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date: 22 October 2019

Moscato, Judah locked

  • Don Harrán

Extract

(bc1530; 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 ...

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