Rus Articles Journal

Music of ancient civilizations: what it was?

Already then, in the ancient time, music “was divided“. On a sacred music (temple), secular (for amusement - at the yards of the mighty of this world) and national. This division is rather conditional: the friend without friend these “music“ cannot exist, they interact and feed each other.

Ancient Egypt

nobody returned who left .

(“Harpist`s song“. G. P. Frantsov`s translation.)

The mysterious Ancient Egyptian civilization continues to concern modern minds. About its music it is possible to judge by hieroglyphic records of songs - verses on walls of tombs, by bas-reliefs, an art list, the remained musical instruments. There is a certain probability that some elements of the most ancient tunes could remain in song turns of Copts of modern Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea. But it is extremely difficult to judge it: the melodics of Copts absorbed in itself and the latest influence (Christian, Muslim).

There was in ancient Egypt also a “grandiose“ synthetic genre (from the word “synthesis“, but not from the word “synthetics“). These are the monumental mysteries devoted to the main mythological characters (gods Osiris, Izida) with songs, chorus, processions and dancings, drama scenes. Some of scenes of similar mysteries remained on Ikhernofret`s gravestone (the whole fragments of scenarios of action).

About cult anthems of ancient Egyptians of an era of the Ancient kingdom it is possible to judge not only by bas-reliefs and lists, but also by the historical monuments (“texts of pyramids“ or “Books of the dead“) which reached us. And at palaces of Pharaohs there were ensembles of singers and instrumentalists. The harp which strings were made of palm fiber was the most popular tool, most likely. A monument of Ancient Egyptian literature - “The harpist`s song“ (an era of the Average kingdom).

So, celebrate joyful day and do not mourn,

Because nobody carries away the good with himself,

I none of those who left there,

did not return back Yet!


(“Harpist`s song“. Anna Akhmatova`s translation.)

The great Italian Giuseppe Verdi has an opera “Aida“. A plot - unfortunate love of the military leader Radames and Ethiopian slave of the Aida. There, of course, is nothing from Ancient Egyptian music, but the general echo of a mysterious and ancient civilization can be felt. And the name Aida since the 19th century gained distribution and in Europe.

Ancient Mesopotamia

Ancient civilizations of Sumer, Assyria, Babylon enclosed the huge contribution in development of musical art. Syria played harps, 5 - and 7 - string liras, an oboe (this oboe the Ancient Greek philosopher Platon strongly abused). The Syrian melodies - anthems could get through Greece into Europe and influence intonatsionno liturgical anthems of the Christian Middle Ages subsequently.

From ancient Sumer we were reached by the plate with a poetic fragment and wedge-shaped to a notopisye. It is a unique and most ancient monument (the III millennium B.C.). It is considered that here notes are written down, but are written down by a cuneiform writing. German - the American musicologist Curt Zaks assumed that it is record of harp accompaniment of a vocal melody.

In days play Tammuz on an azure flute

On a porfirny timpan with it to me play, to them to me play

C, singers and singers.

Dead persons yes ascend and inhale smoking.


(Babylon poem “Descent Ishtar in Monastery of the Dead“).

In Assyria the musical theory developed. On it - in music the numerical relations predominated, the theory was closely connected with astrology. Subsequently the similar understanding of regularities of music could become a basis for the theory of music of Ancient Greece at Pythagoras (“harmony of spheres“).

At Babylonians (Babylon - today`s Iraq), as well as in ancient Egypt, actions - mysteries with household scenes, lyrical crying were also developed. Temple music (priests executed), secular blossomed (musicians - slaves executed). The greatest blossoming music received at the tsar Nebuchadnezzar.

The great Italian D. Verdi has an opera “Nebuchadnezzar“, or “Nabukko“ in Italian. In music of this opera there is nothing from drevnevavilonsky, naturally. However she much can be familiar, especially chorus of the Jewish exiles “to Va, pensiero“ from the third act. Words of chorus - paraphrases of a bible psalm “On the rivers Babylon“, and a melody - actually the second, informal anthem of Italy.

can Partially be judged also music of ancient Palestine. There the musical instruments were created: lira kinnor, pipes Khalil, copper plates shalishy, mutton horns shofar, pipes of a hososr. About “trumpets of Jericho“ many read.

Priests were at the same time and musicians. Elements of melodic turns of this music could get through Greece and Byzantium into the European musical culture of the Middle Ages too. On a shofara in Israel play still - during religious ceremonies.

Ancient India

Unfortunately, music could not remain as the architecture remained. At least, if the tradition of transfer - oral, without record, then a lot of things is lost. Whether it is possible to assume that in music of ancient India there was something similar to the remained grandiose architectural monuments?

In India the temple music connected with religious practicians blossomed, there was various national - with its numerous songs. It were “working“ songs - farmers, bricklayers, carvers, drivers of elephants and buffalo s, tamers of cobras. There were also heroic epic songs. There was the whole tradition at the wandering singers. From them we were reached by dance Katkhak.

The Old Indian actor Nata executed dance at a chorus podpevaniye. In general, India - a cradle of the musical theater existing long before something similar appeared in Europe. Music in India still exists in close connection with poetry and dance.

Naturally, the theory and the philosophy of music was developed. There was also the record of notes with designations in Sanskrit.

As for melodies - here it is easy to notice a big difference with melodies which can very conditionally be defined as “European“. The unique frets called in general “raga“ were created (from Sanskrit - beauty, a melody, color, and even awakening, passion). These are surprising frets, in an octave 22 sounds - shrut (in European - 7 main or 12 with sharps and flats). The Indian ear is thinner, it is capable to hear a quarter of tone, at Europeans at least - half-tone. As in painting and elements of architecture we speak about an ornament, and in the Indian music - lace of enveloping “notes“. In 60 - e years of the 20th century there was a direction of a rag - fate, describing now any kinds of relationship of fate and the Indian raga. This very widespread phenomenon in fate - culture.

The set of various people therefore even one subject of music of India - is inexhaustible always lived in India.

Ancient China

Too very big and important subject. Music was closely connected with Confucianism, also the most interesting theory is developed. The doctrine about 12 - a stupenny sound row coordinated with esoteric views (even with “The book of changes“), long ago appeared pentatonic.

Pentatonic - a special sound row from 5 tones, it still - fundamentals of music of many people of the East. Without half tones any person who near at hand has a piano can represent this sound row approximately. It is necessary to approach and play only on black keys - and you receive a “ready“ melody. To pentatonic we hear in the Hungarian, Tatar, Bashkir, Chuvash, Mari, Korean, Japanese music, music of the American Indians, at Sami and even in the Celtic folk music.

About music of antiquity it will be possible to read next time.