Soundscapes of Salvation: Resounding Refrains in Jewish and Christian Liturgical Poems

TitleSoundscapes of Salvation: Resounding Refrains in Jewish and Christian Liturgical Poems
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsMünz-Manor, O, Arentzen, T
JournalStudies in Late Antiquity

We do not know how hymns in Late Antiquity sounded. We do know that refrains became an important aspect of hymnody in the period, not only among Christians in the capital accustomed to acclamations, but also among Hebrew-speaking Jews and Syriac-speaking Christians further east. This article investigates ways that the refrains contributed to shaping soundscapes or sonic space. The article constitutes a study of three of the era's most outstanding liturgical poets: Yose ben Yose and Yannai who wrote piyyutim in Hebrew and Romanos the Melodist who wrote kontakia in Greek. Refrains should ring loudly, and all three poets show a distinct awareness of the refrain's ability to shape the performative space. Throughout the song, the refrain would return repeatedly as an echo and saturate the room with loud voices. The hymnographers used this feature semantically, to dye the soundscapes with highly charged or pregnant notions, so that eventually the singing of the songs themselves gave way to the experience of community and deliverance. Conducted by poets, voices gathered to create soundscapes of salvation. []


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