Anne Kilmer and her lyre
Anne Kilmer and her lyre

Academy Village resident Anne Kilmer will speak on “Ancient Music” at a special Arizona Senior Academy presentation next Wednesday. (Jan. 30)  Scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in the Academy’s Great Room, the program will also include harpist Lorna Govier playing a replica of an ancient lyre.   The presentation is free and open to the public.

Among the many tragedies of the 2003 plundering of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad was the destruction of the Golden Lyre, a 4,500-year-old musical instrument originally excavated in the 1920s by British archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley from the ancient royal graves of Ur in what is now southern Iraq.  While an irretrievable loss to history, this vandalism and desecration provided a challenge to Kilmer, a retired professor of Assyriology from the University of California at Berkeley.

Kilmer owns a replica of the Silver Lyre, also from Ur, the original of which is in the British Museum in London.  She was contacted in 2009 by a group in England whose members were constructing an exact and playable replica of the Golden Lyre. To play their replica lyre, they needed music, and so they turned to Kilmer, an international authority on ancient Sumerian and Mesopotamian music.

Through her British colleagues, Kilmer was introduced to Govier, a Tucson harpist. The two restrung her replica lyre and tuned it to the known Mesopotamian scales. Kilmer provided Govier with music for an ancient cult hymn and also made verse renderings of three more ancient texts with English translations for which Govier composed the music.

Wednesday’s presentation will include live performances of some of the songs Kilmer and Govier recorded on a new CD, “The Silver Lyre; New Music for a Mesopotamian Lyre.”  They have also prepared an explanatory booklet to accompany the new CD which was recorded in Tucson at Jim Brady Recording Studios.

Kilmer is a world-renowned Assyriologist, expert on ancient Mesopotamia and cuneiform texts. She is credited with helping to decipher civilization’s first musical notation system – the one employed to play the lyre, harp and pipes of that period.

Her research showed that the peoples of the Near East had seven musical scales consisting of seven notes, one of which closely resembles the do-re-mi scale taught to children today.

Like many residents of Academy Village, Kilmer continues work in her fields of expertise and research during retirement.  She is a prolific writer of journal articles and papers, and travels frequently giving papers and lectures to groups and conferences world-wide.  Fostering continued professional contributions by Village residents was a goal in the original concept of the Village and the Academy by retired UA president Henry Koffler.  Space for a library, computer and copy equipment were included in the original design of the Arizona Senior Academy building just across the plaza from the Community Center of Academy Village.  Such support systems and materials prevent the loss of talent and expertise by persons in retirement, according to Koffler.

Kilmer moved to Academy Village in 2002.  She says she knew she wanted to retire to a new location with some academic surroundings, and when she met the early pioneers at the Village, she knew it would be a good group of people to live near.  She is not totally limited to academics.  She is also well known around the Village for her memorization of funny limericks, and also fleshes out any spare time from her academic pursuits constructing original limericks with which she regales her friends and neighbors.

Academy Village is an active-adult community located off Old Spanish Trail six miles southeast of Saguaro National Park East.

Submitted by Donald J. Behnke, Academy Village Volunteer


The Earliest of Early Music: Jan. 2013
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