Suzanne Haik-Vantoura (1912-2000)

Suzanne Haik-Vantoura (Portrait)

Suzanne Haik-Vantoura (Portrait)

7:34 PM 7/26/2012

This is a portrait of Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura, taken many years ago. Mme. Haïk-Vantoura (née Vantoura) was a composer, organist and music theoretician. Born in Paris, France in 1912, she entered the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique in Paris (CNSM) in 1931, and was awarded First Prize in Harmony (1934), First Prize in Fugue (1938), and Honorable Mention in Composition (1939). She became the student of the great organist and composer Marcel Dupré from 1941 to 1946, then devoted herself to music composition and teaching.

World War II interrupted her studies, and she fled with her family to southern France. While in hiding from the Nazis, then-Mlle. Vantoura first approached a problem that had intrigued her since childhood: the original meaning of the te`amim (טעמים). By her account, she had learned in a French encyclopedia of music that these signs were ancient, musical and of unknown meaning. Given the lack of correlation between the melodies of the synagogue communities and the physical features of the notation itself, this appraisal was both plausible and objective — and it became the starting point in Mlle. Vantoura’s research.

After four months of intensive research (including the creation of interminable statistical tables), she became certain (as her intuition had suggested) that only the sublinear te`amim have a fixed musical meaning; the superlinear te`amim have a subordinate musical meaning. Thus she was able to reconstruct a rough draft of the “Song of the Sea” (Exodus 15); she was astonished at the results! After the war, however, the pressure of her studies and career forced her to put the time-consuming project aside.

During and after the war, Haïk-Vantoura composed a number of works which expressed her independent personality. Those listed on her own Web site include Quatuor florentin (played for the first time in 1942), Un beau dimanche (written in 1957), Destin d’Israël (written in 1964), Versets de psaumes pour 12 voix a capella (a work commissioned by the French Government in 1968) and Offrande (written in 1970). Other works in her curriculum vitae include Visages d’Adam, Rhapsodie Israelienne, Un trio instrumental, Jeu (for piano and violin), Poemes de la Pleiade (suite for piano), Temionage, Hymn liturgique pour voix de soprano et quartuor, and Sept motets for 12 mixed voices (another work commissioned by the French Government). Another notable accomplishment: a recording produced by André Charlin, featuring a text written by Haïk-Vantoura, spoken by Linette Lemercier, and set to music by Menuhin et al., entitled Magie des Instruments (Helios MA301). In addition to all this, Haïk-Vantoura became an organist at the Synagogue de l’Union liberale Israelite de Paris (1946-53) and the Eglise Saint-Helene de Paris (1966-79); an honorary professor of music education (1937-61); a published composer (Un beau dimanche for instrumental trio, 1970; and Adagio for saxophone and organ, 1976); and the wife of Mr. Maurice Haïk, who passed away in 1976. (The couple had no children.)

Over the years, Haïk-Vantoura would approach the problem of the biblical notation now and again, but never had the time to devote herself to solving it. Finally, her old teacher Marcel Dupré and others urged her to complete her work. After her “retirement” in 1970, she devoted herself to the task and (by her own testimony) was overwhelmed at times by the sheer scale of it. It took her four years to complete her decipherment, and another two years to prepare the first edition of her French book La musique de la Bible révélée (Robert Dumas, 1976) and the Harmonia Mundi LP of the same name (also in 1976). The second edition of her French book (Dessain et Tolra, 1978) won the Prix Bernier of the Institute des Beaux Arts de France, its highest award.

Since that time, Haïk-Vantoura produced or supervised the production of no less than six new recordings (two by Esther Lamandier and one by Mira Zakai); four scores with accompaniment corresponding to four recordings (Volumes 1-3 and Cantique des cantiques); three scores without accompaniment (Les 150 Psaumes dans leurs mélodies antiques, Quatre Meghilot and Message biblique intégrale); several articles in academic journals; and a supplement to her original book. (Since Haïk-Vantoura’s death, two more recordings, an a capella version of Cantique des cantiques and Le livre d’Isaïe, have been published by Esther Lamandier to date.) Though Haïk-Vantoura was long nearly invalid, she had her own Web site, which remained up and running for some time after her death: http://www.institutionroidavid.com. Regrettably, this site seems to be down permanently.

On October 22, 2000, on the day called Simhat Torah (“Rejoicing of the Law”) in Judaism — the very day when the liturgical cycle for one year ends and another begins in the Rabbinic synagogues — Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura passed away in Switzerland after complications resulting from influenza. She was 88 years old. As of October 24, legalities permitting, she was scheduled to be buried in France on October 30. This information (transmitted to me by Dennis Weber) came from Haïk-Vantoura’s grand-nephew Philippe.

