[b-hebrew] TRe: poetic accents and poetic metre

rochelle altman willaa at netvision.net.il
Thu Sep 14 04:53:52 EDT 2006

At 01:03 AM 9/14/2006, Yonah Mishael wrote:


Do you always misinterpret what is written? Does the use of 'chant' offend 
me? A rather strange interpretation of what I write. Of course I am not 
"offended." .. What I find exceedingly problematic is the use of chant to 
render melodious and, more often then not, lyrical song.

The major problem with the reconstructied of Gregorian Chant is that there 
is no bilingual, no way to cross-check the results. This is not true of the 
Hebrew Psalms. There exists an early bilingual for Hebrew-English Psalms. 
We know the melodies and, the instructions on *how* to sing the Psalm are 
written into the MS.  All one needs do is to follow the instructions in the 
MS, use the bilingual to cross-check, and there you are: the Psalms as sung 
-- not chanted, SUNG --in the second temple period.. (From the responsorial 
patterns, probably First temple, but that cannot be demonstrated)

When you know what a Psalm actually sounds like when sung and then hear it 
chanted in, for example, the blessing before meals, it is impossible not to 
express sorrow at the discrepancy.

Nor am I among the scholars who compares Hebrew chant to Gregorian. Read 
Dr. Caen's paper to find the names of the culprits. I know better. After 
all, Hebrew chant is syllabic; Gregorian Chant is selismatic.

Your comment that 'chant' is associated with religious use is a half truth. 
There are charm chants (e.g., 'rain, rain, go away), football chants (Rah, 
Rah, Rah, Sis boom bah, Name, Name, Rah, Rah Rah), end so forth. Today few 
recognize the nursery rhyme as a charm against falling rain (sung to the 
same chant tune as the OE charm against a wen); I rather doubt folks 
realize that the nonsense words of football chants are a charm chant .While 
there certainly is a religious aspect to such secular chants, I sincerely 
doubt the people who chant them have any thought of religion in mind.

A reminder, Yonah, my specialty is religious song from Sumer on down the 
ages. While Peter Jeffries denies it, religious song has one aspect of 
immense importance to a scholar: continuity. Eric Werner, among 
others,demonstrates it. For that matter, this is so self-evident, that Apel 
(of the book on Gregorian Chant, that I mentioned) tosses it off as a given.

The structure of Biblical Hebrew song is directly descended from 
Sumero-Akkadian. We need not be surprised at the similarities between 
Cana'anite and Biblical songs; they follow the same tradition. Enheduanna's 
songs are as multi-vocal and multi-level as David's songs. All this 
complexity was destroyed when the Psalms and Hymns were 'standardized' -- 
chant adds another level of destruction and obfuscation by removing the 

Can you tell from the intonational notation that, for example, Psalm 96 is: 
(a) pre-Monarchial, and (b) has the rhythms of a work song? It would make 
an excellent sea chanty. (Yet another class of 'song'.) Small wonder that 
Jerome reports that the workers in Paula's community  sang Psalms while 
plowing, sowing, tending the vines, and so on. Or that the 'long one,' the 
name for Psalm 119, was the choice to sing, not chant, sing, while 
"marching" between monasteries..It is, after all, a song to sing 
'baderech." And its rhythms are that of a marching song. (Add another class 
of song.) Ask yourself if these aspects of either Psalm survive the change 
to chant.

As far as 'synonyms' go, you answered your own question. Each term refers 
to a different aspect of the referent.For example, 'car' and 'auto refer to 
the same object. Car refers to the physical object; auto to the mode of 
movement. Overlap? Yes. Synonymous? No.

As I already said melody is a terrific mnemonic, I fail to understand your 

Oops, I have to run.


