Author Topic: What did the Psalms sound like in ancient Israelite worship?  (Read 1100 times)

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Offline rakovsky

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What did the Psalms sound like in ancient Israelite worship?
In the Old Testament, David is described as playing for David on a harp, and as Israel's "sweet singer" of the Psalms.

Psalm 33:2 goes:
"Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings."

I can imagine that the songs can be sung sweelty by a young person accompanied by a harp, and sometimes the opening of the Psalms in the Bible gives an instrument or melody to be played on. But 3000 years later, we don't know even generally what ancient Hebrew melodies sounded like, do we?

Typically what I see online look like modern recreations and modern versions, probably with major Westernization.

With Accompaniment

PSALMS 1 (hebrew)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pSe4xLNMmI

Psalm 3
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSe_IpIZcXc

Psalm 8 sung in Hebrew
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZTx1vIpksc

Psalm 27 Of David Hebrew Song
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKW53eBWKGw

Choneni Elohim, from Psalm 51 (Be Gracious to me O G-d)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpHy77S-ITs
Song written and performed by Christene Jackman

Lost Melodies - Hebrew Chanting - Psalm 95
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEfF8fr5stY

Psalm 147 in Hebrew
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHX1yFIaV_4

Tehilim ק'נ -(Psalm 150)-Eyal Golan-English+Hebrew Lyrics
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvng2arR0SM


No Accompaniment

Rabbi Zakharya Yitshak reads Chapter 142 of Psalms (Tehilim) in yemenite-hebrew in front of 22,000
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4COLoQ15GTc
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Offline Iconodule

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Re: What did the Psalms sound like in ancient Israelite worship?
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2017, 07:07:47 PM »
I don't know the answer to the question, but I predict many pages of google findings, Wikipedia articles, tangential text snippets, and inconclusive commentary on said snippets, correlated and catalogued in as dense a manner as possible on an Internet forum.
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Offline Porter ODoran

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Re: What did the Psalms sound like in ancient Israelite worship?
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2017, 07:29:12 PM »
There have survived all kinds of Hebrew-based liturgical chant, from the Church to Sephardic to Samaritan. Can we know what David sounded like? Of course not, and such expectations defy the truths of mortal experience. But we can enjoy some idea, and I suggest you listen to samples of chant like I listed above -- beautiful, transcendent experience.
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Offline rakovsky

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Re: What did the Psalms sound like in ancient Israelite worship?
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2017, 07:31:38 PM »
There have survived all kinds of Hebrew-based liturgical chant, from the Church to Sephardic to Samaritan. Can we know what David sounded like? Of course not, and such expectations defy the truths of mortal experience. But we can enjoy some idea, and I suggest you listen to samples of chant like I listed above -- beautiful, transcendent experience.
Thanks, Porter.


Have a blessed day.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2017, 07:33:58 PM by rakovsky »
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Offline RaphaCam

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Re: What did the Psalms sound like in ancient Israelite worship?
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2017, 11:35:34 PM »
Funny that you didn't come across anything by Haïk-Vantoura, she dedicated her lifework to decode the teamim, an ancient Hebrew chanting (cantillation) set of marks used to guide readers of the Old Testament, sometimes (such as in the Book of Psalms) used as complex musical notation. Here's her pleasurable rendering of Psalm 150, I'm not a specialist in ancient music, but it sounds like Classical Greek melodies to my years. Maybe Hellenic influence, or maybe just areal Mediterranean features:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kf4fbX7Z9cU

I opened a thread about it here (you'll need to log-in to view it): https://www.christianforums.com/threads/music-of-the-bible-revealed-by-suzanne-ha%C3%AFk-vantoura.7959447/
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Offline Porter ODoran

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Re: What did the Psalms sound like in ancient Israelite worship?
« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2017, 11:46:09 PM »
Funny that you didn't come across anything by Haïk-Vantoura, she dedicated her lifework to decode the teamim, an ancient Hebrew chanting (cantillation) set of marks used to guide readers of the Old Testament, sometimes (such as in the Book of Psalms) used as complex musical notation. Here's her pleasurable rendering of Psalm 150, I'm not a specialist in ancient music, but it sounds like Classical Greek melodies to my years. Maybe Hellenic influence, or maybe just areal Mediterranean features:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kf4fbX7Z9cU

