Religious music can be a source of comfort and release, but also a remembrance of sadness and loss. In Sense and Sadness: Syriac Chant in Aleppo
(Oxford University Press, 2018), Tala Jarjour
analyzes the Syriac chant sung in Aramaic used by the small Christian Suriyani community in Aleppo, Syria. The Suriyani are part of the Syrian Orthodox Church of the Antioch. Taking a multi-pronged approach, Jarjour undertakes a rigorous musical analysis of the Passion liturgy, while at the same time explaining the place of this music in the spiritual and emotional lives of the Suriyani people. She explores the music’s role in their community identity which she calls Suryaniness. Throughout its long history, the Syriac Church has always been in a marginal position and has endured many instances of discrimination and persecution. The community came to Aleppo after being forced to flee Turkey during World War One. Hanging over the book is the knowledge that since Jarjour conducted her field work the Suriyani have once more been scattered, this time because of the Syrian Civil War which has decimated the region. What began as an ethnography, has also become a testament to a religious tradition and community which has been altered forever by violence.
Tala Jarjour’s current academic research revolves around music and religion, with a cultural focus on contexts in which the Middle East in general and Syria in particular are relevant. Recent and ongoing projects address multiple religious traditions, and deal with emotion, aesthetics, survival, power, issues of identity, displacement and integration. She wrote her PhD at the University of Cambridge, as a Gates Scholar. Her research was supported by grants and fellowships from the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the United Kingdom, the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, and the American Association of University Women. She writes in cultural media in English and in Arabic, and is on the editorial board of the Yale Journal of Music and Religion.
Kristen M. Turner, Ph.D. is a lecturer at North Carolina State University in the music department. Her work centers on American musical culture at the turn of the twentieth century and has been published in several journals and essay collections.