Classical Jazz '05

Ancient Music

Egyptian Music

The Music of Egypt has been an integral part of Egyptian culture since ancient times. The ancient Egyptians credited one of their 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 the Old Kingdom when harps, flutes and double clarinets were played. Percussion instruments, lyres and lutes were added to orchestras by the Middle Kingdom. Cymbals frequently accompanied music and dance, much as they still do in Egypt today. Egyptian folk music, including the traditional Sufi dhikr rituals, are the closest contemporary music genre to ancient Egyptian music, having preserved many of its features, rhythms and instruments.
They also played recorders and clarinets. In general, modern Egyptian music blends these indigenous traditions with Turkish, Arabic, and Western elements. Arabic music is usually said to have begun in the 7th century in Syria during the Umayyad dynasty. Early Arabic music was influenced by Byzantine, Indian and Persian forms, which were themselves heavily influenced by earlier Greek, Semitic, and ancient Egyptian music. The tonal structure of Arabic music is defined by the maqamat, loosely similar to Western modes, while the rhythm of Arabic music is governed by the awzan (wazn, sing.), formed by combinations of accented and unaccented beats and rests. Typically ancient Egyptian music is composed from the phrygian dominant scale, phrygian scale, Double harmonic scale (Arabic scale) or lydian scale. The phrygian dominant scale may often feature an altered note or two in parts to create tension. For instance the music could typically be in the key of E phrygian dominant using the notes E, F, G sharp, A, B, C, D and then have a A sharp, B, A sharp, G natural and E to create tension.

Front and rear views of the oud.
Since the Nasser era, Egyptian pop music has become increasingly important in Egyptian culture, particularly among the large youth population of Egypt. Egyptian folk music continues to be played during weddings and other traditional festivities. In the last quarter of the 20th century, Egyptian music was a way to communicate social and class issues. Among some of the most popular Egyptian pop singers today are Mohamed Mounir and Amr Diab.
Religious music remains an essential part of traditional Muslim and Coptic celebrations called mulids. Mulids are held in Egypt to celebrate the saint of a particular church. Muslim mulids are related to the Sufi zikr ritual. The Egyptian flute, called the ney, is commonly played at mulids. The liturgical music of the Coptic Church also constitutes an important element of Egyptian music and is said to have preserved many features of ancient Egyptian music.


Music of Mesopotamia

Cuneiform sources reveal an orderly organized system of diatonic scales, depending on the tuning of stringed instruments in alternating fifths and fourths. Whether this reflects all types of music we do not know. Besides "chords" (dyads, dichords) of fourths and fifths, thirds (and sixths) played also a considerable role.

nstruments of Ancient Mesopotamia include harps, lyres, lutes, reed pipes, and drums. Many of these were shared with neighbouring cultures. Contemporary East African lyres and West African lutes preserve many features of Mesopotamian instruments (van der Merwe 1989, p. 10).
The vocal tone or timbre was probably similar to the pungently nasal sound of the narrow-bore reed pipes, and most likely shared the contemporary "typically" Asian vocal quality and techniques, including little dynamic changes and more graces, shakes, mordents, glides and microtonal inflections. Singers probably expressed intense and withdrawn emotion, as if listening to themselves, as shown by the practice of cupping a hand to the ear (as is still current in modern Assyrian music and many Arab and folk musics) (van der Merwe 1989, p. 11).
Two badly damaged silver pipes have been excavated from a grave at Ur and dated to c. 2500 BCE. The pipes were crafted with what appear to be finger holes, and it is believed that they formed a pair of tubes - "double-pipes" - that had reeds inserted. A number of reconstructions have been proposed, the most recent being a pair of thin tubes with three finger holes in one tube and four finger holes in the other.



The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening. According to the instrument classification of Hornbostel–Sachs, flutes are categorized as edge-blown aerophones.
A musician who plays the flute can be referred to as a flute player, a flautist, a flutist, or, less commonly, a fluter.
Aside from the voice, flutes are the earliest known musical instruments. A number of flutes dating to about 43,000 to 35,000 years ago have been found in the Swabian Alb region of Germany. These flutes demonstrate that a developed musical tradition existed from the earliest period of modern human presence in Europe.



The harp is a multi-stringed instrument which has the plane of its strings positioned perpendicularly to the soundboard. Organologically, it is in the general category of chordophones (stringed instruments) and has its own sub category (the harps). All harps have a neck, resonator and strings. Some, known as frame harps, also have a pillar; those without the pillar are referred to as open harps. Depending on its size, which varies, a harp may be played while held in the lap or while it stands on a table, or on the floor. Harp strings may be made of nylon, gut, wire or silk. On smaller harps, like the folk harp, the core string material will typically be the same for all strings on a given harp. Larger instruments like the modern concert harp mix string materials to attain their extended ranges. A person who plays the harp is called a harpist or harper. Folk musicians often use the term "harper", whereas classical musicians use "harpist".
Various types of harps are found in Africa, Europe, North and South America and in Asia. In antiquity, harps and the closely related lyres were very prominent in nearly all cultures. The harp also was predominant with medieval bards, troubadors and minnesingers throughout the Spanish Empire. Harps continued to grow in popularity due to improvements in their design and construction through the beginning of the 20th century.


ymbals are a common percussion instrument. Cymbals consist of thin, normally round plates of various alloys; see cymbal making for a discussion of their manufacture. The majority of cymbals are of indefinite pitch, although small disc-shaped cymbals based on ancient designs sound a definite note (see: crotales). Cymbals are used in many ensembles ranging from the orchestra, percussion ensembles, jazz bands, heavy metal bands, and marching groups. Drum kits usually incorporate at least a crash, ride or crash/ride, and a pair of hi-hat cymbals.