I opened a thread about it here (you'll need to log-in to view it): https://www.christianforums.com/threads/music-of-the-bible-revealed-by-suzanne-ha%C3%AFk-vantoura.7959447/

What melodies do you have in mind?
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

Quote from: Seekingtrue
Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline RaphaCam

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Re: What did the Psalms sound like in ancient Israelite worship?
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2017, 01:28:24 AM »
Funny that you didn't come across anything by Haïk-Vantoura, she dedicated her lifework to decode the teamim, an ancient Hebrew chanting (cantillation) set of marks used to guide readers of the Old Testament, sometimes (such as in the Book of Psalms) used as complex musical notation. Here's her pleasurable rendering of Psalm 150, I'm not a specialist in ancient music, but it sounds like Classical Greek melodies to my years. Maybe Hellenic influence, or maybe just areal Mediterranean features:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kf4fbX7Z9cU

I opened a thread about it here (you'll need to log-in to view it): https://www.christianforums.com/threads/music-of-the-bible-revealed-by-suzanne-ha%C3%AFk-vantoura.7959447/

What melodies do you have in mind?
Some songs with this vibe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGVezj1gmLc
"May the Lord our God remember in His kingdom all Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, which heralds the Word of Truth and fearlessly offers and distributes the Holy Oblation despite human deficiencies and persecutions moved by the powers of this world, in all time and unto the ages of ages."

Check my blog "Em Espírito e em Verdade" (in Portuguese)

Offline RaphaCam

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Re: What did the Psalms sound like in ancient Israelite worship?
« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2017, 01:37:04 AM »
Also, check this blog the other poster in Christian Forums handed me, by Bob MacDonald, I think I'll buy his book: https://meafar.blogspot.com.br/p/music.html

Also, Ken Behrens's book on the teamim: http://kenbehrens.com/Te%27amim.pdf
"May the Lord our God remember in His kingdom all Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, which heralds the Word of Truth and fearlessly offers and distributes the Holy Oblation despite human deficiencies and persecutions moved by the powers of this world, in all time and unto the ages of ages."

Check my blog "Em Espírito e em Verdade" (in Portuguese)

Offline rakovsky

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Re: What did the Psalms sound like in ancient Israelite worship?
« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2017, 02:09:30 AM »
Rapha,
I think you might want to read critical reviews of this theory.

I found some Psalm melody recordings based on the David Cipher but didn't post them because I read a critical review saying that it's very unreliable. The modern creator imagined that the letters of the hebrew alphabet lined up with musical notes or something like that. The critical review pointed out different reasons why it's unreliable, like it is clear what note to start the song at.
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Offline RaphaCam

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Re: What did the Psalms sound like in ancient Israelite worship?
« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2017, 02:29:12 AM »
Rapha,
I think you might want to read critical reviews of this theory.

I found some Psalm melody recordings based on the David Cipher but didn't post them because I read a critical review saying that it's very unreliable. The modern creator imagined that the letters of the hebrew alphabet lined up with musical notes or something like that. The critical review pointed out different reasons why it's unreliable, like it is clear what note to start the song at.
Sure, feel free to post it.
"May the Lord our God remember in His kingdom all Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, which heralds the Word of Truth and fearlessly offers and distributes the Holy Oblation despite human deficiencies and persecutions moved by the powers of this world, in all time and unto the ages of ages."

