AskDefine | Define antiphony

Dictionary Definition



1 alternate (responsive) singing by a choir in two parts
2 a verse or song to be chanted or sung in response [syn: antiphon]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. alternate, or responsive singing by a choir split into two parts; a piece sung or chanted in this manner


singing by a choir split in two parts or a piece sung in this manner
  • Croatian: antifona

Extensive Definition

This article is about the musical term. See Antiphon (person) the orator of ancient Greece.
An antiphon 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.
The word is of Greek origin, αντί (opposite) + φωνη (voice).
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 an 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.


  • Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Oxford University Press
antiphony in Catalan: Antífona
antiphony in German: Antiphon (Musik)
antiphony in Spanish: Antífona
antiphony in French: Antienne
antiphony in Italian: Antifona
antiphony in Dutch: Antifoon
antiphony in Japanese: アンティフォナ
antiphony in Polish: Antyfona
antiphony in Portuguese: Antífona
antiphony in Russian: Антифон
antiphony in Slovenian: Antifona
antiphony in Finnish: Antifoni
antiphony in Swedish: Antifon
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