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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
It has been shown in the article see see CANTILLATION (Jew. Encyc. 3:537b) that the desire to read the Scriptures in the manner indicated in Nehemiah 8:8 has from time immemorial resulted in the use of some sort of musical declamation for the passages uttered aloud in the synagogue. For reasons very similar to those there discussed, the prayers and praises equally with the lessons have always been thus musically declaimed; and this declamation, developing in many lands under the influence of varying tonal surroundings through the long centuries, has gradually become extended into the vocal melody, solo or choral,in which the whole of the traditional services are now presented. The earliest synagogal music was founded upon the same system and method as prevailed in the orchestra of the Temple itself. Joshua ben Hananiah, who had served in the sanctuary as a member of the Levitical choir ('Ar. 11b), told how the choristers went in a body to the synagogue from the orchestra by the altar (Suk. 53a), and so participated in both services. As the part of the instruments in the Temple musical ensemble was purely that of accompaniment, and the voices could have given an adequate rendition without accompaniment (comp. Suk. 50b et seq.; 'Ar. 11; Num. R. ), the absence of instruments from the synagogue in no way modified the system of the song itself. This presented little that to modern ears would appear worthy the name of melody, being, like the Greek melodies which have been deciphered, entirely of the character of a cantillation; that is, a recitation dependent on the rhythm and sequence of the words of the text instead of on the notes of the tune, and influenced by the syntactical structure of the sentence instead of by the metrical form of the musical phrase. Nor would the style of singing, nasal, shrill, and alternately full of intricate graces and of sudden pressures on emphatic notes, altogether commend itself to Western ears as graceful or harmonious.
The dispersal of the Temple singers and the cessation of the performances of the musicians in the sanctuary influenced but slightly the synagogal cantillation, since the desire of many authorities that song should be abstained from in lasting mourning for fallen Zion, was never generally heeded when it became a question of song in worship (comp. Giṭ. 7a; Soṭah 48a; Alfasi on Ber. 25b; Asheri on Ber. 30b; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 560, 3). Indeed, from the earlier centuries there had been evident a desire to enhance the importance of the singing in the synagogal ritual. The officiant was required to have a pleasant voice and a clear enunciation (Ta'an. 16a; Pesiḳ. R. 25 [ed. Friedmann, p. 127a]; comp. Meg. 24b, 32a; Yer. Sheḳ. 1; Yalḳ., Prov. 932), and the voluntary assistance of good vocalists was regarded as meritorious. Among such Ḥiyya bar Adda is prominently mentioned (comp. Pesiḳ. 97a). Women were from the first entirely silent in the synagogue (Ber. 24a). The Shema', known to all, was chanted in unison; but the "Tefillah" (Shemoneh 'Esreh) was intoned by the officiant only, the congregation responding loudly in unison, as also when ḲADDISH was read (Soṭah 49a; Shab. 119b). The Psalms were chanted originally in a responsive antiphony (Soṭah 30b; comp. Graetz in "Monatsschrift," 1879, p. 197); but soon the antiphony developed into a general unison, as became the case, too, with the other passages gradually added to the ritual (Cant. R. 27a, end; Rashi on Ber. 6a; but comp. Zunz, "S. P." p. 61).
Yet it was only with the Piyyuṭim that music found scope for development within the walls of the synagogue, as the ritual began to crystallize into definite form, and prayerful verses took the place of didactic and dogmatic texts (comp. Zunz, c. pp. 7, 8, 59, 60). The ḤAZZAN now became primarily the precentor. He sang the piyyuṭim to melodies selected by their writer or by himself, thus introducing fixed melodies (see below) into synagogal music. The prayers he continued to recite as he had heard his predecessors recite them; but in moments of inspiration or emotion he would give utterance to a phrase of unusual beauty or power, which, caught up by the congregants, would be repeated and preserved as a worthy expression of the thought underlying the day's service, coming at last into the form of a definite and well-recognized musical sentence, and so forming the substance of a prayer-motive (see below). There was little need to prompt him to greater energy in this direction; from the first it became more necessary to keep his intensity in check (comp. "Sefer Ḥasidim," §§ 158, 238, 251, 768).
The music may have preserved a few phrases in the reading of Scripture which recalled the song of the Temple (comp. Ashirah; Shema'); but generally it echoed from the first the tones which the Jew of each age and country heard around him, not merely in the actual borrowing of tunes (of which there is continuous evidence from the days of Ibn Ezra; comp. his commentary on Psalms 8), but more especially in the prevailing tonality or description of scale on which the music was based. These elements persist side by side, rendering the traditional intonations a mass composed of details differing immensely in age and in style, and only blended by the gradual modification of each by what must be regarded as the old and constant flux of their rendition. The oldest element is the parallelism which runs through all the traditions, according to which chants divergent enough in detail of tune, and systematically so in tonality or scale-structure, are applied to corresponding passages after a similar method. This peculiarity appears to have been recognized as early as the days of Hai Gaon (d. 1038; comp. Zunz, "Ritus," p. 11). It has already been shown (see Jew. Encyc. 3:539, s. CANTILLATION) to be very ancient, and possibly to date back to the method of rendition utilized for the Psalms in the Temple ritual. The underlying principle, according to the present writer's formulation, is the specific allotment in Jewish worship of a particular mode or scale-form to each sacred occasion, because of some esthetic appropriateness felt to underlie the association. In contrast to the meager modal choice of modern melody, which is fettered within the range of two modes, the minor and the major, the synagogal tradition revels in the possession of a number of scale-forms preserved from the remote past, much as are to be perceived in the plain-song of the Catholic, the Byzantine, and the Armenian churches. And it draws its supply not alone from the same sources as these Christian traditions: it finds itself enriched also from the origins from which proceeded, on either hand, the Hungarian-Wallachian Gipsy melody and the music of the Perso-Arab system. In this way the music of the synagogue enshrines elements of the theory and the practise of western Asia, which centered in Babylon, and which have left their effects in all landsbetween Moorish Spain and Dravidian India.
