Hearing History

I’m a history buff…

Which means I’m really ‘into’ things that take me back to a previous time.

Recently, I’ve come across some great music that does just that, and I’d like to share it with you.

For our first selection, we go back to 500-1300 or so… The dark ages.

This instrument is called the ‘hurdy gurdy’ (aka the wheel fiddle). It is, in essence, a violin that is rubbed by a turning wheel underneath the strings, rather than a bow above the strings. The wheel is turned by the musicians right hand (usually), and the left hand plays the notes on keys on the side like an accordion. This instrument originated in France during medieval times and became very popular – being played by everyone, from beggars up to kings! The person directly attributed to its origin is lost to history… The melody in this video is real, meaning it’s actually from that time period. People would have actually heard this, and here you are – on your phone, watching it and sharing that same experience with a whole generation of people that are now lost to us.

Check out some of the comments under that video (Lol):

  • I feel like I’m being marched down to the town square execution for my crimes against the church.
  • Closed my eyes while listening to this. Opened them in a middle of a plague ridden street.
  • When I listen to something like this, it bring up memories that I don’t have. Like I never did the things I remember?
  • The people who didn’t like this are slowly being marched to the stake. It will be a good, cleansing fire.
  • So haunting and so sad. A tune truly born from a frightening time to be alive in history.

The middle ages were defined by moral decay, urban deterioration, bloody wars, and frightening plagues. What a time to be alive! The terms dark ages, middle ages, and medieval period are used interchangeably, so these terms are all speaking about the same period in time. We are currently living in the ‘modern age’, which is about 1450 – present day. Ancient time is from the birth of time to around 500 A.D., then we have the middle ages that start around the fall of the roman empire to the birth of the renaissance…

For our next selection, we go back in time even further.

What you are hearing now is an oboe-like Armenian instrument (one of the oldest known civilizations on earth). It’s made out of apricot wood, and is called the ‘Duduk” (pronounced ‘doo-dook’). There is no exact year of origin for this instrument, but we know it existed many years before Jesus was born. It is known for its sad tones… It is actually very likely that Jesus would’ve been familiar with the sound of this instrument, due to the fact that Armenia is located next door to Turkey and many people journeyed to Israel from all over the world. This instrument was carried with those visitors most likely. This theory is why you hear tones from it in Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ.”

Biblical times were also a perilous time in human history. Rome was controlling everyone and they were causing MAJOR oppression across the whole world.

Fun fact: I once owned a Duduk.

Another fun fact: I couldn’t play it. Lol

It’s way more difficult to play than you would think… It has a double reed (like a ducks mouth), and it was just a lot harder than I thought. I have a lot of appreciation for this instrument. I played the Saxophone for years, so I’m sort of familiar with woodwind instruments… If you know how to play the Duduk, kudos to you!

For our next selection, we have the oldest known melody on earth.

There’s a story to this one! In the 1950’s, 29 pieces of musical texts carved in clay tablets were found in Syria. Of those 29, this one was the only one in good enough condition to where it could be properly interpreted. (I’ve read about how they were able to translate this into modern notes and it is VERY complicated!) They think this music dates to around 1400 B.C, and it is not known who wrote it. One thing is certain though: They gone.

A popular instrument at the time we know was the lyre, so that’s what it’s being played on here.

We’re jumping forward a lot now!

This tune was written by Henry Ainsworth, who was a psalmist that was on the Mayflower voyage. The King James Bible had just been published in England, and Henry Ainsworth’s Psalter was one of the music books he carried with him through the Atlantic crossing. This is one of the psalms in that book. (The only music allowed in church to the puritans/separatists were psalms)

For our last selection, we have an example of kulning.

Kulning refers to a scandinavian form of song that was specifically used to assist in herding livestock. The notes were high-pitched and very ‘head-based’ in order to produce notes that would span mountains and cover long distances… Both men and women performed these songs. It is very rare to find this still in use today, even in countries like Sweden. I’m not sure why though.

This practice is thousands of years old, made popular during the Viking age.

(That one cow got a little excited there for a second! LOL)

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed our brief history through the human existence! Lol

Just think: Right NOW, there are more people alive than has EVER existed. It’s so interesting to me how our cultures have changed through the years, and one thing is definitive: music is the way to make that fact VERY clear.