Musical Adventures in Time Travel

by Michael Levy

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about

A MUSICAL ADVENTURE IN TIME TRAVEL!

This album is a unique compilation of some of the very best tracks from my many albums of Ancient Lyre Music. On this “Musical Adventure in Time Travel”, I attempt to recreate a lost vista of ancient landscapes, transporting the listener to a distant, ancient past...

ANCIENT MESOPOTAMIA

Our voyage through ancient landscapes begins, with a journey back in time, almost 4000 years ago, to the cradle of civilization, to ancient Mesopotamia. Track 1 features my arrangement for solo Lyre, of one of the oldest known written musical fragment so far discovered in all of History, in my performance of Dr Richard Dumbrill's interpretation of Hurrian Hymn (Text H6) from ancient Ugarit in Mesopotamia. In January 2011, a video of my performance of the 3400 year old Hurrian Hymn recently featured in the internationally renowned pages of "The Biblical Archaeological Review”.

The 3400 year old "Hurrian Hymn" (Text H6) which was discovered in Ugarit in Syria in the early 1950s, and was preserved for 3400 years on a clay tablet, written in the Cuneiform text of the ancient Hurrian language. Although 29 musical texts were discovered at Ugarit, only this text, (text H6), was in a sufficient state of preservation to allow for modern academic musical reconstruction. In short, the Cuneiform text clearly indicated specific names for lyre strings, and their respective musical intervals – a sort of “Guitar tablature”, for lyre!

Although discovered in modern day Syria, the Hurrians were not Syrian – they came from modern day Anatolia. The Hurrian Hymn actually dates to the very end of the Hurrian civilisation (c.1400BCE) .The Hurrian civilization dates back to at least 3000 BCE. The evocation of the ancient Kinnor Lyre from neighboring Israel, on which I am performing the piece, is almost tonally identical to the wooden asymmetric-shaped lyres played throughout the Middle East at this amazingly distant time...

The melody is an interpretation by Richard Dumbrill, from the ambiguous Cuneiform text of the Hurrian language in which it was written. Although many of the meanings of the Hurrian language are now lost in the mists of time, it can be established that the fragmentary Hurrian Hymn which has been found on these precious clay tablets are dedicated to Nikkal; the wife of the moon god. There are several such interpretations of this melody, but to me, the fabulous interpretation by Richard Dumbrill just somehow sounds the most "authentic".

My first arrangement originally featured in my album, “An Ancient Lyre”. In this new arrangement, I play the melody on my new hand-made lyre, tuning my lyre as the ancients once did, using the pristine purity of the just intonation of antiquity.
In just intonation, to achieve absolute purity of each musical interval in a scale, the ratio of every single musical interval is precisely calculated in rational numbers. As the ratio of each interval is very slightly different in just intonation, since the time of Bach, modern equal temperament eventually came to predominate - as all the intervals in equal temperament are artificially made equal, this enables the seamless transposition to different keys, without any change in the ratio of the intervals.

However, although seamless transposition & modulation between keys is therefore possible in equal temperament, the terrible consequence of equal temperament is that apart from the octave, all the other intervals are all artificially made slightly out of tune! Indeed, out of tune “wooowooowoo” sounding beat waves can clearly be heard, whenever a triad is played on a piano.

The effects of hearing music in the lost purity of just intonation, is a much more serene, yet at the same time, inspiring feeling, with much more intensity of the emotion.

In this new arrangement of the melody, I also use much more authentic-sounding natural fibre strings on my lyre, for the finishing touches to the ancient timbre I wish to convey. In the repeat featured in my arrangement of the melody, I explore a heterophonic development of the 3400 year old melody deciphered by Dumbrill, featuring an ancient Mesopotamian percussive style of lyre playing, whereby the strings of the lyre, instead of being plucked with either the fingers or a plectrum, are hit with a wooden baton (similar to a modern hammered dulcimer). This technique can be seen on the famous Bas Reliefs of musicians from the ruins of the Palace at Nineveh - these reliefs date back to c.700BCE

In my arrangement of the Hurrian Hymn, I have attempted to illustrate an interesting diversity of ancient lyre playing techniques, ranging from the use of "block and strum" improvisation at the end, glissando's, trills & tremolos, and alternating between harp-like tones in the left hand produced by finger-plucked strings, and guitar-like tones in the right hand, produced by use of the plectrum.

There is also a fascinating modern arrangement for piano & orchestra of Dumbrill’s interpretation of the melody of Hurrian Hymn Text H6, by the Syrian pianist & composer Malek Jandali, entitled “Echoes of Ugarit”. However, to my knowledge, my own arrangement of the melody may well be the first time in 3400 years, that it has actually been performed on a lyre, with natural fibre strings, tuned n the wonderfully pure just intonation of antiquity...

