That’s a good thing for Conner, who after completing a degree in music composition got deeply interested in Babylonian literature and poetry—which was originally recorded in cuneiform, wedge-shaped marks on clay tablets.
But the words on the paper, the modern incarnations of these mineral etchings, were not enough for Conner. She wanted to know what these languages sounded like, to summon life from stone. Many of these poems and snatches of writings were sung and chanted, according to historians. The tunes played an important part in rituals in Mesopotamian societies, from funerals to lullabies, Conner says.
So she teamed up with Andy Lowings, who reconstructs ancient instruments and plays a mean lyre, a musical instrument with strings that resembles a harp. The two set out to create music that brings ancient Babylonian poetry to life, and The Flood is the result. It was produced by sound engineer Mark Harmer and can be found on Conner’s website; it will also come out on iTunes next month.
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. Then, after choosing and memorizing a piece of writing or poem, Conner collaborated with Lowings to create the melody. (1)
Now they are heard again.
We live in the shadows of the past.
We play music under the eyes of our ancestors.
We determine the future.
The future affects our presence.
Somehow it is as though they never faded away…