Music of Mesopotamia

Music had a big influence in Mesopotamia. It was a way that most people could express themselves. There were many kinds of instruments that were invented during the time of mesopotamia that we still use now in the modern word. Music of mesopotamia described peoples daily life, expressed lots of emotion, aloud people to show beliefs and even to worship gods.


Vocal techniques

There were many vocal techniques in ancient Sumer and Assyria. Dynamic changes,shakes,mordents and microtonal inflection were most popular in vocal performances. The singers usually expressed intense emotion through their music. Almost like listening to themselves, the vocalists would practise the cupping of a hand to the ear. This practise is stillmodern in Assyrian music and arab folk music. Hurrian songs were quite popular in Mesopotamia. Hurrian songs are a collection of musical drawings and lyrics and clay tablets. These song were completed with thirty-six hymns. The songs were mostly about religious beliefs and gods. The Hurrian songs were pasted on from generation and even sang to young children. This showed how authentic the mesopotamian people could be.

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This is a picture of hurrian songs on clay tablets.

Types of Instruments

Instruments include the the harp, lutes,lyres,reed pipes and drums. Original wooden stringed instruments were found decorated with gold,silver, copper and lapis lazuli (a specific gem stone). A lute is similar to a guitar. It has strings that run in a parallel line into a sound table. Reed pipes are organ pipes that vibrate brass strips known as reeds. The harp is a musical instrument that has a number of individual strings running through it. These strings are plucked by fingers. When the strings are plucked, its sends a vibration to its sound box which gives the harp its heavenly sound. The percussion instruments played an important role in ancient Sumer. Bells, rattles and shakes occupied dancers and performers. One of the last traditional instrument of Mesopotamia is the lyre. A lyre looks similar to a small harp. On it, there are strings that run over a resonating soundbox to a yoke. A yoke is a wooden cross piece that fastens together string and can fasten over the players neck. The Bovine lyre was the most common played instrument in Sumer. Many of these instruments were shared with neighbouring cultures.

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This is a mesopotamian harp. Notice the amount of detailing around the instrument.

Scales and Tuning

There have been many cuneiform tablets studied since 1959. Archaeologist have been fortunate to find a small number of texts related to the playing of ancient instruments. There have been ten tablets recovered that have information specifically on musical scales and tuning. Tuning procedures were operated within heptatonic and diatonic systems. A heptatonic scale is a musicla scale with seven pitches per ocatve. A diatonic scale (also known as a hetatonic prima) is a scale composed of seven distinct pitch classes. A musical interval is the difference between two pitches. Musical intervals include fingering techniques such as fourths, fifths, thirds and sixths. Tuning procedures would have started from intervals four and five. The sumerians were a specific group of people that contributed to music tremendously. If they didn't create these scales, we wouldn't even hav the basic foundation of music today.




Mendalla’s Music
Dear people of the future,
My name is Mendalla. I am fifteen year old musician here in Sumer. Sumer is a beautiful place with many jobs for a musician like me. My dream is to perform for the king. Although, I usually only perform at small events. there are many talented instrumentalist and performers here. We have harp players, lyre players, lute player and reed pip instrumentalist. Many of these people come from wealthy families that have enough money and time to pay for and make instruments. Being the daughter of a farmer means that my family isn't wealthy. My father cannot even pay for a simple lyre. I would make one but i've just been so busy with school a my small performances. In fact, tonight I have my biggest performance yet. I well be singing to the preist. Our priest is looking for a new vocalist and performer. You people of the future may not know this, but for a girl like me this is a big deal. If I make a foul of myself ,they might through my family in prison.The preist may think im am mocking him and put my family in depth. Oh how that would be terrible. So i must prepare myself.
Here in Sumer, we learn seven pitches we use for sining. I would love to learn how something new like how to play an instrument so i can get the job. If i do, i can make enough money to buy some instruments. I could buy a harp, lyre,a reed pipe and even a lute. With these, i could take my music and do something really special with it. I would be remembered for the rest of time. I hope you future people hear of me by the time you read this and never forget us sumerians, the creators of music its self.

From: Mendalla