4.68. Jordi Savall, instrumental composition ‘Fanfare of Jericho, 1200 B.C.’ (2008)

Both Andy Haas’ album Humanitarian War, the subject of the preceding chapter, and Jordi Savall’s production Jerusalem, City of the Two Peaces, the subject of this chapter, are devoted to problems of war and peace. Both of them pay attention to the shofar; in Andy Haas’ album, the shofar expresses chaos and threat in modern warfare, whereas Jordi Savall’s production expresses aggression in an attempt at a reconstruction of the shofar sounds accompanying the biblical battle of Jericho.

In the full-length production Jerusalem, City of the Two Peaces: Heavenly Peace and Earthly Peace, the Past is altered by the Present: the point of departure of the Spanish-Catalan musician Jordi Savall (born 1941) is a widely shared desire for peace in Jerusalem as a political and religious center, and the title of his work refers both to the heavenly peace, proclaimed by the prophets, and the earthly peace, pursued by the political leaders in the city’s five thousand years of history. *Savall, Jerusalem, City of Two Peaces. CD Book 101. The double CD offers a collage of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic music from the entire history of Jerusalem.

The opening piece, Fanfare of Jericho, 1200 B.C., is a spectacular composition for shofarot and replicas of historical metal trumpets, referring to the biblical story about the conquest of Jericho. Josh. 6 mentions “seven priests carrying seven ram’s horns” and some artists, for example James Tissot in his painting The Seven Trumpets of Jericho (1902), *Tissot pictures four ḥaẓoẓrot and three unnaturally large ram’s horns picture exactly seven instruments. This seems a small group to blow down the walls of a city, the more so as larger groups of trumpets are found elsewhere in the Bible: in 2 Chron. 5:12, at the dedication of the Second Temple, ḥaẓoẓrot are blown by no less than 120 priests. Therefore, seven must be understood rather as a magic number. In Savall’s ensemble there are six shofar blowers and five nafir blowers; in his commentary, he mentions the number of fourteen, stating, “The sound produced by the 14 instruments and the drums would need to be multiplied 30 or 50-fold in order to get some idea of the sound effect produced by the legendary trumpets of Jericho,” though he does not give any arguments for these particular multipliers. However, he uses two other ways to suggest the superior power of the brass.

The first is the acoustics of the unspecified recording location with lots of reverb, and by accident, an audible thunderstorm, reinforcing the threat. The second is the organization of polyphony. Apart from alternating two-beat and three-beat rhythms on two drums from 0:41 onwards, the 1:32-minute Fanfare of Jericho is composed of no other musical material than the three traditional blasts tekiʿah, shevarim and teruʿah. According to Savall’s comment, the Fanfare is an improvisation on this material, “an entirely random construction and layering of sounds . . . built up on the basis of common rhythms and dynamics which, although individually precise, join together in a completely free fashion.” *Jerusalem, City of Two Peaces 108-9. Moreover, the animal horns have their individual pitches and colors.

The sounding together of shofarot can assume many different forms. The shofarot in Golijov’s Tekyah *Chapter 4.64 play in unison. *That is, in the film. The score, however, states: “Each player starts independently after every bar.” Simple polyphony can be heard in Berlinski’s Shofar Service, *Chapter 4.38 Braun’s Festive Horns, *Chapter 4.44 Hamburg’s Tekiah *Chapter 4.61 and Goehr’s Sonata about Jerusalem, *Chapter 4.43 and more complicated polyphony in Berio’s Shofar; *Chapter 4.54 the episode with the five shofarot at the end of section 2 in Fleischer’s Symphony No. 5 *Chapter 4.63 tends to micro-polyphony and a pure example of this technique is offered by the “Judaism” section in Normandeau’s Chorus. *Chapter 4.62 Savall’s Fanfare is the only example of heterophony, though not in its usual form with simultaneous variants of the same melody. Every time, one of the players begins, whereupon the others quickly follow at irregular intervals. This kind of polyphony is labeled “contagious heterophony” by the psychologist Steven Brown, *“Contagious Heterophony” who was inspired by a natural phenomenon. In a pack of howling wolves, each animal produces the same call, but the resulting choir, as Brown puts it, is “poorly blended in time.” *Ibid. 7. One wolf begins and the others successively enter, which results in an overlap of voices resembling chord formation in music. According to the biologist Fred Harrington, *“Chorus Howling by Wolves” such a contagious heterophony leads to a “Beau Geste effect”: because enemies overestimate the size of the pack, the territorial function of howling is enhanced. *After the novel of the same name (1924) by P.C. Wren, in which troops of the French Foreign Legion use dead comrades as “extras,” to appear more numerous than they are.

The way in which the Present of Savall’s fanfare is directed by the biblical Past raises questions. The first question concerns the dating 1200 B.C. in the title of Fanfare, suggesting that Savall considers the conquest of Jericho a historical fact. However, cities like Jericho in Canaan had no walls whatsoever which could be blown down by shofarot; moreover, there are no archaeological finds indicating that Jericho was inhabited in the late Bronze and early Iron Ages. *Finkelstein and Silberman, The Bible Unearthed 81-2.

