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Hearing Shofar: The Still Small Voice of the Ram's Horn.

2012-12-02

Archaeomusicology

ICONEA 2012, International Conference on Near Eastern Archaeomuscology, met in London in November to discuss AEROPHONES IN THE ANCIENT WORLD: NEAR AND MIDDLE EAST, EGYPT AND THE MEDITERRANEAN. Three papers focused on shofar:

Max Stern
Max Stern
Shofar: Sound, Shape and Symbol.
The shofar has always been considered a magical instrument associated with the revelation of God’s voice at Mount Sinai. Later, Joshua brought down the walls of Jericho with shofar blasts – in the ancient world, sound was known to influence matter. The shofar is the oldest surviving instrument still used in Jewish ritual. Its sound, shape, and symbolism are integral to the High Holiday Season. This lecture-demonstration exhibits a variety of shofar types and discusses their origins from animal to instrument through visual aids. It demonstrates the traditional shofar blast and deals with historical and symbolical issues aroused by it strident sonority. It concludes with a DVD presentation of the shofar as an artistic instrument, integrated into a contemporary biblical work by the author.

Malcolm Miller:
The music of the Shofar: ancient symbols, modern meanings.
Miller blowing two horns at event.
The Shofar discussed in biblical and post-biblical literature, is associated with a rich nexus of metaphorical symbolism, which has evolved over the course of time, and includes such concepts as supernatural power, joy, freedom, victory, deliverance, national identity, moral virtue, repentance, and social justice. While modern definitions have focused on the instrument’s signalling, ‘non-musical’ character, there is evidence already in the ancient writings of its ‘musical’ function, whose potential to evoke a profound aesthetic response has led to multiple interpretations of its meanings. Composers in 20th-21st centuries have incorporated the shofar into their works as a powerfully eloquent musical resource, from Elgar’s The Apostles premiered in October 1903 to Jörg Widmann’s opera ‘Babylon’ premiered at the Munich Opera just a few weeks ago in October 2012. It is the purpose of this presentation to discuss these more recent uses of the shofar and the way composers interpret the shofar’s ancient symbolism in a contemporary context, thereby highlighting both its ceremonial/religious, and its musical/aesthetic qualities.

Bruno de Florence
Shofar, Totemism and Voice: a Freudian-Lacanian Approach







From a commentary by Jacques Lacan on a text by Theodor Reik, I shall attempt to outline how we can consider musical practices as incarnated thinking. Borrowing from the notions of perception (Merleau-Ponty), jouissance (Lacan) and libido (Freud), I shall propose a model of musical performance and its listening as a continuous path along a multidimensional Moebius strip, structured by the enigma of the real of the body.


I was unable to attend, alas, and look forward to publication of the proceedings. Proceedings from past years are available at the ICONEA website. I especially look forward to reading"Summon the Gods and the People to the Sound of the Conch" in the 2009-2019 proceedings.

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