Mail Archive sponsored by
Re: Influence of Jewish on Christian chant
- From: Judy Pinnolis <pinnolis...>
- Subject: Re: Influence of Jewish on Christian chant
- Date: Fri 31 Mar 2000 23.15 (GMT)
Thanks for this reply. It's wonderful research and I'll have to read the
Werner article. Judy.
At 08:19 PM 3/27/00 -0500, you wrote:
>Thank you for your thoughtful, intelligent response. I wanted to check a
>few of these sources before responding. Comments below.
>At 11:30 PM 3/20/00 -0500, you wrote:
>>First things first: I want to clarify that I make no overtures to say that
>>Christian monophonic chant is NOT derived from Jewish chant. Rather, I
>>assert that there is not enough evidence to prove anything definitive in
>There will never be evidence, because the sources are oral and not written
>in readable notation. But there are certainly many related truths that
>would strongly suggest an influence.
>>I've been through much of Lachmann and Avenary's work. Here's what I've
>>Lachmann did not produce much: he died at a very young age (41), and his
>>only major monograph is his 1934(?) Jewish Cantillation and Song of the Isle
>>of Djerba. He's also responsible for helping establish the fabulous archive
>>of Jewish music at the Hebrew University. While his forte was what he
>>called "Oriental" music, he did little to feed into the "Jewish from
>>Christian Chant" issue.
>>Hanoch Avenary is to me one of the most careful and thoughtful Jewish
>>musicologists of his age--I think his Encyclopedia Judaica article is
>>generally about as good a summary of the subject as was known then. While
>>he focused primarily on source studies and observations of diverse Jewish
>>groups in Israel, he did occasionally take a stab at some issues of earlier
>>derivation (such as the use music in biblical times, etc.). I recall from
>>reading many of his essays (especially his 1979 "Encounters of East and West
>>in Music") that he is careful about making Werner's assumptions, being very
>>clear to cite the limits of the materials available to him.
>He cites the limits, but also infers some relationship. On p.78 of
>"Encounters of East and West in Music" (1979), he refers to a Credo,
>"generally assigned to the older layer of Gregorian chant ... [which]
>resembles a psalmodic tune enriched by three prolific motives. 'Developed
>Psalmodies' of this kind are frequent in the Eastern styles, Syrian, as
>well as the Jewish." Edith Gerson-Kiwi in "Migrations and Mutations of the
>Music in East and West" (1980) gives a musical example on p.55 with
>enormous similarities between a Gregorian "Dixit Dominus" (Ps.109) and a
>Yemenite version of Psalm 122. As Idelsohn had, Gerson-Kiwi finds
>similarities in the modal and narrow melodic contours of Eastern Jewish
>melodies and Gregorian chant. The Yemenite tradition was supposed to
>be particular free of foreign influences, because the Jewish people
>remained in Southern Arabia for 2,000 years before emigrating to Israel.
>>Having a good amount of Gregorian chant study under my belt as well, and
>>having explored the very issue of its relation to Jewish chant for quite a
>>bit of time, I've come to just the opposite conclusion. My reasoning:
>>Jewish chant as we know it (which is primarily from the Masoretes c. the
>>10th century) consists of symbols representing melodic formulae, often with
>>little correlation between the symbol itself and the contour of the melody
>I was under the impression that the Ta'amim (Biblical accents) were derived
>from cheironomic (hand) signals that came from the Egyptians and were taken
>out of Egypt to the First Temple by the Israelites. (This is from Peter
>Gradenwitz--no great scholar--paraphrasing the work of Curt Sachs, who was
>the great expert on music of the ancient world.) If this is a "bubbameise,"
>please be so kind as to tell me. If it is grounded in truth, then the
>Jewish cantillation synbols should not resemble their own melodic contours.
>>Every form of neumatic chant I've seen (and I've studied and
>>transcribed several) contains neumes that *look* like they could be trop
>>symbols, but actually conform almost exactly to the melodic contours they
>>represent (this, after all, is how Western musical notation eventually
>>developed in the first place). This to me became one disjuncture that
>>threw a big wrench into what seemed initially to be an elegant theory of
>>Upon further searching, the comparisons between the two systems fell apart
>>for me. Whatever "melodic" motifs there are in Gregorian chant are not
>>nearly as consistently placed as they are in Jewish biblical chant, and need
>>to be ripped irregularly out of the neumes themselves in order to be
>>identified for comparison. Even then, the comparison is messy at best, with
>>a number of extraneous notes to be dealt with in between motifs. It just
>>didn't work for me.
>Avenary addresses this in "Encounters." First, he credits Eric Werner as
>being "the first to produce such a formula model as a demonstration of the
>"shtejger" (p.87), then he makes a clear distinction between the Christian
>concept of "mode" and the Jewish concept of "shteyger." The Jewish steyger
>(I paraphrase) possesses not just a modal scalar character, but the more
>Eastern "stock of standard motives," not unlike the Arabic maquam or the
>Indian raga: "Thus shtejger tunes may be compared to a mosaic work
>tesselated from the given material. They reveal by their intrinsic
>character a strong similarity with the combination of 'migrating motives,'
>the 'Cento structure,' the 'mosaic style' observed in certain archaic
>portions of plainsong" (p.92).
