Music archaeology is an interdisciplinary field that mixes musicology and archaeology. As it includes music from numerous cultures, it is often seen as being a part of ethnomusicology, and indeed a study group looking into music archaeology first emerged from ethnomusicological group the ICTM, not from within archaeology.
A first attempt to join the two distinct disciplines of Musicology and Archaeology took place at the conference of the International Musicological Society at Berkeley in 1977. One of the round tables was designated "Music and Archaeology", to which were invited specialists to discuss the musical remains of ancient cultures - Bathia Bayer (Israel), Charles Boilès (Mexico), Ellen Hickmann (Egypt), David Liang (China), Casja Lund (Scandinavia). The main stimulus for this was the sensational discovery of an ancient Mesopotamian musical system by Anne D. Kilmer, assyriologist in Berkeley. On the basis of this she was able to advance a decipherment and transcription into Western notation of a late Bronze Age hymn in the Hurrian language, excavated from Ugarit, which contained notation based on the Mesopotamian system. With the help of musicologist Richard L. Crocker (Berkeley) and instrument maker Robert Brown, a replica of a Sumerian lyre was made, and Kilmer's version of the Hurrian hymn was recorded, accompanied by a carefully prepared commentary, as Kilmer/Crocker/Brown, Sounds from Silence, Recent Discoveries in Ancient Eastern Music (LP with information booklet, Bit Enki Publications, Berkeley, 1976). At the round table in Berkeley, Kilmer explained their method of reconstruction and demonstrated the resulting sound. This was the starting point of the "Study Group on Music Archaeology", officially founded within the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM) in Seoul/Korea in 1981, and recognized by the ICTM in New York in 1983 following its first meeting on current music-archaeological research in Cambridge/UK in 1982.
The Study Group on Music Archaeology went on to hold international conferences in Stockholm (1984), Hannover/Wolfenbüttel (1986), Saint Germain-en-Laye (1990), Liège (1992), Istanbul (1993), Jerusalem (1994/1995, together with the ICTM-Study Group for Iconography), and Limassol, Cyprus (1996). These meetings resulted in comprehensive conference reports. The Limassol conference was a turning point in the ways of the Study Group. It was decided to leave the ICTM for closer cooperation with archaeologists, and the group was renamed the International Study Group on Music Archaeology (ISGMA). Since then, the ISGMA has worked continuously with the German Archaeological Institute, Berlin (DAI, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Berlin). A new series called "Studien zur Musikarchäologie" was created as a sub-series of "Orient-Archäologie" to present the conference reports of the ISGMA, and to integrate music-archaeological monographs independent of the Study Group's meetings; it is published by the Orient Department of the DAI through the Verlag Marie Leidorf. Between 1998 and 2004, conferences of ISGMA were held every two years at Michaelstein Monastery, Music Academy of Sachsen-Anhalt (Kloster Michaelstein, Landesmusikakademie Sachsen-Anhalt), sponsored by the German Research Foundation (DFG, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft).
In close cooperation with the Department for Ethnomusicology at the Ethnological Museum Berlin (Ethnologisches Museum Berlin, SMB SPK, Abteilung Musikethnologie, Medien-Technik und Berliner Phonogramm-Archiv), the 5th and 6th Symposium of the ISGMA were held in 2006 respectively in 2008 at the Ethnological Museum Berlin. In friendly cooperation with the Tianjin Conservatory of Music, the 7th Symposium of the ISGMA was held in Tianjin, China, in 2010. The Study Group receives requests for material contributions, scholarly consultation and public performances. The activities and publications of the ISGMA have attracted many interested colleagues from all over the world. Four researchers from its very beginning, Anne D. Kilmer, Ellen Hickmann, Graeme Lawson, and Bo Lawergren, are still with the Study Group, which now has a pool of about 80 researchers from all over the world who continuously correspond and work with each other.
Meanwhile the ICTM Study Group continued separately, and holds its own events, although a number of researchers are involved in both groups.
On the 27th May 2011 a public concert under the banner of Palaeophonics, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Beyond Text programme and the University of Edinburgh Campaign, took place at the George Square Theatre in Edinburgh. The event showcased the outcomes of collaborative research and creative practice by archaeologists, composers, filmmakers and performers from across Europe and the Americas. Whilst inspired and driven by research in music archaeology, Palaeophonics represents the emergence of a new, possibly significant, development within the field and within musicology which approaches the subject through the production and performance of new sound and music based multi-media creative works instead of through direct representation and reproduction. Said by some observers as 'experimental' and 'avant-garde', the event provoked mixed feedback from a wide public audience of around 250 people. A related publication is planned and further Palaeophonics events are thought to be taking place in the future, although none are currently programmed, whilst funding for developing the project is sourced.
From within this history, the subject has proliferated, including work on: Prehistoric Music. This has focused on the earliest period of music archaeology. Ancient Music. The most work in the field has been carried out on this period, which lies between prehistory and Early Music, which is often the study of western classical music from the medieval period onwards. In particular there has been substantial research carried out on Music of ancient Greece and Music of Ancient Rome. The Ancient Music wiki page carries more information and links.
Archaeoacoustics is the use of methodologies from the field of acoustics, and other scientific approaches to musicology, to undertake archaeological study.
Notable music archaeologists
The International Study Group on Music Archaeology (ISGMA) includes archaeoacoustical work. It is a pool of researchers devoted to the field of music archaeology. The study group is hosted at the Orient Department of the German Archaeological Institute Berlin (DAI, Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Orient-Abteilung) and the Department for Ethnomusicology at the Ethnological Museum Berlin (Ethnologisches Museum Berlin, SMB SPK, Abteilung Musikethnologie, Medien-Technik und Berliner Phonogramm-Archiv). It comprises research methods of musicological and anthropological disciplines, such as archaeology, organology, acoustics, music iconology, philology, ethnohistory, and ethnomusicology.
The International Council for Traditional Music Study Group for Music Archaeology also has relevant information on its website.
The Acoustics and Music of British Prehistory Research Network was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, led by Rupert Till and Chris Scarre, as well as Professor Jian Kang of Sheffield University's Department of Architecture. It has a list of researchers working in the field, and links to many other relevant sites.
MOISA: The International Society for the Study of Greek and Roman Music and its Cultural Heritage is a non-profit association incorporated in Italy in 2007 for the preservation, interpretation, and valorization of ancient Greek and Roman music and musical theory, as well as its cultural heritage to the present day.
- Ellen Hickmann (2003) 'Musikarchäologie - Forschungsgrundlagen und Ziele', Die Musikforschung, 56/2: 121-134.
- Cajsa Lund (1974) The sound of archaeology: Concept, content, planning. Musikmuseet.