Assyria - Ashurbanipal - Ancient Assyrian Chant

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2 Flutes, Oboe, English Horn, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 4 French Horns, 2 Trumpets, 2 Trombones, Tuba, Timpani, Tam-tam, Bass drum, Suspended cymbal, Crash cymbals, 2 Ouds, Santoor, Turkish Zither, Electronic Pad, 2 Riqs, Iraqi Talking Drum, 2 Dumbeks, Darabuka, Harp, Strings


Piccolo, Flute, Oboe, English Horn, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 4 French Horns, 2 Trumpets, 2 Trombones, Tuba, Timpani, Bass drum, Tam-tam, Tambourine, Suspended cymbal, Crash cymbals, Duduk, Darabuka, 2 Dumbeks, Iraqi Talking Drum, Daf, Tar, Riq, Large Drum, 3 Tambourines, Strings


Not much is known concretely about the music of the ancient Assyrians, and likewise it wasn’t so much choosing a source melody that gave me difficulty as much as simply finding a source melody in the first place for Ashurbanipal. Archaeological discoveries along with cuneiform tablets give us a little information on instrumentation - not surprisingly, harps, lutes, reeds, and drums were common. 

In many cultures, music is learned and passed on aurally, without the aid of notation. So my search for a melody turned to this route - trying to find the common thread of a people group’s music that I do have access to that would, at least partially, contain some of the remnants of ancient Assyrian music. 

My search led me surprisingly to a group of people known as “Assyrian Christians,” found in modern day Iraq and other surrounding middle eastern countries. This people group is thought by many to be direct descendants of the ancient Assyrians, and it turns out that they also have preserved to some degree some of the earliest Christian chant by aural tradition. Ashurbanipal’s leader music is based on one of these chants. It is admittedly a choice of optimistic conjecture, but it is as close as I could get with a distance of 4000 years separating me from the ancient Assyrians.

The actual chant comes from a remote recording of Assyrian Christian chant in Aleppo, Syria recorded by Jason Hamacher, for Lost Origins Productions. Listen to his recording of the chant here.

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