Michael Levy | Musical Adventures in Time Travel...

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Musical Adventures in Time Travel...

by Michael Levy

A unique compilation album, featuring excerpts from Michael Levy's highly acclaimed albums & singles of solo lyre music...
Genre: World: World Traditions
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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Hurrian Hymn Text H6
4:31 $0.99
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2. Ancient Harps of Kemet
4:32 $0.99
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3. Awe of the Aten
2:49 $0.99
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4. The Tablets of Moses
4:06 $0.99
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5. Exodus of the Israelites
3:20 $0.99
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6. Orpheus's Lyre
5:56 $0.99
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7. Ode to Aphrodite
3:02 $0.99
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8. Spirit of the Kithara
3:04 $0.99
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9. Ode to Athena
1:47 $0.99
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10. Vapours of Delphi
2:39 $0.99
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11. The Battle of Thermopylae
5:46 $0.99
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12. Nero's Lyre
6:48 $0.99
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13. Ode to Ancient Rome
3:13 $0.99
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14. The Temple of Mars
2:50 $0.99
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15. Sacred Flame of Vesta
4:29 $0.99
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16. Magic of the Ancients
3:11 $0.99
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17. Realm of the Ancestors (feat. Rebecca Penkett)
9:13 $0.99
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18. Ancient Lyre Strings
7:03 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
A MUSICAL ADVENTURE IN TIME TRAVEL!

This album is a unique compilation of some of the very best tracks from my many albums which attempt to evoke the lost sounds & playing techniques of the lyres of antiquity. On this “Musical Adventure in Time Travel”, I attempt to recreate a lost vista of ancient landscapes, transporting the listener to a distant, ancient past...

ANCIENT MESOPOTAMIA

Our voyage through ancient landscapes begins, with a journey back in time, almost 4000 years ago, to the cradle of civilization, to ancient Mesopotamia. The track featured on this album to transport us back to this ancient land, is my arrangement for solo lyre, of one of the oldest known written musical fragments so far discovered in History, in my performance of Dr Richard Dumbrill's interpretation of the 3400 year old Hurrian Hymn (Text H6) from ancient Ugarit in Mesopotamia. In January 2011, a video of my performance of this piece recently featured in "The Biblical Archaeological Review.”

Hurrian Hymn (Text H6) was discovered in Ugarit in Syria in the early 1950s and was preserved for 3400 years on a clay tablet, written in the Cuneiform text of the ancient Hurrian language. Although 29 musical texts were discovered at Ugarit, only this text, (text H6), was in a sufficient state of preservation to allow for modern academic musical reconstruction. In short, the Cuneiform text clearly indicated specific names for lyre strings, and their respective musical intervals – a sort of “Guitar tablature”, for lyre!

Although discovered in modern day Syria, the Hurrians were not Syrian – they came from modern-day Anatolia. The Hurrian Hymn actually dates to the very end of the Hurrian civilisation (c.1400BCE). Indeed, the ancient Hurrian civilization dated back to at least 3000 BCE. The evocation of the ancient Kinnor Lyre from neighbouring Israel, on which I perform the piece, is almost tonally identical to the wooden asymmetric-shaped lyres played throughout the Middle East at this amazingly distant time...

The melody is an interpretation by Richard Dumbrill, from the ambiguous Cuneiform text of the Hurrian language in which it was written. Although many of the meanings of the Hurrian language are now lost in the mists of time, it can be established that the fragmentary Hurrian Hymn which has been found on these precious clay tablets are dedicated to Nikkal; the wife of the moon god.

There are several such interpretations of this melody, but to me, the fabulous interpretation by Richard Dumbrill just somehow sounds the most "authentic". Dr Dumbrill explains the method by which he managed to decipher the melody from the Cuneiform text in his video here. Below is a link to the sheet music, as interpreted by Richard Dumbrill and arranged by Clint Goss:

http://www.flutekey.com/pdf/HurrianTabLtd.pdf

My first arrangement of the Hurrian Hymn originally featured in my album, “An Ancient Lyre”. In my new arrangement featured in this compilation, I play the melody on my new hand-made lyre, tuning my lyre as the ancients once did, using the pristine purity of the just intonation of antiquity.

In just intonation, to achieve absolute purity of each musical interval in a scale, the ratio of every single musical interval is precisely calculated in rational numbers. As the ratio of each interval is very slightly different in just intonation, since the time of Bach, modern equal temperament eventually came to predominate - as all the intervals in equal temperament are artificially made equal, this enables the seamless transposition to different keys, without any change in the ratio of the intervals.