The following obituary in French is taken from the Musica et Memoria site (Obituares 08/2000 – 11/2000), and is used with permission.

“La musicologue, organiste et compositeur Suzanne Haïk-VANTOURA est décédée en Suisse, à Lausanne, le 22 octobre 2000. Née en 1912 à Paris, Mlle Vantoura avait rejoint le CNSM où elle obtenait plusieurs prix d’écriture. Mariée à Maurice Haïk, elle commença par se consacrer à l’enseignement et à la composition. C’est ainsi qu’on lui doit notamment un Quatuor à cordes, sept Motets, un Poème pour piano et orchestre et un poème liturgique, Judas le pieux. Egalement organiste, elle avait rejoint en 1969 les rangs de l’Union des Maîtres de Chapelle et Organistes, alors présidée par Henri Busser. Peu de temps après elle se passionnait pour le mystère du sens des signes musicaux contenus dans la Bible hébraïque et réussissait à en retrouver le sens puis à en établir une grille de lecture. Elle put ainsi faire éditer cinq mille versets dans leur mélodie originelle et a publié en 1976 le résultat de ses travaux dans son livre La musique de la Bible révélée. Une notation millénaire décryptée (Ed. Robert Dumas, 503 pages, fort in-8). Ses recherches sont actuellement poursuivies par Gilles Tiar dans un institut créé en Israël, portant le nom de «Shir Hashirim». Elle résida longtemps dans un appartement de la rue d’Artois (Paris, IXe), non loin de la maison où mourut, en 1863, le poète et romancier Alfred de Vigny.” – Denis HAVARD DE LA MONTAGNE

This information comes from a page on The Music of the Bible Revealed Web site.

(יוחנן רכב הסופר)

Categories: Suzanne Haik-Vantoura, The Music of the Bible Revealed | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

TWO LYRES AND A PIPE 03: CARBO

2014-07-13 @ 10:50 CDT

This video features the newest instrument I’ve purchased this year and the one I play the least well: Carbo (as I call it), a carbon fiber low pennywhistle made on special order by Carbony Celtic Winds. It can play concert pitch (A = 440Hz) but can also be adjusted to classical pitch (“Verdi’s A”, 432Hz). On this video the latter referent is used.

It is unlikely, given the size of the whistle (almost too big for my hands), that I’ll ever play it the way a pennywhistle is meant to be played. No, I’ll be using my fingertips, and also with my left hand rather than my right hand on the bottom, to do slow melody and harmony lines.

This instrument is meant to evoke the “flutes” mentioned in the header of Psalm 5 and related instruments mentioned in the Bible and Talmudic literature. It is not a reconstruction of any of them. However, it does have a pitch based on what I can infer about the pitch of the silver trumpets of Numbers 10 under ideal conditions and also about the temperament of the instruments used in biblical chant.

A playlist featuring all three videos in this series is found here.

(יוחנן רכב הסופר)

Categories: Carbony Celtic Winds, Flutes and Pipes, Luthiers, Temple Instruments, Two Lyres and a Pipe, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

TWO LYRES AND A PIPE 02: ALETHEIA

2014-07-13 @ 10:30 CDT

Here is the first of two videos I made this morning. At last I can feature Aletheia (as “she” has been rechristened), the long-suffering “bass nevel” created for me by Carlos Paniagua (for some more details on its repairs, see here). Even given the way I must hold the lyre (so far), the Canon camera I use to record the video has no trouble at all picking up the sound! Nor does it have any problem picking up what passes for a singing voice (mine, although given my work with the local church choir of late my voice certainly sounds better on this video than it often has on videos).

A playlist presently containing all three videos I’ve made featuring these three instruments is found here.

(יוחנן רכב הסופר)

Categories: Bowl Lyre, Carlos Paniagua, Luthiers, Lyres, Prosodia, So Nice I Blogged It Twice, Suzanne Haik-Vantoura, Temple Instruments, The Music of the Bible Revealed, Two Lyres and a Pipe | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Music of Sparta

John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav):

The scandal of the extra strings!