>>Moreover, Christian and Jewish chant are used for two almost exclusive
>>purposes: Jewish chant is used to chant from biblical texts *ONLY* (though
>>a simplified system appears to exist for reading psalms). Conversely, I
>>have NEVER seen an entire, continuous book of the bible set to Gregorian
>I don't know the very early Christian liturgy, but in my knowledge of the
>mass, I don't believe Catholics ever recite long passages of the Bible as
>we do. The central part of the mass is the communion; the central part of
>our liturgy is taking out and reading from the Torah and Haftorah. The
>Catholic exception might be the Offices, where the monks must chant all of
>the Psalms in a 24 hour period. And they have psalm tones for this,
>although these don't resemble our biblical chant, except in concept.
>> Rather, I've seen Christian monodic chant set prayer rituals. On
>>this comparison alone, Gregorian chant is much closer to the Jewish system
>>of nusach and "modes" than to the Biblical Chant system [though I honestly
>>believe this too is impossible to ascertain];
>I would tend to agree with you on this. Werner makes an important
>distinction in vol. 2 of "The Sacred Bridge" between psalmody and
>cantillation. Cantillation is "logogenic": i.e. music created for the sole
>purpose of conveying a text, whereas "nowhere does Psalmody imitate speech"
>(p. 61). He goes on to say, "psalmody is originally of poetic character
>and can be recited by the entire community" (p.62). Perhaps Gregorian chant
>is more related to Jewish songs originally derived from cantillation, but I
>have done no research on this matter.
>>it makes it seem to me that a
>>comparison to Jewish cantillation symbols exists more because they are
>>*THERE* rather than because they make a convincing comparison.
>And also because Jewish liturgical tradition had an enormous influence on
>the early Christian liturgy. Edith Gerson-Kiwi cites the influence of the
>Jewish psalm texts on the Medieval Christian Psalm-Antiphon, on the
>Halleluia calls and responses, and on the jubilus, an important part of the
>Alleluija and other melismatic chants (p.54-60). Eric Werner recognizes the
>annual cycle of Christian psalm chanting as derived from the Jewish (p.56);
>the three-fold "Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus" from the "Kedusha" (Chpt.5);
>and--among other prayers--the obvious Jewish influence on "Te Deum"
>(p.201-202) i.e. "the theological concept of 'rex gloriae,' alluding to
>Psalm 24 ' Melekh ha-kabod,' " among others.
>>The big kicker for me, though, is that *we actually don't know what Jewish
>>Biblical chant sounded like.* At the absolute earliest, manuscripts with
>>any Western notation of Jewish chant whatsoever appear in the 15th century
>>(and I may be erring on the early side). The vast majority of what we know
>>in terms of melodic "motifs" of the trop markings comes from observations
>>made in Israel in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (as spearheaded by
>>the research of Abraham Z. Idelsohn). And as I mentioned before, any
>>definitive source of organization of melodic motifs dates from the 10th
>>century with the Masoretic codex. How, then, is it even possible to create
>>a source for comparison without assuming that oral traditions remained
>>absolutely static for over two thousand and one thousand years respectively?
>This is a good point. But, conversely, how do you account for the enormous
>similarities between melodies from completely different cultures, locales,
>and time periods.
>>Even if you take wholesale Idelsohn's theory that the melodic formulae of
>>the trop system all came from a single source (i.e., the Temple; Avenary
>>among others has placed this theory in doubt), the wide variation documented
>>among the numerous musical traditions, even in a single trop marking, makes
>>any comparison to Gregorian chant motifs a nearly impossible task.
>I was under the impression that Idelsohn saw enough similarities between
>Eastern and WEstern cantillation motives--cut off since the fall of the
>SEcond Temple--to believe they had a common ancestry. I'm a little rusty;
>please correct me if I'm wrong.
>>If you're still skeptical, you may wish to check out Peter Jeffery's review
>>of "The Sacred Bridge, Volume 2" in the Jewish Quarterly Review 77: 283-298
>>(1987). Jeffery takes a less critical, but highly effective approach toward
>>unravelling Werner's theoretical underpinnings.
>Yes, I'd like to look at this article. Werner made an enormous mistake if
>he falsified some material. Still, I must tell you I'm very familiar with
>his "A Voice Still Heard" and find it a brilliant, thorough work on
>Ashkenazy synagogue music. Although he did not use primary recorded
>sources, he did extensive work with the Birnbaum Collection at HUC in
>Cincinnatti, and these are the oldest ms. sources for Ashkenazi Jewry.
>Dr. Eliott Kahn
>Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary
>>Of course, I'm interested to see your evidence to the contrary. Perhaps
>>there is something I'm overlooking, in which case I'd be quite interested to
>>know about it.
Judith S. Pinnolis
Coordinator for Publications and Training
Brandeis University Libraries
P.O Box 9110 MS045
415 South Street
Waltham, MA 02454-9110
email: pinnolis (at) brandeis(dot)edu
---------------------- jewish-music (at) shamash(dot)org ---------------------+