A trumpet is a musical instrument. It is the highest register in the brass family. Trumpets are among the oldest musical instruments, dating back to at least 1500 BC. They are played by blowing air through closed lips, producing a "buzzing" sound that starts a standing wave vibration in the air column inside the instrument. Since the late 15th century they have primarily been constructed of brass tubing, usually bent twice into a rounded oblong shape.
There are several types of trumpet. The most common is a transposing instrument pitched in B♭ with a tubing length of about 148 cm. Earlier trumpets did not have valves, but modern instruments generally have either three piston valves or, more rarely, three rotary valves. Each valve increases the length of tubing when engaged, thereby lowering the pitch.
A musician who plays the trumpet is called a trumpet player or trumpeter.


A Hieroglyph (Greek for "sacred carving") is a character of any logographic or partly logographic writing system. Hieroglyphics are writings of that system. In Neoplatonism, especially of the Renaissance, a hieroglyph was an artistic representation of an esoteric idea, which actual Egyptian hieroglyphs seemed to the Neoplatonists to be. 

Early "Hieroglyphs" were logograms representing words using graphical figures such as animals.
The characters that are relatively old are believed by many to have been made in Sumerin Mesopotamia; there the original cuneiform was proto-cuneiform and originally a pictographic form. In ancient Egypt the first uses of hieroglyphs is on the cosmetic palettes, pottery, and labels found in tombs, reliefs and burials. The hieroglyphs that were originally used for recording agricultural products and handicrafts led to the birth of linear and cuneiform script, widely used by the Sumerians, Assyrians and Babylonians; in ancient Egypt, a similar linear script formed from the hieroglyphs, called hieratic, but still equivalent to all the hieroglyph forms. Hieroglyphics can be read now because of the Rosetta Stone.
5000 years ago, ancient Egyptians had started to use other Hieroglyphs in a separate way. The features that are visually well arranged about heavenly bodies, natural phenomena, animals and plants, Gods, humans, residences and households were used for 3000 years for recording Egyptian. Ancient Greeks called this system Hieroglyphs, literally "sacred carvings", because it was mainly used by religious functionaries who doubled as government bureaucrats.
Hieroglyphs were represented in the form of symbols and pictures. They were mainly written on objects, reliefs, and soon after on papyrus paper. The term "hieroglyphics" came from the Egyptian definition: "Writing the Words of God"[citation needed].Recent excavations at Umm el-Qa'ab by a team led by Günter Dreyer has shown that hieroglyphics were used in Predynastic Egypt as early as 3400 BCE, shaking the predominant view that the oldest form of writing was cuneiform.  Interpretations of this early script differ due to the small number of artifacts from this period with these markings.  Many early hieroglyphs represent a rebus system, in which pictures are used according to the way they sound. To illustrate this sort of phonetic system, a phrase such as "I believe," might be rendered with an eye, a bee, and a leaf.
Hieroglyphs were documented by the Greek historian Hecataeus of Abdera while visiting Egypt around 300 BCE. The word hieroglyph comes from two Greek words: 'hieros' which means sacred or holy; and 'glyph' which translates as "carving". Hieroglyphs emerged from earlier neolithic proto-writing, and became commonly used for administrative purposes in the agrarian society of Sumer, (proto-cuneiform?). They soon become a complex language in ancient Egypt; in Mesopotamia, the proto-cuneiform also quickly developed into cuneiform by various peoples/languages. The first written language for the ancient Egyptians and other ancient civilizations, hieroglyphs consist of depictions of animals, symbols, ideas, etc. that stand for objects, sounds, eventually alphabetic letters, and actions.
There are three types of hieroglyphs: 1. ideogram – a picture used to symbolize an abstract idea. For example, a sun used to convey the idea of day, light, or time; (but also the God Ra) 2. phonogram – a picture whose name is close to the desired sound as in the above rebus example for "I believe", and 3. pictograph: a drawing of something that takes on its literal meaning such as the picture of a cat representing the word cat; the animals: mammals, birds, and reptiles are so represented in Egyptian hieroglyphs. Our alphabet today is to us what hieroglyphics were to the ancient Egyptians. It is important to note that not everyone was schooled to write these beautiful symbols that adorn the walls of many ancient Egyptian temples and pyramids. The reason for this is hieroglyphics became a very complex writing system in ancient Egypt. Hieroglyphs in Egypt were much more detailed than their predecessors in Sumer. This is probably because the Egyptians valued art so much, as well as their civilization had an abundant supply of stone for building and writing surfaces. The people in charge of writing (or carving) these beautiful symbols were called scribes. Scribes were seen as having a very important task in ancient Egyptian society and were very high on the social hierarchy, ranking with the priests and other administrators.

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