išartum (straight/in proper condition)
1–6 šalšatum (third)
3–7 embūbum (reed-pipe)
2–7 rebûttum (fourth)
4–1 nīd qablim (casting down of the middle)
1–3 isqum (lot/portion)
5–2 qablītum (middle)
2–4 titur qablītim (bridge of the middle)
6–3 kitmum (covering/closing)
3–5 titur išartim (bridge of the išartum)
7–4 pītum (opening)
4–6 ṣ/zerdum (?)

The name of the first item of each pair is also used as the name of a tuning. These are all fifths (nīš gab(a)rîm, išartum', embūbum') or fourths (nīd qablim, qablītum, kitmum, and pītum), and have been called by one modern scholar the "primary" intervals—the other seven (which are not used as names of tunings) being the "secondary" intervals: thirds and sixths.[19]

A transcription of the first two lines of the notation on h.6 reads:

qáb-li-te 3 ir-bu-te 1 qáb-li-te 3 ša-aḫ-ri 1 i-šar-te 10 uš-ta-ma-a-ri
ti-ti-mi-šar-te 2 zi-ir-te 1 ša-[a]ḫ-ri 2 ša-aš-ša-te 2 ir-bu-te 2.[20]

It was the unsystematic succession of the interval names, their location below apparently lyric texts, and the regular interpolation of numerals that led to the conclusion that these were notated musical compositions. Some of the terms differ to varying degrees from the Akkadian forms found in the older theoretical text, which is not surprising since they were foreign terms. For example, irbute in the hymn notation corresponds to rebûttum in the theory text, šaḫri = šērum, zirte = ṣ/zerdum, šaššate = šalšatum, and titim išarte = titur išartim. There are also a few rarer, additional words, some of them apparently Hurrian rather than Akkadian. Because these interrupt the interval-numeral pattern, they may be modifiers of the preceding or following named interval. The first line of h.6, for example, ends with ušta mari, and this word-pair is also found on several of the other, fragmentary hymn tablets, usually following but not preceding a numeral.[21]

Text[edit]

The text of h.6 is difficult, in part because the Hurrian language itself is imperfectly understood, and in part because of small lacunae due to missing flakes of the clay tablet. In addition, however, it appears that the language is a local Ugarit dialect, which differs significantly from the dialects known from other sources. It is also possible that the pronunciation of some words was altered from normal speech because of the music.[22] Despite the many difficulties, it is clearly a religious text concerning offerings to the goddess Nikkal, wife of the moon god. The text is presented in four lines, with the peculiarity that the seven final syllables of each of the first three lines on the verso of the tablet are repeated at the beginning of the next line on the recto. While Laroche saw in this a procedure similar to one employed by Babylonian scribes in longer texts to provide continuity at the transition from one tablet to another, Güterbock and Kilmer took the position that this device is never found within the text on a single tablet, and so these repeated syllables must constitute refrains dividing the text into regular sections. To this, Duchesne-Guillemin retorts that the recto-verso-recto spiral path of the text—an arrangement unknown in Babylon—is ample reason for the use of such guides.[23]

The first published attempt to interpret the text of h.6 was made in 1977 by Hans-Jochen Thiel,[24] and his work formed the basis for a new but still very provisional attempt made 24 years later by Theo J. H. Krispijn, after Hurritology had made significant progress thanks to archaeological discoveries made in the meantime at a site near Boğazkale.[25]

Discography[edit]

