Music from the Edge of Time

The EMAP project, with its pioneering research and painstaking reconstructions, is quite astonishing in its ambition, and the fourth instalment in our five-part recording series is one of the most ambitious yet. Around 40,000 years ago, towards the end of the last Ice Age, the upper Danube region was settled by anatomically modern humans. Traces of their daily life have been found at several cave sites in the south of modern Germany, including fragments of perforated bird bones and mammoth ivory. They represent the oldest evidence of musical creation worldwide and, thanks to EMAP, these prehistoric flutes – two from caves at Geissenklösterle, one from Hohle Fels, and a slightly later, more fully preserved find from Isturitz cave in the French Pyrenees – have been reconstructed in the modern era.

Flautist Anna Friederike Potengowski has studied the instruments and their possible playing techniques, and together with percussionist
Georg Wieland Wagner has created a compelling programme of music in which contemporary modes of expression absorb and are reshaped
by echoes from the edge of time. Water splashing against rocks, rustling grasses, the eternal musical truth of breath on bone… these mesmerising sounds give us a hint of what music might have sounded like 40,000 years ago, at the ‘edge of time’.

The Edge of Time: Palaeolithic bone flutes from France & Germany [EMAP Vol 4] is released on 21 April.