On Autumn of 2015, while I was studying Architecture in Barcelona, Dr. Pedro Azara, a professor of mine with whom I had been lucky to work on several projects, was curating an exhibition with Dr. Jennifer Y. Chi at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, in New York. It was called From Ancient to Modern: Archaeology and Aesthetics. Jennifer and Pedro came up with the idea of reinterpreting “the oldest song in the world” to then put it on display in the exhibition. Pedro knew that I was a singer so they offered me the opportunity to sing it. It was called “A Hurrian cult song from ancient Ugarit” dating from 1400 BC. I have always been very interested in history and being able to mix it with my passion, music, was rather unusual. I immediately said “yes”. How could anyone refuse it?
I read all that I could find about the song and about music in ancient Mesopotamia, I talked to my singing teacher about it and tried different approaches to it. I finally decided to do an objective, and neutral interpretation of it and I recorded it in my studio.
Later, I was invited to NY by the ISAW, to perform the song live the day of the exhibition inauguration. By that time, I had read more about the song, I had sung it many more times and put more thought in it. That day I sang a different interpretation, a more personal one.
After a year, Jennifer Y. Chi contacted me: a couple of artists, Lenka Clayton and Jon Rubin, were interested in the song and they wanted it to be part of a project called . . . circle through New York.
Joan Borrell was born in Barcelona, Spain. Music has always been a very important part of his life.
He was classically trained in violin (from ages 3 to 12) and viola (from ages 13 to 16) as well as in music theory and composition. He as studied classical and modern singing since I was 17 years old. He regularly plays in a pop band and owns a recording studio in Barcelona.
Joan is a member of the international archaeological team from the Sorbonne University in Qasr Shamamok, Erbil (Iraq) since 2013. I performed and recorded the ancient Hurrian song “Hymn to Nikkal” to be displayed in the exhibition “Archaeology and Aesthetics” at the ISAW (2015). I also performed the Hymn live on the inauguration day of the exhibition. He volunteers in an orphanage in Kathmandu, Nepal, since December 2015, training children to sing and doing architectural rehabilitation work on the orphanage building.
Documentation: Giacomo Francia