Category Archives: Mind & Brain

Listen to the Oldest (Discovered) Song in the World: A Sumerian Hymn Written 3,400 Years Ago

FROM: the web site Open Culture

World's Oldest (Discovered) Song: A 3400 Year Old Sumerian Hymn
World’s Oldest (Discovered) Song: A 3400 Year Old Sumerian Hymn

In the early 1950s, archaeologists unearthed several clay tablets from the 14th century B.C.E.. Found, WFMU tells us, “in the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit,” these tablets “contained cuneiform signs in the hurrian language,” which turned out to be the oldest known piece of music ever discovered, a 3,400 year-old cult hymn. Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, professor of Assyriology at the University of California, produced the interpretation above in 1972. (She describes how she arrived at the musical notation—in some technical detail—in this interview.) Since her initial publications in the 1960s on the ancient Sumerian tablets and the musical theory found within, other scholars of the ancient world have published their own versions.

The piece, writes Richard Fink in a 1988 Archeologia Musicalis article, confirms a theory that “the 7-note diatonic scale as well as harmony existed 3,400 years ago.” This, Fink tells us, “flies in the face of most musicologist’s views that ancient harmony was virtually non-existent (or even impossible) and the scale only about as old as the Ancient Greeks.” Kilmer’s colleague Richard Crocker claims that the discovery “revolutionized the whole concept of the origin of western music.” So, academic debates aside, what does the oldest song in the world sound like? Listen to a midi version below and hear it for yourself. Doubtless, the midi keyboard was not the Sumerians instrument of choice, but it suffices to give us a sense of this strange composition, though the rhythm of the piece is only a guess.

hear the song

 

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Today’s Palindrome Date: 4/14/14

But wait!… It gets better!

ALL of this week’s dates, when read backwards, are the same as when read forward — at least in America where we place the month first in the line-up.  Europeans tend to put the day first, so this post is not for them!

4/13/14

4/14/14

4/15/14

4/16/14

4/17/14

4/18/14

4/19/14

Nice.  And, a good thing I had to enter a note into my phone calendar or I might have missed this meaningless, numerological event.

A side-light: I have long been on a crusade to get people to adopt my way of date-stamping.

I put the day first, then the month, followed by the year.  BUT… I use a Roman Numeral for the month so my international clients are never confused as to my dating. Example for today: 14.IV.14

Finally, all this nonsense reminds me of my favorite palindrome:

“A man, a plan, a canal. Panama!”

 

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Today is 3/14/14, but next year….

3.14159265359

The number π is a mathematical constant, the ratio of a circle‘s circumference to its diameter, approximately equal to 3.14159. It has been represented by the Greek letter “π” since the mid-18th century though it is also sometimes spelled out as “pi“.

Being an irrational number, π cannot be expressed exactly as a common fraction. Consequently its decimal representation never ends and never settles into a permanent repeating pattern. The digits appear to be randomly distributed although no proof of this has yet been discovered. Also, π is a transcendental number – a number that is not the root of any nonzero polynomial having rational coefficients. This transcendence of π implies that it is impossible to solve the ancient challenge of squaring the circle with a compass and straight-edge.

Fractions such as 22/7 and other rational numbers are commonly used to approximate π.

For thousands of years mathematicians have attempted to extend their understanding of π… – Wikipedia

 

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Freud in America

We are born at a given moment, in a given place and, like vintage years of wine, we have the qualities of the year and of the season of which we are born. Astrology does not lay claim to anything more. — Carl Jung

It was on this day in 1909 that Sigmund Freud (6 May 1856 – 23 September 1939) landed in America for the first and only time. Freud had been invited by Dr. Granville Stanley Hall, president of Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts to give a series of lectures on the origin and growth of psychoanalysis. Freud invited his Hungarian disciple Dr. Sandor Ferenczi (7 July 1873 – 22 May 1933) to travel with him as well as another disciple who had also been invited to Clark University, Dr. Carl Jung.

“After insuring his life for 20,000 marks (then equivalent to about US$4,764) Freud took a train to Bremen to join Jung and Ferenczi a day before boarding their ship. Hosting a farewell lunch, Freud ordered wine. Jung, a teetotaler, didn’t want any but at Freud’s insistence agreed to have a drink. Curiously, after Jung capitulated and drank, Freud fainted.”*

On the voyage across the Atlantic Dr. Ernest Jones, Freud’s leading British disciple and later his biographer wrote that “the 3 companions analyzed each other’s dreams — the 1st example of group analysis…”

Before setting sail Freud, a collector of antiquities, confided that all he wanted to see was the Metropolitan Museum’s Cypriot collection and Niagara Falls. While in New York the three compatriots also saw their first moving picture.

Although Freud was impressed by the following he had in the United States, enjoyed a long walk and talk with the dying William James, and received the only academic honorary degree he ever received, he hated the food that inflamed his already bad prostate; thought women led American men by the nose; was discomfited by American women, admitting they kept him awake at night, giving him erotic dreams about prostitutes; and disliked not being understood in German.

“Freud died still believing, as he had once remarked, that tobacco was the only excuse for Columbus’ great mistake in discovering America.”

* “Dr. Freud Visits America” from The People’s Almanac by Irving Wallace, © 1975 – 1981 by David Wallechinsky & Irving Wallace.

— http://www.trivia-library.com/a/freud-in-america-part-5-feelings-about-america.htm

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Greatest Hits & CTE

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy

Malcolm Gladwell continues to amaze and inspire. He spoke on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS this morning about why college football should be eliminated. (He was also a panelist, teamed with Buzz Bissinger, in a very good debate on the TV program Intelligence Squared. Gladwell and Bissinger are opposed by former footballers Tim Green and Jason Whitlock for ‘the motion’ “Ban College Football”.) The gist of the argument is that players are at risk for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a brain injury resembling Alzheimers but more aggressive in its display.

I have written a bit about CTE in relation to Ernest Hemingway in my forthcoming book on wine. One now has to wonder whether CTE affected people like Paul Robeson, an All-American at Rutgers who also played a couple seasons professionally with teams in Akron, Ohio and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

There will come a time, no doubt, when we will take a closer look at those seeking public office who were formerly involved in contact sports like football, hockey and boxing. Did they suffer any head trauma or concussions while engaged in these activities? Even soccer may have its affected players what with head butts to the ball and collisions between players.

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