Friday, December 3, 2010

History of music in the Biblical period (Wikipedia)

Being so occupied with so many matters, I had never thought to look up this article on Wikipedia, although there are others I've seen (such as this one on cantillation). This article on Suzanne Haik-Vantoura needs a great deal of revision, and a separate article on her thesis needs to be done.

- John Wheeler (יוחנן רכב)

Friday, November 19, 2010

ScienceNews: Ancient conch trumpets played eerie notes

This article was sent to me today and you can hear MP2 files of the Peruvian conches via links on the site. Here is a link to the original Stanford University page on the subject.

- John Wheeler (יוחנן רכב)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cantorial Music and Cantillation (Nusach)

In addition to the links associated with the journal Musica Judaica and its publishers in the previous post (and now in the left-hand margin of this blog), there are these very useful links to cantorial music and to the art of traditional cantillation (nusach) itself.

- John Wheeler (יוחנן רכב)

"The Role of Ethnomusicology in the Study of Jewish Music"

One article that I've found extremely helpful as an overview of the problems associated with the study of synagogue cantillation and its relationship to Temple chant is an article by Johanna Spector, "The Role of Ethnomusicology in the Study of Jewish Music", in Musica Judaica, Volume IV. Number 1, 5742/1981-82, p. 20ff. In looking for this article online, I found other references of interest - including the fact that Suzanne Haik-Vantoura isn't listed on an associated page dedicated solely to women and Jewish music (the only one, allegedly, of its kind). Nor is she listed in this journal's contents at all, even in a book review.

Clearly something ought to be done about these lacks. Will I have the time and energy?

- John Wheeler (יוחנן רכב)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Babylonian and Assyrian Poetry and Literature: An Archive of Recordings

Today I was tipped off about a Web page with links to spoken (not sung) recordings of various works of Babylonian and Assyrian poetry and literature. As I'm in haste at the moment, the most I can do is give the link to the page. The contents are basically self-explanatory.

- John Wheeler (יוחנן רכב)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Stefan Koelsch's music research

The online version of ScienceNews offers a wide variety of articles on the scientific study of the effects of music on human beings.

This is priceless research for the purposes of our own study, as it demonstrates the objective basis of the subjective effects of biblical Hebrew chant as Suzanne Haik-Vantoura reconstructed it. Haik-Vantoura's technical notes on the syntax of biblical chant (to date published only in French) take on an entirely new depth in the light of what is noted by various researchers.

The magazine has published a Special Music Issue recently (available as PDF download). Reader favorites online include "Birth of the beat", "More than a feeling", "Music of the hemispheres", and "Not just a pleasant sound".

Here is an article sent to me today (other important articles are linked in the margin):



Stefan Koelsch’s team at the Freie Universität Berlin uses music to investigate the brain.

In a 2008 paper in NeuroReport, Koelsch and colleagues found that a single unexpected chord or tonal change can kick the amygdala into gear and elicit an emotional response. Click here to listen to an excerpt of the music that participants listened to.

In a 2006 paper in Human Brain Mapping, the researchers found that activity in emotional centers in the brain can be up or down regulated by music. Click here to hear pleasant and unpleasant versions of a tune used in the experiment.

Another study, published in 2008 in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, shows that kids who have trouble with language also have trouble recognizing irregular or “hanging” chords. Click here for excerpts from the study. The first example at the link is a chord that ends normally; the second ends in an irregular way. The third sequence mixes the chords.

A slightly older study, appearing in Nature Neuroscience in 2004, looks at semantic meaning of music. The researchers showed that brief excerpts of classical music prime both abstract and concrete nouns. One excerpt may lead a listener’s thoughts to the word “circle” while another may lead listeners to think of “mischief.” The surprising part is the pieces were unfamiliar to the participants. Click here to listen to excerpts and see what word those sequences primed.

For a list of Koelsch’s other papers, including accompanying audio files, visit [here].


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Music of the Bible Revealed: Psalms 96 (YouTube)

video

This video is also found on my YouTube channels "rakkav" and "teamim" (the latter version is found here).