And this modal feeling is not alone the conspicuous characteristic of the ḤAZZANUT—that traditional style of free vocal recitation of a prose text, in which synagogal music differs so greatly from secular music in the Western world—but it may be traced also in those older tunes which, constructed in modern rhythmic form and thus recognizable by ordinary hearers as melodies in the modern sense, are employed in the ḲEROBOT.
Another marked element, of later origin but equally wide diffusion, is that style of florid melodious intonation which requires the exercise of vocal agility. It existed, as the cantillation of Scripture shows, even before the recital of the services was entrusted to the ḥazzan as the specialist. It was introduced into Europe in the seventh century, then rapidly developed, and more than aught else led to the complaints against the ḥazzanim which are detailed in Jew. Encyc. 6:286, s. ḤAZZAN. Yet many of the influences to which this intricate vocalization was due lay in the old Jewish tradition as to what was a seemly method of expressing devotion. Similar influences had built up, upon old outlines coming from Asia Minor, the figuration which distinguishes also certain sequences in the Catholic plainsong. But the Church plain-song never developed the rapid and florid ornamentation of the synagogal ḥazzanut, because of the early development of choral participation in the church service. So, too, in the Sephardic, or Southern, use, the pronounced share of the congregation in the recital of the prayers tended to check its excessive employment.
But among the Northern Jews especially the isolation and the poverty of the worshipers shut them off from the enjoyment in secular life of those successive developments of the contrapuntal art—first in the music of the mass, then in the music of the dignitary's chamber—which culminated in the rich figuration which marks the compositions of the early eighteenth century. In the synagogue, where those worshiped who were banned from such enjoyment, it was the adulation of admiring listeners that too often prompted the officiant to forget the text-matter in the song-manner (comp. Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 53, 11), and even more to develop the technical intricacy of synagogal music by the utilization also of florid ornamentation in which his hearers, out of touch with any music but the folk-music of their day, were not likely to detect the echoes of contemporary instrumental virtuosity. In the end, the echoes of what a ḥazzan heard of the sensual tastelessness of the "Zopf" style, which ruled musical Europe in the eighteenth century, completed that debasement of synagogal music from which the efforts of a century of work by Jews who had acquired a little of the taste of the cultured musician have only recently begun to lift it.
There is no need to present an instance of the extravagances of the later tradition; but under ḤAZZANUT a specimen illustrating the traditional matter and manner and treated with taste and style, has been quoted from the Sabbath evening service of M. J. Löwenstamm (somewhile cantor in Munich).
Age of Song Elements.
The age of the various elements in synagogal song may be traced from the order in which the passages of the text were first introduced into the liturgy and were in turn regarded as so important as to demand special vocalization. This order closely agrees with that in which the successive tones and styles still preserved for these elements came into use among the Gentile neighbors of the Jews who utilized them. Earliest of all is the cantillation of the Scriptures, in which the traditions of the various rites differ only as much and in the same manner from one another as their particular interpretations according to the text and occasion differ among themselves. This indeed was to be anticipated if the differentiation itself preserves a peculiarity of the music of the Temple (see Jew. Encyc. 3:539a, s. CANTILLATION). Next comes, from the first ten centuries, and probably taking shape only with the Jewish settlement in western and northern Europe, the cantillation of the "'Amidah" referred to below, which was the first portion of the liturgy dedicated to a musical rendering, all that preceded it remaining unchanted (comp. Zunz, c. p. 6). Gradually the song of the precentor commenced at ever earlier points in the service. By the tenth century the chant commenced at "Baruk She-Amar" (N. Cohen, "Sefer Yuḥasin," p. 135, Warsaw, 1876; comp. Zunz, "S. P." p. 114), the previous custom having been to commence the singing at "Nishmat," these conventions being still traceable in practise in the introit (see below) signalizing the entry of the junior and of the senior officiant (comp. Shulḥan 'Aruk, c. 51; "Orḥot Ḥayyim," p. 64). Hence, in turn, appeared cantillation, prayer-motive, fixed melody, and hymn as forms of synagogal music.
Reminiscences of Gentile Sacred Melody.
The contemporaneous musical fashion of the outer world has ever found its echo within the walls of the synagogue, so that in the superstructure added by successive generations of transmitting singers there are always discernible points of comparison, even of contact, with the style and structure of each successive era in the musical history of other religious communions. Attention has frequently been drawn to the resemblances in manner and even in some points of detail between the chants of the muezzin and of the reader of the Koran with much of the ḥazzanut (comp. the recitation of a sura given in Lane's "Modern Egyptians" [London, 1834] with the first illustration under the heading ḤAZZANUT), not alone of the Sephardim, who passed so many centuries in Arab lands, but also of the Ashkenazim, equally long located far away in northern Europe. The intonations of the Sephardim even more intimately recall the plain-song of the Mozarabian Christians, which flourished in their proximity until the thirteenth century. Their chants and other set melodies largely consist of very short phrases often repeated, just as Perso-Arab melody so often does; and their congregational airs usually preserve a Morisco or other Peninsular character (comp. Adonai Beḳol Shofar; 'Et Sha'are Raẓon; LEKAH DODI).
