Thursday Lecture Series: Evidence

The Egyptian Music Box

Thursday, The Heyman Center

Dating back at least to the days of Athanasius Kircher in the seventeenth
century, it has been de rigueur in music histories to include
a discussion of Ancient Egypt’s contribution to music. This tradition
may seem curious given that we have not a shred of notation
telling us what Egyptian music may have sounded like. Yet, due
to certain stringent cultural demands, Egypt became an indispensable
component of narrative accounts of music.
What seems like an awkward scholarly conundrum can actually
be turned into an advantage: the idea of Egyptian music—unfettered
by actual examples of it—can give us a rare glance into
wide-ranging ideas about the nature of evidence in historical narratives,
the inner workings of music histories, and how the wider
cultural tasks of music are imagined.