- John Wheeler (יוחנן רכב)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Archaeological Institute of America's New Website

I was tipped off this afternoon to this post on AWOL - The Ancient World Online, a post concerning the new Web site of the Archaeological Institute of America. Archaeomusicology, of course, is one of the many subdisciplines that fall within the scope of these institutions, and so the announcement has relevance for the purposes of this blog.

- John Wheeler (יוחנן רכב)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

MusicOfTheBible.com: A Model of the Psalmodic System (Part One)


Every so often, I'm asked about the model of the psalmodic system of accents put forward by Dennis F. McCorkle on his Web site (and now in certain YouTube videos). His Web site is found here, and I've been wanting to give a formal review of his model for some time. True to form, however, I have been trying to do too much, and have let this necessary comparison between his model of the accents and Suzanne Haik-Vantoura's lapse. I hope to do something about that very soon, and put the results of my comparison of the two models on this blog and on my own Web site.

A few words of introduction may be useful here. There is some confusion in the public mind between a scientific "theory" and a scientific "model" or "framework" of interpretation. Both are systematic explanations of the available facts, but a good "theory" is "falsifiable" - that is, many observations may support a theory, but one contrary observation can disprove it. (Albert Einstein said as much about his own theories of relativity in physics.) A "model", however, is designed to grow and change as new facts come in, without abandoning its basic premises simply because some facts seem for the moment to be contrary to those premises.

Now this is an amateur's explanation, and a good philosopher of science could probably do much better. But consider the issue of ultimate origins and what are ultimately the only valid alternatives for the same: naturalistic evolution or supernatural creation. Both worldviews (for that is what they are) may give rise to "theories" which in principle can be disproved by as little as one observation. But you may notice that proponents of either side do not abandon what a prominent British evolutionist (speaking of evolution!) called their "metaphysical research programme" simply because one or more new facts come in. One reason is that what are usually called "theories" of evolution or creation are in fact "models" - they are not strictly falsifiable, but rather adapt to the facts as they come in.

And so it is with McCorkle's and Haik-Vantoura's musical "deciphering keys" - and indeed the older Masoretic "deciphering key" for the same accents. Ultimately they are models, not theories. They cannot be disproved by a single observation. They have considerable ability to adapt to facts as they come in. The only way to decide between these competing models (and their underlying worldviews as well) is by the application of Occam's Razor. One way of applying it is by asking, "Which is the simplest, the most complete and the most 'elegant' explanation of all the available facts?"

Why does the difference between "theory" and "model" exist? As a student of a particular and very powerful model of the human personality (personality type as based ultimately in Carl Jung's insights, but also those of numerous other people), I have a suggestion. A "theory" seems to be based on a particular cognitive process (Extraverted Intuiting so-called) which is inferential (just as a "hypothesis" seems to be based on another cognitive process, Introverted Intuiting so-called). But a "model" seems to be based on another cognitive process altogether, one which specifically addresses frameworks of interpretation (Introverted Thinking so-called). And as we all have these cognitive processes and five others in our minds, arranged in different orders and playing different "archetypal" roles, we all will respond personally to issues of "hypothesis", "theory" and "model" in somewhat different ways. (People like myself, for example, find it difficult, although not impossible, to deal with models and frameworks dispassionately, as the function required works best as a defensive mechanism in our minds.)

The goal of all sound reasoning (no matter what cognitive process is used) remains, however, a matter of applying Occam's Razor. Getting there is first of all a matter of the right metaphysical or axiomatic starting point. And I state without apology my conviction that only Job 28:28, Psalms 111:10, and Proverbs 1:2 and 9:10 constitute that starting point (along with Proverbs 30:5-6) - above all when one is dealing with the Bible itself. Keeping that in mind is the key not only to discerning between competing models, but to "disagree without being disagreeable" in the process.

- John Wheeler (יוחנן רכב)

Friday, May 28, 2010

ICONEA: Near and Middle Eastern Archaeomusicology

Apropos to an earlier entry in this blog, I owe to Leon Crickmore (cf. his full profile) the link to ICONEA: Near and Middle Eastern Archaeomusicology. Mr. Crickmore contributed a paper to ICONEA 2008 (PDF: 71.06 MB) called "New Light on the Babylonian Tonal System", and when he saw my reference to AWOL on this blog, he contacted me. He also alerted me to two papers he contributed to ARANE I 2009, "The Tonal Systems of Mesopotamia and Ancient Greece: Some Similarities and Differences" and "Harmonic Mythology: Nine Interdisciplinary Research Notes".