The CANTILLATION reproduces the tonalities and the melodic outlines prevalent in the western world during the first ten centuries of the Diaspora; and the prayer-motives, although their method of employment recalls far more ancient and more Oriental parallels, are equally reminiscent of those characteristic of the eighth to the thirteenth century of the common era. Many of the phrases introduced in the ḥazzanut generally, closely resemble the musical expression of the sequences which developed in the Catholic Plain-Song after the example set by the school famous as that of Notker Balbulus, at St. Gall, in the early tenth century. The earlier formal melodies still more often are paralleled in the festal intonations of the monastic precentors of the eleventh to the fifteenth century, even as the later synagogal hymns everywhere approximate greatly to the secular music of their day (see below).
Allusion to this contact with the Catholic plain-song has been made in KOL NIDRE as well as in several other of the articles on music in The Jewish Encyclopedia . Typical illustrations may be briefly indicated more directly. The traditional penitential intonation transcribed in the article NE'ILAH with the piyyuṭ-versicle "Darkeka" closely reproduces the music of a parallel species of medieval Latin verse, the metrical sequence "Missus Gabriel de Cœlis" by Adam of St. Victor (c. 1150) as given in the "Graduale Romanum" of Sarum. The mournful chant characteristic of penitential days in all the Jewish rites, is closely recalled by the Church antiphon in the second mode "Da Pacem Domine in Diebus Nostris" ("Vesperale Ratisbon," p. 42). For further points of comparison see Seliḥot. The joyous intonation of the Northern rite for morning and afternoon prayers on the Three Festivals closes with the third tone, third ending of the Gregorian psalmody; and the traditional chant for the HALLEL itself, when not the one reminiscent of the "Tonus Peregrinus," closely corresponds with those for Psalms 113 and ("Laudate Pueri" and "Laudate Dominum") in the "Graduale Romanum" of Ratisbon, for the vespers of June 24, the festival of John the Baptist, in which evening service the famous "Ut Queant Laxis," from which the modern scale derived the names of its degrees, also occurs.
Next to the passages of Scripture recited in cantillation, the most ancient and still the most important section of the Jewish liturgy is the sequence of benedictions which is known as the "'Amidah" (Shemoneh 'Esreh), being the section which in the ritual of the Dispersion more immediately takes the place of the sacrifice offered in the ritual of the Temple on the corresponding occasion. It accordingly attracts the intonation of the passages which precede and follow it into its own musical rendering. Like the lessons, it, too, is cantillated. This free intonation is not, as with the Scriptural texts, designated by any system of accents, but consists of a melodious development of certain themes or motives traditionally associated with the individual service, and therefore termed by the present writer "prayer-motives." These are each differentiated from other prayer-motives much as are the respective forms of the cantillation, the divergence being especially marked in the tonality due to the modal feeling alluded to above. Tonality depends on that particular position of the semitones or smaller intervals between two successive degrees of the scale which causes the difference in color familiar to modern ears in the contrast between major and minor melodies.
Throughout the musical history of the synagogue a particular mode or scale-form has long been traditionally associated with a particular service. It appears in its simplest form in the prayer-motive—which is best defined, to use a musical phrase, as a sort of coda—to which the benediction "Berakah" closing each paragraph of the prayers is to be chanted. This is associated with a secondary phrase, somewhat after the tendency which led to the framing of the binary form in classical music. The phrases are amplified and developed according to the length, the structure, and, above all, the sentiment of the text of the paragraph, and lead always into the coda in a manner anticipating the form of instrumental music entitled the "rondo," although in no sense an imitation of the modern form. The responses likewise follow the tonality of the prayer-motive.
This intonation is designated by the Hebrew term NIGGUN ("tune") when its melody is primarily in view, by the Judæo-German term "steiger" (scale) when its modal peculiarities and tonality are under consideration, and by the Romance word "gust" and the Slavonic "skarbowa" when the taste or style of the rendering especially marks it off from other music. The use of these terms, in addition to such less definite Hebraisms as "ne'imah" ("melody"), shows that the scales and intervals of such prayer-motives have long been recognized (e.g., by Saadia Gaon in the tenth century; comp. end of "Emunot we-De'ot") and observed to differ characteristically from those of contemporary Gentile music, even if the principles underlying their employment have only quite recently been formulated.
The modal differences are not always so observable in the Sephardic or Southern tradition. Here the participation of the congregants has tended to a more general uniformity, and has largely reduced the intonation to a chant around the dominant, or fifth degree of the scale, as if it were a derivation from the Ashkenazic daily morning theme (see below), but ending with a descent to the major third, or, less often, to the tonic note. Even where the particular occasion—such as a fast—might call for a change of tonality, the anticipation of the congregational response brings the close of the benediction back to the usual major third. But enough differences remain, especially in the Italian rendering, to show that the principle of parallel rendering with modal difference, fully apparent in their cantillation, underlies the prayer-intonations of the Sephardim also. This principle has marked effects in the Ashkenazic or Northern tradition, where it is as clear in the rendering of the prayers as in that of the Scriptural lessons, and is also apparent in the ḲEROBOT.
All the tonalities are distinct. They are formulatedin the subjoined tabular statement, in which the various traditional motives of the Ashkenazic ritual have been brought to the same pitch of reciting-note in order to facilitate comparison of their modal differences (see also the table given in Jew. Encyc. 3:539, s. CANTILLATION).
