Sunday, 13 November 2022

Crowther on two systems of te'amim

 I have come across a new downloadable book on the Masoretic texts. I jumped immediately to Crowther: Why are there Two Systems of Tiberian Ṭeʿamim?

(Daniel J. Crowther (PhD, University of Bristol, 2015) is an Assistant Director for Langham Scholars’ Ministry and a Research Associate of the Centre for Muslim and Christian Studies, Oxford. )

He, like Wickes, (and he appears to understand Wickes - a feat in itself) describes the music using rules about the te'amim (marks of taste). After a clear but incomplete description, he comes to no conclusion other than this:

"It seems to me intuitively sensible to take the testimony of the Masoretes more seriously when they claim to be attempting to capture an established tradition of recitation with their ṭeʿamim, not creating one through the application of an established grammar of the ṭeʿamim."

I certainly agree with him. My own posts on Wickes are not as polite or knowledgeable but I repeat a statement by Wickes who (1881 :35) complains that "these poets are not using the dichotomy consistently". And so they aren’t. They likely had not heard of it. Not one of the corrections that Wickes proposes is required for the music. The idea of continuous dichotomy should be removed from discussion. Music is subject to more nuanced shape than a hierarchy, a concept that is overused in most professions. Crowther (following Wickes) uses the word "law" as if the accents were a law unto themselves. 

But he did point out to me that in the 21 books, tifha (g or g#) always precedes the atnah (A) and the silluk (e). In contrast, in the 3 books, this restriction is not used. I admit that I hadn't noticed, though the observation is evident in the appendix to my own book, The Song in the Night. To explain it musically, the leading tone, g#, is always present in the phrase leading to the rest, and in the phrase returning to the silluq. This is not a law, but a convention. The leading tone gives the character to the phrases of the 21 books. It is a traditional augmented second in the default tone that Haïk-Vantoura uses. She is right in her mapping of the accents below the text to a modal scale. 

Scholars of the Masoretic text should start to listen to her treatise.

Scholars do not have a better explanation.

See also this later post

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