Definitions

antiphon

antiphon

[an-tuh-fon]
antiphon, in Roman Catholic liturgical music, generally a short text sung before and after a psalm or canticle. The main use is in group singing of the Divine Office in a monastery. However, the sung introit, offertory, and communion verses of the Mass are also antiphons, whose psalms have for the most part disappeared. Certain festival chants, sung preparatory to the Mass itself, are called antiphons. There are also the four antiphons of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which are in the nature of office hymns and are sung by alternating choirs (i.e., antiphonally), each one belonging to a certain portion of the year. The best known of these is Salve Regina, of whose text there are many polyphonic settings. Modern antiphons are set to composed music rather than plainsong. These are independent choral works for which the English term anthem was derived from antiphon.

(flourished circa 480–411 BC) Orator and statesman. The first Athenian known to practice rhetoric professionally, he wrote speeches for others to give in court but was reluctant to appear in public debate. He may have instigated the revolution of the oligarchic Council of the Four Hundred, an attempt to seize the Athenian government in the midst of war. When the oligarchy fell, he defended his role in the overthrow in a speech called by Thucydides the greatest defense ever made, but he was nonetheless executed for treason.

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This article is about the musical term. See Antiphon (person) the orator of ancient Greece.

An antiphon (Greek ἀντίφωνον, ἀντί "opposite" + φωνή "voice") is a response, usually sung in Gregorian chant, to a psalm or some other part of a religious service, such as at Vespers or at a Mass. This meaning gave rise to the antiphony style of singing, see call and response.

A piece of music which is performed by two semi-independent choirs interacting with one another, often singing alternate musical phrases, is known as antiphonal. In particular, antiphonal psalmody is the singing or musical playing of psalms by alternating groups of performers. The peculiar mirror structure of the Hebrew psalms renders it probable that the antiphonal method originated in the services of the ancient Israelites. According to the historian Socrates, its introduction into Christian worship was due to Ignatius of Antioch (died 107), who in a vision had seen the angels singing in alternate choirs. In the Latin Church it was not practised until more than two centuries later, when it was introduced by Ambrose, bishop of Milan, who compiled an antiphonary, or collection of works suitable for antiphonal singing (also known as an antiphonal). The antiphonary still in use in the Roman Roman Catholic Church was compiled by Gregory the Great (590).

Antiphony is particularly common in the Anglican musical tradition, where the choir divides into two equal halves on opposite sides of the quire as Decani and Cantoris.

Antiphons are also used as an integral part of the worship in the Greek Orthodox church and the Eastern Catholic churches.

The Indian concept sawal-jawab ("question" and "answer") can be considered antiphonal. The alteration of individual notes or pitches is hocket.

Antiphon can also be used outside of a strict musical or liturgical context to mean a more general response. When used in this way the word often maintains its religious connotation.

Polychoral Antiphony

When two or more groups of singers sing in alternation the style of music can also be called polychoral. Specifically, this term is usually applied to music of the late Renaissance and early Baroque. Polychoral techniques are a definitive characteristic of the music of the Venetian school, exemplified by the works of Giovanni Gabrieli; this music is often known as the Venetian polychoral style. The Venetian polychoral style was an important innovation of the late Renaissance, and this style, with its variations as it spread across Europe after 1600, helps to define the beginning of the Baroque era. Polychoral music was not limited to Italy in the Renaissance; it was popular in Spain and Germany, and there are examples from the 19th and 20th centuries, from composers as diverse as Hector Berlioz, Igor Stravinsky and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Greater Advent Antiphons

  • O sapientia

  • O Adonai

References

  • Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Oxford University Press

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