Sunday, November 7, 2010 B
"Old Time Rock and Roll"

It's the busy season, and I've been having to work the past several Saturdays. One thing that makes it easier is the radio playing old tunes from the 70's. They just don't make music like that any more. When "Come Sail Away" came on, I sang along. Suddenly, I was in my twenties again, playing it on the piano, and singing loudly. I love that feeling!

They didn't play Bob Seger's song, but I'd have sung along to that one, too:

"Old time rock and roll, that kind of music just soothes the soul,
"I reminisce about the days of old with that old time rock and roll..."

Later this weekend, I was digging in my photo archives and found evidence of REALLY old time music!

Plaque with Mesopotamian Harpist
Iraq: Ishchali?, Isin-Larsa /Old Babylonian Period, ca. 2000-1600 BCE
Baked clay, 12.3cm H, 7.7 cm W
Purchased in Baghdad, 1930, OIM A9345

Men Playing Harps
Left: Limestone, New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, ca. 1350 BCE
Right: Baked clay, Dynasties 18-19, ca. 1350-1070 BCE
"These two figurines illustrate the main types of Egyptian harps:
the floor harp (stone figure) and the tall harp (clay figurine)
Poorly photographed info card, adjusted to increase contrast

The info card above the two figurines explains:
"The most common musical instruments in religious ceremonies were the sistrum (a type of rattle), and the menat (a beaded necklace with decorative counterpoise), both of which, when shaken, produced a rattling sound that was thought to please the gods."

The Oriental museum has two examples of sistrums:

Left: Bronze sistrum, Late Ptolemaic to Roman period, 3rd-
H: 37.5cm, W: 8 cm, Th: 5 cm
OIM 14058, From "The Life of Meresamun: A Temple Singer in Ancient Egypt":
"This example features a head of Hathor. Above the goddess is a tiny temple portal whose architraves are ornamented with recumbent lions. Crowned cobras rear up behind the lions." Among the details are "a cat nursing two kittens" "on top of the sistrum" and "the handle is in the form of the god Bes".
Right: Faience naos-type sistrum, another view through this link.
Late Period, Dynasty 26, reign of Amasis, 570-526 BCE
OIM 10718, From the info card:
"The rectangular top of the sistrum on the right imitates the form of a shrine of the goddess Hathor whose face, framed by a heavy wig, appears below the shrine. Since this sistrum is made of fragle faience, it is probably a model, or votive rattle used in offering ceremonies rather than an actual musical instrument. The handle is inscribed with the names of the king."

The Metropolitan Museum also has several examples of sistrums:


Bronze Sistrum

Two Sistra

The ancients danced to all that strumming and shaking:

Relief of dancers and singers
Old Kingdom, Dynasty 5, ca. 2504-2347
Limestone, H: 37cm, W: 28 cm
OIM 10590, from the info card:
"Music was often played in the company of dancers and singers. The two women to the left clap their hands to the music, while the dancer to the right raises one hand and places the other on her hip. The elaborate knot of fabric on the back of her dress identifies her as a member of a special group of professional dancers. The fragmentary text above the women reads "singing."

I took these photos last summer when I visited the Oriental Art Museum. They will all print to 5x7 inch format.

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