In 1975, Dr. Anne Kilmer, Assyriologist of University of California Berkeley, published a booklet and record about her ground breaking discoveries in ancient near eastern music called Sounds from Silence, published by Bit Enki. This book shares a transcription of the oldest known written music and the story behind this music.
Anne's Silver Lyre Replica
Shortly before the publication of Sounds from Silence, Robert R. Brown, of the Berkeley Physics Department, constructed a beautiful replica of the Silver Lyre of Ur for Dr. Anne Kilmer.
The original Silver Lyre, built ca 2600 BCE along with eight additional lyres and two harps, were excavated in the 1927 by Sir Leonard Wooley in the royal graves at the archeological site of the ancient city of Ur in southern Iraq. The best known instruments from the site are the Lapis Lyre (located in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia), the Silver Lyre (located in the British Museum), and the Gold Lyre.
Andy Lowings and the Lyre of Ur Project
The Gold Lyre, the most well known lyre from the royal graves of Ur, was in the Iraq Museum of Baghdad until it was looted in April 2003. Since then, Andy Lowings and a small group of musicians and craftsmen re-created a magnificent and faithful replica of the Gold Lyre. You can learn more about this group by visiting lyre-of-ur.com
In 2009, Andy Lowings contacted Anne and Lorna Govier to produce a recording of the Anne's Silver Lyre replica that would enable a performance of the Gold and Silver Lyre replicas playing together.
In 2012, Anne and Lorna completed their Silver Lyre book and CD and sent it to Andy. The fruition of this project with Gold and Silver Lyre playing together is shown in the recording below as an edited version of the original A Sumerian Drinking Song CD track.
Construction of My Silver Lyre Replica
I am lucky to have found a wonderful instrument maker to build my own replica of the Silver Lyre of Ur. Taking the drawings and dimensions Anne generously lent to me, I sent them to David, who did a wonderful job constructing such a beautiful and interesting instrument. David built a frame that was sandwiched between a sound box and attached a lovely carving of a bulls head. The colors he chose, both light and dark wood, are striking and lovely. I am proud to have my own Silver Lyre of Ur replica in my studio.
When I began this project with Anne, we had to think of a better way to tune her Silver Lyre of Ur replica. Conversations with Andy Lowings, who had knowledge of ancient musical instruments still played in Africa today, suggested that we try wrapping a strip of cloth under the wrapped string as are the African instruments. This method worked well. The cloth acted as a bearing under the wound strings, allowing the musician to be able to tighten the string with the tuning pegs but still stay tight to the cross bar. The Silver Lyre in the British Museum shows braided string under the wound strings. A tutorial of how I strung my replica of the Silver Lyre is included below.
Introduction to Lorna Govier and Anne Kilmer's Ancient Music Lecture Concert
A video introducing the Silver Lyre project, shown with Anne Kilmer's Silver Lyre of Ur replica.
Anne Kilmer and the Lapis Lyre of Ur
Anne Kilmer, ca. mid 1970, with the Lapis Lyre, which is located in the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia.
Anne Kilmer, Richard Crocker and Robert Brown with Replicas of Ancient Lyres
Bit Enki Photo ca 1976. Kilmer conceived the idea of building working models of ancient instruments to demonstrate the Babylonian music system and to perform the oldest piece of music yet known. Brown, from the Berkeley Physics Department, built the lyres. Crocker strung, tuned, and performed on the lyres.
Anne and I perform our Silver Lyre music
Anne Kilmer and I perform our The Silver Lyre works on Anne's Silver Lyre replica at a private home in Tucson, AZ in 2011.
Duet of A Sumerian Drinking Song
Andy's group, the Gold Lyre of Ur project, added Andy's Gold Lyre replica to Anne and my original recording of The Sumerian Drinking Song with additional ancient instruments and singers Andy Lowings, Jennifer Sturdy, Mark Harmer, Keith Jobling and Dr. Stef Conner to produce a wonderful vibrant song. Many thanks to the Gold Lyre of Ur project for sending us this recording.
The Flood Narrative from the Gilgamesh Epic in Akkadian - Academy Village Concert January 30, 2013
One of the songs from The Silver Lyre is The Flood Narrative from the Gilgamesh Epic. I wrote the music to go along with this ancient Akkadian text which tells of a great flood send by the gods as found in the Gilgamesh epic.
Interview with Anne Kilmer: The Hurrian Cult Song and Life in Ancient Times
Anne and I included four songs in our booklet The Silver Lyre. We arranged the Hurrian Cult song to be easy to read for pianists and harpists. In this interview, Anne discusses the Hurrian Cult Song and life in ancient Mesopotamia.
Interview with Anne Kilmer Part 2: Baby Quietening Incantation
Interview with Anne Kilmer Part 3: The Flood Narrative from the Gilgamesh Epic
Interview with Anne Kilmer, Part 4: A Sumerian Drinking Song
Interview with Anne Kilmer, Part 5: Ancient people and modern people - what we have in common
David Kortier Construction of My Silver Lyre Replica, photo 1
David Kortier Construction of My Silver Lyre Replica, photo 2
How to tune the Silver Lyre Replica
This video shows you how I tuned my Silver Lyre of Ur Replica