Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura

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Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura (née Vantoura) (13 July 1912 – 22 October 2000) was an organist, music teacher, composer and music theorist. Her magnum opus was in the field of musicology.

Personal life[edit]

Vantoura was born in Paris on 13 July 1912. In 1931 Vantoura started studying at Conservatoire National Superieur de Paris, (CNSMDP), and in 1934 earned a First Prize in Harmony. Four years later, she was earned a First Prize in Fugue (1938). She was a pupil of the great organist and composer Marcel Dupré from 1941 to 1946.

During World War II, Vantoura and her family fled from the Nazis to southern France. There she studied the cantillation marks, (melodic accents or Ta'amim), in the Hebrew Bible (Masoretic Text). After the war she put aside this work, until her retirement in 1970. She died on 22 October 2000 in Lausanne, Switzerland at the age of 88. Her husband Maurice Haïk had died in 1976. The couple had no children.

Career[edit]

She was Honorary professor of music education (1937–61).[citation needed] She was organist at the Synagogue de l'Union liberale Israelite de Paris (1946–53) and organist at Eglise Saint-Helene de Paris (1966–79).

Compositions[edit]

  • Quatuor florentin, 1942
  • Un beau dimanche, 1957
  • Destin d'Israël, 1964
  • Versets de psaumes, 1968
  • Offrande, 1970
  • Adagio for saxophone and organ, 1976

"Music of the Bible Revealed"[edit]

"Music of the Bible Revealed" was her magnum opus; a massive work covering the entire Hebrew Bible, decoding the cantillation marks (as musical notes which support the syntax and meaning of the words) of its 24 books, to music.

Study[edit]

Noticing the marks in the version of the Hebrew Bible she used to read, Vantoura affirmed she had read in an unnamed encyclopedia that these signs of cantillation dated back to antiquity and that their real musical meaning was lost. This, she said, triggered her curiosity. Working step by step, she made the assumption it was significant that the sublinear signs were never absent from the text, while entire verses are totally lacking supralinear signs. In her opinion it had to mean that the sublinear signs had to be "more important" than the supralinear ones. This conclusion formed the basis of her conjectures. She focused on the prose te'amim system only. That system comprises 8 sublinear signs. She made the hypothesis that it corresponded to the eight degrees of a musical scale, particularly of a tonal scale, (the diatonic scale - C, D, E, etc. - being the oldest). In her mind that was supported by the nearly systematic writing of a vertical sign at the end of each verse. This sign, she assumed, could work like an end note, and could be used to indicate the main note (tonic) of a scale. As she worked with each verse she became convinced that the notes of her transcription formed coherent melodies and not random sounds.[clarification needed] By comparing individual verses she then compiled tables of concordant sequences. Analyzing the shapes of signs, she finally assigned conjectural values to the 8 sublinear signs of the prose system, suggesting that they are the 8 notes of a scale.[1][clarification needed] But musicologists view the hypothesis that the signs represent the degrees of a scale as unlikely and a method which assigns the values of the signs arbitrarily based only on a subjective assessment of the quality of the melodies that assignment produces as flawed.

The work to pursue this conjectural decipherment and to justify its methodology and assumptions has been carried on since her death by her students and associates Gilles Tiar and John H. Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav on the net) who had some success in spreading her theories.

In 1978 the Institut de France awarded the second edition of Haik-Vantoura's French book the Prix Bernier, its highest award. Encyclopaedia Universalis, a French online encyclopedia, presents her work as a firmly scientifically established conclusion.[2] Some musicians have also produced recorded music based on her alleged decipherment, more particularly the French harp player Esther Lamandier. Nevertheless, Haik-Vantoura's work was mostly rejected by other researchers as based on Western preconceptions and subjective assignments, coupled with historical misunderstandings.[3][4]

Publications[edit]

A partial listing of Haik-Vantoura's publications (which ultimately included about 5,000 verses of the Masoretic Text) follows:

  • La musique de la Bible révélée (book), 1976; second revised edition, 1978 (Dessain et Tolra)
  • La musique de la Bible révélée (LP), 1976 (Harmonia Mundi France HMU 989)
  • Quatre Meghilot: Esther, L'Ecclesiaste, Les Lamentations, Ruth dans leurs mélodies d'origine (melody-only score), 1986
  • The Music of the Bible Revealed (book), trans. Dennis Weber, ed. John Wheeler, 1991 (BIBAL Press)
  • Les 150 Psaumes dans leurs mélodies antiques (melody-only score), revised French-English edition, 1991
  • Message biblique intégral dans son chant retrouvé (melody-only score), 1992

References[edit]

  1. ^ Details linked to the code key should refer to the book: Clé de Déchiffrement des Signes Musicaux de la Bible.
  2. ^ Article Suzanna Haik-Vantoura (in French)
  3. ^ Cf. Dalia Cohen and Daniel Weill. "Progress in Deductive Research on the Original Performance of Tiberian Accents (Te'amim)." Proceedings of the Ninth World Conference of Jewish Studies, Division D, Vol. II (Jerusalem, 1986): 265-80.
  4. ^ Cf. also e.g. the review by P.T. Daniels, Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 112, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 1992), p. 499.

Sources[edit]

  • Obituaries of French musicians 10/2000 [1]
  • Orientations in Piano Creation of Banat in the period between the two World Wars [2]
  • Haïk-Vantoura's personal Web site (down since 2002; archive available from [www.archive.org]) [3]
  • King David's Harp, Inc.: Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura [4]
  • A comparison between the traditional "tables of accents" and Haïk-Vantoura's "deciphering key" [5]
  • Temple Cantillation of Psalms (Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906) [6]

External links[edit]