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(b Lisbon, 1437; d Venice, 1508). Philosopher and biblical exegete. His writing on music forms the introduction to his commentary on Exodus xv (the ‘Song of the Sea’, 1505; I-Rvat Rossiano 925, also printed in Venice in 1579). Relying on earlier sources including Ibn Rushd's commentary on Aristotle's Poetics and Moses ibn Tibbon's commentary on the Song of Solomon, Abrabanel describes three kinds of verse set to music: with metre and rhyme, as in Hebrew hymns (piyyutim); without metre or rhyme, yet arranged in a succession of short and long lines (as in the ‘Song of the Sea’); and metaphorical texts, by which he appears to refer to Psalms. Whereas, for him, the first and third kinds do not require music to qualify as poetry (prosodic considerations prevail in the first, conceptual ones in the third), the second kind does (its construction depends on its musical usage). Yet all three kinds rely on music for their usual mode of presentation. The author recognizes different functions for music in conjunction with poetry: to serve as a mnemonic device for retaining the texts, to improve the understanding of their content, and to elevate the spirit....

Article

(b c1435; d after 1504). Italian philosopher and biblical exegete. He wrote briefly on music in his Ḥesheq shelomoh (‘Solomon's desire’), a commentary on the Song of Solomon, written during the period 1488–92 at the request of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. Music is discussed in relation to Hebrew poetics, then classified for its varieties and described for its powers. Under poetics, Alemanno notes that the word shir (‘song’) applies to poetry and music and, within music, to both vocal and instrumental types; he then discerns its usage in three species of poetry: metric and rhymed; non-metric and non-rhymed; and metaphorical. In accordance with the Latin music theorists Alemanno recognizes three kinds of music: natural, artificial and theoretical; the first two refer respectively to vocal and instrumental music and the third (nigun sikhli) to what other Hebrew theorists designate as ḥokhmat ha-musiqah (‘the science of music’). On the effect of music, Alemanno notes its power to awaken love on both earthly (or secular) and divine (or sacred) planes, which correspond to what he conceives as the two exegetical planes – the literal and the allegorical – for interpreting the ...

Article

Don Harrán

(b Spain, c1420; d Naples, 1494). Rabbi and philosopher. Following the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, he settled in Naples. He referred to music under the heading nigun ‘olam (‘cosmic music’) in chapter 12 of his ‘Aqedat Yits ḥaq (‘Binding of Isaac’), a homiletic interpretation of the Pentateuch which survives in a manuscript source ( I-Ra Or.58) and in a print from Salonika (now Thessaloníki), dated 1522. Expounding the theme of cosmic order, i.e. harmony, Arama established its existence on lower and higher levels, hence the relationship between the micro- and macrocosm, or music as made and performed by man and music as divine harmony. On both levels, music is governed by scriptural precepts; and he who observes them is in greater harmony with the ‘greater instrument’. Arama saw the laws of music as enfolded in the laws of Torah; the study of Torah thus becomes a form of music-making. Failure to obey the scriptures leads to deficient harmony, or dissonance, which ends in destruction. Torah is powerful only if the soul of the believer is tuned to its ordinances. That the microcosm is subordinate to the macrocosm follows from Arama's general premise that divine truth is superior to human reasoning, i.e. philosophy, and that when the two are in conflict, or ‘out of tune’, philosophy yields to the Holy Writ. It is for man to redress the imbalance, restoring consonance through faith....

Article

Ingrid Brainard

[Giovanni Ambrosio]

(b Pesaro, c1420; d ? after 1484). Italian dancing-master, theorist and choreographer. He was the son of Moses of Sicily, Jewish dancing-master at the Pesaro court. Two autobiographical chapters in his own treatises provide information about his career; he listed a number of major festivities (weddings, entries, visits of state, carnival celebrations etc.) for which he created the dances. The most brilliant courts of the period sought his services; some of the engagements, such as those at Camerino, Ravenna, Urbino, Milan and Florence, extended over several years. Perhaps for convenience or personal safety, or to enhance his standing in his profession, he converted to Christianity and assumed the name Giovanni Ambrosio; the treatise under this name, F-Pn it.476, is nearly identical with F-Pn it.973, the only securely dated examplar (1463) of Guglielmo's manual. Guglielmo was at the Naples court from 1465 to 1467, and soon thereafter (...

