Soundscapes: Music in Ancient Egypt

21.05.2021 to 03.07.2022
Neues Museum

The Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung is dedicating a small, one-room show in the Neues Museum to the theme of music. Numerous objects from the museum’s storage facilities that have only rarely or never been shown before, along with highlights from the permanent exhibition, offer an insight into the diversity of the musical culture of Ancient Egypt.

The exhibition focuses on the Museum’s collection of original musical instruments, which can be divided into four main groups: idiophones (instruments that create sound through their own vibration), membranophones (instruments that cause sound through vibrating membranes), aerophones (instruments that cause sound through the vibration of a body of air) and chordophones (instruments that cause sound through vibrating strings). The museum’s holdings include particularly interesting examples of these, such as rattles in the shape of human forearms, the sistrum, which can be described as typically Ancient Egyptian, a lyre adorned with horse’s heads or an aulos from the Greco-Roman period, on which the key could be changed by means of a metal ring.

Musical instruments in cultural context

The sound of these instruments and the melodies of Ancient Egyptian music can only be reconstructed to a very limited extent. Information is provided by the very rare notations that have survived from the Greco-Roman period onwards, such as a page of sheet music with several pieces of music that can be sung.

The musical instruments are complemented by pictorial and figurative representations of instruments and musicians, helping to situate them in their cultural context. Representations of music in reliefs and wall paintings are displayed in the original or reproductions.

The aim of the exhibition is not so much to provide a comprehensive overview of the history of music in Ancient Egypt, but rather to give an insight into some of its facets with reference to the collection of the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung.

Partner Exhibition "Soundscapes: Music in Ancient Greec" of the Antikensammlung

The exhibition was intially conceived to coincide with a music day in collaboration with the Stuttgart composer Radoslaw Pallarz. Originally slated for 2020 and cancelled due to the pandemic, the event will now be held as a finissage. Parallel to the display at the Neues Museum, the Antikensammlung is showing an exhibition in the Altes Museum entitled Soundscapes: Music in Ancient Greece. The Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte and the Vorderasiatisches Museum are participating with loans from their own collections, and references to the show in their permanent exhibitions.

Publication

The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated brochure titled Klangbilder – Musik im Alten Ägypten. ISBN: 978-3-88609-855-2.

The exhibition is supported by the Verein zur Förderung des Ägyptischen Museums Berlin e. V. and Museum & Location.

A special exhibition of the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in the Neues Museum

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