  • Music of the Ancient Sumerians, Egyptians & Greeks, new expanded edition. Ensemble De Organographia (Gayle Stuwe Neuman and Philip Neuman). CD recording. Pandourion PRDC 1005. Oregon City: Pandourion Records, 2006. [Includes the nearly complete h.6 (as "A Zaluzi to the Gods"), as well as fragments of 14 others, following the transcriptions of M. L. West.]
  • Hymn to Nikkal, De La Nada (folk-jazz group), 2012 [in English]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Giorgio Buccellati, "Hurrian Music", associate editor and webmaster Federico A. Buccellati Urkesh website (n.p.: IIMAS, 2003).
  2. ^ Dennis Pardee, "Ugaritic", in The Ancient Languages of Syria-Palestine and Arabia, edited by Roger D. Woodard, 5–6. (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008). ISBN 0-521-68498-6, ISBN 978-0-521-68498-9.
  3. ^ Marguerite Yon, "Arrival of Amorite population", in "The City of Ugarit at Tell Ras Shamra",[full citation needed] (N.p.: Eisenbrauns, 2006): 24. ISBN 978-1575060293 (179 pages)
  4. ^ K. Marie Stolba, The Development of Western Music: A History, brief second edition (Madison: Brown & Benchmark Publishers, 1995), p. 2.; M[artin] L[itchfield] West, "The Babylonian Musical Notation and the Hurrian Melodic Texts", Music and Letters 75, no. 2 (May 1994): 161–79, citation on 171.
  5. ^ Marcelle Duchesne-Guillemin, "Sur la restitution de la musique hourrite", Revue de Musicologie 66, no. 1 (1980): 5–26, citation on p. 10.
  6. ^ Anne Kilmer, "Mesopotamia §8(ii)", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
  7. ^ Emmanuel Laroche, Le palais royal d' Ugarit 3: Textes accadiens et hourrites des archives Est, Ouest et centrales, 2 vols., edited by Jean Nougayrol, Georges Boyer, Emmanuel Laroche, and Claude-Frédéric-Armand Schaeffer, 1:327–35 and 2: plates cviii–cix (Paris: C. Klincksieck, 1955):; "Documents en langue houritte provenent de Ras Shamra", in Ugaritica 5: Nouveaux textes accadiens, hourrites et ugaritiques des archives et bibliothèques privées d'Ugarit, edited by Claude-Frédéric-Armand Schaeffer and Jean Nougayrol, 462–96. Bibliothèque archéologique et historique / Institut français d'archéologie de Beyrouth 80; Mission de Ras Shamra 16 (Paris: Imprimerie nationale P. Geuthner; Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1968). In the latter, the transcribed text of h.6 is on p. 463, with the cuneiform text reproduced on p. 487.
  8. ^ Manfried Dietrich and Oswald Loretz, "Kollationen zum Musiktext aus Ugarit", Ugarit-Forschungen 7 (1975): 521–22.
  9. ^ M[artin] L[itchfield] West, "The Babylonian Musical Notation and the Hurrian Melodic Texts", Music and Letters 75, no. 2 (May 1994): 161–79, citation on 166.
  10. ^ Anon., "The Oldest Song in the World" (Amaranth Publishing, 2006). (Accessed 12 January 2011).
  11. ^ M[artin] L[itchfield] West, "The Babylonian Musical Notation and the Hurrian Melodic Texts", Music and Letters 75, no. 2 (May 1994): 161–79, citation on 161. In addition to West and Duchesne-Guillemin ("Les problèmes de la notation hourrite", Revue d'assyriologie et d'archéologie orientale 69, no. 2 (1975): 159–73; "Sur la restitution de la musique hourrite", Revue de Musicologie 66, no. 1 (1980): 5–26; A Hurrian Musical Score from Ugarit: The Discovery of Mesopotamian Music, Sources from the ancient near east, vol. 2, fasc. 2. Malibu, CA: Undena Publications, 1984. ISBN 0-89003-158-4), competitors include Hans