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Old Testament Essays

On-line version ISSN 2312-3621
Print version ISSN 1010-9919


AMZALLAG, Nissim. The musical mode of writing of the psalms and its significance. Old testam. essays [online]. 2014, vol.27, n.1, pp.17-40. ISSN 2312-3621.

Many of the biblical psalms are characterized by a double anomaly. On the one hand they are considerably less fluent than expected, even for poetical compositions. On the other, the many recurrences attested to in the text generate patterns of symmetry on the entire level. The combination of these contrasting anomalies finds an explanation when assuming that the text of these psalms is written in musical fashion, as two distinct scores designed to be sung by dialoging voices. This mode is defined as complex antiphony because the bonding, during performance, of small fragments of text from the two scores yields a composite text. Three distinct patterns of complex antiphony (steady, cross and canonic responsa) are defined here on the basis of the patterns of global symmetry already identified in the psalms. Their existence is supported by: (i) evidences towards complex antiphony in traditional music, (ii) elements suggesting its occurrence in ane liturgy, (iii) the literary coherency and the emergent meanings of the composite text of biblical psalms set in such a fashion. It is concluded that many psalms were apparently designed for complex antiphony, so that this dimension cannot be ignored by the literary analysis.

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