Originally posted on Reason in the Light of Faith:

Or The Scandal of the Strings

Here is your completely random and amusing historical tidbit for today. The topic is that warrior haven of Sparta and its take on music during the 7th century before Christ. From Will Durant’s The Story of Civilization, Vol. 2: The Life of Greece (Simon & Schuster 1966):

In that dim past before Lycurgus came, Sparta was a Greek city like the rest, and blossomed out in song and art as it would never do after him. Music above all was popular there, and rivaled man’s antiquity; for as far back as we can delve we find the Greeks singing. In Sparta, so frequently at war, music took a martial turn – the strong and simple “Doric mode”; and not only were other styles discouraged, but any deviation from this Doric style was punishable by law. Even Terpander, though he had quelled a sedition by…

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Categories: So Nice I Blogged It Twice | Tags: | Leave a comment

TWO LYRES AND A PIPE 01: EL ZURDO

2014-07-11 @ 11:46 CDT

This is the first of three exceedingly primitive home videos I plan to make using my Canon PowerShot SD750 camera and a tripod. My first effort cut off much of the lyre; this effort cuts off most of my head! But as I must have the camera close to ensure the lyre’s sound is picked up properly, I opted to have my head cut off most of the time.

El Zurdo (The Southpaw)”, as I call this evocation of “the Lyre of the Moon”, was made by JRV Luthier of Spain. I call it El Zurdo because the consistent trend in lyre iconography (at least in the Ancient Near East) is to have the bass strings on the left for right-handed players and on the right for left-handed players. I didn’t know this before I ordered the lyre, and I am a right-handed player. But El Zurdo and I have become “best buds” despite this and I’ve performed with it in public several times now. The mode and tuning I chose seems to fit El Zurdo’s construction ideally and it holds its tuning well.

The rest of the video is self-explanatory.

EDIT 2014-07-13: A playlist presently containing all three videos I’ve made featuring these three instruments is found here.

(יוחנן רכב הסופר)

Categories: JRV Luthier, Luthiers, Lyre of the Moon, Lyres, So Nice I Blogged It Twice, Temple Instruments, Two Lyres and a Pipe, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

LA MUSIQUE DE LA BIBLE REVELEE – VOLUME 1 (YOUTUBE)

2014-07-10 @ 2030 CDT

Here at last is Suzanne Haïk-Vantoura’s first recording, La musique de la Bible révélée (technically, Volume 1, although not called that in the title), which was released originally in 1976 on LP and later on cassette and DVD. This is the first complete set of videos of SHV’s work I’ve made which includes the consonants, vowels, and musical accents of the Hebrew Masoretic Text (Letteris Edition). I have created individual videos before as “test cases” with the complete pointing, but not an entire album’s worth.

Producing the PowerPoint slides was an incredibly time-consuming job. The only font I have on my computer that could handle all the necessary details is proprietary and probably would cause PowerPoint to balk. The Symbols font in Times New Roman does a pretty good job, but one has to insert the characters laboriously one click at a time into PowerPoint. It is all too easy to make mistakes in so doing and the wonder is that I didn’t have to go back and make more corrections to the slides and even the videos than I did.

In the future, I really need to use a video production program with better control of the timing of slides than my legacy copy of Windows Movie Maker can give me. Also I need to use my newer laptop, which for this sort of work does better than this legacy Windows XP (for me at least, Windows 7 is generally a pleasure to use even if like all Micro$oft ;) products it has its quirks). Also I need to figure out how to use the Nero and LightScribe software more effectively in producing labels. It’s wonderful to have DVD (and CD) labels which don’t peel off but are burned right into the surface of the discs, but if one can’t create a label worth reading artistically what good is it? As it is I’ve had to use some pretty quirky approaches of my own to label the DVDs I’ve made from the above playlist and other projects I’ve been doing using my LightScribe drive.

But let not my tiredness and relative crankiness at the end of a very long day detract from the joy of finishing this first essay in the craft of making “fully pointed” videos in Hebrew, transliterated Hebrew and English. All things considered and with all grace blessing me, I “done good” and I will strive as always to do better next time.

(יוחנן רכב הסופר)

Categories: Hebrew Bible, Letteris Edition, Prosodia, Psalmodia, So Nice I Blogged It Twice, Suzanne Haik-Vantoura, The Music of the Bible Revealed, Videos, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

MUSIC, MATHEMATICS AND THE TETRAGRAMMATON

John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav):

As Suzanne Haik-Vantoura’s work features in this discovery, it is worth reposting the blog here.

Originally posted on The Chronicles of Johanan Rakkav:

Yehawweh (Pi`el stem)

Yehawweh (Pi`el stem)

2014-06-28 @ 06:43 CDT

(N.B.: This is a rewrite and expansion of a post I had on another, now-deleted blog.)

It may surprise those outside of Judaism (as I am, for the record) to learn how much both the Hebrew Bible and Judaic tradition emphasize the Bible as a recited text. Just as the holy book of Muslims is called the Quran, so the holy book of the Jews is called (among other things) the Miqra. The Semitic word root is the same, having to do in this context with reciting a written text.

