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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....

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(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 ...

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Don Harrán

(Messer Leon )

(b Mantua, 1470; d Salonika [now Thessaloniki], 1526). Rabbi, philosopher. He was the son of the scholar Judah Messer Leon. David refers to music, briefly, in his treatise Sheva ḥ ha-nashim (‘Praise of women’), a commentary on Proverbs xxxi. Acknowledging the wonders of music in ancient Israel, he praises the skills of the Levites and the power of music to awaken prophecy. It is not enough to sing, rather the singer must be well trained and have a sweet voice. Song is intrinsic to life’s activities: King David is said to have sung to God at all times, in sickness and in health. The author explains the origins of the term selah as a combination of the syllables sol and la. In the course of his exposition, he mentions an earlier work, Abir Ya‘aqov (‘The Cavalier Jacob’), now lost, where he claims to have treated ‘the science of music’ in chapter 7....

Article

Don Harrán

(b c1530; d 1590). Rabbi and exegete . Music is treated at length in his sermon Higayon be-khinor (‘Strummings/Meditations on the Lyre’; ed. and Ger. trans. H. Schmueli, Tel Aviv, 1953), the first of 52 sermons in the collection Nefutsot yehudah (‘Judah's Dispersions’; Venice, 1589). In accordance with his belief that the origins of arts and sciences lie in ancient Israel, Moscato traces the beginnings of music to Jubal (not Pythagoras), recognizes the first ‘human’ musician as Moses (not Orpheus), explains the Hebrew origins of musical terms (‘music’ from mezeg, mixture or mood) and finds Hebrew prototypes for musica mundana, or the harmony of the spheres. The main theme pursued in a number of variations is ‘harmony’, which Moscato conceives in cosmic and musical terms. He implies that, in music, ‘harmony’ exists apart from the mode of its composition or realization: thus, by implication, harmony comprises monophony and polyphony, composed and improvised music, vocal and instrumental practices (‘and they will sing to the Lord with a lyre, with a lyre and a singing voice’). Since harmony is perfection, and perfection is consonance, Moscato develops the idea of the octave in its musical and spiritual applications: the octave as a perfect interval is paralleled by the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Simḥat Torah), marking the end of the annual reading of the Torah and its renewal; the study of Torah is the eighth science (beyond the ...

Article

(b 1542; d Mantua, 1612). Italian Jewish physician and writer on Hebrew antiquities. He discussed music, at great length, in his final work Shil ṭei ha-gibborim (‘Shields of Heroes’; Mantua, 1612), in which he glorified the ancient Temple, its architecture, its liturgy and its music. Ten of the 90 chapters are devoted to music. Portaleone conceived the music of the Levites after Italian Renaissance practices and humanist music theory: thus the discussion turns on polyphony, lute tablatures, contemporary instruments (in analogy to ancient ones, which are described in considerable detail), modes, the doctrine of ethos, simple and compound intervals and the differentiation between consonance and dissonance. He maintained that music in the Temple was a learned art, acquired after a rigorous course of training; it was notated, thus meant to be preserved; its performance was based on written sources. Portaleone acknowledged Judah Moscato as his teacher, although he noted that they conceived music differently: whereas Moscato spoke, generally, of number, harmony and ‘science’, treating music for its cosmological and spiritual connotations, his pupil was concerned with ...