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Offline rakovsky

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Re: What did the Psalms sound like in ancient Israelite worship?
« Reply #10 on: May 12, 2017, 02:47:44 AM »
Ok, here it is:
http://ancient-hebrew.proboards.com/thread/72/davidic-cipher

I just like to see critical reviews first.
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Offline Diego

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Re: What did the Psalms sound like in ancient Israelite worship?
« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2017, 01:30:39 AM »
Recommendation: Visit an Orthodox synagogue, and listen to the Shacharis service on a Saturday morning. The chanting therein, the Hebrew trope, is descended from from the Ancient Temple chanting. Having heard various forms of Orthodox Christian psalmody myself, I think you will find that what you hear in shul (another word for synagogue, and preferred by Yiddish-speaking Jews) sounds a bit familiar to you from your own musical tradition. Obviously, the language is different, but, because Orthodox Christianity retained more elements from Judaism than we in the Western Church did, the connections are still there.

Shacharis, incidentally is Ashkenazi Hebrew and is the Morning Service. In Sephardi and Biblical Hebrew it is Shacharit.
« Last Edit: May 25, 2017, 01:31:47 AM by Diego »

Offline Alpha60

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Re: What did the Psalms sound like in ancient Israelite worship?
« Reply #12 on: June 01, 2017, 02:24:15 AM »
I think a look at cantillation marks might prove useful in exploring the realm of "what did they sound like."   Alao,for that matter, the Beta Israel and Ethiopian Orthodox have preserved intact an ancient Judaic interpretation; the two faiths somewhat validate each other in authenticity by virtue of their lack of differentiation in areas such as music, vestments, the contents of the Old Testament, et cetera.

So we probably, through them, can at least access how the Psalms sounded in ancient Ethiopian worship.  To what extent that resembled ancient Israelite worship is a guess.

If one listens to recordings of Yemeni, Syrian and other Middle Eastern Jews, as well as the Karaites of Egypt and Syria, their cantillation is reminiscent of the highly semitic Syriac Orthodox, Assyrian and Coptic churches, but we cannot say if this is the result of a common heritage or merely shared cultural influences (for example, consider how the music in the Ashkenazi choral synagogues of Moscow and other Eastern European cities consists of a great deal of four part harmony and often sounds like modern Russian or Ukranian Orthodox music; the similiarity between Jewish cantillation and Chriatian hymnody in the Levant could be the result of similiar cultural interaction, albeit several hundred years earlier).
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Re: What did the Psalms sound like in ancient Israelite worship?
« Reply #13 on: June 01, 2017, 03:09:04 AM »
Recommendation: Visit an Orthodox synagogue, and listen to the Shacharis service on a Saturday morning. The chanting therein, the Hebrew trope, is descended from from the Ancient Temple chanting. Having heard various forms of Orthodox Christian psalmody myself, I think you will find that what you hear in shul (another word for synagogue, and preferred by Yiddish-speaking Jews) sounds a bit familiar to you from your own musical tradition. Obviously, the language is different, but, because Orthodox Christianity retained more elements from Judaism than we in the Western Church did, the connections are still there.

Shacharis, incidentally is Ashkenazi Hebrew and is the Morning Service. In Sephardi and Biblical Hebrew it is Shacharit.

Why then do Ashkenazim and Sephardim interpret the cantillation marks differently?  Sola scriptura completely collapses with regards to the Synagogue services; we don't know how the cantillation marks were interpreted in the era of Christ, we don't know how old, exactly, the Ashkenazi or Sephardic liturgies are, or why they are so much longer than the Yemeni liturgy.  There is also of  course the vast gulf between the Rabinnical, Karaite and Ethiopian traditions.   Much of the Jewish liturgy, the Jewish encyclopedia admits, is of more recent provenance, for example, numerous medieval and renaissance allusions to the Kaballah were added into the Sephardic and Ashkenazi rites; especially in recent hymnography by Chasidic Jews (consider the Chabad hymns declaring their late Rebbe to be the Messiah).   

Of those portions we know to be ancient, such as the Litany known as the Shemoneh Esrei, here we know an anti-Christian polemical addition was made: the name of this prayer means the "eighteeen", and contains eighteen blessings; however, at some point a nineteenth clause cursing heretics, implicitly, Christians and non-Pharisees/proto-Rabinical/Mishnaic Jews was added, and I have read several scholars who are of the opinion that that interpolation is what sealed the schism between the early Church and Judaism, and stopped Christians from routinely attending synagogue services.

