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Ruth Katz

KATZ, RUTH (1927– ) Israeli musicologist. Born in Germany, Katz emigrated to Palestine in 1934. She studied piano with E. Rudiakoff and music theory with P. *Ben-Haim in Tel Aviv, and earned her Ph.D. in 1963 at Columbia University. She joined the newly established department of musicology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1965 where she became professor of musicology in 1984 and emeritus since 1995. Ruth Katz was head of the School of Graduate Studies (1983–86) at the Hebrew University and fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Berlin (1986–87).

Her fields of interest encompass a wide scope of research: aesthetics, philosophy and sociology of music, historical musicology, study of non-western traditions, musicological and ethnomusicological methods, and cognitive science of music. She distinguished herself with her broad interdisciplinary approach and methodological creativity.

In 1957 Katz developed, together with D. Cohen, the melograph – an instrument for the continuous graphic representation of melody (or any monophonic vocal expression with definite pitch). The melograph is used for analyzing melodic elements that cannot be expressed exactly in traditional Western notation, e.g., those based on other intonation systems, microtonal intervals, contours of glissandi, attack and decay of notes, vibrato, or the relation of pitch to loudness. This method has been applied to studies on the music of the Samaritans: "Explorations in the Music of the Samaritans: An Illustration of the Utility of Graphic Notation" (with D. Cohen), Ethnomusicology, 4 (1960), and also to the music of Syrian (Aleppo) Jews, Palestinian Arabs (secular and sacred), and Israeli folksongs. Unlike similar apparati developed independently at the same time (in Los Angeles and Norway), the Katz-Cohen melograph set the basic methodology and interpretative approach still used today. Other ethnomusicological interests concern latent vs. manifest theory (with D. Cohen) and historical continuity vs. change in oral traditions.

Her research on Western tradition includes the history and theory of notation; the origins of opera as collective problem-solving, analogous to science; eighteenth-century music and aesthetic theory; the relationship of language to music (her work on this subject was an example of the "cognitive turn" in epistemology and was an early contribution to cognitive science); music in philosophical writings (with C. Dahlhaus); and the relationship among stylistic change, aesthetic judgment, and historical process, examined through the case of the institutionalization and diffusion of opera (early 17th c.). Among her major books are Divining the Powers of Music: Aesthetic Theory and the Origins of Opera (1986); Contemplating Music: Source Readings in the Aesthetics of Music (4 vols.; with C. Dahlhaus, 1988–1992); Tuning the Mind: Connecting Aesthetics to Cognitive Science (with R. Ha-Cohen, 2003); The Lachmann Problem: An Unsung Chapter in Comparative Musicology (2003); and Palestinian Arab Music: A Maqam Tradition in Practice (with D. Cohen, 2005).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.