Toward the middle of the 13th century B.C.E., shortly after a granddaughter of the great Hittite king married the Ugaritic ruler, a matrimonial scandal shook the kingdom. The first lady of the city-state of Ugarit was accused of disporting herself with the nobles, of “ceaseless enjoyment” with them: the Akkadian word ṣiāḫum (to laugh joyfully, to flirt) was the discreet description of conjugal infidelity.
“To laugh” had been the euphemism for sexual intercourse and physical love for at least 700 years, as is attested in Paleo-Babylonian love songs. Already in Sumerian songs of the beginning of the second millennium B.C.E., the verbs “to delight” and “to utter joyful cries” were used to describe amorous play.
The language of love in Aššurian songs is one of metaphors and discreet allusions; carnal love is mentioned only indirectly, through stock literary devices stemming from a long tradition. Amorous metaphors include “the scent of cedar is your love”, “she seeks the garden of your opulent love”, and “today my heart is full of play and music”.
This according to “La musique des amoureux” by Brigitte Groneberg (Dossiers d’archéologie 310 [février 2006] pp. 50–54).
Above, a Paleo-Babylonian plaque; below, Peter Pringle performs his recreation of an ancient Egyptian song that uses similar metaphors.
Filed under Antiquity, Asia
In his De natura animalium, Claudius Aelianus described the training of dancing elephants.
“To begin with, [the trainer] introduced them in a quiet, gentle fashion to his instructions, supplying them with delicacies and the most appetizing food, varied so as to allure and entice them into abandoning all trace of ferocity…So what they learned was not to go wild at the sound of the flutes (auloi), not to be alarmed at the beating of drums (tympanon), to be charmed by the pipe (syrinx), and to endure the beat of marching feet and the singing of crowds.”
Noting that elephants have a keen sense of music and an aptitude for learning, Aelian reported that they successfully mastered “the movements of a chorus, the steps of a dance, how to march in time, how to enjoy the sound of auloi, and how to distinguish different notes.”
This according to “Vox naturae: Music as human-animal communication in the context of animal training in ancient Rome” by Rodney Martin Cross (Greek and Roman musical studies V/2  pp. 147–58).
Below, two elephants enjoying a serenade.
Related article: The Thai Elephant Orchestra
In 2016 Peter Lang launched the series Medieval interventions: New light on traditional thinking with The power and value of music: Its effect and ethos in classical authors and contemporary music theory by Andreas Kramarz.
The series publishes innovative studies on medieval culture broadly conceived—works espousing, for example, new research protocols, especially those involving digitized resources; revisionist approaches to codicology and paleography; reflections on medieval ideologies; fresh pedagogical practices; digital humanities; advances in gender studies; and fresh thinking on animal, environmental, geospatial, and nature studies. In short, the series will seek to set rather than follow agendas in the study of medieval culture.
Since medieval intellectual and artistic practices were naturally interdisciplinary, the series welcomes studies from across the humanities and social sciences. Recognizing also the vigor that marks the field worldwide, the series endeavors to publish work in translation from non-Anglophone medievalists.
Below, Dr. Kramarz engagingly introduces himself and his subject matter.
BONUS: In an example of Apollonian aesthetics cited in the book, Tamino controls the elements with his magic flute in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.
Museo universal, sobre sonidos mexicanos, a virtual museum of pre-Columbian Mexican tlapitzalli (aerophones), is universal because it does not include language-based information; all it requires is Internet access and the ability to use a computer mouse.
Clicking on an illustration takes the user to an enlargement of the image along with a sound file of a brief performance on the instrument and a spectrograph of the sound. Written in the standard HTML markup language, it can operate on all major platforms.
Above, a screenshot of part of the museum; below, a brief demonstration of pre-Columbian Mexican instruments.
In 2014 Istituti Editoriali e Poligrafici Internazionali inaugurated the series Telestes: Studi e ricerche di archeologia musicale nel Mediterraneo with Musica, culti e riti nell’Occidente greco, edited by Angela Bellia.
The articles address new perspectives on the music of ancient Greece, including social factors and regional distinctions.
Above, a group of clowns with an aulos player; below, a compilation of lyre music.
In 2013 EDUCatt launched the series Teatro antico in scena with Quaderni per la messinscena dello Ione di Euripide, edited by Elisabetta Matelli.
The series is issued in collaboration with Kerkis: Teatro Antico in Scena, which also sponsors events promoting the study and broader reception of Greek and Roman theater.
Below, an affiliated production of Plautus’s Amphitryon.
Among the “wonderful things” that Howard Carter saw when he entered the newly discovered tomb of Tut’ankhamūn in 1922 were two trumpets—one made of silver, and one made of bronze.
Seeing the potential for an extraordinary recording, in 1939 the BBC persuaded the Matḥaf al-Miṣrī (Museum of Egyptian Antiquities) to schedule a world broadcast. The bandsman James Tappern was engaged to perform on the historic instruments.
In what some people saw as the notorious “curse of King Tut”, five minutes before the live broadcast was to begin the watchmen’s lanterns failed and the museum was plunged into darkness; but candlelight saved the day, and enthralled listeners heard what were presumably sounds last heard over 3,000 years earlier.
This according to “Recreating the sound of Tutankhamun’s trumpets” by Christine Finn (BBC news: Middle East 17 April 2001). Above, a photograph of Tappern at the museum. Below, a narrative fleshes out the story; the recordings of Tappern playing the trumpets begin around 10:45.
In early 2013 Brill launched Greek and Roman musical studies, the first specialist periodical in the fields of ancient Greek and Roman music.
The journal will publish papers offering cultural, historical, theoretical, archaeological, iconographical, and other perspectives on music in Classical antiquity, and on its reception in later times (especially the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, but also more recent periods).
The Editorial Board will also consider contributions on music elsewhere in the Mediterranean region, including Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Mesopotamia. Cross-disciplinary approaches are particularly appreciated.
Ēkhō Verlag issued the first volume of the series Flower world: Music archaeology of the Americas/Mundo florido: Arqueomusicología de las Américas in 2012.
This bilingual series aims to raise the study of the music-related activities of the pre-Columbian Americas to a new level, with peer-reviewed studies of both past and living traditions, providing a platform for the most up-to-date information on the music archaeology of the New World.
Below, a brief film about the pre-Columbian instruments of Mexico.