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Ancient music is music that developed in literate cultures, replacing prehistoric music. Ancient music refers to the various musical systems that were developed across various geographical regions such as Mesopotamia, India, Persia, Egypt, China, Greece and Rome. Ancient music is designated by the characterization of the basic notes and scales. It may have been transmitted through oral or written systems.
Music has been an integral part of Egyptian culture since antiquity. The ancient Egyptians credited one of the powerful gods Hathor with the invention of music, which Osiris in turn used as part of his effort to civilize the world. The earliest material and representational evidence of Egyptian musical instruments dates to the Predynastic period, but the evidence is more securely attested in tomb paintings from the Old Kingdom (c. 2575-2134 BC) when harps, end-blown flutes (held diagonally), and single and double pipes of the clarinet type (with single reeds) were played (Anderson, Castelo-Branco, and Danielson 2001; Anon. 1999). Percussion instruments, and lutes were added to orchestras by the Middle Kingdom. Bronze cymbals dating from the Roman period--30 BC to 641 AD--have been found in a tomb on a site near Naucratis (Anon. 2003). Although experiments have been carried out with surviving Egyptian instruments (on the spacing of holes in flutes and reed pipes, and attempts to reconstruct the stringing of lyres, harps, and lutes), only the Tutankhamun trumpets and some percussion instruments yield any secure idea of how ancient Egyptian instruments sounded. None of the many theories that have been formulated have any adequate foundation (Anderson, Castelo-Branco, and Danielson 2001).
In 1986, Anne Draffkorn Kilmer from the University of California at Berkeley published her decipherment of a cuneiform tablet from Nippur dated to about 2000 BCE. She proposed that they represent fragmentary instructions for performing music, that the music was composed in harmonies of thirds, and that it was also written using a diatonic scale (Kilmer 1986). The notation in that tablet was not as developed as the notation in the later cuneiform Hurrian tablets from Ugarit, dated by Kilmer to about 1250 BCE (Kilmer 1965). The interpretation of the notation system is still controversial (at least five rival interpretations have been published), but it is clear that the notation indicates the names of strings on a lyre, and its tuning is described in other tablets. These tablets represent the earliest recorded melodies, though fragmentary, from anywhere in the world (West 1994, 161-62).
In 1929, Leonard Woolley discovered pieces of four harps while excavating in the ruins of the ancient city of Ur, located in what was Ancient Mesopotamia and is contemporary Iraq. Some of the fragments are now located at the University of Pennsylvania, in the British Museum in London, and in Baghdad. They have been dated to 2750 BCE. Various reconstructions have been attempted, but none have been totally satisfactory. Depending on various definitions, they could be classed as lyres rather than harps. The most famous is the bull-headed harp, held in Baghdad. The 2003 Iraq War led to the destruction of the bull-head lyre (Anon. 2005).
Among the Hurrian texts from Ugarit are some of the oldest known instances of written music, dating from c.1400 BCE and including one substantially complete song. A reconstruction of this hymn is presented at the Urkesh webpage.
The Samaveda consists of a collection (samhita) of hymns, portions of hymns, and detached verses, all but 75 taken from the Rigveda, to be sung, using specifically indicated melodies called Samagana, by Udgatar priests at sacrifices in which the juice of the soma plant, clarified and mixed with milk and other ingredients, is offered in libation to various deities. In ancient India, memorization of the sacred Vedas included up to eleven forms of recitation of the same text.
The N?tya Shastra is an ancient Indian treatise on the performing arts, encompassing theatre, dance and music. It was written at an uncertain date in classical India (between 200 BCE and 200 CE). The Natya Shastra is based upon the much older Natya Veda which contained 36,000 slokas (Ghosh 2002, 2). Unfortunately there are no surviving copies of the Natya Veda. There are scholars who believe that it may have been written by various authors at different times. The most authoritative commentary on the Natya Shastra is Abhinavabharati by Abhinava Gupta.
While much of the discussion of music in the Natyashastra focuses on musical instruments, it also emphasizes several theoretical aspects that remained fundamental to Indian music:
Jatis are elaborated in greater detail in the text Dattilam, composed around the same time as the Natyashastra.
Legend has it that the qin, the most revered of all Chinese musical instruments, has a history of about 5,000 years. This legend states that the legendary figures of China's pre-history -- Fuxi, Shennong and Huang Di, the "Yellow Emperor" -- were involved in its creation. Nearly all qin books and tablature collections published prior to the twentieth century state this as the actual origins of the qin (Yin n.d., 1-10), although this is now viewed as mythology. It is mentioned in Chinese writings dating back nearly 3,000 years, and examples have been found in tombs from about 2,500 years ago. The exact origins of the qin is still a very much continuing subject of debate over the past few decades. A qin has recently[when?] been found in an archaeological site near Beijing, which is believed to be around 1,000 years old.
Ancient Greek musicians developed their own robust system of musical notation. The system was not widely used among Greek musicians, but nonetheless a modest corpus of notated music remains from Ancient Greece and Rome. The epics of Homer were originally sung with instrumental accompaniment, but no notated melodies from Homer are known. Several complete songs exist in ancient Greek musical notation. Three complete hymns by Mesomedes of Crete (2nd century CE) exist in manuscript. In addition, many fragments of Greek music are extant, including fragments from tragedy, among them a choral song by Euripides for his Orestes and an instrumental intermezzo from Sophocles' Ajax.
Some fragments of Greek music, such as the Orestes fragment, clearly call for more than one note to be sounded at the same time. Greek sources occasionally refer to the technique of playing more than one note at the same time. In addition, double pipes, such as used by the Greeks and Persians, and ancient bagpipes, as well as a review of ancient drawings on vases and walls, etc., and ancient writings (such as in Aristotle, Problems, Book XIX.12) which described musical techniques of the time, all indicate harmony existed.[clarification needed]
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The music of ancient Rome borrowed heavily from the music of the cultures that were conquered by the empire, including music of Greece, Egypt, and Persia. Music was incorporated into many areas of Roman life including the military, entertainment in the Roman theater, religious ceremonies and practices, and "almost all public/civic occasions."[This quote needs a citation]
The philosopher-theorist Boethius translated into Latin and anthologized a number of Greek treatises, including some on music. His work The Principles of Music (better-known under the title De institutione musica) divided music into three types: Musica mundana (music of the universe), musica humana (music of human beings), and musica instrumentalis (instrumental music).