Jablonski, Marek (Michael)

(b) Verse structure and chant

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(b) Verse structure and chant.

The basis of psalmody in both synagogue and Church is the dichotomic structure of its verses. Most psalm verses are constructed of two parallel hemistiches (parallelismus membrorum) and, frequently, each hemistich is further divided into two segments (‘the continuous dichotomy’: Wickes, 1881/R, pp.38–53). But recent research has shown that a great number of verses are actually tripartite (Flender, 1992). Jewish psalmodies preserve this basic verse structure. Yet while the point of the half-verse is carefully marked by a half-cadence formula and a caesura, the end of a verse may sometimes be connected to the beginning of the next (Lachmann, 1940; repr. in the original Ger., 1978, pp.95, 108–10) and the cadential formula delayed to the first pausal point of the following verse. Unlike the usual Gregorian psalmody, where one recitation note (tonus currens, tenor, tuba) is used for both hemistiches, Jewish psalmodies tend to use additional recitation notes, the one for the second half-verse may be higher or lower than that used for the first. When it is lower, the psalmody resembles the Gregorian tonus peregrinus (Herzog and Hajdu, 1968). An initium formula may be missing, or it may begin each verse; sometimes it precedes the second recitation note as well. Jewish chants tend to vary the melodic patterns of the psalmody and to embellish the recitation – hovering around a note rather than mechanically repeating it – and to adorn the cadential points with melismas (see also Avenary, 1953).

Some of these features are illustrated in Flender's transcription of a Moroccan rendition of Psalm xix (Jerusalem: National Sound Archives Y 1692; ex.2). In most verses, the recitation tone for the first hemistich is G and for the second one F. The musical dichotomy follows the textual one: half-verses end on F and full verses on G. But the cadential formula is postponed to the beginning of the following verse if the latter is of a tripartite division.

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