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Kabbalistic Music - The Niggun

Kabbalistic Music - The Niggun

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Generally it is maintained that there are two distinct styles of music. Let us term these, for convenience's sake, as 'Western music,' music which originates from Western society, and 'Non-Western,' music which is derived from all other cultures, particularly those of the East and Africa. Western music is usually recognizable as 'goal oriented music.' This means to say, music that is narrative in structure, consisting of a series of progressive 'events,' so to speak. The listener feels the progression of the music, and it evokes a sense of movement within him. It feels like the music has a destination, and it takes the listener on its journey. Non-Western music is characterized by a prolongation of a single note, or a select group of sounds which continues in a set pattern throughout the entire melody. This type of music arouses a more contemplative state, evoking within the listener a sense of timelessness and inner space.

Appropriately, these moods of music reflect the essential theosophy of these two civilizations. In the West, the predominate belief is that creation began at a period of time, as time is linear, culminating in a future: creation, revelation and finally redemption. Reflecting this reality, the music the West produces follows this pattern. It begins, reaches a high point and climaxes. By contrast, in the East, where time is viewed to be cyclical, with no 'beginning,' 'middle' or 'end,' its music, too, is cyclical and repetitive.

The Kabbalah and Jewish mystical teachings, on some level, meld these two together. Yes, creation began at some point in time, and time itself was created; nonetheless, creation is continuous, moment to moment anew. Nothing is merely in the past, or hoped for purely the future. Everything is within the eternal present. As such, the music that the Jewish mystics produced, especially the songs of Chassidim known as niggunim, are reflective of both these musical spectrums. There are some niggunim that are structured and progressive. These tunes are to the Western ear 'sophisticated' tunes, consisting of a beginning, a body and a climax. There are other niggunim that are containments of a repetition of single, individual sounds with little or no words. And some contain the two.

Wherein Neitzsche suggested that the 'fire magic of music' is to be found in its anti-rationality, and what he sought in music was its 'ecstatic irrationality,' the Jewish mystic looks to unveil within music its transcendence. Perhaps not the transcendence within the music itself, as some would argue that music is nothing more than "sonorous air" or, as Leibniz had it, "unconscious arithmetic"; rather the reaction to the music, the transcendence reached as one reacts to the music.

A wordless tune--as is much of Jewish mystical song, particularly Chassidic--is the way two individuals can communicate on a soulular transcendent level. Any breakdown in the verbal communicated mode can be repaired by creating a conduit that transcends words. When a person feels alienated from his Source, or for that manner, from his fellow man, a wordless tune which exists on a realm that defies distinctions, separations, and disharmony, is the most fitting remedy, causing a unity of souls.

Rabbi DovBer Pinson, Rosh Kollel of IYYUN, is a world-renowned scholar, kabbalist, and spiritual teacher. Through his books and lectures he has touched the lives of tens of thousands, and serves as a mentor to many across the globe. He has authored over 30 books, many of which have been translated into multiple languages.
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Anonymous USA July 8, 2013

Kabbalah Music I was looking for the Kabbalah music. Which one is it? Is it possible to listen to at least one? How different is it from the regular Jewish music? Thank you Reply

Anonymous Brockton, Ma January 16, 2010

I do want to say that I was involved in intuitive music making for a long long time and it was not called something retaining Kaballist roots but I would say it felt like that. I stopped playing when I lost my apartment due to loving support from my sister I have started to paint again....I used to paint, now I do again and I embroider prayers in Hebrew but I do not know Hebrew, Alot of what I do I do out of love. Thank you for Chabad.org and I hope to send donation soon.Thanks for your loving kindness. Reply

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