By ancient tradition, from the days when the Jews who passed the Middle Ages in Teutonic lands were still under the same tonal influences as the peoples in southeastern Europe and Asia Minor yet are, chromatic scales (e., those showing some successive intervals greater than two semitones) have been preserved. The Sabbath morning and week-day evening motives are especially affected by this survival, which also frequently induces the Polish ḥazzanim to modify similarly the diatonic intervals of the other prayer-motives. The chromatic intervals survive as a relic of the Oriental tendency to divide an ordinary interval of pitch into subintervals (comp. Hallel for Tabernacles, the "lulab" chant), as a result of the intricacy of some of the vocal embroideries in actual employment, which are not infrequently of a character to daunt an ordinary singer. Even among Western cantors, trained amid mensurate music on a contrapuntal basis, there is still a remarkable propensity to introduce the interval of the augmented second, especially between the third and second degrees of any scale in a descending cadence. Quite commonly two augmented seconds will be employed in the octave, as in the frequent form—much loved by Eastern peoples—termed by Bourgault-Ducoudray ("Mélodies Populaires de Grèce et d'Orient," p. 20, Paris, 1876) "the Oriental chromatic" (see music below).
The "harmonia," or manner in which the prayer-motive will be amplified into ḥazzanut, is measured rather by the custom of the locality and the powers of the officiant than by the importance of the celebration. The precentor will accommodate the motive to the structure of the sentence he is reciting by the judicious use of the reciting-note, varied by melismatic ornament. In the development of the subject he is bound to no definite form, rhythm, manner, or point of detail, but may treat it quite freely according to his personal capacity, inclination, and sentiment, so long only as the conclusion of the passage and the short doxology closing it, if it ends in a benediction, are chanted to the snatch of melody forming the coda, usually distinctly fixed and so furnishing the modal motive. The various sections of the melodious improvisation will thus lead smoothly back to the original subject, and so work up to a symmetrical and clear conclusion. The prayer-motives, being themselves definite in tune and well recognized in tradition, preserve the homogeneity of the service through the innumerable variations induced by impulse or intention, by energy or fatigue, by gladness or depression, and by every other mental and physical sensation of the precentor which can affect his artistic feeling.
|Service.||Scale Utilized.||Traditional Responce (Amen).||Corresponding Gregorian (or Ancient) Mode.|
|Evening||Daily||F—g||a||b()||c||d||F||F||("Immutable genus," with both conjoint and disjoint tetrachords.)|
|Sabbath||C||d||e||f||g||a||b||c||e||C||(or b C)||—("Mixed genus," chromatic tetrachord followed by first species).|
|Festival||C||d||e||f||g||a||b||c||d||g||a C||1st and 7th (Dorian and Phrygian).|
|Penitential||b||c||d||E||f||g||a||b||g f||E||2d (Hypodorian).|
|"||(earlier portion)||D||e||f||g||a||b||c||d||e||D||3d (Phrygian).|
Thus the absolute freedom and spontaneity of the development in no wise diminish a general agreement in the renderings favored in congregations far distant from one another—whether the style adopted be broad and restrained, as with the Westerns, or florid and intense, as with the Easterns—among those who follow the Ashkenazic rite. Indeed, few as are the points of contact to be observed between the definite tunes utilized in the tradition of the Ashkenazim and in that of the Sephardim, they are many and obvious between the cantillation of the "'Amidah" and the ancient benedictions preceding and following the Shema' in both rites. Grouping of notes, points where ornaments are introduced, phrasing of the text, retardations and pauses, even complete musical sentences, and several such differing in outline and in tonality from any other European music, not infrequently coincide in the two rituals, particularly where the precentor intones one of the less-elaborated services, as those of week-days, or eschews the excessive ornamentation favored by some schools on the special festival days. This agreement, it should be noted, occurs mainly in the ancient parts of the liturgy, which the two rituals inherit in common from before the eighth or the ninth century; and their differences, too, in the intonation of these ancient passages lie mainly in tonality (see above) much as their own various forms of cantillating alike the Scriptural lessons and those older sections of the prayers differ more in this respect than otherwise.
The musical illustrations which precede (see pages 124-126) present the prayer-motives of the Ashkenazic tradition in their simplest form (for an example of the development of the model into ḥazzanut, founded on the transcription of Baer, see Jew. Encyc. 6:291, s. ḤAZZANUT).
Fixed Melodies: Chants.
After the ninth century, when borrowed airs (see below) began to find their way into the synagogue, the old modal material was also utilized to construct tunes for sections of the service to which the cantillatory development of the prayer-motives had not been applied. First of these were the chants for psalms or versicles, for sentences, that is, of similar length and structure and not varying essentially in sentiment. Some were simple, approaching monotone, suited for congregational response; others were influenced by the desire for ornament and variation, and reproduced the binary tendency of the ḥazzanut with a primary and a secondary motive. Those of the first class are either founded on the cantillation (comp. Ashre; Shema') or echo the form of Gregorian psalmody with intonation, mediation, and ending (e.g., 'Al Ḥeṭ, Attah Hor'eta, and "Leku Nerannenah"); the others, later in origin or in shaping, take on a more definitely tuneful form (comp. Ashirah; Ashre ha-'Am; LE-DAWID BARUK; MIZMOR LE-DAWID; Mizmor Shir), and reproduce their structure in settings for the metrical text of piyyuṭim (comp. 'Et Sha'are Raẓon). It is in these chants, and in rather later synagogal forms such as the ḲEROBOT, based on similar material, that the musical figuration not infrequently presents points of contact, on the one hand, with the Gregorian music of the Catholic tradition (comp., e.g., KOL NIDRE) or, on the other, with the traditional intonations of the Moslems (comp., e.g., "Wa-Yekullu," in Jew. Encyc. 6:290, s. ḤAZZANUT). In the condition in which the chants have been evolved from their traditional form there are obvious traces of later development, reaching, indeed, down to the actual present; but their original shaping and definite acceptance into the synagogal corpus of sacred song took place between the eighth and thirteenth centuries. It was at the latter epoch that the common people, to whose music alone the Jews would consciously have responded, broke loose from the modal restrictions of the theorists, alike of the Church and of the Perso-Arab schools, and all over western Europe anticipated the modal revolution which in formal art-music was delayed until the middle of the seventeenth century.
