Sunday, January 4, 2015

Is Suzanne Haik-Vantoura simply wrong?

My last post got a negative reaction. SHV is "simply wrong. It is based on an occidental system of music. Moreover, it is really late."

Quite apart from the tonal recognition that this scheme involves: tonic, dominant, subdominant, octaves and so on, and one could interpret these in the way of western music, and quite apart from the rhythm of the recitation that the sublinear imply, there is much to learn from her experiments - even if they are wrong!

What can we learn: That verses existed before they were numbered. These signs are not 'late'. They would be if they were added in the 8th century CE, but no one knows exactly where they came from. For 1000 years, they have been explained as punctuation. Where is Victor Borge when we need him?

They are incomprehensible when explained as conjunctive and disjunctive. They need no explanation when sung as music. And they do the job of punctuation much better as music.

They divide the text with great aptitude. When there is no 'major disjunction' - no atenach, we read the verse differently. It is rare, it is without a rest point. It is obvious in the music.

So verse 2 of Psalm 1 - there is no rest for one who mutters Torah. It is day and night for him, whatever befall.
So this verse stands out as one of a few in a thousand where the thought of the verse is one and should be read as one without pause. So maybe the major disjunction is good sense. But the music is better sense since it reveals all 24 signs. And one can still breathe even if only at a secondary cadence.

That she discovered such cadences reveals the workings of the te-amim like no other system. There could be other systems, but I have not seen them and what I have heard in synagogues - admittedly a limited experience since I don't often attend, is nothing like as clarifying to the cantillation as the music she has revealed.

Can you do this work with 'oriental' music? I expect you can - but let it be done. And let's see what the history of the signs really is.

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