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'Music! Echoes of Antiquity' at the Louvre-Lens Museum, France

Let the crotales ring and the trumpets sound! The Louvre-Lens Museum presents the very first exhibition dedicated to the role of music in the great ancient civilisations, from the Orient to Rome via Egypt and Greece.
'Music! Echoes of Antiquity' at the Louvre-Lens Museum, France
Music was an ever-present aspect of ancient cultures, where it served several functions. Whether played by professional musicians or amateurs, it accompanied people through the various stages of their lives, from the cradle to the grave. Just as likely to be heard on the battlefield as it was around the high tables of power, it was also a key part of religious rites and acted as an intermediary between people and their gods. Known by all and played by many, music represents an original yet universal key, with which our visitors can unlock the secrets of civilisations, which vanished long ago, and discover their social, political and religious workings.

'Music! Echoes of Antiquity' at the Louvre-Lens Museum, France
Concert d’Égine (c.250–25 BC), Greece
[Credit: © Musée du Louvre]
From Mesopotamian cylinder seals to monumental Roman reliefs, taking in Egyptian papyri and Greek vases along the way, the exhibition brings together almost 400 incredibly diverse items. Some of these often-fragile pieces have never been displayed before. They are taken from the collections of the Louvre museum and around twenty other institutions, both in France and further afield, including the National Museum of Athens and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The exhibition’s journey through time also includes new audio devices, which allow visitors to listen to reconstructions of what ancient instruments may have sounded like, as well as the oldest anthem known to mankind.

'Music! Echoes of Antiquity' at the Louvre-Lens Museum, France
Clay plate depicting Hétaïre playing music, Greek (c.490 BC) 
[Credit: © Musée du Louvre]
It is difficult for anyone living in the 21st century to imagine the role of music in ancient cultures, especially since no sound from Antiquity survives to this day for our listening pleasure. On the other hand, musical instruments, sound-producing objects, musical notation and many depictions of musicians have been miraculously preserved, allowing us to tune in to 3,000 years of history. From modest handcrafted creations to priceless masterpieces, the museum's abundant and diverse collection of musical scenes - statues, ceramics, mosaics, and even coins - clearly shows the importance of music in Antiquity. This is also amply demonstrated by the remains of musical instruments, which reveal the astonishing know-how of the makers and the richness of the materials used: leather, bronze, bone, ivory, wood and more.

'Music! Echoes of Antiquity' at the Louvre-Lens Museum, France
An Egyptian harp from the tenth century BC 
[Credit: © Musée du Louvre]
From Iran to Gaul, and from the 3rd millennium BC to the 4th century AD: the enormous geographical and chronological range of the exhibition allows us to underline cultural traditions and peculiarities, but also to highlight the exchanges, influences and crosspollination that took place between these diff erent musical civilisations, which are often considered the foundation of our own musical heritage. As such, rattles, harps, flutes and cymbals date back several thousands of years.

'Music! Echoes of Antiquity' at the Louvre-Lens Museum, France
Wood and leather drum (Late period of ancient Egypt) 
[Credit: © Musée du Louvre]
By revisiting the often-reductive image of ancient music as it appears in the Western imagination - inherited from 19th century clichés and popularised by opera, comics and Hollywood epics - the exhibition and the rich cultural programme that accompany it remind us that today, just as in the past, music and sounds have the power to captivate, beguile, comfort, frighten and excite us as they soundtrack the major events of our public and private lives.

'Music! Echoes of Antiquity' at the Louvre-Lens Museum, France
An employee walks through the exhibition "Music: Echo of antiquity" in the Louvre Lens museum 
[Credit: Denis Charlet/AFP]
This exhibition at the Louvre-Lens museum builds on a research programme created by the French Schools Overseas titled «Sonic landscapes and urban spaces of the ancient Mediterranean», led by the French Institute for Oriental Archaeology, the French School at Athens and the French School at Rome. It therefore provides an overview of current research in the field, which is varied and extensive thanks to the work of curators, historians, archaeologists, ethnomusicologists, acousticians and archaeometrists.
The exhibition will run until January 15, 2018.

Source: Art Daily [September 20, 2017]

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