Troubadours, trouvères, and minnesingers, as well as jongleurs and minstrels, had by this time laid the foundations of modern melody in their ever-extending use of the diatonic scale (comp. Naumann, "Hist. of Music," p. 235, London, 1886); and Jewish melody responded to the impulse. Where synagogal music of later birth maintains a modal difference from the music of the street outside, it is only in the utilization of material dating from before the fateful fifteenth century, when the expulsion from Spain set a seal upon the Peninsular tradition of the Sephardim, and the labors of Jacob ben Moses Mölln of Mayence (1365-1427) and his disciples gave a final redaction to the use of the Ashkenazim (comp. Grätz, "Gesch." 7:146; Steinschneider, "Jewish Literature," p. 155); or else where the officiant or his teachers were residents in eastern Europe, under the influence of Slavonic and Gipsy passion in melody, or in Moslem lands, where the short, infinitely repeated phrase in the distinctivePerso-Arab scales still prevails in every-day music. Chief among such later melodies, often reproducing at least the style of older Hebraic intonations, are the settings for a text that vary with the occasion, in response to the fundamental principle of parallel form with modal variation underlying the cantillation and the ḥazzanut. Melodies of this kind have already been treated in the articles 'Al ha-Rishonim and ḲADDISH. Very characteristic of the whole class in all its features of style and handling are the settings for what may be termed the "introit"—e., the passage where the senior precentor takes up the chanting of the morning service at the approach of its more important phases, relieving his junior, who has in simpler form intoned the earlier private prayers and introductory psalms. The music which precedes (pages 127-129) presents in contrast the settings in the Northern tradition so utilized, in ascending degree of importance on Sabbath, festival, and Penitential Day.
Fixed Melodies: Hymns.
But besides the traditional material of such actually Jewish origin and development, there has been preserved in the music of the synagogue a considerable mass of melody directly adapted from the folk-song of Gentile neighbors, or constructed on the general lines of musical development in the outer world. In the latter class falls almost the whole of the choral music of the synagogue, the work of composers who either a vowedly shaped their work upon the wider, as contrasted with the purely ecclesiastical, lines of art, or were unconscious of the historic and esthetic value of the traditional material. The borrowed or adopted melodies, on the other hand, were already associated in the outer world with the secular song or dance, and were taken into the synagogue simply from the lack of available melody as the number of Neo-Hebraic hymns rapidly increased. Then their pleasing jingle often, their tender expressiveness sometimes, early (comp. Simon Duran, "Magen Abot," 52b) led to their retention and perpetuation and to their adoption as the traditional setting of the verses to which they had first been adapted, and often of others as well.
Borrowed Popular Airs.
Not all the airs which reproduce external folk-songs, however, were thus actually and directly borrowed; for a goodly number must have been the composition of the ḥazzanim. But even so, they were close imitations of the popular melody of the day; and they lack any Jewish characteristic to bring them into line with the older traditional elements. Abraham ibn Ezra (on Psalms 8) refers to the introduction of such alien airs in the eleventh century; and according to S. Archevolti in the sixteenth century ("'Arugat ha-Bosem," p. 100), the practise was a general one in the days of Judah ha-Levi (early part of 12th cent.). Much controversy raged over this practise (comp. M. Lonzano in "Shete Yadot," p. 147); but that it became firmly fixed in synagogal life the number of such adopted melodies referred to in the rubrics of the Maḥzorim, as well as in the pages of the controversialists, conclusively proves. Indeed, Israel Najara, rabbi of Gaza (who died in 1581 and whom Delitzsch calls "the founder of the Jerusalem ritual"), published 650 Hebrew lyrics, especially written to fit the melodies of Arabic, Turkish, Greek, Spanish, and Italian songs selected by himself.
This procedure was not peculiar to the synagogue. Dufay, the most prominent musician of the Gallo-Belgic school about the end of the fourteenth century, had substituted a popular secular melody as the basis of the music of the mass in place of the "cantus firmus" traditional in the Church; and this practise became universal in that school of musicians and their successors. The most favored of these secular airs, "L'Homme Armé," partly appears also in the Mizmor Shir of the Sephardic tradition. The synagogal musicians, the ḥazzanim, had already, as has been seen, thus endeavored to bring the music of worship into harmony with every-day life outside the sanctuary; and they closely followed the later amplifications of the practise, such as that of the early Protestant hymns, in which a very slight change in the words of the original German produced an immense one in the meaning, as when H. Isaak's "Innsbruck, I Must Leave Thee" (1440) became "O World, I Soon Must Leave Thee" (comp. "Hymns Ancient and Modern," No. 86). So, too, in Jewish practise a slight change in sound was held to be warrant enough for the devotional utilization of an air. Thus to the tune of "En Toda la Tramontaña" was written "Shir Todah le-Elohim Tanah"; and to "Muerame mi Alma, ai! Muerame" was written "Meromi 'al Mah 'Am Rab Homah." In another direction it is found that a slight correspondence in the meaning of the initial words was considered adequate connection, as when the verses "El he-Harim Essa 'Eni" are set to the air of "A las Montañas Mi Alma! a las Montañas Me Iré," or "Mar li Mar Mar Mar" to the Turkish "Krodas Yar, Yar, Yar," where, furthermore, the word "dost" (friend) ending each line in the modal, is translated by the Hebrew "dodi" in a similar position. Such incongruities, indeed, existed as a hymn commencing "Shem nora," to the tune of "Señora"; "Guri, guri" to "Giuri, giuri"; and "Ya'alat ha-mor" to "Perdone di amor" (comp. S. Duran in "Magen Abot," p. 52b; Archevolti, c.; Menahem Lonzano in "Shete Yadot," pp. 147, 149). Few of such adaptations were adopted into the liturgy itself, although some are to be traced, as, for instance, the beautiful tune of Abraham Ḥazzan's to Gerona's fine hymn commencing AḤOT ḳEṬANNAH, which was composed on the lines of a popular Levantine song, "The Little Maid."
