Judaism and Music

Mark Kligman

in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the Arts

Published in print February 2014 | ISBN: 9780195176674
Published online February 2014 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Judaism and Music

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This chapter discusses music in Jewish contexts from the Bible until the present day. Music in Jewish religious life historically and at present includes cantillation of the Bible, the chanting of prayers, and synagogue song. Various forms of liturgical music developed among Ashkenazic Jews (Jews who lived in Europe) with nusach, modal chanting of prayers that was led by the chazzan. The artistically embellished prayer known as chazzanut is a unique musical and liturgical development. Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews (Jews whose heritage is in the Mediterranean and Middle East) adopted a range of musical styles from their surroundings. The adaptation of a known song in this region to religious poetry is known as piyyutim, a well established practice for hundreds of years. Comments on modern trends on a variety of issues conclude this chapter.

Keywords: Bible; cantillation; chant; chazzan; Jewish prayer; music; nusach; piyyutim; synagogue song

Article.  3531 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Judaism and Jewish Studies ; Music and Religion ; Religious Studies

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