Gütterbock, "Musical Notation in Ugarit", Revue d'assyriologie et d'archéologie orientale 64, no. 1 (1970): 45–52; Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, "The Discovery of an Ancient Mesopotamian Theory of Music", Proceedings of the American Philosophical Association 115, no. 2 (April 1971): 131–49; Kilmer, "The Cult Song with Music from Ancient Ugarit: Another Interpretation", Revue d'Assyriologie 68 (1974): 69–82); Kilmer, with Richard L. Crocker and Robert R. Brown, Sounds from Silence: Recent Discoveries in Ancient Near Eastern Music (Berkeley: Bit Enki Publications, 1976; includes LP record, Bit Enki Records BTNK 101, reissued [s.d.] as CD); Kilmer, "Musik, A: philologisch", Reallexikon der Assyriologie und vorderasiatischen Archäologie 8, edited by Dietz Otto Edzard (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1997), 463–82, ISBN 3-11-014809-9; David Wulstan, "The Tuning of the Babylonian Harp", Iraq 30 (1968): 215–28; Wulstan, "The Earliest Musical Notation", Music and Letters 52 (1971): 365–82; and Raoul Gregory Vitale, "La Musique suméro-accadienne: gamme et notation musicale", Ugarit-Forschungen 14 (1982): 241–63.
  12. ^ Marcelle Duchesne-Guillemin, "Sur la restitution de la musique hourrite", Revue de Musicologie 66, no. 1 (1980): 5–26, citation on pp. 10, 15–16.
  13. ^ Anne Kilmer, "Mesopotamia §8(ii)", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001).
  14. ^ David Wulstan, "The Earliest Musical Notation", Music and Letters 52 (1971): 365–82. Citation on 372. (subscription required)
  15. ^ M[artin] L[itchfield] West, "The Babylonian Musical Notation and the Hurrian Melodic Texts", Music and Letters 75, no. 2 (May 1994): 161–79, citation on 171.
  16. ^ O. R. Gurney, "An Old Babylonian Treatise on the Tuning of the Harp", Iraq 30 (1968): 229–33. Citations on pp. 229 and 233. Marcelle Duchesne-Guillemin, ""Sur la restitution de la musique hourrite", Revue de Musicologie 66, no. 1 (1980): 5–26, citation on pp. 6.
  17. ^ Marcelle Duchesne-Guillemin, ""Sur la restitution de la musique hourrite", Revue de Musicologie 66, no. 1 (1980): 5–26, citation on pp. 6–8. M[artin] L[itchfield] West, "The Babylonian Musical Notation and the Hurrian Melodic Texts", Music and Letters 75, no. 2 (May 1994): 161–79, citation on 163.
  18. ^ M[artin] L[itchfield] West, "The Babylonian Musical Notation and the Hurrian Melodic Texts", Music and Letters 75, no. 2 (May 1994): 161–79, citation on 163.
  19. ^ David Wulstan, "The Tuning of the Babylonian Harp", Iraq 30 (1968): 215–28. Citation on pp. 216 n. 3 and 224.
  20. ^ Manfried Dietrich and Oswald Loretz, "Kollationen zum Musiktext aus Ugarit", Ugarit-Forschungen 7 (1975): 521–22. Citation on p. 522.
  21. ^ David Wulstan, "The Earliest Musical Notation", Music and Letters 52 (1971): 365–82. Citations on pp. 371 and 373–74.
  22. ^ Theo J. H. Krispijn, "Musik in Keilschrift: Beiträge zur altorientalischen Musikforschung 2", in Archäologie früher Klangerzeugung und Tonordnung: Musikarchäologie in der Ägäis und Anatolien/The Archaeology of Sound Origin and Organization: Music Archaeology in the Aegean and Anatolia, edited by Ellen Hickmann, Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, and Ricardo Eichmann, 465–79 (Orient-Archäologie 10; Studien zur Musikarchäologie 3) (Rahden: Leidorf, 2001) ISBN 3-89646-640-2. Citation on p. 474.
