Advertise on ChoralNet 
ChoralNet logo
The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

Choral music in Hebrew

Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998 14:26:10 EST
From: RobertamR@aol.com
To: choraltalk@lists.colorado.edu
Subject: Choral music in Hebrew

In a message dated 12/28/98 6:48:51 PM, den.wright wrote:

>Does anyone know how
>traditional (Hassidic) "written Hebrew" is utilized as vocal lyrics...
>by an Israeli musician? Meaning, if written Hebrew is read
>"right-to-left" can one ever correspondingly use it with western
>musical notation? Or must it always be transliterated, first? Or does
>one abandon current western notation? Does anyone know if there's a
>"right-to-left" Hebrew musical notation? How is Hebrew vocal music
>written, traditionally?

Israeli publications set syllables under notes like any other language, and
each syllable is read right to left even as the music is read left to right.

>(phonetic example: O-seh sha-lom bim-ro mav-hu ya-'a seh sha-lom
>al-ein-u v' al kol Yis-ra-e-il, v' im' ru A-me-in.)

BTW: The correct syllabification (by word) is:

O-seh sha-lom bim-ro-mav hu ya-'a-seh sha-lom
a-lei-nu v'-al kol Yis-ra-eil, v'-im'-ru A-mein.

//////////////////

Date: Tue, 29 Dec 1998 16:57:22 EST
From: BarMusProd@aol.com
To: wdwright51@showme.com, choraltalk@lists.colorado.edu
Subject: Re: Choral music (In Hebrew)

WDwright asked:
>So, with that background, my question is this.... Does anyone know how
traditional (Hassidic) "written Hebrew" is utilized as vocal lyrics...
by an Israeli musician? Meaning, if written Hebrew is read
"right-to-left" can one ever correspondingly use it with western
musical notation? Or must it always be transliterated, first? Or does
one abandon current western notation? Does anyone know if there's a
"right-to-left" Hebrew musical notation?< (snip)
>Perhaps the correct place to post the question would be to a Hebrew
language group... <

You asked the right place-I'm sure there are plenty of Jewish choral directors
(or former ones like me) on Choralist. The answer is simple: Israeli music
that is published in Hebrew uses normal left-to-right musical notation with
normal right-to-left reading Hebrew characters. It's not that hard once you
get used to it, as you're dealing more often only with two or three character
syllables rather than lengthy words anyway. Hebrew outside of Israel is
usually transliterated into the language of the country where it was
published-as was your experience.

By the way, "Hassidic", or more correctly "Chassidic", only means "pious" and
is usually not used as an adjective with the Hebrew language. It is in
reference to a sect of Judaism founded in the 18th century in southern Poland
and the Ukraine which then spread to Eastern Europe. You find members of the
Chassidim primarily only in the U.S. And in Israel today, due to the massive
destruction of the Holocaust.

Hebrew as a language is a very old and from Semitic roots, although the name
of the language as Hebrew ("Ivrit") is relatively recent. In Biblical times it
was called "Yehudit" ("Jewish")-the language of the Jews or "Yehudim". Today,
however, "Jewish" is an alternative name for "Yiddish", a vernacular language
which is closest to a dialect of medieval German, and was spoken by the Jews
in Eastern Europe (many of whom were members of the Chassidic sect). Have I
really confused the issue now?

In Yiddish, you will also find words derived from Hebrew, Russian, Polish, and
even English. But it is written using the consonants and vowels of the
traditional Hebrew language. How's that for a mish-mash, a perfectly fine
Yiddish word borrowed from the German "mischmasch"-a mess.

Write me personally if you need further clarification for the above.

Steve Barnett
Composer/Arranger/Producer
Barnett Music Productions
BarMusProd@aol.com

P.S. In the meantime, Nina Gilbert has sent in a clearer reply than mine. she
mentions the following variation:

>3. I think I recall seeing a facsimile of a Hebrew piece from maybe the
sixteenth century, where the notes read right to left (as did the words,
since the words were in Hebrew).<

I know what she is talking about. Perhaps it was Reuchlin _De accentibus_ or
something like that-one of the earliest transcriptions of the cantillation
modes for reciting from the Torah (the Five Books of Moses). I've not seen
that in a modern Hebrew edition.

