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Hanoch Avenary

The importance of Jerusalem as a music centre originated in the foundation by King David of a central extra-tribal sanctuary, the Temple to Solomon or First Temple of Jerusalem, for which he laid down well-defined musical functions. A certain group of landless Levites was to devote itself entirely to music throughout all its generations. Although the principle of organized officialdom in cult music also existed elsewhere in ancient Asia, the Bible gives a detailed account of how it actually worked (1 Chronicles xv, xvi, xxiii and xxv). The first step (c1002 bce) was the appointment of three elders to lead with cymbals the performance of 14 string players and seven trumpeters. This body of 24 musicians was based on the symbolic number of 12, which remained in force in both the First and the Second Temple of Jerusalem. About 970 bce David fixed the total of active musicians at 288 (i.e. 24 x 12), and they were also given a kind of royal charter (...


Ury Eppstein

Musical life in modern Jerusalem can be divided into two separate spheres: the liturgical music of the various Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious communities who maintain their living musical traditions; and Western secular art music.

Most of the many Jewish religious musical traditions are represented in the synagogues of the various communities, the most ancient being of Middle Eastern origin, mainly from the Yemen, Baghdad, Kurdistan, Iran, Bokhara and Syria. On further investigation, these may prove to preserve elements of musical traditions from biblical times. There are also representatives of the musical traditions of Spanish-based Sephardi communities, especially those from North Africa, Greece and Turkey, as well as of the mainstreams of eastern European Ashkenazi tradition, namely Hasidism (which created in Jerusalem a special vocal style imitating instruments, stimulated by the ban on instrumental music imposed to signify mourning for the destruction of the Temple) and its opponents, Mithnagdim, who developed a Jerusalem version of the Lithuanian-style Bible cantillation. Western European communities, mainly from Germany, also have synagogues with their own musical traditions....


Avigdor Herzog

The tradition of sacred vocal (synagogue) music of the Samaritans, a religious community (which in 1999 numbered about 640), living in Nablus (Shechem) and Holon near Tel-Aviv. They claim descent from the ancient Israelites, and their music and the manner of its performance have many apparently archaic features. The Samaritans differ from the Jews in a number of ways, recognizing only the Pentateuch as canonical (and no other books of the Bible) and regarding Mt Gerizim (near Nablus) rather than Jerusalem as the supreme holy place (see John iv.20).

Samaritan music is an oral tradition sung at synagogue services and at other religious and social gatherings. It consists of performances of literary texts (the Pentateuch and prayers in Hebrew, and hymns in Samaritan Aramaic) and is sung only by men. Although old manuscripts contain Samaritan biblical accents for guiding the reading of the texts, these are no longer used today. Samaritan music can be divided into three categories: songs sung by the whole community; those sung by both a soloist and the community; and solo songs. The group songs are more syllabic in style and rhythmically repetitious, and have fewer glissandos and tremolos than solo music. They are sometimes sung in unison, but mostly antiphonally, the worshippers being divided into two groups, one on the right-hand side of the synagogue facing Mt Gerizim, the other on the left; the former group is termed the ‘right’ or ‘upper’ group, the latter the ‘left’ or ‘lower’ group. Alternate groups of verses drawn from the Pentateuch (called ‘Qataf’), or important hymns (in Samaritan Aramaic) are taken by the two groups, beginning with the ‘right’ group together with the priests; each group begins as the other reaches approximately the midpoint of its verses, so that there is an almost continuous bitextual performance. All the group songs are characterized by improvised parallel polyphony, in which all the intervals are at times found, and in which there are also usually drones and notes of indefinite pitch (...