Suzanne Haik-Vantoura (nee Vantoura) (July 13, 1912 - October 22, 2000) was an organist, music teacher, composer and music theorist. Her magnum opus was in the field of musicology.
Vantoura was born in Paris on July 13, 1912. In 1931 Vantoura started studying at Conservatoire National Superieur de Paris, (CNSMDP), and in 1934 was awarded First Prize in Harmony. Four years later, she was awarded First Prize in Fugue (1938). She was a pupil of the great organist and composer Marcel Dupre from 1941 to 1946.
During World War II, Vantoura and her family fled from the Nazis to southern France. There she studied the cantillation marks, (melodic accents or Ta'amim), in the Hebrew Bible (Masoretic Text). After the war she put aside this work, until her retirement in 1970. She died October 22, 2000 in Lausanne, Switzerland at the age of 88. Her husband Maurice Haik had died in 1976. The couple had no children.
Organist at the Synagogue de l'Union liberale Israelite de Paris (1946-53)
Organist at Eglise Saint-Helene de Paris (1966-79)
Honorary professor of music education (1937-61)
Quatuor florentin, 1942
Un beau dimanche, 1957
Destin d'Israel, 1964
Versets de psaumes, 1968
Adagio for saxophone and organ, 1976
Noticing the marks in the version of the Hebrew Bible she used to read, Miss Vantoura read in an encyclopedia that these signs of cantillation dated back to antiquity and that their real musical meaning was lost. This triggered her curiosity. Working step by step, she first observed that the sublinear signs were never absent from the text, while entire verses are totally deprived of supralinear signs. She deduced from that fact that the sublinear signs had to be more important than the supralinear ones. This conclusion inspired her later research. She then focused on the prose te'amim system only. That system comprises 8 sublinear signs. A quick hypothesis that it could correspond to the eight degrees of a musical scale, particularly of a tonal scale, (the diatonic scale - C, D, E, etc. - being the oldest) was supported by the nearly systematic writing of a vertical sign at the end of each verse. This sign, she thought, could work like an ending note, and could be used to indicate the main note of a scale. As she worked with each verse it became apparent that the notes of her transcription formed coherent melodies and not random sounds.
By comparing individual verses she then compiled tables of concordant sequences. Analyzing the shapes of signs, she finally assigned meanings to the 8 sublinear signs of the prose system, suggesting that they are the 8 notes of a scale.
In 1978 the Institut de France awarded the second edition of Haik-Vantoura's French book the Prix Bernier, its highest award.
Nevertheless, Haik-Vantoura's work was mostly rejected by other researchers as based on Western preconceptions and subjective assignments, coupled with historical misunderstandings.