  23. ^ Marcelle Duchesne-Guillemin, "Sur la restitution de la musique hourrite", Revue de Musicologie 66, no. 1 (1980): 5–26, citation on pp. 13, 15–16.
  24. ^ "Der Text und die Notenfolgen des Musiktextes aus Ugarit", Studi Micenei ed Egeo-Anatolici 18 (=Incunabula Graeca 67) (1977): 109–36.
  25. ^ Theo J. H. Krispijn, "Musik in Keilschrift: Beiträge zur altorientalischen Musikforschung 2", in Archäologie früher Klangerzeugung und Tonordnung: Musikarchäologie in der Ägäis und Anatolien/The Archaeology of Sound Origin and Organization: Music Archaeology in the Aegean and Anatolia, edited by Ellen Hickmann, Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, and Ricardo Eichmann, 465–79 (Orient-Archäologie 10; Studien zur Musikarchäologie 3) (Rahden: Leidorf, 2001) ISBN 3-89646-640-2. Citation on p. 474.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bielitz, Mathias. 2002. Über die babylonischen theoretischen Texte zur Musik: Zu den Grenzen der Anwendung des antiken Tonsystems, second, expanded edition. Neckargemünd: Männeles Verlag.
  • Braun, Joachim. "Jewish music, §II: Ancient Israel/Palestine, 2: The Canaanite Inheritance". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001.
  • Černý, Miroslav Karel. 1987. "Das altmesopotamische Tonsystem, seine Organisation und Entwicklung im Lichte der neuerschlossenen Texte". Archiv orientální 55:41–57.
  • Duchesne-Guillemin, Marcelle. 1963. "Découverte d'une gamme babylonienne". Revue de Musicologie 49:3–17.
  • Duchesne-Guillemin, Marcelle. 1966. "A l'aube de la théorie musicale: concordance de trois tablettes babyloniennes". Revue de Musicologie 52:147–62.
  • Duchesne-Guillemin, Marcelle. 1969. "La théorie babylonienne des métaboles musicales". Revue de Musicologie 55:3–11.
  • Gurney, O. R. 1968. "An Old Babylonian Treatise on the Tuning of the Harp". Iraq 30:229–33.
  • Halperin, David. 1992. "Towards Deciphering the Ugaritic Musical Notation". Musikometrika 4:101–16.
  • Kilmer, Anne Draffkorn. 1965. "The Strings of Musical Instruments: Their Names, Numbers, and Significance". Assyriological Studies 16 ("Studies in Honor of Benno Landsberger"): 261-68.
  • Kilmer, Anne Draffkorn. 1971. "The Discovery of an Ancient Mesopotamian Theory of Music". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Association 115:131–49.
  • Kilmer, Anne Draffkorn. 1984. "A Music Tablet from Sippar(?): BM 65217 + 66616". Iraq 46:69–80.
  • Kilmer, Anne Draffkorn, and Miguel Civil. 1986. "Old Babylonian Musical Instructions Relating to Hymnody". Journal of Cuneiform Studies 38:94–98.
  • Kümmel, Hans Martin. 1970. "Zur Stimmung der babylonischen Harfe". Orientalia 39:252–63.
  • Schmidt, Karin Stella. 2006. "Zur Musik Mesopotamiens: Musiktheorie, Notenschriften, Rekonstruktionen und Einspielungen überlieferter Musik, Instrumentenkunde, Gesang und Aufführungspraxis in Sumer, Akkad, Babylonien, Assyrien und den benachbarten Kulturräumen Ugarit, Syrien, Elam/Altpersien: Eine Zusammenstellung wissenschaftlicher Literatur mit einführender Literatur zur Musik Altägyptens, Anatoliens (Hethitische Musik), Altgriechenlands und Altisraels/Palästinas". Seminar-Arbeit. Freiburg i. Br.: Orientalisches Seminar, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg.
  • Thiel, Hans-Jochen. 1978. "Zur Gliederung des 'Musik-Textes' aus Ugarit". Revue Hittite et Asiatique 36 (Les Hourrites: Actes de la XXIVe Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale Paris 1977): 189–98.

External links[edit]