Discovering Jewish music: a conference by Hervé Roten

Bordeaux’s synagogue, Wednesday May the 3rd

On May 3rd 2017 at 7 pm in the synagogue of Bordeaux, Hervé Roten will hold a conference on Jewish music, illustrated with many audio and video examples, letting us roam through 3700 years of Jewish music…

Mysterious and captivating, Jewish music express the soul of a people who spent the major part of its existence in exile. In the beginning, antique Hebrew music is rooted in Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian and Egyptian music. Between the 4th century before J.C. and the 1st century of the Christian era, Judea endures the cultural influence of Greek and Roman civilizations, reflected by the names of the Greek instruments in the book of Daniel.

JPEG - 22.1 kb
Banquet chœur - 1910

After the destruction of the Temple (70 after J.C.) and the beginning of the diaspora (130 after J.C.), the synagogue becomes the center of Jewish life. The transition from the sacrificial ritual to the prayer puts the music instruments for the worship away and establishes singing as the main vehicle of faith. The second half of the first millennium sees the emergence of the religious poetry (piyyutim), the writing of the biblical cantillation (te’amim) and the confirmation of the cantor’s role (hazzan) as keeper of the local traditions (minhagim).

The second millennium strengthens the rise of a rich and plural musical practice. Music takes then a certain distance from the text: it evolves and gets a certain independence. During the Middle-Ages and the Renaissance, several writings mention the presence of Jewish artists or composers, from which the music is lost today, due to the absence of notation. It’s in the 16th century, and especially in the 18th and 19th centuries that the first musical notations appear. In the beginning of the 20th century, various ethnographic expeditions in Europe and in North Africa allow to note several traditional Jewish music and to record fragments of musical traditions that will, for some of them, disappear during the Holocaust.


Nowadays, the Jewish musical panel is more than ever subject to an accelerating process of evolution and mutation.

Hervé ROTEN is ethnomusicologist, has a PhD in musicology from the Paris IV Sorbonne University, he is the director of the European Institute for Jewish Music, and is the author of several articles, books, and records dealing with the various aspects of the Jewish musical traditions in France and worldwide.

You may also like

Gala concert of the European Institute for Jewish Music – 3rd edition

SUNDAY NOVEMBER 12TH 2017,5H30 PM at the CORTOT HALL - 78 rue Cardinet, 75017 Paris The European Institute for Jewish Music is pleased to invite (…)

Conference: music, language and Jewish songs

Filmed conference (beneath), as part of the 1st edition of “Campus en Musique” festival, about music, languages and Jewish songs, by Hervé Roten, (…)

Du salon au front : Fernand Halphen (1872-1917), composer, patron and director of military music

A collective work published in April 2017 under the direction of Laure Schnapper, with the collaboration of Pierre-André Meyer – Preface by Hervé (…)

Marc-Alain Ouaknin invites Hervé Roten on his radio show « Talmudiques » broadcasted on France Culture

Radion Program on April 9 and 16 2017, from 9h10 am to 9h42 am. The blooming encounters of Jewish traditional songs with French variety gave (…)

Centennial of the passing of Fernand Halphen

For the centennial year of the passing of Fernand Halphen (1872 - 1917), several events will take place : Concerts, publication of a collective (…)