Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Ancient Jewish music?

I DOUBT IT: Is this the sound of worship during Jesus’ time? (Dan Williams, Reuters).
The sacred chants of the ancient Jewish temples in Jerusalem are a long-lost art. But some musicologists believe the 2,000-year-old notes can be reconstructed by drawing on traditional prayer songs heard in synagogues today, extrapolating from the sounds of biblical instruments like the harp and observing medieval church incantation that has common roots in the Holy Land.

"Some musicologists" is not very helpful, nor is "some scholars" in the audio. Which scholars or musicologists think that ancient music can be reconstructed from these sources? All the specific specialists interviewed in the audio file are skeptical, and I share their skepticism. Predictably, I suppose, I want to see the case made in the peer-review literature before I take it seriously. This whole story seems to come out of efforts by Third-Temple enthusiasts to try to recreate Temple institutions and I can see no connection with real scholarly work on ancient history. As often with such matters, the media do not seem to be able to tell the difference.