Article

Don Harrán

(ben Zemah)

(b Mallorca, 1361; d Algiers, 1444). Rabbi, kabbalist and philosopher. Music is discussed in three different passages in his Magen avot (‘The protection of the Fathers’) which survives in seven manuscript sources, not all of them complete. Three themes are emphasized: music in relation to speech; te’amim as distinct from piyyutim; and the spiritual importance of te’amim (see Jewish music, §I, 3(i)). Under the first the author described music as inherent to speech, indeed, ‘musical speech’ (ha-nigun asher ba-dibur) consists of three elements: consonants, vowels and musical formulae for intoning the sacred texts; the power of music was recognized in ancient Israel, where, after the example of King David, the Levites employed song for reciting the sacred texts in the temple liturgy. Under te’amim, the author differentiated between three kinds of melody, according to whether they were used for chanting the Pentateuch, the Prophets or the Hagiographa; he described their various syntactic, hermeneutic, melodic and rhythmic qualities. The ...

Article

Isabel Pope

revised by Tess Knighton

[Fermoselle, Juan de]

(b Salamanca, July 12, 1468; d León, late 1529 or early 1530). Spanish poet, dramatist and composer. He was born Juan de Fermoselle in Salamanca, where his father was a shoemaker; it has been suggested that he was of Jewish descent. One of at least seven children, he, like several of his brothers, pursued a career that brought him into contact with the higher echelons of society. Diego de Fermoselle was professor of music at Salamanca University from 1479 until 1522, and may well have taught his younger brother. Juan became a choirboy in the cathedral in 1484, where another of his brothers, Miguel, was a chaplain. By 1490, when he, too, briefly held a chaplaincy at Salamanca Cathedral (a position he was forced to resign as he was not ordained), he had adopted the name Juan del Encina, probably his matronymic, but also perhaps a conscious reference to the Castilian holm oak as well as the ilex of Virgil’s bucolic poetry which clearly exerted considerable influence over him. He would have coincided with the great Spanish humanist Antonio de Nebrija at Salamanca, where he studied law probably between ...

Article

Don Harrán

[Solomon Vivas ]

(fl southern France, 1424). French philosopher and commentator . He referred to music in three short passages in his Ḥesheq Shelomoh (‘Solomon's Desire’, 1424; GB-Ob Opp.Add.Qu.114), a commentary on Judah Halevi's Kuzari (12th century). Music attained great heights in ancient Israel, where it was practised by an élite (the Levites) and recognized as a therapeutic aid (David playing before melancholy Saul). Solomon relays various commentaries on a statement by Halevi about the measurement and relationship of text and music; the statement has particularly telling musical terminology: ‘...

Article

Miloš Velimirović

(b Prague, 1413; d after 1471). Czech theorist . He was the author of an encyclopedic work, Liber viginti artium, which includes a discussion of music as one of the arts. He was also known as Paulus de Praga and as Paulus Židek, the latter suggesting that he was of Jewish origin although he may have been brought up as a Christian. He studied in Vienna and in Padua but the claim of a stay in Bologna has not yet been documented. Between 1443 and 1447 Paulirinus taught liberal arts at Prague University. From 1451 to 1455 he was involved in studies as well as political events at Kraków and Breslau. After 1455 he apparently retired to Plzeň where, between 1459 and 1463, he wrote his voluminous encyclopedia in which, besides the liberal arts, he discussed zoology, mineralogy, medicine and metaphysics. The only known copy of this large manuscript is now in the Biblioteka Jagiellónska, Kraków (...