ANCIENT EGYPT

In the next part of this “Musical Adventure in Time Travel”, I attempt to recreate the musical landscape of ancient Egypt. I explore an evocation of the music of Ancient Egypt, in my arrangements for solo lyre & archaic arched harp, of both traditional Egyptian folk melodies & in my performance of improvisations on some of the actual ancient Egyptian scales, as deciphered by the late Professor Hans Hickmann of the Museum in Cairo, from chironomy gestures - "chironomy" is an ancient form of musical notation dating back to the 4th Dynasty (c.2500 BCE) whereby specific hand gestures represented specific changes in the pitch of a melody.

The improvisation on the minor pentatonic ancient Egyptian scales deciphered from chironomy featured in this album is “Ancient Harps of Kemet” (from my album “The Ancient Egyptian Harp”). In my experimental EP, “The Ancient Egyptian Harp”, I attempted to recreate the sound of the ancient Egyptian shoulder harp of the New Kingdom (c.1500 BCE) on an incredibly archaic 9–string African arched harp still played in Uganda today, known as the Adungu.

Virtually identical to the ancient Egyptian arched harp, the Adungu also has a skin soundboard – like a surviving examples of an ancient Egyptian shoulder harp preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the strings of the Adungu are also attached to the resonator via a horizontal wooded pole running directly below the skin soundboard.

“Hymn To Osiris” also originally featured in my EP, “The Ancient Egyptian Harp.”
I further experiment at evoking the music of Ancient Egypt, in my arrangement for lyre, of some traditional Egyptian folk songs in my album "An Ancient Lyre” - the track "Hymn to Khonsu ” is my re-named arrangement for my solo lyre, of the Egyptian folk song from Port Said, "I Saw The Moon" – Khonsu was the ancient Egyptian god associated with the moon.

ANCIENT ISRAEL

I then explore the ancient landscape of Biblical times, with my evocation of the Music of Ancient Israel, featuring a selection of tracks (some renamed for this album), originally heard on from albums, "King David's Lyre; Echoes of Ancient Israel" & “King David’s Harp”.

The track I have entitled “Exodus of the Israelities” in this compilation, is my arrangement for solo lyre of the traditional Klezmer melody “Odessa Bulgar” – first featured in track 10 of my album "King David's Lyre; Echoes of Ancient Israel".
“The Tablets of Moses” (based on the traditional sacred Jewish melody “Noch Havdallah”) featured in my album “King David’s Lyre”. These albums explore the sound of the 10-string Biblical "Kinnor" - the 10-string lyre once played by my very own, very ancient Levite ancestors in the Temple of Jerusalem to accompany the singing of the Levitical Choir...

ANCIENT GREECE

We then move on our "Musical Adventure in Time Travel" to recreate the landscape of ancient Greece. On our exploration through Ancient Greece, I use some of my own compositions to complete this “Musical Adventure in Time Travel”. "Vapours of Delphi" can be heard on track 2, from my album "A Well Tuned Lyre – The Just Intonation of Antiquity". The Pythia (the Delphic Oracle) would breath the magic vapours at Delphi, and after entereing her Shamanic trance, was thought to be able to fortell the future...

Other tracks on this compilation originally from my album “Apollo’s Lyre” include “Ode To Athena”. Athena was the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom - there was once a statue of the goddess which stood in the Parthenon, to whom this timeless monument was dedicated.

“Ode to Aphrodite” featured in my later album, “The Ancient Greek Lyre”. Aphrodite was the ancient Greek goddess of erotic love...

"Spirit of the Kithara” & “Hymn To Poisiden” originally featured on my album "The Ancient Greek Modes" - a unique EP of original compositions for Kithara-style lyre, in each of the 7 original Ancient Greek Modes (as described in the writings of Plato & Aristotle, some 2400 years ago). The Kithara was the large 7-string wooden lyre, once favoured by the professional musicians of ancient Greece. Poisiden was the ancient Greek god of the Sea.

The names of musical modes in use today, (e.g. Dorian, Mixolydian etc) although having the same names as the original Greek musical modes, were actually misnamed during the Middle Ages! Apparently, the Greeks counted intervals from top to bottom. When medieval ecclesiastical scholars tried to interpret the ancient texts, they counted from bottom to top, jumbling the information. The misnamed medieval modes are only distinguished by the ancient Greek modes of the same name, by being labelled “Church Modes”. It was due to a misinterpretation of the Latin texts of Boethius, that medieval modes were given the wrong Greek names!

According to an article on Greece in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the original ancient Greek names for species of the octave included the following (on white keys):

B-B: Mixolydian
E-E: Dorian
A-A: Hypodorian
D-D: Phrygian
G-G: Hypophrygian
C-C: Lydian
F-F: Hypolydian

This compilation album also features a brand new original composition, “The Battle of Thermopylea” – a spontaneous improvisation in the sometimes war-like ancient Greek Dorian Mode.

THE MUSIC OF ANCIENT ROME

We then arrive in ancient Rome, with the track 13, “Ode To Ancient Rome”. This piece originally featured as track 1 of my album of the same title. My album “Ode To Ancient Rome” also uses the beautifully pure just intonation of antiquity. Dark Realms of Pluto” also originally featured in “Ode To Ancient Rome” – a piece which attempts to create the dark, bleak realms of Pluto: the Roman god of the Underworld...

