When I strive to envision the lost fantastic Mars, I want more than red deserts, languid canals and decaying terracotta cities. I want sounds, smells, and tastes that transport my mind to that Red Planet. It is not so easy, unfortunately, because even though being a prolific wordsmith, I have little talent for drawing, music and cooking. However, once in a while serendipity comes my way.
Musicologist Stef Connor, instrument maker Andy Lowing and sound technician Mark Harmer have recreated the music and instruments of the Akkadian, Hurrite and Sumerian cities in Mesopotamia more than four millennia ago. Their sources are clay tablets, with cuneiform song texts and musical notations, and instruments unearthed by archaeologists.
I have no idea how accurate their recreations are — that is a matter for scholars to debate — but I found the music unexpectedly haunting. Yes, this is something I think Leigh Brackett‘s fictional archaeologist Matt Carse heard in the torchlit nights in the ancient city of Jekkara by the Low Canals.
Carse walked beside the still black waters in their ancient channel, cut in the dead sea-bottom. He watched the dry wind shake the torches that never went out and listened to the broken music of the harps that were never stilled. Lean lithe men and women passed him in the shadowy streets, silent as cats except for the chime and whisper of the tiny bells the women wear, a sound as delicate as rain, distillate of all the sweet wickedness of the world.
The Flood, a song by the trio, located on Soundcloud — link >>>
The trio presents their work on a Vimeo video — link >>>
An article about the trio’s work — link >>>
Stef Conner’s web site — link >>>
Andy Lowing’s project to reconstruct an Akkadian lyre — link >>>