What music might have sounded like in Sumeria and Babylon 4,500 years ago, and more...

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Luminous Juju
What music might have sounded like in Sumeria and Babylon 4,500 years ago, and more...

A project I have had played a small part in over the past decade or more is the Lyre of Ur Project, which was one to create a playable reproduction of the 4,550 year old Lyre of Ur and other lyres, stringed harp-like instruments discovered during the archaeological excavations of Ur in the 1920s and 1930s.

More info about the recreated instrument to be found here:

The original Gold Lyre of Ur is a well-known national symbol of Iraq today, but it was 'unplayable'. The decision to build a playable recreation of this instrument is explained at the Lyre of Ur website.

Last year a group of musicians now known as The Lyre Ensemble got to gether to see if they could create music using the instrument and taking lyrics from old Mesoptamian sources found on cuneiform tablets.
The first get-together worked quite well, as it turned out: hey improvised a song based on some lyrics taken from a monolog I had written for the LOU Project years ago.
The monolog was meant to introduce the recreated lyre to a meeting of musical anthropologists at The Hall of World Culture in Berlin. You can read the monolog here, at the bottom:

It has been translated into Classical Arabic and performed on Iraqi television, to a potential audience of 15 or 16 million viewers.

The Lyre Ensemble, a trio featuring composer and ancient language enthusiast Stef Conner, harpists Andy Lowing and Mark Harmer (also a pipe organist), decided to record a cd of pieces in some of the ancient languages of Mesopotamia: Sumerian, Akkkadian, Babylonian, etc. The cd was produced and around the time it was to be released, there was an article about it was published in Newsweek magazine, along with 4 tracks from the cd.
The Newsweek article is here:

Newsweek's Soundcloud player with the 4 tracks is here:

Following the publication of the Newsweek article, in December, the initial pressing of cds sold out in less than 48 hours, and a second pressing was quickly ordered.

The Lyre Ensemble's home page is here:

The cd, titled The Flood, is available for download from iTunes, and as a cd with the 16-page brochure from the Lyre Ensemble's home page.

Tomorrow, the Lyre Ensemble will be interviewed on BBC Radio, at 23:00 hours UTC/ 3:00PM Pacific time, and will perfom on the show linked below:

The live broadcast should be available in real time: if not, the show will be available for streaming on line later.

The Lyre Ensemble will begin their set list with a shortened version of Come Nearer, the piece based on lyrics from my monolog. (I believe this will be the only piece in English, btw...)

NB: No-one really knows what the original lyres sounded like, or how they were in fact played, but some educated and practical guesses have guided the reproductions: the lyres (there are now three of them, one a simple wooden one for practicing on, the third one a Sliver lyre) have been carefully built following the archeaological evidence, and tuned to match old flutes which have also been found in excavations in Mesopotamia. The old silver flutes don't decay, and haven't changed their tuning or natural scales over the millennia.
For practical modern purposes, the lyre(s) of today are tuned to concert C.

So, if all this intrigues you, kindly check it all out: it has been a great honour to me to have even a small part to play in all of this over the past decade or more.


Chris Green,
Savona, B.C.,