The oldest song in the world

The “Hurrian Hymn” is the earliest known song to be recorded in writing, dating to around the 13th century BCE. The text of this hymn is concerned with the promotion of fertility. It refers to the making of offerings and libations to the moon goddess, Nikkal. The tablet was found at the site of ancient Ugarit (contemporary Ras Shamra), 1km from the Syrian coast. The original tablet is in the collection of the National Museum of Damascus. A scholarly interpretation of its imperfectly understood musical notation has been transcribed into contemporary notation, allowing it to be uniquely interpreted and performed at each location as it travels the circle.  Read more about the Hurrian Hymn.

A new interpretation of the hymn was commissioned in 2015 by the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, which is a center for advanced scholarly research, graduate education and exhibitions at NYU that cultivates and presents comparative, connective investigations of the ancient world.

Follow the incarnations of the oldest song in the world below.


march 2017 - The Oldest Song in The world AT THE GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM

1071 Fifth Ave, Upper East Side / ④⑤⑥ to 86 St / Hours: Fri-Wed 10am—5:45pm, Sat 10am—7:45pm / Daily programs

The Oldest Song in the World will be interpreted and hummed, whistled or sung by members of the museum staff in the galleries. Visit the Guggenheim to hear the song at noon and 2pm each day during regular open hours, or on March 27 to hear a special guest lecture by Lorenzo D'Alfonso, Associate Professor of Western Asian Archaeology and History at ISAW. 

april - THE OLDEST SONG IN THE WORLD AT St. Philips Church

204 West 134th St, Harlem / ②③ⒷⒸ to 135 St  / Daily programs

During April The Oldest Song in the World will be learned and sung by the St. Philips choir and performed twice during the regular church service. It will also be learnt and interpreted by Warriors of the Dream, a teenage African Drumming Group who meet at the church. See the calendar for performance dates. Documentation will be posted here over the month or follow us @circleNY for live updates.

may - THE OLDEST SONG IN THE WORLD at Pet RESOURCES

814 Westchester Ave, South Bronx / ②⑤ to Prospect Ave / Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-7pm, Sun 11am—5pm / Daily programs

During May, the oldest song in the world will be interpreted by Pet Resources. It will remixed by parrot trainer and part-time DJ Aubrey Mike and played inside the pet store during open hours and in a public DJ set on the weekends. Aubrey's remixes will also be played outside the store at a pitch only audible to dogs on a special speaker designed and built by audio engineer Alex Ashcroft. Visit Pet Resources during open hours to hear the remixes, see the calendar to attend DJ events. 

june - THE OLDEST SONG IN THE WORLD AT frank sinatra school of the arts

35-12 35th Ave, Astoria / ⒺⓂⓇ to Steinway St / ⓃⓌ to 36 Ave / Open hours: Mon-Fri 3pm—5pm / Daily programs

During June, the oldest song in the world will be learned and sung by various student vocal and instrumental groups at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts. Documentation will be posted here or follow us @circleNY for live updates.

july - THE OLDEST SONG IN THE WORLD AT jus broadcasting

36-01 36th Ave, Floor 4, Astoria / ⒺⓂⓇ to Steinway St / ⓃⓌ to 36 Ave / Hours: Mon-Fri 10am—6pm / Daily programs

During June, the oldest song in the world will feature on several JUS shows including Bikkar and Honestly. It will also be reinterpreted as a Bollywood song and music video by JUS's partners in India. 

august - The Oldest Song in the World Returns to the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World

15 East 84th St, Upper East Side / ④⑤⑥ to 86 St / Hours: Wed-Sun 11am-6pm, Fri 11am—8pm. Free guided tour every Fri at 6pm / Daily programs

The Hurrian Hymn will return to ISAW for an interpretive exhibition that includes ancient artifacts and a vinyl recording that collects each unique interpretation of the song as it moved from venue to venue.