An art exhibit in Toronto will feature a new interpretation of the “Hurrian Hymn,” the oldest known written piece of music.
The Hurrian Hymn was written on a clay tablet in 1400 BC and was discovered in 1948 at the site of ancient Ugarit, near the Syrian coast. The song depicts the cry of an infertile woman to the goddess Nikkal, wife of the moon god.
Syrian-American composer and pianist Malek Jandali has created a modern rendition of the song for a new exhibit at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto.
Jandali, who was raised in Homs, only a few miles from where the clay tablet was found, told CTVNews.ca he recorded this piece to keep the history, culture and music of Syria alive.
“Without that clay tablet we wouldn’t have the symphony or Lady Gaga,” said Jandali. “It changed the history of mankind.”
The tablet, according to Jandali, invented the “alphabet of music” – musical notation – and he was shocked that so many people weren’t aware that his Syrian ancestors were the creators.
“It was my duty as an artist, as a Syrian composer, to do my own interpretation [of Hurrian Hymn]. To preserve it, keep it alive,” he said.
Jandali composed, arranged and recorded his own rendition of the hymn with the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra.
The song is now available on iTunes, a fact which Jandali finds amusing.
“I’m sure [my ancestors] never thought the music would be on iTunes all over the world,” he said.
He told CTVNews.ca that he hopes visitors of the exhibit will take away a feeling of unity through music and art, or as he said: “a symphony for peace”.
Jandali’s piece will complement an installation of artwork featured in the Aga Khan Museum exhibition, titled “Syrian Symphony: New Compositions in Sight and Sound.”
The exhibition is set to create an “immersive and interactive response from artists” to the current situation in Syria.
The exhibition is open from May 20 to Aug. 13, 2017 and will feature music, painting, and media arts by some of Syria’s leading artists and musicians.