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Harpist Performs the Oldest Song in the World in Ancient Greek

Ancient Greek Harpist oldest song
A harpist recorded her version of a 2,200-year-old ancient Greek song, thought to be the oldest complete piece of music in existence.

A young harpist has performed her version of a 2,000-year-old ancient Greek song, thought to be the oldest complete piece of music, which was dedicated to two lovers.

In the video, 28-year-old Melegie strums the harp as she plays the song, “Seikhilos Epitaph.” Her pink hair is modern, but she is clad in a white robe harkening back to ancient times, and is perched on rocks by the sea. SWNS, a news and media content agency, reported the story.

Filmed in Connecticut, Melegie, a graphic designer and musician from Boston, Massachusetts, sings the piece in ancient Greek. The song, about a minute and a half, is a lament to how fleeting life can be and a call that it should be lived to its fullest, according to the report.

The song dates back 2,200 years and was discovered inscribed on a tombstone in 1883 in Turkey near the town of Aydin.

“Despite my pink hair, I wanted to make it as historically accurate as possible,” Melegie said, according to the report. “I wanted to play the very bare-bones version, the exact melody that was inscribed into the stone.”

The song is thought to be dedicated by a man named Seikhilos to his wife Euterpe.
On the tombstone, the lyrics read: “While you live, shine have no grief at all life exists only for a short while and time demands his due.”

It is well-documented that poetry in ancient Greece from 750 BC to 350 BC was created alongside the songs of Homer and Sappho among others and was sung as music, sometimes accompanied by dance. Researchers have long known what instruments were popular in ancient Greece, such as the lyre, along with the aulos. But there are mysteries because music composed in ancient Greece had unique and unfamiliar terms and notations found in ancient sources, such as mode, enharmonic, diesis, and so on.

The Music of Ancient Greece

Recently, a historian published a scholarly work parsing the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato’s writing, discovering a rhythmic system of symbols that constitute a musical pattern in the storied philosopher’s key texts.

For Melegie, the most difficult part of the song was learning the ancient Greek lyrics.

“In ancient times, the song’s first verse would have been played on the harp, and the second verse played on the flute with harp strumming chords as accompaniment while a vocalist would sing the Greek lyrics,” she said. Melegie said she “did [her] best to do all three and keep it as historically accurate as possible!”

The musician called it the “ultimate folk song.” The meaning behind it? “Basically YOLO (you only live once),” she said.

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