However, although seamless transposition & modulation between keys is therefore possible in equal temperament, the terrible consequence of equal temperament is that apart from the octave, all the other intervals are all artificially made slightly out of tune! Indeed, out of tune “wooowooowoo” sounding beat waves can clearly be heard, whenever a triad is played on a piano.

The effects of hearing music in the lost purity of just intonation, is a much more serene, yet at the same time, inspiring feeling, with much more intensity of the emotion. Music performed in poor compromise of equal temperament is, in comparison, like a rose without its scent...

In this new arrangement of the melody, I also use much more authentic-sounding natural fibre strings on my lyre, for the finishing touches to the ancient timbre I wish to convey. The strings of my lyre were made of wound silk by ancient musical string technology expert, Peter Pringle – the nearest match in tone, to the unpolished wound gut strings once used in antiquity.

In the repeat featured in my arrangement of the melody, I explore a heterophonic development of the 3400 year old melody deciphered by Dumbrill, featuring an ancient Mesopotamian percussive style of lyre playing, whereby the strings of the lyre, instead of being plucked with either the fingers or a plectrum, are hit with a wooden baton (similar to a modern hammered dulcimer). This technique can be seen on the famous Bas Reliefs of musicians from the ruins of the Palace at Nineveh - these reliefs date back to c.700BCE.

In my arrangement of the Hurrian Hymn, I have attempted to illustrate an interesting diversity of ancient lyre playing techniques, ranging from the use of "block and strum" improvisation at the end, glissando's, trills & tremolos, and alternating between harp-like tones in the left hand produced by finger-plucked strings, and guitar-like tones in the right hand, produced by use of the plectrum. In all my solo lyre playing, I also experiment some basic homophony – contrary to the “urban myth” of the monotony of monophony in the ancient world...

There is also a fascinating modern arrangement for piano & orchestra of Dumbrill’s interpretation of the melody of Hurrian Hymn Text H6, by the Syrian pianist & composer Malek Jandali, entitled “Echoes of Ugarit”. However, to my knowledge, my arrangement of the melody in this compilation is quite possibly, for the first time in 3400 years, that the Hurrian Hymn has been authentically performed on an actual lyre with natural fibre strings, in the pristine purity of the just intonation of antiquity...

ANCIENT EGYPT

In the next instalment of this “Musical Adventure in Time Travel”, I attempt to recreate the musical landscape of ancient Egypt. I explore an evocation of the music of ancient Egypt, in my arrangements for solo lyre & archaic arched harp, of both traditional Egyptian folk melodies & in my performance of an improvisation on one of the actual known ancient Egyptian scales, as deciphered by the late Professor Hans Hickmann of the Museum in Cairo, from chironomy gestures...
Chironomy is an ancient form of musical notation dating back to the 4th Dynasty (c.2500 BCE) whereby specific hand gestures represented specific changes in the pitch of a melody:

The improvisation on the minor pentatonic ancient Egyptian scale deciphered by Professor Hans Hickmann from ancient Egyptian chironomy, which features in this album, is my composition “Ancient Harps of Kemet” - from my album “The Ancient Egyptian Harp”. “Kemet” is a transliteration of the actual ancient Egyptian word “kmt”, describing the land of Egypt itself, literally meaning “black land” – describing the life-giving, dark fertile mud left behind each Spring after the annual flooding of the Nile.

In my album “The Ancient Egyptian Harp”, I attempted to recreate the sound of the ancient Egyptian shoulder harp of the New Kingdom (c.1500 BCE) on an incredibly archaic 9–string African arched harp still played in Uganda today, known as the Adungu. Virtually identical to the ancient Egyptian arched harp, the Adungu also has a skin soundboard – like a surviving examples of an ancient Egyptian shoulder harp preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the strings of the Adungu are also attached to the resonator via a horizontal wooded pole running directly below the skin soundboard.

“Awe of the Aten” also originally featured in my EP, “The Ancient Egyptian Harp.” The Aten was the ancient Egyptian word for the Sun Disc – venerated in the new monotheistic worship of the Aten by the Pharaoh Akhenaten.


ANCIENT ISRAEL

I then explore the ancient landscape of Biblical times, with my evocation of the Music of Ancient Israel, featuring a selection of tracks (some renamed for this compilation), originally heard on from albums, "King David's Lyre; Echoes of Ancient Israel" & “King David’s Harp”.