In the article LEKAH DODI (see Jewish Encyclopedia, 7:676) are given three such melodies adopted from popular use into Jewish worship—one, Moorish, of the tenth; one, Polish, of the sixteenth; and one, German, of the seventeenth century. The well-known melody of MA'OZ ẒUR was likewise adapted from a street song, and selected by Luther for his first choral on such lines, as well as by the German Jews for their Ḥanukkah hymn. Among other secular airs of European peoples adapted by Jews to sacred use may be mentioned: "Permetid Bella Amaryllis," "Tres Colores in Una," "Temprano Naçes Almendro," "El Vaquero de la Morayña," "Fasi Abassi Silvana," "Les Trois Rois," "Les Filles de Tarascon," "PorqueNo Me Hablas," "Partistas Amiga," "Pues Vos Me Feristes," "Blümlein auf Breiter Heide," "Dietrich von Bern," "Pavierweiss," "En los Campos di Alvansa," "Un Poggio Tiene la Contessa," "Giulianita," "Doliente Estaba Alessandri," and even, in the last century, such melodies for the ḲADDISH as "La Marseillaise" or actually "The Girl I Left Behind Me," or for ADONAI MELEK on New-Year's Day an aria from "Traviata".
Especially has it been in the ZEMIROT or domestic table hymns that popular airs have been adapted and transmitted. The father would think rather of the sprightly interest of the air he sang than of its suitability or Jewish character. Thus, for instance, "Shir ha-Ma'alot" (Psalms 126) is widely sung among German Jews to a modification of a melody from "Fra Diavolo." The melodies utilized in the ceremony of the Benediction of the Priests (BLESSING, PRIESTLY) are very frequently such echoes of contemporary popular song. One of the best may be quoted from Japhet's collection (Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1855; 3d ed. 1903, No. 60) of the synagogal melodies of southwest Germany, which are particularly replete with folk-song elements.
Modification in Tradition.
But very often a modification has been, in the course of tradition, introduced into the popular melody which has given it a Jewish flavor, and has served to differentiate it both from the secular original and from the Christian version, when, as in the older German melodies is often the case, the air has been utilized also in the hymnody of the Protestant Church. This feature has been alluded to in the case of MA'OZ ẒUR; and it is shown in the melody for 'En Kelohenu (Jew. Encyc. 5:155, B), where the addition of a vernacular translation is the excuse for the introduction of a strain of melody in one of the older modal tones of the synagogue, while the Hebrew is sung in the modern scale and style. The effect of the custom is well brought out in the "pizmon" (hymn) "She'eh Ne'esar," for the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz, where the modification introduced in the cadence greatly enhances the beauty and effect of the air. The fast-day and its associations have seemed to the ḥazzanim to call for the expression of emotion to which the wail of the augmented second in the cadence of the Oriental chromatic scale could alone give utterance. This wail is quite absent in the Church tradition, in either form in which it has been perpetuated (comp. "Hymns Ancient and Modern," Nos. 85, 206).
Early Choirs; "Singer" and "Bass."
The condition in which the Jews found themselves in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries deeply affected their only form of art, their synagogal music. Where the darkness was deepest, like that which presages the dawn, the dignity of the song of the sanctuary was brought lowest. It was an age which summed up all the faults of the past, of pilpul in the melody of the sanctuary, of intricacy, astounding ingenuity, and ad captandum virtuosity: the manner, not the matter, being ever considered. Emotionalism and novel effects, often of a ludicrous character, interested and even fascinated congregations whose synagogue was their only club, and whose manners at worship were almost those of schoolboys in the playground. The return stream westward from the Jewish districts of Poland had now set in. Young precentors traveled about from congregation to congregation, bringingnew melodies, and also fortifying and unifying the old tradition. These wandering minstrels, journeymen of their craft, often brought with them apprentices, a vocal orchestra rather than a choir, designated "meshorerim" or song-makers. Their function was that of the youthful Levites who had stood below the platform of the singers in the Temple, to "give flavor to the song" ('Ar. 13b; comp. Yoma 38a). The ḥazzan now forced his voice to excess in a formless chant, full of repetition, all runs and turns and embroideries (comp. Güdemann, "Quellenschriften," pp. 85, 105, 118, 300)—bravura like the violin-playing of a Hungarian Gipsy rhapsodist, seeking to reenforce his tones by supporting the jaw behind the ear with his hand after the fashion of the London costermonger, or to get new effects by thrusting his thumb into his throat, an ancient practise known in the Temple (Yoma 38b) and illustrated on the Nineveh slab depicting the capture of Susa (comp. "Magen Abraham" on Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 97; Lewisohn, "Meḳore Minhagim," p. 3; "The Temple Choristers," in "Israel," 5:9, London, 1901). Meanwhile "singer" and "bass" stood at either hand: one a boy with clear treble; the other a man with deep, bourdon tones. By ear alone, improvising rather than following a prearranged harmony, they accompanied the ḥazzan, imitating the bees and the birds, simulating the tones of the flute, the bassoon, or the now obsoleteserpent, and giving vent to an impetuous fancy in incoherent though melodious passages. Such a form of concerted synagogal music vigorously survives in Poland and Galicia, and is still to be heard in the ghettos of London and New York.
Beginnings of the Modern Choir.
Men who, in advance of their brethren, sought to beautify the sanctuary with high and perfected art, dwelt in Italy at the commencement of the seventeenth century. E. Birnbaum has shown ("Jüdische Musiker am Hofe von Mantua, 1542-1628," Vienna, 1893) how many Hebrews then and there took part in artistic musical life. In 1622 Solomon de Rossi published at Venice his "Ha-Shirim Asher li-Shelomoh," being the first trained musician to labor with effect for the regeneration of the song of Zion, or to compose synagogal music on contrapuntal lines. He was thus the father of modern synagogal composers. Led by his keen and active sympathy, the artistically cultured Leon of Modena, himself the possessor of a sweet tenor voice, had already associated with other Italian rabbis in the issue of a pastoral letter (1605) advocating and authorizing the introduction of mensurate and polyphonic music into the synagogue (comp. S. Lipschütz in "Te'udat Shelomoh," p. 24; also the "She'elah u-Teshubah" prefaced to De Rossi's "HaShirim").
Influence of Sulzer.
But little progress was made until the burst of the Jewish renascence in the early part of the nineteenth century. The Berlin community in 1824 saw the first establishment of the modern synagogal music (Zunz, "G. V." p. 461). The early reformers went perhaps too far in their modernization of theintonations and the choral portion alike (comp. Grätz, "Gesch." 11:309,412); but in due time the recoil corrected the errors of excess. Even Solomon Sulzer, the master of all modern workers in synagogal music, was a little inclined to iconoclasm in his purification and simplification of the traditional intonations. But his "Shir Ẓiyyon" (part produced in 1840; part in 1865) set a high classical model alike for the old declamation, the old melodies, the traditional responses, and the modern settings of those sections of the service now allotted to the four-part choir. Modeling on the elaborate choral music of the Catholic Vienna of his day, he was yet so imbued with the traditional spirit, and so richly equipped with the traditional material, that he was able to create music which brought the ancient Oriental origins, the echoes of so many and so varied times, places, and manners, and the artistic outcome of the work of the great moderns into a noble homogeneity at once profoundly devotional and subtly dramatic. Maier Kohn in 1839 had already brought out for the Munich congregation the first modern handling of the old traditions; but it was the work of Sulzer which first penetrated the consciousness of Jewry and awoke the new harp of Judah. In 1843 H. Goldberg of Brunswick followed with a new effort, of great value in a fresh direction, in founding modern Jewish congregational singing, and showing how the synagogal music might attain to a refined and pure method even where the organization of a full-trained choir was impossible. The work was carried on by H. Weintraub in 1859, whose skill and judgment restored the traditional florid intonation to the importance it was well-nigh losing in face of the choral development (see the new edition of 1900). Moritz Deutsch of Breslau projected about the same time a companion to the seminary in the form of an institute for the training of cantors. His wide acquaintance with the old intonations and his extreme accuracy render his "Vorbeterschule" (1871) of particular value.
A monumental exposition of the ḥazzan's art, uniting the old intensity with modern cultivated taste, was forthcoming in 1878 in the "Ba'al Tefillah, oder der Praktische Vorbeter" (revised ed. Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1883) of Abraham Baer of Gothenburg, in which he set forth the vocal expression of the entire Jewish liturgy according to the Ashkenazic use; blending Polish and German variants of the ḥazzanut with material for all passages not already consecrated by tradition. It is a collection of high historical as well as practical value.
Many, and often able, as have been the workers who have carried on in German lands the labor inaugurated by Sulzer, none was more eminent than L. Lewandowski. His fine presentation of traditional melody in his "Ḳol Rinnah u-Tefillah" (Berlin, 1870, 1883) was associated with valuable congregational material; and his "Todah we-Zịmrah" (vol. , 1876; , 1883) completed a noble choral presentment of the synagogal liturgy. This master did perhaps more than any other of the past generation to bring the modern renascence of synagogal music home to the ordinary congregant. His skilfulutilization of traditional material in organ accompaniments is especially prized.
Transcribers and Composers.
Early work had been done in England, though not with the laborious thoroughness of the Germans. Isaac Nathan had written in 1815 and 1823 on synagogal music and had first presented "Hebrew Melodies" to the world. D. A. de Sola, in 1857, was first to utilize the hint of L. Dukes (in "Orient, Lit." ) that synagogal music was a field to be cultivated from the historic standpoint. Together with E. Aguilar he set down the traditional airs of the Sephardim, with their rich element of Moresque and Spanish melody. In France S. Naumbourg produced in 1847 and again in 1863 his "Zemirot Yisrael," enshrining the simple but fascinating tradition of northern France and the Rheinland, leaving Provence and the Biscayan regions to more recent investigators (Crémieu, etc.). Naumbourg's work was at once valuable for the new material (upon which Meyerbeer and Halévy cooperated, as did Schubert and others of less note in Sulzer's) and for his labors in the field of the musical history of the older traditional melody. His influence secured for Paris an eclectic choir-book prepared by E. David, and so constructed as to form a musical companion to the prayer-book in the hands of choristers. This work prompted later the preparation by Cohen and Mosely in London (1887) of a hand-book of synagogue music for congregants also, in which for the first time synagogal musicians appeared as editors only and not as composers. In 1899 the London handbook, revised by Cohen and Davis, on improved lines, sought to cover with wide choice the whole region of synagogal choral song in the "Voice of Prayer and Praise," invariably associating congregational responses with the traditional intonation of the ḥazzanut, and paying due regard to the tonic sol-fa notation taught in British elementary schools. A valuable presentment of the Italian traditional versions was published by F. Consolo in his "Libro dei Canti d'Israele" (Florence, 1892). Some melodies of the Turkish rite have been recorded (Löwit and Bauer, "Gottesdienstliche Gesänge," Vienna, 1889), as also some of the South-Russian tradition (Abrass and Nowakowsky, Odessa, 1893 and 1895). The field of the African and Asiatic uses remains untouched beyond their Scriptural cantillations.
