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Don Harrán

( b Venice, 1571; d Venice, 1648). Italian rabbi, cantor and scholar . He was a cantor in the Scuola italiana (Italian synagogue), Venice, from 1607 until his death. He appears to have introduced some form of polyphony, probably improvised, into the synagogue at Ferrara in 1604. Erudite in Jewish and humanist studies, Modena composed more than 40 writings, on subjects as diverse as Hebrew language and grammar, lexicography, Jewish rites and customs, Kabbalah, alchemy and gambling, as well as various plays, prefaces and rabbinical authorizations, translations, editions, almost 400 poems, and a highly personal autobiography. Music occupied a central place in his life and thought. Among his extended responses to questions put to him in his capacity as a religious authority, he wrote two essays on music, specifically polyphony: the first (1605) legitimizes its use in Jewish prayer services and celebrations, as well as for study; the second (from later years) addresses the issue of whether it is permitted to repeat the name of God (in a single voice or between voices)....