ḤAZZANUT (lit. "that appertaining to a ḥazzan"):
Originally, as in the Siddur of Saadia Gaon, the term was applied to the piyyuṭim which it was the function of the official then called "ḥazzan" to recite. But as the duties of this official spread to the intonation of the whole of the service, the term came to be applied to the traditional form of melodious intonation. Beautiful singing, with its influence on the emotions, dates from the later Talmudical period (Ta'an. 16a).
The term "ḥazzanut" is used also to denote the collective traditional intonations as chanted in any particular service. This ḥazzanut is not composed of fixed melodies in the modern sense, but is essentially a species of cantillation. It is not, like the cantillation of the Scriptures, designated by any system of accents, but consists of a free vocal development, on traditional lines, of certain themes specifically associated with the individual occasion. But it diverges from the ḥazzanut of any other sacred occasion much as do the respective parallel interpretations of the accents exhibited under Cantillation. The divergence, that is to say, lies not so much in style or in treatment, in outline or in detail, as in tonality.
While the main features of synagogue melody remain fairly constant, the detail depends upon the capacity of the particular officiant, the extent to which he is en rapport with the congregation, the strain on his voice due to the acoustics of the building, the duration of the devotions, and other variable conditions. But in all cases it may be said that the ḥazzanut consists of an unaccompanied vocal fantasia upon the traditional prayer-motive, beneath which a sense of devotion and reverence will usually be apparent. The working out of the melody-type of the service is necessarily to a considerable extent left to the impulse of the moment, but depends much upon the structure and, above all, the significance of the sentences intoned. This method is explained in the general article Music, Synagogal.