WELCOME   1. Prehistory   2. Infotainment   3. The Alto   4. Worldwide   5. Immigration   6. Mysteries   7. HarpQuarters   8. The Future?

Already More than Music
''Infotainment'' in Persia

Had a Persian potentate not instructed a sculptor to commemorate a gathering of nobles and singers, we might never have had this exquisite tablet, and thus not understood the way in which the Very Old World viewed "Information" and "Art" in such intimate joinery.

 By studying the lower detail on this stone vessel, we see a prospective song-leader genuflecting humbly towards the front bench of tenors. This form of musical despotism had been commonplace for hundreds of years already. But it is in the upper detail that we find unexpected insights for those capable of understanding. Within the overall cuneiform "Minutes" of the event, the scribe faithfully transcribed the familiar triangles, squares, circles and diamonds of shape-note singing! Of course there are neither musical staves nor note stems (save on "fa"), but fasolapologists are in no doubt whatever. The relative spacing of the glyphs provides an actual visual rhythm to the notes.

 And so much more. They reveal to us how a kind of "singing teletype" was in vogue, which could actually present news of the day in a form more palatable than mere words or even pictographs. The symbols, to be sure, are in a debased Akkadian language. But pronouncing them in rhythm, we instantly recall these lines:

Swell the sound, ye kings and nobles,
priests and people, rich and poor.
 With painstaking cross-referencing to other historical sources we can now "read today's news." And what momentous tidings!

Dateline: 539 BCE - FLASH - Babylon has fallen.