A partial list of the more prominent composers and arrangers of modern synagogal music has been given in the article ḤAZZAN (Jew. Encyc. 6:287). A complete one, detailing every publication of synagogal music during the last fifty, or even thirty, years, would occupy considerable space, since the great majority of the precentors and choirmasters of the last generation have felt the impulse to compose and have prepared transcriptions of the old material or new renderings according to the ritual adopted by their congregations.
Instrumental music is quite a modern feature in synagogal worship. Owing to the rabbinical "fence" which prohibited the use of an instrument on Sabbath and festivals because of the probability that it would require tuning or other preparation (comp. Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 338, 339), it is still avoided by conservative congregations on those days. Much controversy has raged about this point (ORGAN; Reform) in Jewish as in other communities. The earlier hesitation of the Church to adopt the organ because it was "a Jewish instrument" has been reproduced in the assumption of many Jews that it was specifically a Christian one. It is still banned by rigid adherents to old ways; but in ordinary conservative congregations it is unhesitatingly employed at weddings and other services on week-days.
An organ has been long a feature of the Alt-neu Schul at Prague. A new one was built there by a Jewish donor in 1716 (Zunz, "G. V." p. 476). Other instruments were more freely introduced in the past than was the organ. In the twelfth century Pethahiah of Regensburg saw them in use in Bagdad on the intermediate days of festivals. It was long ago deemed indispensable for players to be present at a Jewish marriage; and MaHaRIL (Jacob Mölln ha-Levi) is recorded to have led a wedding party outside the jurisdiction of magistrates who forbade their employment, before solemnizing the marriage (comp. Güdemann, "Gesch." p. 111; Abrahams, "Jewish Life in the Middle Ages," pp. 197, 255; Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 338, 2, and Isserles thereon). An orchestra or military band has frequently participated in the synagogue service. In 1837 the band of the Royal Horse Guards played during the dedication service of the New Synagogue, Great St. Helen's, London. More recently the orchestra has accompanied the singers in the prayers and praises also. The instrumental accompaniment is one of the finest features in the work of more recent synagogal musicians such as M. G. Löwenstamm (Munich, 1882).
Of the present state of synagogal music it may be said that medieval conditions still reign in the majority of synagogues. Moorish and Levantine congregations and the smaller ones of Russia, Poland, Galicia, Rumania, and even Great Britain and America, still exhibit the musical defects of the eighteenth century. But in the larger synagogues of those countries, as in central and western Europe generally, while the ḥazzan still retains his important functions, the traditional intonations have been simplified and purified through acquaintance with the classical style of the concert-room, and he is more a precentor than a solo vocalist. The four-part choir is usually composed of boys and men, more rarely of women and men, and is with more frequency relegated to a gallery as it comes rather under the direction of a technically trained musician as choir-master than of the ḥazzan as general musical director. The choir almost everywhere now sings well-designed, harmoniously and expressively written, and adequately dignified music, the responses being more and more based on the traditional intonations. Psalms, versicles, and anthem-like pieces closely imitate the devotional music of Gentile neighbors; but the composers also frequently evince a desire to give utterance to a Jewish sentiment in the tones handed down from the past. In many of the synagogues of the United States there is no choir in theEuropean sense, its place being taken by a single or a double mixed quartet of selected singers, in which, strangely enough, Gentiles are permitted to be the majority of those appointed to lead Jewish worship. Yet even here the tendency is now evident to combine the fullest modern artistic resources with the essentially traditional material consecrated by ancient custom of which Lewandowski was the foremost exponent.
- Zunz, S. P. p. 13;
- idem, Ritus, pp. 8 et passim;
- L. Dukes, in Orient, Lit.;
- D. A. de Sola, Ancient Melodies of the Liturgy of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews, Historical Introduction, London, 1857;
- S. Naumbourg, Recueil de Chants Religieux des Israélites (Etude Historique), Paris, 1874;
- A. Marksohn and W. Wolf, Auswahl Alter Hebräischer Synagogal Melodien, Preface, Leipsic, 1875;
- J. M. Japhet, Schire Jeschurun, 2d ed., Preface, Frankfort, 1881;
- E. Birnbaum, in Israelit, Jüdischer Kantor und Israelitische Wochenschrift, passim, 1881-1904;
- J. Singer, Die Tonarten des Traditionellen Synagogengesanges, Vienna, 1886;
- F. L. Cohen, Rise and Development of Synagogue Music, in Anglo-Jew. Hist. Exh. Papers, London, 1887;
- idem, Ancient Musical Traditions of the Synagogue, in Proc. Musical Association, , London, 1893;
- idem, Song in the Synagogue, in Musical Times, London, 1899;
- A. Kaiser and William Sparger (Preface by Cyrus Adler), A Collection of the Principal Melodies of the Synagogue, Chicago, 1893;
- A. Ackermann, Der Synagogale Gesang, in Winter and Wünsche, Jüdische Litteratur, , Treves, 1894;
- E. Pauer (Preface by F. L. Cohen), Traditional Hebrew Melodies, London, 1896;
- E. Breslaur, Sind Originale Synagogen-Melodien Geschichtlich Nachweisbar? Leipsic. 1898.
These files are public domain.
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Music, Synagogal'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/m/music-synagogal.html. 1901.