Music in Ancient Egypt

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Music in Ancient Egypt

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In antiquity the Egyptians used music in diverse daily activities, but it was in the temples and in their ceremonial where it had a more intense development. It is not known exactly how the Egyptian music was, because it was not written, but transmitted orally, but are preserved texts used in some ceremonies, such as those of the cults to Isis and Neftis-, which suggest that two priests alternated in singing, combined with solos by the priestesses representing the goddess.

For the study of Egyptian music there is graphic-jeroglyphic documentation, bas-reliefs and texts, which testify to the use and form of their instruments and their importance in religious worship. Among the most appreciated instruments are the sistro, a percussion instrument with a U-shaped wooden frame, with a handle as a handle, with crossed bars holding metal plates.

Another instrument widely used in ancient Egypt was the harp with a low harmonic box. Among the wind instruments the straight flute was used, the double shawm, of reed, that consisted of two parallel tubes provided with reed, that sounded in unison; and in the military parades a species of trumpet of copper or silver.

Towards the 16th century B.C., the contact of the Egyptians with Mesopotamia contributed to the development and assimilation of a new style of oriental music of a fundamentally profane character. This influence can be seen in a type of dance faster than that practiced during the Ancient and Middle Empires, and especially in the many Asian instruments that came to Egypt. Among them the double oboe had great importance, with two reeds placed at an angle, and while one played the melody, the other accompanied it with a low note that sounded uninterruptedly as a pedal note.

During the New Empire, other instruments also appeared in Egypt, such as the angular harps, with a high harmonic box, which was perfected until it became a magnificent instrument about six feet high, with ten or twelve strings and a profusely carved frame.

Later, during the Greek occupation, the Egyptians adopted many elements of Hellenic music, although Egypt's influence on Greece was enormous. Although we do not know their musical system, it is certain that in the New Empire the seven-sound scale was used. In addition, Pythagoras, a Greek, educated in Egyptian temples and founder of Greek mathematical-musical theory, assimilated much of Egyptian science.

On the other hand, Claudius Ptolemy, who lived the decline of the Egician culture, was an important mathematician and music theorist, and in the 2nd century B.C. The Greek Ctesibios, resident in Alexandria invented the hydraulic organ, an instrument in which the air supply of the pipes was carried out by a mechanism that used water pressure.

Although much of Egyptian culture passed into Greece, it also reached the Coptic church and later mingled with other civilizations.


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