as a side thread to our discussion on 'genuine musicians' and the historical thoughts of ancient musicians it has engendered, i present -
from 'cantus spiritus'
xqwizit publishers, 2002
by yours truly
Musicians of the Bible
The director of music
Pss 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18,
19, 20, 21, 22, 31, 36, 39, 40, 41, 42,
44, 45, 46, 47, 49, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55,
56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 64, 65, 66,
67, 68, 69, 70, 75, 76, 77, 80,
84, 85, 88, 109, 139, 140
The designation “director of music” could apply to the Levite who fulfilled the music administration capacities of scheduling the rotation service for singers and instrumentalists supervising instrument maintenance, instrument construction, and training musicians. This man could also be charged with entering the indicated psalm into the repertory or determining which pre-existing tunes or melodic formula to use in performance. The director would also function as leader of the Levitical choir and guide worshipers in their responses.
The first musician mentioned in the Old Testament is Jubal, son of Lamech and Adah, a resident of Nod where his ancestor Cain had settled. The names of Jubal and his brothers, Jabal and Tubal–Cain, derive from Hebrew verbs meaning “To bring, carry, or lead”.
Jubal’s designation as the “father of all who play the harp and flute” indicates that professional music activities, at least in Nod, began with him.
It’s easy for a musician to visualize what was required to carry on this work. Jubal’s “shop” would have contained rolls of gut for lyre strings, half–finished lyre and harp frames, broken instruments to be repaired, bones and cane for woodwind instruments, drills and borers for finger holes, hides for tof heads, and trainees to help with the work.
Jubal also had to be a pedagogue, one who developed and passed on playing techniques to aspiring musicians. Since it seems music notation was still in the future, Jubal needed a good memory, a good ear, and vocal skills.
1 Ch 15:24, 16:6
These men are both priests and trumpeters. Scripture notes that some of them played continuously at certain events. This indicates they practiced for endurance and embouchure flexibility. (See section on melodic formulae and trumpets). These primitive instruments had a limited range that could be extended by trained players. The hours spent on the march as they preceded the Ark bearers were not whiled away playing one pitch, but with fanfares of varied rhythm and pitch to announce the approach of The Ark of God.
1 Ch 15:20, 16:5
1 Ch 15:20, 16:5
Per orders of King David:
These musicians were selected by the chiefs of the Levitical families to provide music for the Ark’s entry into Jerusalem and it’s placement within the city. As noted in the section on string instruments, lyres were built with a resonator box to amplify their sound. Harps were built without a resonator.
1 Ch 15:21-27
For the ceremony mentioned in 1 Ch 15, the choirs wore robes of fine linen, as did David. The choirs in Nehemiah performed antiphonally (in echo fashion) as they marched to the top of the wall and, coming from opposite directions, met at their assigned places in the “house of God”.
Nehemiah’s singers formed a regional ensemble, called together from the music communities of the Netophathites; Beth Gigal, Geba, and Azmaveth; villages around Jerusalem that the singers themselves had built.
David’s chorus master was Kenaniah the head Levite, selected because of his great musical skill.
Nehemiah’s choirs were directed by Jezrahiah.
1 Ch 6:39
1 Ch 15:17, 19
1 Ch 16:5, 7, 37
1 Ch 5:6, 9
50:1, 73:1, 74:1, 75:1, 76:1, 77:1
78:1, 79:1, 80:1, 81:1, 82:1, 83:1
Asaph, son of Berekiah, began his liturgical music career as an associate of another musician, Heman. Heman and Asaph, along with Ethan, were percussionists in the service of King David. These men specialized in using cymbals in processional and temple music. By the time of 1 Ch 16:5, Asaph has been moved from associate to chief, but still functions as percussionist. In verse 7 of that book, David presents Asaph, who now has associates of his own, with a psalm. Asaph is later charged with ministering regularly before the Ark of the covenant. By chapter 25, he is under the king’s direct supervision.
In addition to being a chief musician, Asaph is called a seer. His sayings and prophecy are presented in twelve psalms listed previously.
1 Ch 16:41, 42
1 Ch 25:3, 6, 12
2 Ch 5:12
2 Ch 35:15
Pss 39, 62, 77
Jeduthun was multi-talented. His responsibilities included organizing brass, percussion, and string players for use in sacred song. Jedthun was also a harpist who played while praising God. Like Asaph, Jeduthun also prophesied and was called the king’s seer.
The roaming band of prophets
In 1 Sa 10:5 Saul is told to go to his hometown of Gibeah where the Philistines had stationed a garrison of troops. Coming down from the high place would be a group of prophets with a harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre. Obeying his orders, Saul meets with these minstrel prophets. The spirit comes upon him and he joins them in prophesying.
Ex. 15:20-21-The sister of Moses and Aaron is herself called a prophetess. She sang and led the women of the exodus in song to the accompaniment of the tofs (tambourine–like hand drums minus jingles).
1 Samuel 16:23
2 Samuel 6:5
2 Samuel 23:1
1 Ch. 16:37
2 Ch. 35:15
Students of scripture will recognize David as a Bard–King. His prowess in music, poetry, and personal combat combine to make him a colorful, royal figure of Israel’s past.
As mentioned earlier in this work, the youthful David was a capable music therapist who soothed the troubled monarch Saul with harp playing.
David’s grand triumphs and personal failings fueled his creative spirit to produce many of the Psalms. He led his people in celebration before the Lord, and Samuel refers to him as Israel’s singer of songs. David appointed gifted musicians to organize and perform music at sacred events. His ideas were followed for many years in the temple Solomon built.
1 Kings 4:32
Solomon (Jedidiah) was David’s second son by Bathsheba. This favorite son of David ascended to the throne of Israel when he was eighteen years old. His reign of forty years was marked by the grand splender associated with wise, wealthy kings.
Extensive construction projects were completed under his direction–the temple, fortifications, whole cities. Artistically, Solomon seems more prone to literature than music, but the king did write 1005 songs and at least two psalms. The bible does not reveal whether the “songs” were just lyrics, or also contained musical directions.
Chapters 8-11 of Revelation depict John’s vision of angels sounding trumpets to preceed the apocalyptic events of the letter. Although angels have manifested themselves in physical bodies at the will of God, the usual understanding is that they are spiritual beings.
Incorporeal entities would lack the lungs and lips required to produce a trumpet tone. The figurative nature of the Revelation letter and the ancient view that the salpinx (trumpet of Revelation) possessed supernatural power, influence this author to view angels with trumpets as figurative language first and literal events second.