"Sacred Flame of Vesta" also featured in my album, "Ode To Ancient Rome". Vesta was the Roman goddess of the home & hearth. The sacred flame of Vesta burned in Vesta's circular temple, built in the Roman Forum below the Aventine Hill in pre-republican times.

"The Temple of Mars", originally featured in my earlier EP album, "Echoes of Ancient Rome". This album features 7 original compositions for lyre in a selection of authentic ancient musical modes. The compositions on this album were mainly inspired by the Temples of Ancient Rome. Mars was the Roman god of War.

“Nero’s Lyre” was originally released as a single of the same title. In this composition, in the beautiful just intonation of antiquity, I attempted to recreate the famous fabled lament the notorious Emperor Nero was alleged to have played on his lyre as he sang “The Sack of Ilion”, whilst he witnessed the Great Fire of Rome in 64 CE.

MEDITATIVE MUSIC FOR SOLO LYRE

This compilation closes with a selection my meditative composition for solo old Lyre. “Magic of the Ancients” is a meditative improvisation from my album, “Apollo’s Lyre”. “Ancient Visions” originally featured in my album, “Ancient Visions – New Compositions For An Ancient Lyre” & later, the in version heard here, which was an improved version of this piece in just intonation, as featured in my later album “Ancient Vibrations”. “Sacred Reverie” also originally featured in this album – this piece, also in just intonation, has the gentle sound of running water in the background. "Other Worlds" is an evocation of the spiritual trance of Shaman, from the same album.

The album closes with "Ancient Lyre Strings" - a new composition for this compilation, featuring my lyre strung with natural fibre silk strings, tuned in the wonderfully pure just intonation of antiquity.


THE RELENTLESS QUEST OF SEEING MUSICAL PERFECTION!

This compilation album is the main goal of my musical exploration of antiquity, which first began in 2006, when I discovered that over 2000 years ago, it was my very own, very ancient Levite ancestors who actually played the 10-string Biblical lyre (the “Kinnor”) in the Temple of Jerusalem to accompany the singing of the Levitical Choir – my quest to revive the lost lyre playing techniques of antiquity, for me, has simply got to be the ultimate in roots music”!

The process of composing & arranging music for lyre has been one of progressive evolution. I was first inspired to start recording, following the suggestions of my Youtube fans, following my first tentative "Lo Fi" videos of my "Musical Experiments in Time Travel", first broadcast to the rest of the unsuspecting world back in August 2006!

My first few releases were mostly arrangements for Biblical lyre of traditional Jewish Klezmer melodies which I originally was familiar with as a keen Klezmer fiddle player. My first ever album of 100% original compositions was not until the release “Apollo’s Lyre” in 2010.

Several tracks in my albums appear in different forms during this evolutionary journey of refinement – for example, my first arrangement of Dr Richard Dumbrill’s interpretation of the “Hurrian Hymn” first featured in my now virtually viral Youtube video, entitled "The Oldest Written Music in History, c.1400 BC!" In 2009, I recorded a basic studio version of the same arrangement, in my experimental album “An Ancient Lyre” - the only album I have ever been bold enough to attempt to produce & mix myself, prior to discovering the awesome production skills of Dominik Johnson, who I had the pleasure of connecting with on Myspace. A few years later, Dominik's far superior, professionally mixed version of this arrangement featured in my first compilation album, “Ancient Landscapes”. Finally, the completely new recording heard on track 1 of this compilation, was performed on my new hand-made lyre strung with natural fibre strings, in the authentic just intonation of antiquity...the relentless quest of seeking "Musical Perfection"!

CREDITS

Special thanks, to ancient music expert John Wheeler, for his invaluable input into the creation of my albums over the years, recommending the wonderful “Marini Made Davidic Harp” I now play, & unlocking the lost beauty of just intonation.
Special thanks, also, to the incredibly talented Dominik Johnson, for his masterful mixing of all of my later albums.

This compilation may be the end of chapter, but it certainly is not the end of the story! I plan to release many new compositions as promotional free MP3 downloads in my relentless efforts as an unsigned artist to “get my music out there” & once the Muse has inspired me again, I will no doubt continue to release future albums, in my new-found role as a “Musical Shaman”, in fulfilling my life’s passion - Recreating Music of the Ancient World...

credits

released February 6, 2013

Special thanks, to ancient music expert John Wheeler, for his invaluable input into the creation of my albums over the years, recommending the wonderful “Marini Made Davidic Harp” I now play, & unlocking the lost beauty of just intonation.

Special thanks, also, to the incredibly talented Dominik Johnson, for his masterful mixing of all of my later albums...

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Michael Levy UK

Michael Levy is a multi-talented musician & prolific composer, who since 2006, has focused his unique skills, at both intensively researching & recreating the ancient playing-techniques of the lyres of antiquity.

He has independently produced almost 30 albums of ancient lyre music since 2008...
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