But how does one reincarnate music that no human voice has uttered for millennia? Conner says a key step was to really understand the language. She carefully studied historical analysis of the stresses and intonations of Babylonian and Sumerian for hints as to how it may have sounded, and researched how language is converted into music in similar Semitic languages.The Lyre Ensemble—singer and composer Stef Conner, ancient-lyre-builder and lyrist Andy Lowings, and engineer and harpist Mark Harmer—breathe life into ancient Babylonian and Sumerian literature and poetry. [more inside]
We see it every day on signs, billboards, packaging, in books and magazines; in fact, you are looking at it now — the Latin or Roman alphabet, the world’s most prolific, most widespread abc. Typography is a relatively recent invention, but to unearth the origins of alphabets, we will need to travel much farther back in time, to an era contemporaneous with the emergence of civilisation itself. The origins of abc.
Enheduanna was a priestess and poet in the city of Ur in the 23rd century BC and supposedly the daughter of Sargon the Great of Akkad. She is the first author known by name. Here are a number of her poems in English translation, The Exaltation of Inana, Inana and Ebih, A Hymn to Inana, The Temple Hymns and A Balbale to Nanna. Here are two alternate translations of The Exaltation of Inana, one by James D. Pritchard and an English rendering of Dr. Annette Zgoll's German translation. If you want to learn more, go to The En-hedu-Ana Research Pages.
Sumerian is the first language for which we have written evidence and its literature the earliest known. The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature, a project of the University of Oxford, comprises a selection of nearly 400 translated literary compositions recorded on sources which come from ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and date to the late third and early second millennia BCE. Not enough for you? Why not impress your friends (and confuse your enemies) by translating some english words into Sumerian?
Mesopotamia at the British Museum.