When I worked in the newspaper business as a reporter full-time, I had the chance to learn and experience some incredible things and meet with some remarkably interesting, impactful, and unforgettable people.
Among them was Malek Jandali, a Syrian classical composer, and an ambitious and creative one at that.
Back in 2010 I had the chance to watch him perform live at the Detroit Institute of Arts downtown, for a story I wrote for The Arab American News, a publication I worked for along with the Detroit Free Press at the time.
Malek is well known in both the Middle East and here in America for his original works (my favorite is a song called Piano Dream), but perhaps his best-known work is actually “the least inventive piece of music ever,” to be technical about it anyway.
It’s a track called ‘Echoes of Ugarit,’ which happens to be the re-imagination of the oldest musical notation in human history.
It took Jandali four years to transcribe, interpret and faithfully reproduce the melody for the title track of his album, which was based on the musical notation that came out of his home country of Syria.
“The goal was to make sure to take the melody and present it in a new way, yet at the same time make sure to preserve the original as much as possible,” Jandali said.
For example, a replacement was needed for the ancient Syrian kinnara instrument, and Jandali chose a traditional harp for use in the song.
Re-created from clay tablets dating back to about 3400 B.C. and written in cuneiform script, the rich, soothing classical piece based on an ancient religious hymn is performed with Jandali on piano alongside the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra, transporting the listener back to an entirely different and simpler time in Syria.
The country was also home to the world’s first alphabet and the world’s first painting. It is the spirit of ancient Syria and its great cultural and historical achievements that Jandali said he hoped to convey in the album.
“The main message behind my project is to give a positive image of our heritage, to shed light on the fact that Syria had the oldest music notation in the world, and to promote cultural understanding and harmony,” he said.
You can watch video of Malek performing the world’s oldest musical notation below.
Breathtaking, isn’t it? You can purchase Malek’s album ‘Echoes from Ugarit’ by clicking on this link.
So, what exactly does this have to do with health, you might wonder? I’ve personally found that listening to the richest and most soothing, stimulating and genuine music like this is great for the mind.
Listening to music is actually capable of “lighting up the whole brain,” as this article from Science Daily notes.
And when it comes to music, no style is better at stimulating your brain than classical, studies have shown. As far as classical music goes, this track, and Malek’s other works, are the ultimate representation. Please share if you know someone who would enjoy this!