The word with the definite article, ha-Miqra (המקרא), has a specific contextual meaning in Judaism. A Judaic scholar whose name I do not recall recently published an important work on the concept of ha-Miqra. In the publisher’s blurb this author points out (this is a paraphrase) that in the…

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Categories: So Nice I Blogged It Twice | Tags: | 2 Comments

THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF THE “BASS NEVEL” – PART 03

Gran Lira ("Aletheia") 2014-06-24

Gran Lira (“Aletheia”) 2014-06-24

2014-06-24 @ 10:30 CDT

Over the space of the past two weeks, and on my request, a woodworker I know (hereafter WM) has repaired the lyre I bought from Carlos Paniagua of Spain. Yes, the lyre worked well and sounded beautiful as I’d “repaired” it but I still heartily disliked the severe (if stable) torquing of the crossbar in the yoke. I showed WM the lyre with its strings removed, told him what I tried to do and asked if he could undo the damage (mine and that originally suffered in transit from Spain). He said he probably could.

First, WM took off the rawhide bindings I’d put on the joints. Then, he planed the joints, removing the old glue. Then, using Titebond wood glue and two finishing screws in each joint (one inserted back to front, one inserted tangentially through the joint), he made a construct which would be highly resistant to the torque of the strings. I got the repaired lyre on Sunday (to my immense gratitude) and started my own finishing work on Monday.

As the glue had yet to fully set I contented myself with soaking rawhide overnight (Sunday). From the soaked pieces (Monday morning) I cut two long strips and wrapped and tied them around the joints, then let the strips dry. They were plenty hard by this morning (Tuesday). While they don’t exactly grace Carlos’ original superb craftsmanship or WM’s repairs (which ought to be perfectly stable as they are), I wanted that little bit of extra insurance and it adds a sort of rustic charm to the whole.

As of this morning I’ve been putting a new set of strings on. I must admit that even given how hard fluorocarbon strings are to knot, I must be the world’s worst knot tier. Even with the diagram right before me, I can’t get either my mind or my fingers to wrap themselves around the required topology consistently. I had to remove one string entirely and replace it with a new one (and with a better knot).

BUT…if all goes well the lyre – rechristened “Aletheia” (which is Greek for “Truth”) – will be fully in tune and ready to play in a day or two. Perhaps by Friday I’ll be able to record my first primitive video featuring El Zurdo (my other lyre), Aletheia and the carbon fiber pennywhistle I bought recently.

Meanwhile, here is a Photobucket slideshow of my (all too frequently mis-)adventures in broken lyre repair.

(יוחנן רכב הסופר)

Categories: Bowl Lyre, Carlos Paniagua, JRV Luthier, Luthiers, Lyre of the Moon, Lyres, So Nice I Blogged It Twice, Temple Instruments | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

PSALM 5: “FOR THE FLUTES…”

Psalm 5:1-9 (Letteris Edition/KJV)

Psalm 5:1-9 (Letteris Edition/KJV)

2014-06-19 @ 13:40 CDT

I have always loved Psalm 5 in the Revised Standard Version, the translation I grew up with as a child. When I encountered it in Hebrew after having learned Suzanne Haik-Vantoura’s deciphering key to the musical accents of the Masoretic Text, I loved it more than ever. This Psalm alone is “for the flutes”, although as this is still a mizmor it was also accompanied by one or another kind of lyre (the kinnor or wood-lyre as opposed to the nevel or skin-lyre, probably).

Low E Whistle (Carbony Celtic Winds)

Low E Whistle (Carbony Celtic Winds)

I’ve seen different ideas over the years about what such flutes (nechilot, singular nachil) would have been. In a Talmudic source we are told that the apparently related chalil was made from the thigh bone of a sheep. On that premise I started thinking again about buying what I’ve wanted to buy for some time: a folk flute of some solid yet resonant material with which I could play Psalm 5 (whether the vocal melody or heterophony, that is, a melody parallel to the vocal melody). My inference that the “default pitch” of the silver trumpets ordained in Numbers 10 was (close enough) a perfect fifth above “Verdi’s A” (A = 432 Hz) added a new dimension to my thinking. But where was I to get a flute which would do the job?