Best wishes (שלום),
John Wheeler (יוחנן רכב)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

AWOL - Ancient World Online: Ancient Music

I was tipped off about the parent Blogspot blog where this article may be found only this morning. It has to do with a major conference on ancient music. The mere fact that Dr. Richard Dumbrill (whose book on the archaeomusicology of the Ancient Near East is a major sourcebook) is involved shows just how important it is.

John Wheeler (יוחנן רכב)

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Syntax of Prosodia and Psalmodia - Part One

(N.B.: The first time I posted on this blog was December 19, 2007, when I had a custom domain name for it. After posting to it only three times, I decided to delete the blog and let the paid domain name lapse. But Blogspot allows deleted blogs to be restored within a certain period of time, and after switching over to the free domain name offered by Blogspot, I was able to do so. I deleted all the prior posts and am starting over today with this post - which is needful lest knowledge which I had gained and which I had rediscovered only today be lost again.)



Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura (July 13, 1912 - October 22, 2000) was the author of the work whose English title is The Music of the Bible Revealed. Since 1982 I have had the opportunity to be closely involved with her work and its implications. After a number of years of little activity, I hope this article will be a first step toward reviving not only my part in her work, but of public and academic interest in it.

Haïk-Vantoura (hereafter SHV) studied "the accents of Scripture" or, in Hebrew, ta`amê miqra (טעמי מקרא). "Scripture" might be more aptly translated "Reading Tradition", as it refers to the Hebrew Bible (Masoretic Text) as read aloud rather than as written. The Hebrew name for the accents as such is te`amim (טעמים). On my Web site (see also this Web site), on my YouTube channels rakkav and especially teamim, and above all in SHV's own publications (a book, musical scores and recordings), one may learn how SHV deciphered the original musical meaning of the te`amim, showing how they use tonal relationships to clarify the verbal syntax even as they express the verbal meaning.

But the te`amim themselves have a syntax - a phrase structure - which closely relates to that of the words, and it is this relationship that is the subject of the relatively brief essay. If all goes well, further essays here and elsewhere will make that syntax clear to the student.

The te`amim or musical accents fall into two systems: one for the so-called Twenty-One Books (the "prose" books plus the prologue and epilogue of Job) and one for the so-called Three Books (the "poetic" books, Psalms, Proverbs and the body of Job). In her French book and its English translation, SHV tried to focus on the musical aspect by calling the musical expression of these systems "prosodie/prosody" and "psalmodie/psalmody". The problem is that these terms have changed their meaning over time. 'Prosody" in particular means something quite different in modern English than it did in SHV's vocabulary. But SHV was drawing upon the ancient Greek roots of these words. Going a step further in hopes of clarifying rather than muddying the issue, I have come to call the two accent systems the prosodic and psalmodic systems, as she originally did, and the melodic-verbal expressions involving the two systems, prosodia and psalmodia.

There are some 19-20 accents in the prosodic system, somewhat less in the psalmodic system; and the psalmodic system has simpler relationships among the accents and between the accents and the words. But if clarifying the verbal syntax were the only function of the accents, only six accents in the prosodic system and five accents in the psalmodic system would be required. Upon becoming intimately familiar with how SHV's reconstructed melodies parse the verbal text, I inferred that the typical "complete" four-clause verse in psalmodia has the following syntactic structure:

text | text /
text | text //
text | text ///
text | text ////

| = minor cadence
/ = preparatory cadence
// = suspending cadence
/// = half cadence
//// = full cadence

A "complete" verse in prosodia has a minimum of five two-phrase clauses, but not more than six kinds of cadences:

text | text /
text | text //
text | text ///
text | text ////
text | text /////

| = minor cadence
/ = preparatory cadence
// = suspending cadence
/// = half cadence
//// = parallel cadence
///// = full cadence

What the terms mean, and as much as possible how I derived them, will be covered (God willing) in a future post.

Best wishes (שלום),
John Wheeler (יוחנן רכב)