The Sumerian culture was this planets first true civilization to spring up around the 14th century B.C.E.
That's over 3,300 years ago!
This happened in the land of Sumer in the Middle East:
There are certainly several other old civilizations like the Indus River Valley Civilization and the Yellow River Civilization for example, but Sumer set the tone for the world in terms of culture. The majority of people in the world still follow their economic, religious, and societal frameworks to this day!
In the 1950's some archaeologists were doing their thing out there and found a set of clay tablets pressed with all the cuneiform you'd expect. They dug these right out of the ancient city Ugarit and started studying them. Turns out that they included music... not just any music but the oldest song we have any record of!
The first song ever written looks like this:
The studious Anne Draffkorn Kilmer at the University of California figured out what it said in 1972, meticulously working out the notation system for the song. It's a religious hymn following a 7-note diatonic scale and even includes harmony, which musicologists thought didn't exist until the time of the ancient Greeks.
Here's the song. Take note that we can't really say if this was the rhythm or not. It could have included more complex rhythmic motifs for all we know. We can only work with the pitches in the melody.
That's the jam right there. I'm willing to bet it had lyrics that included a call and response from the priests and crowd. This is going by the "official" title of:
A Hurrian Cult Song from Ancient Ugarit
I have to laugh because it's interesting hearing the oldest song ever being plucked out with MIDI notes after being typed into the Finale software.
Share this with your musician friends using the buttons below so they can scoff about how easier it was to write a hit back in the day!