Notes on haphtorah and torah cantillation pages

Following this link will take you to a page showing the common tropes for haphtorah cantillation, their musical notation and the tunes themselves as embedded midi files. Note that the page may take a little time to load. This is not because of delays in downloading the files, which are very small, but because your browser has to set up all the embedded midi objects.

You can print the page off to refer to the musical notation, or you can play the notes live on your computer from the embedded midi files. Hopefully the advantages it may offer to some people are that it provides tunes commonly used in Britain and that because the music comes as midi files instead of digitised recordings it should be relatively fast to download.

Browser setup

Please note that in order to play the music your computer and browser need to be able to handle midi files, which are small digitised music files. How to set this up depends on which type of browser and version you have. For example with Netscape for Windows then you might have to edit the applications preference to use the application c:\windows\mplayer.exe to deal with midi files (with a .mid extension). If there is a choice then you may have to specify that the application should be run as an OLE server. The ideal is that a little player icon appears to the left of the notation and that when you click on it the tune is played without creating another window.

I must confess that with later versions of Netscape I have had more and more trouble getting the embedded midi files to work. A plug-in is generally already set up by the Netscape installation procedure. The behaviour of embedded midi files is completely baffling, because the same files work fine from one machine but not from another. The problem is impossible to sort out because Netscape silently installs various different plug-ins and there seems no way to configure them or even to tell which one is being used.

To get round these problems with embedded files I have now added an explicit link to each midi file. If you do not see the player icon then right-click on the text saying "Right-click here if no player". Then choose "Open in New Window" and a new Netscape window will open with the midi player in it, playing the tune. I advise you not to left-click on this link because then you will jump straight to the new window, leaving the main page. Then when you return to it you will have to wait again while it all reloads.

Although the behaviour with regard to embedded files seems pretty unpredictable, they do seem to work much better off the local hard disk rather than from a distant computer. Sometimes they suddenly start working when the midi file is in the cache. (I suspect that the player does not display if there is too much delay in loading the file, or something.) So if you are interested in these pages then I strongly advise you to try downloading the zip file and setting the pages up on your own computer.

Finally, if the page containing the embedded midi files proves impossible to load, here is a link to a modified version which has only the explicit links and no embedded files.

I have tried out these files using Netscape, Mozilla and Internet Explorer for Windows. Although the HTML code should work on most systems, I would welcome feedback from people with other setups letting me know if there are any problems with for example Unix and Mac systems.

About the tunes

The tunes are intended to represent the western Ashkenazi ones used nowadays in many British synagogues, although I gather that considerable variation is legitimate. Mostly they are from Jacklyn Chernett, and I am extremely grateful to her for providing them. However a few are influenced by those given in the Hertz chumash, which to my unmusical ear sometimes sounded more like what we usually hear in shul (most of the Hertz tunes do not). I also had some valuable input from Daniel Tunkel who runs the Jewish Music Distribution Company, for which I am also grateful.

Jaclyn Chernett writes:

Daniel Tunkel gave me many helpful comments on an earlier version which I have now hopefully incorporated, but the following additional points seem worth reproducing:

Lester Kershenbaum adds:

And I have this from Osher Posen: Rather than browse the pages online you can download this zip file which contains all the relevant files making up the pages. Then you can unzip it on your own computer and load the file from that without having to make an internet connection.

I hope people may find these pages of some use. There is a vast amount which I gather could be written on the subject, and indeed Daniel Tunkel is preparing a whole book on this. I would welcome any comments people have, and ultimately these may lead to the development of a more comprehensive treatment.

Here are those links again:

Torah cantillation

I have now obtained tunes for the common torah tropes from Jackie Chernett and have produced corresponding pages for them. The notes above should pretty much apply to the torah cantillation pages as well. Again, there seems to be a good deal of variability allowable in the tunes, and indeed in some cases you may prefer tunes similar to those provided for the haphtorah tropes.

Here are the links to the pertinent files:

Other sites

Here a few other sites which may be of interest

Dave Curtis 18/1/04