Ancient Egyptian Music.

Essay by NeRdYchikkHigh School, 11th gradeA+, November 2003

download word file, 4 pages 4.8

Archaeologists have found substantial evidence to show that music is a rich part of Egypt's cultural history. Hieroglyphics and texts from Egyptian mythology show that music played a very important role in ancient Egyptian society. Ihy was the god who presided over music. In one papyrus remnant, Osiris was named the "fair sistrum player." Music was used in some religious ceremonies and sometimes to exercise evil spirits.

Music formed an important part of Egyptian life, and musicians occupied a variety of positions in Egyptian society. Music found its way into many contexts in Egypt: temples, palaces, workshops, farms, battlefields and the tomb. Music was an integral part of religious worship in ancient Egypt, so it is not surprising that there were gods specifically associated with music, such as Hathor and Bes (both were also associated with dance, fertility and childbirth).

Professional musicians existed on a number of social levels in ancient Egypt.

Perhaps the highest status belonged to temple musicians; frequently held by women. Musicians connected with the royal household were held in high esteem, as were certain gifted singers and harp players. Somewhat lower on the social scale were musicians who acted as entertainers for parties and festivals, frequently accompanied by dancers. It is unlikely that musical achievement was seen as a desirable goal for individuals who were not professionals.

In the Old Kingdom (c2686 - 2181 BC), there is evidence of the beginning of music in Egypt. The three instruments that appear most prominently in pictures are pipes resembling the clarinet, end-blown flutes, and the harp. The hieroglyphics also indicate the presence of singers and dancers. One picture found depicts a flutist, a harpist, four dancers, and two singers. The players seem to be generally male, with the exception that women are occasionally seen at the harp.