What Was The First Song?
While some clay tablets containing musical notation exist from 4000 years ago, if you asked a historian about the first song, most would say it is The Hurrian Hymn No. 6.
The ancient Hurrians composed it as an ode to the goddess Nikkal roughly 1400 years before the birth of Christ. The tune was found on clay tablets at a dig in Syria in the 1950s. Archaeologists found musical notation and instructions on how to play the song on a nine-stringed lyre, too. Luckily, you won’t need a time machine or an archaeology degree to hear what this song sounded like. You can check it out right here:
That said, we still aren’t done. If you consider the first song to be the first composition to have survived completely, then we take another leap forward to the first century AD. Rather beautifully, it was carved onto a pillar to mark a woman’s grave in Turkey. It appears to have been composed by the ancient Greeks.
It is called the Seikilos Epitaph, and it starts with an inscription that reads, “I am a tombstone, an image. Seikilos placed me here as an everlasting sign of deathless remembrance”.
This is followed by a set of musical notations as well as a few lyrics. They read, “While you live, shine / Have no grief at all / Life exists only for a short while / And time demands its toll.” It makes quite a tribute, one that still exists 2000 years later. This piece is one everyone should listen to.
Music is a central part of life for every person in the world today. Yet, often, we are so accustomed to its presence that we give it little thought and sometimes don’t even notice it’s there. That’s why the question of what the first song in history rarely comes up.
There is evidence of music composition and the creation of instruments from as far back as 43,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found rudimentary bone and ivory flutes from this time, and they believe many musical styles from this time still exist now as part of oral traditions passed down through generations.