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A Hurrian Cult Song from Ancient Ugarit

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Uploaded on Mar 10, 2009

The most ancient example of written song. A hymn to Nikkal, wife of the moon god. The text is written upon a fragmented tablet and, therefore, is incomplete. The hymn has four stanzas, each with a refrain. Stanzas 1 and 4 are imitation, and stanzas 2 and 3 are identical musically. The singer is accompanied by a lyra. The lyra harmony is predominantly in thirds and sixths, a few fourths, and one fifth.

There are startling similarities between the Babylonian principles of music theory and those used by ancient Greeks. Moreover, the Babylonian principles antedate the Greek ones by more than a millenium.

The Babylonians seem to have used music exclusively in connection with religious observances and festivals. The names of lyra/kithara strings and musical pitches were related to their cult deities and to the planets in a cosmology similar to Greek philosophers' "harmony of the spheres."

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