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Jewish Guide


Jewish Music

Jewish music is the music, melodies and tunes of the have grown over time, and throughout the extensive course of Jewish history. In some cases Jewish music is of a religious nature, in others spiritual songs and tunes are most common in Jewish services throughout the world. While other times, it is of a worldly nature the rhythm and sound of Jewish music depends on the origin of the Jewish composer and the time period in which the piece was composed.

As Velvel Pasternak writes, "The importance of music in the life of the Jewish people is found almost at the beginning of Genesis... [Musicians are] mentioned among the three essential professions...Music was viewed as a necessity in everyday life, as a beautiful and upgraded complement of the existence of the human race.


History of Religious Jewish Music

The history of religious Jewish music spread the evolutionof centenary, synagogue, and Temple melodies from Biblical to Modern times. The earliest synagogue music was based on the same arrangement used in the Temple in Jerusalem. According to the Mishnah, the regular Temple orchestra consisted of twelve instruments, and a choir of twelve male singers. Additional instruments were known to the ancient Israelites, though they were not included in the regular orchestra of the Temple, such as the uggav. Though scholars do not completely agree what the Uggav looked like, some have come to believe the known artist "Unkelus" who translated scriptures into Aramaic,and other biblical scholars, have appropriately explained this instrument was the panflute or panpipes.

The devastation and destruction of the Temple, sub-sequent diaspora of the Jewish people, music was first illegal in Babylon and Persia. The law had an exception on Shabbat (i.e. the Sabbath), during which Jewish people were mandated to sing with their family. Later, all restrictions were lifted. As is documented in Psalm 137; "Our tormentors [the Babylonians] asked of us, sings us one of the songs of Zion... How shall we sing the Lord's song...?." Originally, It was with the piyyutim (liturgical poems) in which Jewish music began to crystallize into distinct form. The cantor sang the piyyutim to songs selected by their writer or by himself, thus introducing fixed melodies into synagogue music. The music may has preserved a few etymologies in the reading of Scripture which brought to mind songs from the Temple itself (Ashkenazic Jews named this official tune 'trope';) but in general it reflects the tones and rhythms, in each country and in every age, in which Jews lived, not merely in the actual renting of tunes, but more in the timbre on which the regional music was based on.

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