Richard Dumbrill (musicologist)

Richard J. Dumbrill (Epernay 1947) is a British archaeomusicologist, pianist, composer and conductor. Dumbrill is a relativist musicologist who opposes Universalism and Occicentrism theories in his field.[1]

Richard Dumbrill
Dumbrill in Iraq, lecturing about Babylonian scale systems
Born1947 (age 74–75)
Known forStudy of the archaeomusicology of the Ancient Near East
Academic work
InstitutionsUniversity of London
Notable worksSemitic Music Theory

Dumbrill has studied the archaeomusicology of the Ancient Near East, especially the interpretation of cuneiform texts of Music Theory written in Sumerian, Babylonian and Hurrian.


Dumbrill's interpretation of music theory is based on his knowledge of Middle-Oriental Musicology. He rejects (Pythagorean) ditonism and heptatonism, and particularly rejects the hypothesis of dichords in the Musicology of the Ancient Near East

Dumbrill translated the oldest song ever written, which was found in northwest Syria at the site of Ugarit. He reconstructed the Silver lyre of Ur (at the British Museum), from Woolley's notes, with Myriam Marcetteau. Dumbrill also reconstructed the Elamite harp of the battle of Ulai, with Margaux Bousquet. Dumbrill donated one of his harps to the Ministry of Culture in Iraq

Drumbill is the founder, with Irving Finkel of the International Council of Near Eastern Archaeomusicology [2] (ICONEA) at the Institute of Musical Research, School of Advanced Studies, University of London,.[3]

Dumbrill has lectured at Harvard and Yale and in Iraq, Beirut, Damascus, Leiden, Rotterdam, and Paris.



  • Semitic Music Theory [1]
  • The Musicology and Organology of the Ancient Near East, second edition. Published thesis. Victoria, Canada.(2005) ISBN 1-4120-5538-5[4]
  • Idiophones of the Ancient Near East in the Collections of the British Museum 121 pages, Publisher: Gorgias Pr Llc (12 Jun. 2011) Language: English ISBN 1611439566 ISBN 978-1611439564
  • The Silver Lyre of Ur Copyright Richard Dumbrill ICONEA PUBLICATIONS LONDON Published 28 May 2015 ISBN 9781326289010
  • Musical scenes on Seals and Seal Impressions of the Ancient Near EastRichard Dumbrill ICONEA PUBLICATIONS LONDON 2015 ISBN 9781326289324
  • The Truth about Babylonian Music Near Eastern Musicology Online 4 6 |2017-08| p. 91–121.
  • Hurrian Song H6, score, transcribed from the original Cuneiform text. ICONEA PUBLICATIONS - LONDON
  • Elegiac Poem to Ishtar, score, Composed by Richard Dumbrill ICONEA PUBLICATIONS - LONDON
  • An Old Babylonian Lullaby. Score. Set to music by Richard Dumbrill for the BBC. ICONEA PUBLICATIONS - LONDON
  • Ashurbanipal Wisdom Song. Score. This song was reconstructed by Richard Dumbrill after an original Wisdom poem dating from the first millennium BC. It was specially composed for the Great Ashurbanipal exhibition at the British Museum in November 2018. ICONEA PUBLICATIONS - LONDON.
  • Song of Amun Re. Score. Composed by Richard Dumbrill on request from the Smithsonian Institution. ICONEA PUBLICATIONS - LONDON


  • Co-editor of NEMO-Online with Amine Beyhom
  • Editor of ICONEA with Irving Finkel (2008)
  • Co-editor with Bryan Carr of the Ernest McClain Memorial Volume, forthcoming
  • Editor of Musical Traditions in the Middle-East. Proceedings of the International Conference held at Leiden University, 10–12 December 2009. Forthcoming.



  1. ^ "The Truth About Babylonian Music". [Dumbrill quoted Curt Sachs at the beginning of his paper, The Truth About Babylonian Music, addressing occidentalism in musicology:] ‘In describing non-western music, be it oriental or primitive, one must strictly refrain from misusing incongruous concepts of western music. The terminology that has been learned in music school applies to the harmonic structure of music and is inappropriate, indeed misleading and distorting in descriptions of non-harmonic, non-western music.’
  3. ^ "Richard Dumbrill | Royal Holloway, University of London -".
  4. ^ Dumbrill, Richard. "The Musicology and Organology of the Ancient Near East" – via {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

External linksEdit

Babylonian MusicologyEdit