Leave it to my ENFP-style, so-called “memory”: By means I do not now precisely recall, I found an instrument maker called Carbony Celtic Winds. It produces and sells wind instruments made of carbon fiber (primarily), which is denser and yet more resonant than ebony and durable indeed, with great stability in the face of temperature and humidity changes. These days violins, cellos and even harps are made of carbon fiber with great success, so I took a keen interest in its offferings. I learned from the proprietor that the low E whistle could be tuned as low as A = 432Hz although it normally plays in standard pitch, and that he could set the holes so it would play in the specific just intonation behind Mme. Haik-Vantoura’s reconstructions as well. Yesterday (2014-06-18) I got the results in the mail and it is as beautiful to hear as to look at (above). The sound is very soft (at least so far in my unskilled hands) but the tone is marvelous – just what I need to go with my ancient lyres and my vocal tone color. In time I hope to get a recording, however primitive, on one of my YouTube channels, and to premiere it in public performance later this year (assuming I can learn to play it well enough by then).

One thing this whistle – this modern evocation of an ancient vertical flute – will be which my lyres (let alone my Celtic harp) aren’t in anywhere near the same way: portable. It will be able to go almost anywhere and put up with almost anything (reasonable).

In Other News: Here is a test file from my new series of videos. In a project which may well take years to complete, I hope to create videos of all the major recordings by Suzanne Haik-Vantoura and her associates, complete with fully pointed Hebrew text (consonants, accents, vowels), transliteration (based on that used by Lev Software but somewhat modified), and English translation or paraphrase as space allows on each slide. This video is of Psalm 23, the first text on the first recording by SHV (La musique de la Bible revelee, Harmonia Mundi France, original 1976 LP and later CD reprint).

(יוחנן רכב הסופר)

Categories: Carbony Celtic Winds, Flutes and Pipes, Hebrew Bible, Letteris Edition, Psalmodia, Recordings, So Nice I Blogged It Twice, Suzanne Haik-Vantoura, Temple Instruments, The Music of the Bible Revealed, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

TUNING FILES (A = 432HZ AND 415HZ)

Sound the Alarm! (c/o Ambassador College Press)

Sound the Alarm! (c/o Ambassador College Press)

2014-06-19 @ 09:51 CDT

In an earlier post, What Was Ancient Israel’s “Tonic Pitch”? (Part 01), I made the best inferences possible concerning the “default pitch” of the silver trumpets ordained in Numbers 10. In cool dry air at sea level, to three significant digits, that pitch would be a perfect fifth above “Verdi’s A” (A = 432Hz) – assuming that the trumpets’ effective length was exactly an Egyptian royal cubit of 525mm, rather than “a little less than a cubit” as Josephus describes their length.

In this post, I make publicly available (through my Dropbox) links to ZIP files containing MP3 tuning files using A = 432Hz as a referent and starting from three different tonic pitches. I also have ZIP files containing MP3 tuning files using A = 415Hz as a referent and starting from two different tonic pitches. These last sets were prepared for a baroque musician in Jerusalem, Katharine van der Beek, who also performs Suzanne Haik-Vantoura’s biblical chant. In practice in antiquity, the referent in Jerusalem would always be lower than at sea level in the Sinai, all else being equal, due to the difference in altitude, and probably would be close to 415Hz by default. (I do not have the data or the technical skill at present to check this, but my intuition says this is a good guess. It certainly works well for Katharine!)

Here then are the links to the appropriate Dropbox files:

MP3s – A 415Hz D Tonic – Just
MP3s – A 415Hz E Tonic – Just

MP3s – A 432Hz C Tonic – Just
MP3s – A 432Hz D Tonic – Just
MP3s – A 432Hz E Tonic – Just

These were prepared using Finale (for the original files in equal temperament) and then Scala (for the finished products in just intonation as most commonly defined: the kind which lies behind the tonal hierarchy in Haik-Vantoura’s restored biblical chant).

(יוחנן רכב הסופר)

Categories: Dropbox, Internet | Tags: , | 1 Comment

TEXTS PERFORMED ON SHAVUOT (PENTECOST)

2014-06-07 @ 0746 CDT

According to the priestly reckoning (not the Pharisaic or Rabbinic reckoning) of the Hebrew calendar, today is Shavu`ot – the Pentecost of the New Testament. I am not keenly familiar with the liturgy of the Rabbinic synagogues on their Shavu`ot, but I’m told the Ten Commandments are recited, followed by the Shema Yisrael. I also understand that Psalm 67 is one of the Psalms recited, which is suitable given its symbolic subject matter. I give these texts here as deciphered by Suzanne Haik-Vantoura. – (יוחנן רכב הסופר)

Categories: Hebrew Bible, Letteris Edition, Prosodia, Psalmodia, So Nice I Blogged It Twice, Suzanne Haik-Vantoura, The Music of the Bible Revealed, Videos, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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