Yonatan Malin at Columbia Individual Voices and the Study of Jewish Cantillation

Talk by Dr. Yonatan Malin
Sponsored by the Jewish Music Forum
Friday, October 31, 2:00-4:00 P.M.
The Center for Ethnomusicology and Department of Music
Columbia University
Dodge Hall, Room 622

2960 Broadway
New York, NY
Admission is free; Please RSVP to info@jewishmusicforum.org

Reception to follow.

This paper is part of an ongoing project on the analysis of Jewish
cantillation in the Eastern Ashkenazic tradition. Jewish cantillation involves
the intoned reading of Biblical texts with melodies determined by accent
marks (te’amim) in printed Hebrew bibles. In other parts of the study, Malin
has explored aspects of the system broadly: how the melodies correlate with
and project text phrasing, and how they vary depending on the reading and

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Here the focus is on specific passages as chanted by two individual
readers—with original recordings from his fieldwork. It shows how the pacing of
the cantillation in these recordings relates to the narrative flow of the
creation story in Genesis I:1–5 and how the melodies, including improvised
elements, correlate with poetic structures in Isaiah 40:27–31.
The recordings are of Deborah Bronstein, a reform rabbi in Boulder,
Colorado, and Jonathan Levine, a lay reader based in Syracuse, New York.
Notably, neither recording is of a professional cantor—the traditional figure of
authority for Jewish music.

Malin’s approach raises issues of orality vs. notation, authority, and
tradition. It addresses these issues in dialogue with statements from the
readers themselves (Bronstein and Levine); statements and practices from the
tradition; scholarship in Jewish music by Hanoch Avenary, Judah Cohen,
Edwin Seroussi, Jeffrey Summit, Boaz Tarsi, and others; and scholarship on
analytical approaches to world music—including the work of Kofi Agawu and
Michael Tenzer.

Yonatan Malin is Associate Professor of Music Theory at the University of
Colorado Boulder. His areas of research include the German Lied,
music-text relations, theories of rhythm and meter, and liturgical music in Jewish
traditions. His book Songs in Motion: Rhythm and Meter in the German Lied
was published in 2010 by Oxford University Press. Professor Malin is
currently editor of Music Theory Online, a journal of the Society for Music

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Music, with the support of the American Jewish Historical Society and the
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