We don't know much about the origin of music, which seems nevertheless inseparable from even most ancient human civilisations. The first forms of prehistoric art, the paintings discovered on the walls of caves, go back as far as 50 000 years BC; and the odds are that music is an even older art.
Copy of a fresco from the Tomb of Djeserkaraseneb, Thebes, dating back to the 18th Dynasty
The first instruments which could be considered as musical were certainly created from perishable materials (wood, skins) which survived with difficulty until our days. We however discovered in Wicklow, Ireland, a group of six wooden flutes carved from yew wood, measuring between 30 and 50 cm, but without any holes. We believe that these flutes were originally connected together, just like a panpipe.
In 2008, archaeologists discovered a bone flute in the Hohle Fels cave near Ulm, Germany.The five-holed flute has a V-shaped mouthpiece and is made out of a vulture wing bone. It is one of several similar instruments found in the area, which date to at least 35,000 years ago, making this one of the oldest confirmed findings of any musical instruments in history.
Music in fact is established by the rhythm and by the melody, although it is hard to know which one was the starting point of this ancestral art. The beating of hands, feet, the shocks of stone or wooden sticks certainly gave rhythm to the prehistoric ceremonies.
As for the melody, voice itself seems to have been the first source. It offers a wide range of sounds, whispering, whistling, shouting, even yoddeling. We think that the lullaby, the soft melody of a mother to her child, goes back to age-old times and would have contributed to the birth of music. It is interesting to note that the study of lullabies in our modern civilisations reveals a surprising similarity in melodies and intonations, no matter the culture or the geographical location. This factor contributes to the argument of seniority of the lullaby in music history.
The "oldest known song" was written in cuneiform, dating to 3400 years ago from Ugarit. It was deciphered by Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, and was demonstrated to be composed in harmonies of thirds, and also was written using a Pythagorean tuning of the diatonic scale.
You may listen to it here! It's pretty zen!
So, music was and still is an essential aspect in the evolution of any human civilisation. Throughout the history, highly creative characters enchanted us with the most varied melodies. For many of us, the audience retention occupies an important part of our most precious memories.
Just imagine a world without music ... we are immediately transported in a cold, sad and lugubrious atmosphere. Let us keep the rhythm! Let's celebrate the music in our lives!