Tuesday, October 30, 2012

An introduction to the te`amim

I have put a pdf of a very brief introduction to the music inherent in the te`amim of the Hebrew text here.

I have included several musical examples and some explanation of how to see and interpret the deciphering key.

David Mitchell’s article gives this summary of the earliest hard evidence for the te’amim/
  1. Cantillation marks per se are found in 2nd millennium BCE in Sumerian literature. They are found on biblical texts in the Dead Sea Scrolls and in the Babylonian and Palestinian accent systems, and are referred to in the Talmud. 
  2. However, the Masoretic system stands apart from its predecessors in its sudden appearance as a highly perfected system. 
  3.  By the testimony of Mosheh Ben Asher himself, the Masoretes received the te‘amim from the second-century BCE Elders of Bathyra. This conforms to the Masoretic credo of not innovating but preserving. 
  4.  The Masoretes’ rabbanite contemporaries – Natronai b. Hilai and Sa‘adia – objected to the Masoretes’ work not because the te‘amim were a novelty, but because they thought them ancient but sealed. 
  5.  The similarity of the Masoretic te‘amim to the symbols of a third century BCE text of Euripides shows that they are indeed musical symbols of pre-Christian times. For the Masoretes to have invented them would be as anachronistic as for us annotate a Bible in runes. 
It is difficult to believe that an unexplained and self-contradictory system of ‘punctuation’ could give rise to such beautiful and appropriate music. The musical interpretation of the signs never varies. The implications of the love song are manifold.

I was going to post this on Nov 1 - but I want to test my integration with twitter and the biblioblog reference library before then.