'Ancient Music of Babylon' Recorded for 1st Time
Stef Conner writes music, sings to ancient poems
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 15, 2014 7:20 PM CST

(Newser) – A singer with folk roots and a guy who "plays a mean lyre" have recorded haunting songs that sound something like ancient Babylonian music, Raw Story reports. No one knows what Babylonians listened to—the tunes are long-lost—but singer/composer Stef Conner says she relied on the natural stresses and rhythms in Babylonian poetry. "We have the text of lots of poems from ancient Mesopotamia, and it seems likely that some were originally songs of a sort," she tells Slate. "I thought it would be exciting if we could listen to these poems as they were meant to be heard." So she teamed up with Andy Lowings, who had already organized a project to construct a replica golden lyre that Mesopotamians would have played 4,550 years ago.

Lowings "asked me to compose music for the lyre, and last year we recorded the result—an album of contemporary music, sung in Babylonian, called The Flood," Conner says. "You can't perfectly reconstruct a Mesopotamian song in this way. But I think if you could go back 3,000 years and play it to Babylonians, they would say: 'Oh, that sounds a bit like our music.'" So what are the songs about? They cover everything from insults to come-ons to eroticism, romance, lullabies, and misery. One tells the story of a woman who "married a malicious husband" and "bore a malicious son," then found that "an unhappy heart was assigned to me." A preview is available on Conner's website, and iTunes will release it next month. (See how the material of ancient parchment holds clues to the past.)