Soundscapes of salvation: Resounding refrains in jewish and Christian liturgical poems

Ophir Münz-Manor, Thomas Arentzen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We donot know how hymns in Late Antiquity sounded. Wedo 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-55
Number of pages20
JournalStudies in Late Antiquity
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the Regents of the University of California.


  • Hymnography
  • Kontakion
  • Piyyut
  • Refrains
  • Romanos the Melodist
  • Soundscape
  • Yannai
  • Yose ben Yose


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