The oldest complete composition in the world is utterly heart-breaking
16 September 2016, 16:08 | Updated: 11 January 2017, 09:44
The Song of Seikilos was engraved on a tombstone by a grieving husband almost two millennia ago.
The haunting Song of Seikilos is the oldest complete musical composition in existence and was engraved on a tombstone in the town of Tralles near modern-day Aydin in Turkey.
The text says:
While you live, shine
have no grief at all
life exists only for a short while
and time demands an end.
And is signed from Seikilos to Euterpe – probably his wife.
The inscription includes signs and symbols to indicate the melody and modern musicologists have transcribed the music into modern notation so that it looks something like this:
The tombstone – or stele – was discovered in 1883 but then disappeared and was lated rediscovered being used as a pedestal for a flowerpot. It’s now housed in the National Museum of Denmark. Without a flower pot.
Here’s a performance of the piece.
One muso was such a fan they even got the piece tattooed on their side. If you really want to see, you can do here.