Song Of Seikilos
2,000 years ago Seikilos wrote a song for Euterpe, and carved it into her tombstone. Today it’s the oldest surviving complete song in the world.
Here’s an English translation of the song’s lyrics:
While you live, shine.
Have no grief at all.
Life exists only for a short while
and Time demands his due.
The lyrics give us the song’s time signature. The notes above the lyrics indicate what pitches to sing, and how long to sing them for. Here’s what it would look like if you stretched it out flat:
Here’s what it looks like transcribed into modern letters on a clean background:
Here’s one way to annotate it in modern musical notation:
And here’s a 3-minute performance of the piece.