The track I have entitled “Exodus of the Israelites” in this compilation, is my arrangement for solo lyre of the traditional Klezmer melody “Odessa Bulgar” – first featured in track 10 of my album "King David's Lyre; Echoes of Ancient Israel".
“The Tablets of Moses” (based on the traditional sacred Jewish melody “Noch Havdallah”) featured in my album “King David’s Harp”.

These albums explore an evocation of the sound of the 10-string Biblical "Kinnor" - the 10-string lyre once played by my very own, very ancient Levite ancestors in the Temple of Jerusalem to accompany the singing of the Levitical Choir...

ANCIENT GREECE

We then move on our "Musical Adventure in Time Travel" to recreate the landscape of ancient Greece. The names of musical modes in use today, (e.g. Dorian, Mixolydian etc) although having the same names as the original Greek musical modes, were actually misnamed during the Middle Ages! Apparently, the Greeks counted intervals from top to bottom. When medieval ecclesiastical scholars tried to interpret the ancient texts, they counted from bottom to top, jumbling the information. The misnamed medieval modes are only distinguished by the ancient Greek modes of the same name, by being labelled “Church Modes”. It was due to a misinterpretation of the Latin texts of Boethius, that medieval modes were given the wrong Greek names. According to an article on Greece in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, the original ancient Greek names for species of the octave included the following (on white keys):

B-B: Mixolydian
E-E: Dorian
A-A: Hypodorian
D-D: Phrygian
G-G: Hypophrygian
C-C: Lydian
F-F: Hypolydian

For what Plato & Aristotle had this to say about these ancient musical modes, please see this fascinating link:

http://www.pathguy.com/modes.htm

My composition “Orpheus’s Lyre: Lament for Solo Lyre in the Ancient Greek Phrygian Mode” (originally released as an extended length single) was inspired by the timeless ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice:

"Eurydice and Orpheus were young and in love. So deep was their love that they were practically inseparable. So dependent was their love that each felt they could not live without the other. These young lovers were very happy and spent their time frolicking through the meadows. One day Eurydice was gaily running through a meadow with Orpheus when she was bitten by a serpent. The poison of the sting killed her and she descended to Hades immediately.
Orpheus was son of the great Olympian god Apollo. In many ways Apollo was the god of music and Orpheus was blessed with musical talents. Orpheus was so sad about the loss of his love that he composed music to express the terrible emptiness which pervaded his every breath and movement. He was so desperate and found so little else meaningful, that he decided address Hades. As the overseer of the underworld, Hades heart had to be hard as steel, and so it was. Many approached Hades to beg for loved ones back and as many times were refused. But Orpheus' music was so sweet and so moving that it softened the steel hearted heart of Hades himself. Hades gave permission to Orpheus to bring Eurydice back to the surface of the earth to enjoy the light of day. There was only one condition - Orpheus was not to look back as he ascended. He was to trust that Eurydice was immediately behind him. It was a long way back up and just as Orpheus had almost finished that last part of the trek, he looked behind him to make sure Eurydice was still with him. At that very moment, she was snatched back because he did not trust that she was there. When you hear music which mourns lost love, it is Orpheus' spirit who guides the hand of the musicians who play it” (Taken from Thomas Bulfinch and retold by Juliana Podd in Encyclopaedia Mythica)

In this piece, I explore modulating between the incredibly poignant-sounding ancient Greek Phrygian mode (this was misnamed the ‘Dorian’ mode in the Middle Ages) to evoke the yearning of Orpheus for his forever lost love, and the dreamy, sensual & feminine-sounding ancient Greek Hypolydian mode (misnamed the ‘Lydian’ mode in the Middle Ages), to paint a picture of Eurydice - the lost love for which he forever yearns...

I derive my ancient lyre playing techniques by both inferring the playing styles illustrated in ancient depictions of lyre players, studying the lyre playing techniques still practiced today throughout the continent Africa and also by a process of creative elimination, in my quest to discover just what was conceivably possible for the imaginative lyre player of antiquity to play on the instrument...

Indeed, the lyre lends itself to almost limitless heterophonic possibilities in improvising around the texture of the melody – different combinations of gentle harp-like finger plucked tones contrasting with brighter guitar-like plectrum plucked tones, strumming rhythm by means of ‘string-blocking’ (blocking notes not required to sound with the left hand notes whilst strumming the open strings with a plectrum in the right hand – a technique still practised today, by the Krar lyre players of Eritrea), the use of plectrum-plucked tremolo effects (a technique used by Egyptian Simimiyya lyre players) and instead of just plucking the strings, it is also possible to hit the strings with a wooden baton, like a hammered dulcimer - a technique derived from illustrations of musicians found in bas reliefs from the ruins of the palace of Nineveh, c.700 BCE, where the lyre players are clearly depicted performing this percussive style of lyre playing. In this composition, I tune my lyre to the wonderfully pure just intonation of antiquity.