The second question concerns the instruments. In his detailed comment with the double CD, Savall assumes that Jericho was destroyed by the blasts of the shofarot and “the ancient Oriental trumpets which are today known as anafirs.” *Jerusalem, City of Two Peaces 108. This is an all-too-easy generalization; although all “ancient Oriental” trumpets may look the same, the anafir *Johnston, All Things Medieval 525: “The trumpet’s name in Arabic was al-nafir, and in Spanish, añafil.” is a brass instrument from the Arab and Christian Middle Ages, whereas the ḥaẓoẓrah is a silver instrument from Ancient Israel/Palestine. Moreover, the story of the conquest of Jericho in Josh. 6 mentions the word shofar fifteen times in singular or plural, but no other instrument name. Savall states that he derived his data on the instruments in the battle of Jericho from the report of the Benedictine Abbot Nicholas of Thingeyrar in Iceland, who traveled to the Holy Land in the mid-12th century and visited a chapel in the Bucoleon palace in Constantinople, where he allegedly recovered the trumpets and shofarot of Jericho, along with the magic rod of Moses. This find was confirmed in the inventory of Archbishop Anthony of Novgorod in the early 13th century, and the Archbishop also mentioned the horn of the ram sacrificed by Abraham. *The source of this story, the Exuviae Constantinopolitanae (“The Holy Relics of Constantinople”), is a compendium of Latin sources on relics which were stolen in Constantinople in the aftermath of the Fourth Crusade (1202-1204). It is, however, an empirical fact that animal horns and metal trumpets, that suffer from the blower’s sweat, saliva, and warm, moist breath, seldom last longer than a few centuries, which makes the finding of instruments from the period between the 12th century BCE and the 12th century CE very unlikely. Exceptions are the still older silver and bronze trumpets from Tutankhamun’s tomb, that was discovered in 1922. *Cf. Zaki, The Legacy of Tutankhamun 134. As they had remained untouched since the late 14th century BCE, they were still playable and actually blown in a BBC broadcast of April 16, 1939, though the delicate silver trumpet was badly damaged by the British trumpeter. *Cf. Finn, “Recreating the sound of Tutankhamun’s trumpets,” featuring the 1939 recording. Just as in the case of the “recovered trumpets of Jericho,” some people attributed magical powers to Tutankhamun’s trumpets and the sounding of one of the trumpets was blamed for the outbreak of World War II. *MacDonald and Rice, Consuming Ancient Egypt 22. A quotation from 2005 may reveal the persistence of Egyptian darkness: “Could King Tut have been a trumpeter as well?” (Barnhart, The World of Jazz Trumpet: A Comprehensive History & Practical Philosophy xxiv).

Savall’s Jerusalem, City of the Two Peaces was discussed in a study about the dialogue of practical theology and the theology of the arts by the philosopher Ruth Illman and the religion scholar W. Alan Smith, who criticized “the narrow modern emphases on reason and the scientific method, as the model for all knowledge.” *Illman and Smith, Theology and the Arts: Engaging Faith: publisher’s introduction. A chapter of their book is devoted to Savall’s Jerusalem, and the authors comment on the Fanfare of Jericho as follows:

The concert starts by the sudden, archaic sound of a single shofar: a roaring cry that is soon answered by several other rams’ horns and medieval drums beating a captivating rhythm from balconies on both sides of the stage. This is the ‘Fanfare of Jericho,’ a reconstruction of the sounds that tore down the walls of this city more than 3,000 years ago. *Ibid. 140.

The authors repeat Savall’s assumption of the battle of Jericho and the blowing down of the walls by seven shofarot as historical facts and they seem not to be bothered by the anachronism of the “medieval” drums. Furthermore, they consider Savall’s composition a reconstruction. What then is to be reconstructed? The 2nd-century Mishnah mentions only the tripartite structure of the ritual system of shofar blasts: “The order of the shofar notes – Three, where in each three there are three.” *Mishnah Rosh Ha-Shanah 4:9. In The Koren Rosh HaShana Maḥzor 190. The most detailed technical description of ḥaẓoẓrah blasts in the Bible, Num. 10:3-9, is even scantier and mentions only “long blasts” and “short blasts” instead of the tekiʿah, shevarim and teruʿah, blown by Savall’s ensemble. It is simply not known whether biblical shofar and ḥaẓoẓrah fanfares sounded in unison or in a kind of heterophony or polyphony, nor is it known whether they were accompanied by percussion.

Concluding, it must be said that Savall’s composition is not tenable as a historical reconstruction of shofar blowing in Israel in the late Bronze or early Iron ages; moreover, a fanfare announcing the destruction of a city—even if this is not a historical fact—conflicts with Savall’s message of tolerance and peace between Jews, Christians, Muslims and non-believers.

 

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