Jablonski, Marek (Michael)

Download 6.47 Mb.
Size6.47 Mb.
1   ...   635   636   637   638   639   640   641   642   ...   1182

5. Yemen.

Precisely when Jews first began to settle in Yemen is not known, although evidence from a few historical findings shows that they had arrived there by the 4th century bce. Today, however, only a few hundred Yemenite Jews remain in the north of the country; most of the population now lives in Israel, following a series of organized emigrations, beginning with a few hundred families in 1881–2 and culminating in the mass emigration of about 50,000 people in 1949–50 immediately after the founding of the State of Israel. A small community has also been established in the USA. This article concentrates on the liturgical music of the Yemenite community as it now exists in Israel.

Although throughout their history Yemenite Jews maintained contact with the various leaders of the different Jewish centres around the world, in many respects their culture differs markedly from the other traditions. Its unique character seems to preserve some particularly ancient features, especially regarding the performance of the liturgy. Even in the modern society of Israel, where acculturation is a continuing process, the Yemenite Jews tend to live together and to form homogeneous communities, especially around their synagogues, where they go to considerable lengths to retain their distinct traditions.

The Yemenite liturgy is almost identical in its text and general form to most other Orthodox traditions, however, its unique character is revealed in three principal ways. (1) The Yemenite pronunciation of Hebrew and Aramaic texts clearly differentiates almost all the consonants and vowels; traditional pronunciations by other Jewish communities often pronounce several vowels or consonants in the same way. (2) The social and liturgical roles of the congregation and cantor are unlike those usually seen in the other Jewish traditions, with the former assuming a much broader role in its interaction with the cantor (especially in the Sabbath morning service). (3) The structure of the musical items, which arises from the liturgical function of each chant, is of a different character from the other traditions, reflecting the respective roles of congregation and cantor.

The chief characteristics of Yemenite liturgical music can be explained by an analysis of the Sabbath morning service. The first part, pasuge dhazimråh (pesuqei de-zimra), includes 22 biblical chapters – 18 from the Psalms, three from the books of Chronicles and Nehemiah, and the Song of the Sea (Exodus xv). Verses from the first three texts are sung by the congregation to a tune with a non-measured rhythm that is repeated for every verse. The singing is extremely heterophonic, as every individual feels free to sing at his own tempo using occasional ornaments and melismas while preserving the ‘kernel’ of the melody (i.e. the basic group of pitches organized into fixed melodic contours). However, for the Song of the Sea the character of the singing changes abruptly. The text is sung to a new melody, which is measured and consists mostly of two rhythmic values, the short being used for the non-stressed syllables and the long for the stressed. This tune is sung slowly and loudly by the whole congregation in complete unity, creating a ‘pluri-vocal’ effect that results from the gradual transposition of the melody by individuals who decide to lower the pitch by one tone or to raise it by a 5th and thereby cause the singers nearby to follow them. This produces the effect of a series of ‘chords’ built on the intervals of a 2nd or a 4th, as is shown in ex.18.

The second part of the service, shama‘ yisrå’el (shema‘ yisrael: Deuteronomy vi.5–9 and 41, xi.13–23; and Numbers xv.37–41), consists of three biblical chapters surrounded by four extensive post-biblical benedictions. The singing is performed in solo cantorial style using the first tune from the opening part of the service and stressing its non-measured rhythm by the use of frequent melismas. Only the initial biblical chapter, is sung by the congregation, slowly and loudly according to another syllabic tune. As in the first part, the importance of this text is further emphasized by the manner of performance, which differs markedly from that of the surrounding musical items.

The majority of the third part of the service – the ‘amidhåh (‘amidah) prayer, which in the Sabbath morning liturgy consists of seven blessings – is a cantorial solo song, sung to another non-measured melody that repeats for every verse. The singing of the birkat köhanim (priestly blessing), which occurs between the sixth and seventh benedictions of the ‘amidhåh, also includes a number of unique features. The text, composed of three biblical verses (Numbers vi.24–6), is performed to the same tune as the ‘amidhåh prayer itself but with every word sung according to the main motif ‘A’, the final pitch of which is the tonic (ex.19). The cantor chants the motif first and elaborates the melody constantly, it is then repeated by the priests, who sing its essential ‘kernel’ in a more rhythmic style in order to express their unity. The final words of the first two verses are sung to another melodic motif ‘H’, which functions, through its final pitch (the one below the tonic), as the ‘herald’ of the approaching cadence – the main motif ‘A’ – on which the response 'Åmen is sung by the congregation. The cadence of the third verse, which ends the entire blessing, is further emphasized by another ‘preparatory’ motif ‘P’, which precedes the ‘heralding’ one. A typical performance of the last four words of the third verse, together with the 'Åmen’ is given in ex.19.

The Yemenites also have a unique manner of performing the hallel, the fourth part of the service consisting of Psalms cxiii–cxviii that is added to the service after the ‘amidhåh on Festivals. The whole text is sung by the cantor to a special tune of non-measured rhythm, with the congregation responding hallaluyåh after every half-verse. This manner of performance appears to be of exceptional antiquity, being mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud: ‘… like an adult who reads the hallel (for a congregation) and they respond after him with the leading word’ (Sotah 30b). The Yemenites sing the first three syllables of this word syllabically while ‘-yå’, which is stressed, is sung to a long melisma. Thus, this musical structure, which is common to all the biblical texts sung by the congregation during the service, maintains the accurate pronunciation of the words. The congregational singing of the post-biblical piyyutim, however, often distorts the accentuation of the Hebrew because most of their tunes consist of repeated metric patterns that do not reflect the linguistic accent.

The fifth part of the service, the Torah readings, is also performed differently by the Yemenites. Instead of having one expert in charge of the cantillation, each member of the congregation is expected to know the recitation of the Pentateuch. According to an ancient custom, every verse recited by the adult reader is followed by its Aramaic translation (Öngalös), performed by a boy who has prepared himself for several weeks for the ‘job’. This Aramaic version (the ‘Boy's Tune’) is a simpler variant of the Hebrew Pentateuch melody (the ‘Adult's Tune’). The singing of the ‘Boy's Tune’ by an adult is considered insulting to the congregation, whereas the use of the ‘Adult's Tune’ by a boy is simply forbidden; in this way the traditional hierarchy of the Yemenite society is maintained.

The Yemenite Pentateuch cantillation is again a unique practice and one that is probably another remnant of ancient tradition. Unlike other Jewish communities, where each of the 28 cantillation signs – the ‘tropes’ – for the 21 biblical books (except Psalms, Proverbs and the poetic sections of Job) has its own fixed musical motif, the Yemenites sing the texts according to eight musical motifs, which set only those words ending textual clauses. The remaining words are sung to reciting tones, the organization of which depends on the talent of the individual reader. The musical structure of the eight motifs expresses the degree of the disjunctive strength a particular word possesses when ending a clause. This structural principle is common to all the tunes sung during the liturgical recitations of biblical texts, which include, besides the Pentateuch, chapters from the Prophets, and from the books of Esther, Lamentation, Ruth, the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes. Ex.20 gives an example of a Pentateuch musical phrase applied to a three-part verse (see also above, §III, 2(ii), ex.5).

This example demonstrates the tendency for the first part of any verse to be sung in a ‘simple’ manner, whereas as the cantor (or the Pentateuch reader) approaches the end of a verse the more developed (‘revered’) his singing of the motifs becomes.

Jewish music, §III: Liturgical and paraliturgical

Download 6.47 Mb.

Share with your friends:
1   ...   635   636   637   638   639   640   641   642   ...   1182

The database is protected by copyright ©essaydocs.org 2023
send message

    Main page