>Dr. Altman:
> > You see, if you had read the article (or even paid attention to what I
> > wrote), you would know that Gregorian Chant is specifically mentioned as
> > the model used by some authorities to make claims about Hebrew Chant.
>Have you ever chanted the text of the Hebrew Bible? I don't know about
>other people, but when I sing the Torah, it doesn't sound *anything*
>like a Gregorian chant.
> > Now: Chant:
> > Latin cantum > Anglo-Norman French > chaunt > ModE. chant
> >
> > Standard usage: "a measured, monotonous song; usually implying something
> > less tuneful than an air or song.."
>[Middle English] chanten < [Old French] chanter, canter < [Latin]
>cantare < [Indo-European base] *kan- (to sing)
>The word "chant" as a verb comes from the word "to sing," and can be
>traced all the way to its IE root (beyond Latin), and you have given
>only one meaning of the word in English usage. The fact that I and
>many others use "chant" for the Hebrew Bible (including the Psalms)
>indicates that this "standard usage" definition is not complete.
> > The 14th-century name for a rooster, "chauntacleer" or "chaunteclere." is
> > onomatopoeic, after the cock's crow. -- which certainly is  monotonous and
> > less tuneful than an air or song. So, for that matter is a charm chant.Both
> > cock's crow and charm chant reveal the standard perception of what is meant
> > by 'chant.'
>Perhaps what you think of when you say "chant," but definitely not what I 
> > Now melody is one heck of a mnemonic, That the prose of the MT is set to
> > 'chant' is one thing; to do it to songs is another.There are good reasons
> > why Psalms were known as '"hearpan sang" -- harp song, -- and that, Yonah,
> > is 11th-century English.
>Indeed, we use the tones of the trope to memorize and use biblical
>passages, and we also can use them to memorize the Psalms. I do not
>understand the injustice that you see in this. The trope was
>superimposed over the Psalms and other poetic portions of the Tanakh
>for a reason, and that was to guide reading.
> > Further, there were more than 300 attempts to set
> > English translations of the Psalms to melodies between the sixteenth
> > century and the first quarter of the twentieth century. And those melodies
> > emulated folk song! That also says something about the perceived
> > distinction between song and chant.
>So? We sing the Psalms in Hebrew with various melodies, also. What
>point does this make?
> > There are no synonyms in the English language.
>No synonyms? There is definite semantic overlap between various words
>in the English language. What is the difference in a medical situation
>between "operation" and "surgery"? What is the difference between the
>"effect" of an action and its "result"? How about between
>"multiplying" a couple of numbers and "timesing" them?
>Small nuance differences between synonyms (which certainly *do* exist
>in English) can often be attributed to the register of speech being
>used in a given linguistic sample, an attempt to diversify a message
>enough to maintain the interest of the audience, and the lexical
>treasury of (number of words available to) a speaker.
>In the case of "chant" and "sing," we have come to differentiate them
>in modern usage because of the former's religious connotation (as is
>the case with many other "religious words" that do not normally have a
>place in regular life: dispensation, atonement, grace, etc.). Although
>some people have come to draw a complete separating line between the
>two (and although "chant" has been used for things other than "singing
>melodically"), this does not rule out the use of "chant" for melodic
>singing, and this is how many people use it even today when they are
>referring to religious poetry or religious texts that are set to song
>in general.
> > If 'chant' meant solely
> > 'song', one of the words
> > would have disappeared centuries ago. It doesn't, though. It means a
> > specific type of song..
>This is not the case because they are not completely synonymous. You
>should have stated that there are no complete synonyms in the English
>language. However, this would not apply to my point, since I did not
>say that they are COMPLETE synonyms. CHANT generally has a different
>purpose than SING, and that is (as stated above) that "chant" is used
>more for religious melodies and songs that are put to ancient
>religious texts.
> > "People longing to turn the word ''religion' into a byword' ??? Hoo, boy!
> > This one won the "prys."..
>Give me a good reason, then, for "chant" NOT to be used when
>discussing the text of the Bible? My reasons for using "chant" are
>(1) The text of the Bible is set to a specific group of tones that
>have been received as a tradition from previous generations (even when
>these tones vary among groups);
>(2) This group of tones is limited in number and could be applied to
>any text with the same result;
>(3) The purpose of this addition of musical notation was to aid in
>memorization of the text and in its recitation; and,
>(4) Other people that I have studied under have called it "chanting"
>as I was learning to sing the text myself.
>So, again, why does "chant" offend you when it is a perfectly suitable
>term for what is going on with the text of the Bible and its
>recitation in modern times?
>Yonah Mishael ben Avraham
>Joplin, MO
>yonahmishael at gmail.com

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