We might well consider ignorance of Hebrew among the laity of Antioch facilitated the major proselytization effort by the local synagogues directed towards the Christian population we see St. John Chrysostom reacting to in his homilies.  Of course, St. John was a Greek speaker; I am not sure if he was aware of and cannot recall if he mentioned the curse contained in the Shemoneh Esrei, although certainly his contemporary St. Jerome would have been aware of it (one curious thing; St. Epiphanius provides a description of phylacteries in the Panarion which is either completely wrong suggesting an implausible ignorance of Jewish culture, or else the current form used in liturgical worship by the Rabinnical Jews postdates the Fourth Century).

I suspect what we here at an AshkenaZi shul is of comparatively recent origin; Sephardic and Yemeni Judaism, as well as more obscure (and existentially threatened) rites, such as those of the Romaniote, Boukaran or Syrian Jews, of of the Karaites, may be of more value.

What we have though is, in both cases, parallel derivation: just as Orthodox Judaism does not predate  Christianity but rather postdates it, being a reaction to the destruction of the temple, and the consequent collapse of the more Temple-oriented Sadducees, an evolution of NT era Pharisaical Judaism into a codified legal system via the Mishnah and the Talmud which could operate with Rabbis and Poseks,  and without a Temple or Sanhedrin, to provide the correct interpretation of Torah, we can I think safely say that all surviving Jewish music is a derivation of the ancient forms, just as the Orthodox Christian music is likewise a derivation.  So some hymns are shared between the two faiths, like the Psalms, but mostly, Christianity and Rabinnical Judaism are distinct successors to the ancient religion of the Second Temple, each with a radically different eschatological and soteriological concept.

The music of the Beta Israel and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, where the Beta Israel have resisted the pressure to culturally assimiliate and adopt Rabinnical customs since their mass emigration from Ethiopia during the Derg communist regime (a few stayed behind, probably owing to a desire to be close to the Ark of the Covenant, and I believe a thousand or so are left), might possibly reflect First Temple era Judaic hymnody, particularly if the Ethiopian legends concerning their history and acquisition of the Ark are true.  I think even if those legends are true, the music would reflect an Ethiopian acculturation of the ancient music, although whatever it is, it is quite ancient (Ethiopia having one of the world's oldest systems of musical notation, possibly predating the system of cantillation marks found in Hebrew Bibles like the Masoretic text).

Also of some interest is the worship and music of the Samaritans; their liturgy, contained in the Defter, their equivalent of a Siddur, lacks the Psalms, but in many respects looks like a Jewish synagogue service; however, we do know it has changed several times over the centuries and has been modified to reflect theological concepts borrowed from a range of sources including mainstream Judaism and also Islam, as the Samaritan population shifted from speaking Samaritan Hebrew to Samaritan Aramaic and then Arabic.

Alas, the precise forms of worship, the actual sound of the Second Temple, is unavailable to us; none of the ancient Hebraic rites can claim to be an unmodified form of first century synagogue music, and what is more, synagogue services and the Temple services were likely quite distinct. 

What is available to us are beautiful and endangered living traditions both among the persecuted Christians of the Middle East, and also among the Jews of the Levant, who are being assimilated into Sephardic or Yemeni worship, with the ancient particulars of their nusach, or order of worship, ignored, deprecated or obliterated, for example, the tragic near extinction of the rites of the  Romaniote Jews historically from Greece.  Even the Beta Israel liturgy is under threat of assimilation due to Israeli Rabbis seeking to correct perceived "errors" (gross errors, from a Talmudic perspective) in their worship and praxis.
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Offline Porter ODoran

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Re: What did the Psalms sound like in ancient Israelite worship?
« Reply #14 on: June 01, 2017, 01:51:38 PM »
Sola scriptura completely collapses with regards to the Synagogue services ...

Well now here's an imaginative use of the term.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

Quote from: Seekingtrue
Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy