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Ancient Egypt-themed scores


Romão
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I was listening to Herrmann's and Newman's The Egyptian just the other day (and what a revelation it was, after owning the cd for several years) and it started me thinking about the whole plethora of scores set in ancient egypt and how somehow they do share some common vocabulary and was wondering how was that vocabulary popularized and instinctively associated with that area.

 

What are your favorite Ancient Egypt-themed scores?

 

I own quite a few, actually:

 

The Land of the Pharaohs

The Ten Commandments

The Egyptian

Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra

The Mummy

The Mummy Returns

Stargate

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I guess, though I lack the technical knowledge to put my finger on it. But somewhow, passages like these sound unmistakingly Egyptian. I'm not quite sure why or how it started. The very incisive percussion also helps convey this, somewhow.

 

 

 

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The male choral element is often absent in more cliched Middle Eastern music (with the wailing women cliché in its place). Then you get stuff like this

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why exactly we are conditioned to associate this sort of thing with Ancient Egypt I don't know. Is there any historical basis for this sort of association?

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Well like most of these "cliche" historical score styles it is completely without any scientific basis. It's an interesting question actually. Modern Egyptian/Middle Eastern music probably formed the basis. But thats over 2000 years later

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An interesting question.  We know they used hieroglyphics as their written language, but did the ancient Egyptians have a method of notating music?  Do we have any real idea what their music sounded like?  To Google!

 

Seems like we know from art, what sort of instruments they used.  But if they didn't have any music notation, we can't really know what their music sounded like, can we?  I don't know.

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1 minute ago, publicist said:

There are most certainly some written sources and you have also deductive knowledge (which scales could their most widely used instruments play etc.).

 

Yeah, from my googling it seems to be all reconstructions (read: educated guesses).  Now I'm wondering what the oldest clearly notated piece of music in the world is.

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1 hour ago, Disco Stu said:

 

Yeah, from my googling it seems to be all reconstructions (read: educated guesses).  Now I'm wondering what the oldest clearly notated piece of music in the world is.

 

There was a story on this a few years ago. Very interesting stuff, this dates back 3.400 years (the melody, not the story):

 

https://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.no/2011/01/dueling-hurrian-hymns.html#.Ulw-oGS97TE#EA5lpZckzDi8r4bj.97

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I'm betting it was all improvisation and memorisation since no Ancient Egyptian musical notation system has ever been found. BTW, very few people could write in those days.

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I tried to investigate the whole "ancient Egypt sound" early last year, but never got very far due to lack of time.

Did watch The Egyptian and listened to the main title, but it doesn't sound all that similar to Stargate, The Mummy and Gods of Egypt.

Not to me anyway.

 

So does anyone know the earliest example in film music that has that general sound?

If you can, please mention exact tracks instead of whole albums.

I am very curious about this, but don't have the time to listen to the full ones...

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15 hours ago, Disco Stu said:

 Now I'm wondering what the oldest clearly notated piece of music in the world is.

 

One of the oldest is supposedly the Epitaph of Seikilos, carved on a tombstone in modern day Turkey roughly 2,000 years ago. 

 

 

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Yes, but my understanding is that the interpretation of the music on the 3,400 year old tablets from Ugarit is still pretty controversial, and the tablets aren't complete. My understanding is that the interpretation of the Epitaph and the Greek Delphic Hymns from around the same period is less controversial. So if you're looking for the oldest notated music that we have, it might well be the Ugarit tablets, but if you're looking for the oldest notated music that we can actually reconstruct today with a high level of confidence , my understanding is that it's those examples of the 2,000 year old Greek music. 

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2 hours ago, Alexcremers said:

I'm betting it was all improvisation and memorisation since no Ancient Egyptian musical notation system has ever been found. BTW, very few people could write in those days.

 

Notation and "traditional" music very rarely go hand in hand. 

 

In Ireland 100 years ago you had people who could pick up an instrument and play all night and they wouldn't have been able to read and write regular words let alone musical notation. 

 

Writing music is a much more modern concept anyway isn't it? Music (and poems that would have been sung like the Odyssey and the Iliad) were passed on aurally rather than notation. The above poems weren't even written down in words until they were thousands of years old. 

There's bound to be isolated examples of music notation, as above, but it's not going to be a common thing is it?

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HBO's Rome also called upon a similar musical form to represent the various parts of the Empire featuring in it. Egypt in the show was the Ptolemaic era of course, so by that time the influences of the various earlier conquests may have featured in Egypt, even that of today's Iran.. HBO Rome went with something fairly familiar....

 

 

Even Vangelis called on similar for Alexander

 

 

I'm not complaining as I happen to love this sound, so often used to evoke the mists of distant eras and sensual eastern promise, whatever you wish.. The string instrumentation at 1:58 is heard often in places like Afghanistan and Iran, with instruments like the Rabab and Santur.. We probably have Ancient Iran and India to thank for this overall sound we take to be 'exotic'. I visited a Santur master once in Iran, to dabble with it.

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On 1/26/2017 at 8:51 AM, Romão said:

I guess, though I lack the technical knowledge to put my finger on it. But somewhow, passages like these sound unmistakingly Egyptian. I'm not quite sure why or how it started. The very incisive percussion also helps convey this, somewhow.

 

 

 

 

I've seemed to notice that "Egyptian" styled music emphasize use of augmented seconds frequently

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Does anyone have any clue where the cliché of Egyptian music started?

The earliest examples that really fit the bill for me are Stargate and The Mummy.

And, more recently, Gods of Egypt; very much so!

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1 hour ago, Stefancos said:

Long long before the 90's, surely!

Obviously!

 

Actually, inspired by Gods of Egypt last year, I looked up a whole bunch of older Egyptian themed soundtracks.

Haven't had the time to listen to them properly yet, but what I heard so far, wasn't what I'm looking for...

 

15 minutes ago, publicist said:

The Wikipedia entry is very interesting, i gather the incorporation you speak of happened not before the turn of the 19th century. In 'Samson and Delilah' by Saint-Saëns here you hear it ca. 02:30:

 

In 

 

 

Cool!

Can't play it right now, but thanks all the same. :D

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I think a more interesting question is how much is known of the music of the age of antiquities?   Does our expectation of this sound come from epic movies and western music (ala Saint-saens Bacchanale which I've had the great pleasure of performing in an orchestra (a very fun piece).  Remember, in Ancient Egypt, they had orchestras thousands of years ago.  Sure, it wasn't our modern idea of what an orchestra is but it was a large ensemble of mixed timbered instruments following a lead interpreter.  They had large ensembles of mixed instrumentation including harps, lyres, lutes, double and single reed flutes (proto flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons), clappers, cymbals, drums, etc.

girlmusicians.gif

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On 1/26/2017 at 8:13 AM, Romão said:

Why exactly we are conditioned to associate this sort of thing with Ancient Egypt I don't know. Is there any historical basis for this sort of association?

 

Why does something like "Dino Dream" from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure evoke images of a primeval jungle?

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Exotica as a genre is a big influence on the sound we have today (imo), the orientalist - "Eastern promise, mysterious sultry sensual" thing that  yeah is even in William's -" To Cairo".

 

Characters like Kora Pandit, Les Baxter, Martin Denny and others in the 50s and, earlier, Arthur Kettleby with his -" In a Persian Market" and similar, often wildly confused between regions  attempted to be portrayed. Harem Silks of 'Bombay', for example.

 

The kind of quirky dancing Egyptian sound thing appears often in the early 1920s in stage shows on film (YouTube helps) maybe as a result of the later age of European archaeology there. Maybe it did first appear in the Classical (The Abduction from the Seraglio, etc) but I think that Exotica shaped it moreso.

 

 

 

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