Wait did I say that Nina's was clearer? She then goes into an explanation of a
Nurit Hirsch songbook that's about as bad as my Chassidic/Yiddish/Jewish
explanation above. Oh, well-sorry Nina (how are you?). The answer to the
original question is "yes".

////////////////

Date: Fri, 1 Jan 1999 19:40:47 EST
From: Penguist@aol.com
To: choraltalk@lists.colorado.edu
Subject: Re: Choral music

In a message dated 12/28/1998 10:33:43 AM Pacific Standard Time,
wdwright51@showme.com writes:

<< So, with that background, my question is this.... Does anyone know how
traditional (Hassidic) "written Hebrew" is utilized as vocal lyrics...
by an Israeli musician? Meaning, if written Hebrew is read
"right-to-left" can one ever correspondingly use it with western
musical notation? Or must it always be transliterated, first? Or does
one abandon current western notation? Does anyone know if there's a
"right-to-left" Hebrew musical notation? How is Hebrew vocal music
written, traditionally?

Since every choral or vocal work I've ever performed in Hebrew utilized
transliterated phonetics, I wonder if this is the only way? Perhaps
someone in the choral group will know...

(phonetic example: O-seh sha-lom bim-ro mav-hu ya-'a seh sha-lom
al-ein-u v' al kol Yis-ra-e-il, v' im' ru A-me-in.)

Perhaps the correct place to post the question would be to a Hebrew
language group...
--
>>

As far as I know, traditional Hebrew music is passed on by oral tradition - I
haven't seen it written down. Which doesn't mean it isn't... When I go to
services, the attendees get a "Nigun," or songbook, which consists of the
words to the chants, songs, and prayers. But no music - everyone seems to
know the music, and those who don't manage to pick it up pretty fast.

Margaret Bloebaum


/////////////////////

Date: Sat, 2 Jan 1999 11:47:07 EST
From: Chelie1906@aol.com
To: choraltalk@lists.colorado.edu
Subject: Re: Choral music - Hebrew

Listers: This is from my colleague Alfred V. Fedak:


As I understand it, when written Hebrew (which reads right-to-left) is
interlined in the music, the order of syllables in the Hebrew words are
reversed, so that they can be placed under the correct notes, while the
spelling of each individual syllable remains right-to-left. This is actually
the way vocal music is printed in Israel.

To imagine what it's like to deal with this, think of singing English words to
music notation which reads not from left-to-right, but from right-to-left
(i.e., backwards). Using the system described above, the word "Jerusalem"
would appear as "lem-sa-ru-Je." Fun, huh?

Al


/////////////////////

Date: Sun, 03 Jan 1999 00:08:51 GMT
From: avij@pacbell.net
To: choraltalk@lists.colorado.edu
Subject: Re: Choral music - Hebrew

In article ,
Chelie1906@aol.com wrote:
> Listers: This is from my colleague Alfred V. Fedak:
>
> As I understand it, when written Hebrew (which reads right-to-left) is
> interlined in the music, the order of syllables in the Hebrew words are
> reversed, so that they can be placed under the correct notes, while the
> spelling of each individual syllable remains right-to-left. This is actually
> the way vocal music is printed in Israel.
>
> To imagine what it's like to deal with this, think of singing English words to
> music notation which reads not from left-to-right, but from right-to-left
> (i.e., backwards). Using the system described above, the word "Jerusalem"
> would appear as "lem-sa-ru-Je." Fun, huh?

Chelie,

Your description is absolutely perfect. I returned to the US about a year and
a half ago after 27 years in Israel, where I was active in all of Israel's
leading professional choirs and vocal ensembles.

Having spent half my life there, my Hebrew is accentless and of native
proficiency, I am perfectly comfortable with the fixed-do system of solfege
used there, and I have no problem doing math exercises aloud in Hebrew. But
in nearly 30 years, I never got used to the system of text transcription used
for Hebrew (and accurately described by Chelie). My sightsinging skills are
excellent in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Latin -- but not
in Hebrew! Whenever I was handed music to sightsing in Hebrew, I could not
do it until I had quickly jotted down a transliteration in Roman characters.

--
Avi Jacobson | When an idea is
avij@pacbell.net | wanting, a word
| can always be found
| to take its place.
| -- Goethe