“Ode to Aphrodite” (also composed in the Hypodorian Mode) featured in my album, “The Ancient Greek Lyre”. Aphrodite was the ancient Greek goddess of Love...

"Spirit of the Kithara” (composition in the Dorian Mode) originally featured on my album "The Ancient Greek Modes" . The Kithara was the large 7-string wooden lyre, once favoured by the professional musicians of ancient Greece...

A track on this compilation which originally featured in my album “Apollo’s Lyre” is “Ode to Athena” (original composition for lyre in the ancient Greek Hypodorian Mode). Athena was the ancient Greek goddess of Wisdom. The Parthenon in Athens was dedicated to the goddess Athena, in which once stood a magnificent statue of the goddess...

“Vapours of Delphi" (composed in the ancient Greek Phrygian Mode) can be heard on track 3, from my album "A Well Tuned Lyre – The Just Intonation of Antiquity". Throughout antiquity, the Pythia (the Delphic Oracle) would breathe the sacred vapours of Delphi and enter a shamanic trance, in which she was said to then be able foretell the future...

This compilation album also features my extended length single, “The Battle of Thermopylae: Paean For Solo Lyre” – a spontaneous improvisation for lyre in the ancient Greek Dorian Mode. According to the writings of Plato & Aristotle, the ancient Greek Dorian Mode was the manliest of all the ancient Greek Modes - when played with vigour, music played in the ancient Greek Dorian Mode could even inspire bravery in battle! In Classical antiquity, a Paean was a song of triumph. It comes from the Greek παιάν (also παιήων or παιών), meaning "song of triumph, any solemn song or chant."

Typically the paean was in the ancient Greek Dorian mode (equivalent intervals as E – E on the white notes of the piano) and was accompanied by the kithara, which was the instrument of the ancient Greek god of music, Apollo. Paeans meant to be sung on the battlefield were accompanied by aulos and kithara.

THE MUSIC OF ANCIENT ROME

We then arrive in ancient Rome, with “Nero’s Lyre” - originally released as an extended length single of the same title. In this composition, featuring once more, the beautiful just intonation of antiquity, I attempted to recreate the famous fabled lament the notorious Emperor Nero was alleged to have played on his lyre as he sang “The Sack of Ilion”, whilst he witnessed the Great Fire of Rome in 64 CE...

My exploration of the recreation of the lost music of ancient Rome continues with my composition “Ode to Ancient Rome”. This piece originally featured as track 1 of my album of the same title. My album “Ode To Ancient Rome” also features the beautifully pure just intonation of antiquity.

“Sacred Flame of Vesta” is another track to have originally featured in this album. Vesta was the Roman goddess of the home & hearth. The sacred flame of Vesta burned in Vesta's circular temple, built in the Roman Forum below the Aventine Hill in pre-republican times. The Vestal Virgins formed the priesthood, specifically dedicated to serving the goddess...

"The Temple of Mars", originally featured in my earlier album, "Echoes of Ancient Rome". This album features 7 original compositions for lyre in a selection of authentic ancient musical modes. The compositions on this album were mainly inspired by the Temples of Ancient Rome. Mars was the Roman god of war...

MEDITATIVE MUSIC FOR SOLO LYRE

This compilation closes with a selection of my more meditative, contemplative compositions for solo old Lyre...

“Realm of the Ancestors” is a unique duet of lyre & harp, featuring harp accompaniment by the talented folk harpist, Rebecca Penkett. This piece featured on my album “Ancient Vibrations”.

“Magic of the Ancients” originally featured in my album “Apollo’s Lyre” – an evocation of the ancient mystery & sacred rites of the Shaman.

“Ancient Lyre Strings” was first released as an extended length single. In this piece, my lyre is tuned in just intonation, featuring my lyre strung with natural fibre strings of wound silk, for a unique ancient-sounding timbre.

