THIS REVIEW CONCERNS THE 1967 EDITION
An extremely rich book on the subject but published in 1967, one year before the discovery of the Babylonian tablet about the tuning of the harp in ancient Babylon. The book collects all we knew, and still know even if we know more today, about it, about what ancient or Hebraic biblical music could be and what it became in synagogal times. Many scores are given to illustrate the various modes. It is very learned on what the oriental unrhythmical mode is and how the 24 step octave can work, does work when it is used, when it has been used for probably twenty or more centuries. The author situates this "modern" tradition in the vast tradition of "oriental music" and that is good because it shows how Jewish music is at the crossroads between three traditions in contact in the Middle East for many millennia: the Turkic (or Uralic if you prefer) tradition, the Semitic tradition and the Indo-Aryan (or Iranian or Indic) tradition. Brilliant in all possible ways. So I will regret all the more the fact that it does not integrate the 1968 discovery. It is not able to understand, explain and musically interpret the Tiberian system of signs added to the Biblical text because he can only interpret these signs as some tonal elements whereas they are the real transcription of the music behind the text. It is based, like Babylonian music at the time of the kings, Saul, David and Solomon, and the First Temple, on a full scale based on the perfect fourth and the perfect fifth, on a standard understanding of semi-tonal music. That would have enriched his approach of ancient Hebraic music because he would have understood how Hebraic music is in complete agreement with the music of its time and yet drags it into a purely Jewish inspiration by the choice of voices, instruments, accompaniments and even compositions to oppose prosodic and psalmodic styles. The Jews of that ancient time managed to integrate the musical "science and technique" of their time into the Jewish vision of the world. Since we now even have recordings of this transcribed music we can say we are far far away from the rather dull and lackluster synagogal version of what it has become. To go back to the origins enriches the artistic and spiritual dimensions of that music.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris Dauphine, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne & University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines