Music of the Bible Revealed

Disclaimer:
As noted below, this work is controversial. Its author makes a good case for her work, but many other scholars do not accept it. 

We do not consider ourselves qualified to decide one way or another. We present this work here only for its interest, not because we believe that it is (or isn't) what its creator claims. 

 

French composer/scholar Suzanne Hak-Vantoura believes that she has deciphered musical notations in the original text of the Bible. The notations are found in what are called "te'amin," which are accent marks found above and below the main text in all Hebrew manuscripts.
     Ms. Hak-Vantoura began working on deciphering these symbols around 1970. It was a slow, laborious process, involving much trial and error. One important part of her work revolved around the ancient art of chironomy, an ancient method in which hand signs are used to transmit music. Ms. Hak-Vantoura reports that once she began to look at the te'amin as possibly representing graphical representations of chirometric hand signs, a key to deciphering the the Biblical notation began to emerge from her work. Eventually she created a deciphering key in which each of the Biblical symbols can be translated into notes on a scale.
     One interesting thing about Ms. Hak-Vantoura's deciphering key is that, when applied to the Biblical notation, it always yields coherent music, not music sometimes and noise another. Also, the music is always well suited to the mood of the words it accompanies in the text. 
    Ms. Hak-Vantoura's work has been acclaimed by some scholars as a definite breakthrough, but is rejected by other scholars as still leaving too much room for subjective interpretation.
     Most of the Psalms have now been deciphered using Ms. Hak-Vantoura's key, and several recordings of the resulting music have been made. Below are some samples of those recordings.

Some listening notes:

As you listen to these recordings it is a good idea to have your Bible open to the appropriate Psalm. The language is Hebrew, which few of us are accustomed to hearing even in speech, let alone sung, so it will be difficult to follow along unless you have something to help you know what is being sung.
    "Checkpoints" - there are some things you can listen for to help you keep your place in the Psalm. 
     The most prominent is the word "Adonai.," which is used wherever you see the uppercase "LORD" in your English Bible. The actual text will contain the tetragrammaton -- YHWH -- which Jewish practice would never have sung. Instead, the name "Adonai" has been substituted. This word is easily distinguishable in the singing, and you can use its occurrences to help you know where the singer is in the Psalm
     Another noticeable feature is a distinct pause at the end of each phrase or verse. Sometimes the pause is only enough for a quick breath, but it will be noticable.
     Every selection includes the short preface we see in the Bible -- "A Psalm of David," "A Song of Ascents, of David,"  etc.
     We have noted beside each selection some other words you might distinguish in the performance.  

 

The following selections require the Real Audio player. 
If you do not have the player, you can download a free copy of it here:
 Download free RealAudio Player

The Selections: all selections (except the second version of Psalm 150) are from "La Musique de la Bible Revelee" - Harmonia Mundi, HMA190989. This CD can be ordered from several online CD stores. 
Psalm 23 Link now fixed - was previously linked to a modern version of the Psalm.

As you listen to this Psalm, try to imagine David singing to Saul to soothe his troubled spirit. "Adonai" is prominent at both the beginning and end. You may also notice a distinct change in the mood of the music as he sings about walking in the valley of the shadow of death.
Psalm 24 Very messianic. The tone very much reflects the expectation of a conquering Messiah. The last part of this Psalm sings about the "gates," and in Jewish belief refers to the East gate into Jerusalem, through which they believe Messiah will enter the city. The present day Arabs have bricked up that gate to prevent His entrance.
   Here you will very clearly hear the "Selah"  at the ends of verses 6 and 10. You may also hear "elohim" and "Adonai elohim" if you listen carefully enough.
      The Psalm is sung as a series of statements or questions and responses from alternating groups of singers. You will very clearly hear the switch in mood at verse 7.
Psalm 122 One of the Psalms of Ascents. 
These were sung during the Fall Festivals, by the priests on the steps of the temple, They would stand on the bottom step and sing the first Psalm of Ascent, then they would move up a step and sing the next Psalm, etc.
     These were also sung by families on their way "up to Jerusalem" to keep the Feast. This setting is reminiscent of such a setting. One family member begins the Psalm, then others respond. 
     Here you will hear several familiar words, if you listen carefully. Jerusalem is mentioned more than once. (yeruwshalaim). Also very noticeable is Israel (ysraiel), "Jah" , "name of Jehova" (shem Adonai), and "Peace of Jerusalem" (shalowm yeruwshalaim). 
   We think that the end of the Psalm, singing about the peace of Jerusalem, is especially beautiful.
Psalm 150 The great Hallelujah that concludes the Book of Psalms. 

Here is a second performance of this Psalm, sung by Esther Lamandier, who has recorded a CD with 26 different Psalms from Haki-Vantoura's work. (CD is Alienor AL 1041.  We found it at a Dutch internet music store, but you may be able to order it through a US site as well.)

We want to thank Ron Dart of CEM Ministeries, for passing along information that led us to locate these CD's. We had been aware of the existence of Ms. Hak-Vantoura's work, but had not located any samples of it until Ron passed along some information that allowed us to locate the recordings and a book. 

Suzanne Hak-Vantoura published a book in 1978 describing her work and what she discovered. The original book is in French, but an English translation has been made and can be ordered from most major online bookstores. The title is "The Music of the Bible Revealed," Suzanne Hak-Vantoura, BIBAL Press, Berkeley, CA and King David's Harp, Inc, San Francisco, CA

 


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