THE TRACKS

1. Echoes of Ancient Ugarit (Hurrian Hymn Text H6 c.1400 BCE Arranged For Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity)
2. Ancient Harps of Kemet (Original Composition for Archaic Arched Harp)
3. Awe of the Aten (Original Composition for Archaic Arched Harp)
4. The Tablets of Moses (Composition for Solo Lyre - Based on a Traditional Klezmer Melody)
5. Exodus of the Israelites (Composition for Solo Lyre - Based on a Traditional Klezmer Melody)
6. Orpheus’s Lyre: Lament For Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity
7. Ode to Aphrodite (Original Composition for Solo Lyre in the Ancient Greek Hypodorian Mode)
8. Spirit of the Kithara (Original Composition for Solo Lyre in the Ancient Greek Dorian Mode)
9. Ode to Athena (Original Composition for Solo Lyre in the Ancient Greek Hypodorian Mode)
10. Vapours of Delphi (Original Composition for Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity)
11. The Battle of Thermopylae (Original Composition for Solo Lyre in the Ancient Greek Dorian Mode)
12. Nero’s Lyre (Original Composition for Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity)
13. Ode to Ancient Rome (Original Composition for Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity)
14. The Temple of Mars (Original Composition for Solo Lyre)
15. Sacred Flame of Vesta (Original Composition for Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity)
16. Magic of the Ancients (Original Composition for Solo Lyre)
17. Realm of the Ancestors (Duet for Lyre & Harp Feat. Rebecca Penkett)
18. Ancient Lyre Strings (Original Composition for Solo Lyre in the Just Intonation of Antiquity)


THE RELENTLESS QUEST OF SEEING MUSICAL PERFECTION!

This compilation album is the main goal of my musical exploration of antiquity, which first began in 2006, when I discovered that over 2000 years ago, it was my very own, very ancient Levite ancestors who actually played the 10-string Biblical lyre (the “Kinnor”) in the Temple of Jersualem to accompany the singing of the Levitical Choir – my quest to revive the lost lyre playing techniques of antiquity, for me, has simply got to be the ultimate in roots music”! My musical quest was recently very well summed up in both an article in “The Sonic Inquirer” and “The American Harp Journal”

The process of composing & arranging music for lyre has been one of progressive evolution. I was first inspired to start recording, following the suggestions of my Youtube fans, following my first tentative "Lo Fi" primitive, grainy webcam videos of my "Musical Experiments in Time Travel", first broadcast to the rest of the unsuspecting world back in August 2006!

My first few releases were mostly arrangements for Biblical lyre of traditional Jewish Klezmer melodies which I was originally familiar with as a keen Klezmer fiddle player (hence the title of my Youtube Channel, “Klezfiddle1”). My first ever albums of 100% original compositions was not until the release “Apollo’s Lyre” & “The Ancient Greek Modes” in 2010.
Several tracks in my albums appear in different forms during this evolutionary journey of refinement – for example, my first arrangement of Dr. Richard Dumbrill’s interpretation of the “Hurrian Hymn” featured in my now "virtually viral" Youtube video of 2008, entitled "The Oldest Written Music in History, c.1400 BC!"

In 2009, I recorded a basic studio version of the same arrangement, in my experimental album “An Ancient Lyre” - the only album I have ever been bold enough to attempt to produce & mix myself, prior to discovering the awesome production skills of Dominik Johnson, who I had the pleasure of connecting with on Myspace in 2009.

In 2011, Dominik's far superior, professionally mixed version of my original arrangement for lyre of the Hurrian Hymn featured in my first compilation album, “Ancient Landscapes”.

Finally, my completely new arrangement heard on track 1 of this compilation, was recorded on my new hand-made lyre strung with natural fibre strings, in the authentic just intonation of antiquity, masterfully produced with Domink’s haunting reverb, sampled from actual Iranian caves - just one example, of my relentless quest of seeking "Musical Perfection"!


CREDITS

Special thanks, to John Wheeler, (expert on the work of the late Suzanne Haik Vantoura & the editor of her book, “The Music of the Bible Revealed”) for his invaluable input into the creation of my albums over the years, recommending the wonderful “Marini Made Davidic Harp” I now play & unlocking for me, the lost beauty of just intonation in the SCALA generated just intonation scales he so kindly provided me with to tune my lyre to.

Thanks also, to ancient string technology expert, Peter Pringle, for kindly manufacturing the natural fibre wound silk strings for my lyre (the nearest tonal match, to the unpolished, wound gut strings once used in antiquity)
Special thanks to the very talented folk harpist, Rebecca Penkett, for the wonderful accompaniment on her harp to my spontaneous improvisation on the lyre, for the track “Realms of the Ancestors”

Finally, special thanks to the incredibly talented multi-instrumentalist Dominik Johnson for his masterful mixing of all of my later albums recorded since 2010.

Once the Muse has inspired me again, I will continue in my new-found mission, as a “Musical Shaman”, in fulfilling my life’s passion - recreating the lost music of the ancient world...

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