The world’s oldest complete piece of surviving music is the 3,400-year-old Hurrian cult hymn. The hymn was found inscribed on clay tablets excavated from the ancient city of Ugarit, in modern-day Syria. Sometime after the hymn was composed, the idea of using notation to record music was lost. Writing two millennia later, in the seventh century CE, the polymath Isidore of Seville stated that “unless [musical] sounds are held by the memory of man, they perish, because they cannot be written down.”
In the ninth century, European musicians began experimenting with notations to record plainchant.