Further Reading and Listening

For those interested in ancient music, the following resources may be of interest. There are a number of recent books on various aspects of music in different ancient cultures, while a number of recent recordings give differing interpretations of what ancient music may have sounded like. (I would like to thank the friends and colleagues who loaned books and music for the compilation of these lists, and would welcome suggestions for additional material to list here.)

PLEASE NOTE: *None* of these books and recordings are available through the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology; please do not contact the museum regarding their availability. Most are still in print and can be purchased through local book and music stores, or through on-line retailers; otherwise try your local public or university library.

--Terry G.Wilfong
Exhibition Curator

For further reading on music in the ancient world, see the following:

There are a number of recent recordings that attempt to recreate or invoke ancient music in some way, and often provide useful information on the practical side of the performance of ancient music as well.

The following recordings present music preserved in ancient papyri and inscriptions, using replicas of ancient instruments. Although each remains relatively close to the original sources, the differing results show the wide range of interpretation possible with these fragmentary and often ambiguous examples of ancient musical notation. Most of the music comes from papyri from Roman Egypt, and represents a largely Greek rather than Egyptian musical tradition.

The recordings in the following group use replicas of ancient instruments to perform ancient Greek and Roman notated music along with modern compositions in the style of the ancient music. The number of recordings from Greece in this group attest to the great interest that modern Greek composers and musicologists have shown in the ancient music of Greece.

The following recording was prepared for (and sold in conjunction with) the travelling exhibition "Mythen, Mensen en Muziek: Een Expositie over Muziek in de Oudheid" ("Myths, People and Music: An Exhibition about Music in Antiquity") in Amsterdam and Nijmegen. It combines recordings based on ancient sources (papyri and inscriptions) with freer interpretations. It also includes renderings of the earliest known musical notation (from cuneiform tablets) and interpretations of "Dark Ages" European music and dramatic recitation.

Some authors have suggested that the traditional liturgical music of the Egyptian Christians, the Copts, shows traces of earlier forms of music in Egypt. Coptic liturgical music is distinctive from other music of the Middle East and may indeed preserve memories of earlier musical traditions in Egypt. The following are some examples of Coptic liturgical music available on CD.

Finally, the following recordings provide modern interpretations of what ancient Egyptian music might have been like. Since Egyptian music was not written down, the musicians use ancient instruments and other clues (e.g., ancient representations of musicians and writings about musicians) to create their own interpretations. The end results, in the best cases, may well capture something of the sound and spirit of the music of ancient Egypt.