ADONAI MELEK ():
By: Francis L. Cohen
A refrain of frequent occurrence, particularly during the services of the days of penitence, built up of the following Scriptural phrases: "The Lord reigneth" (Ps. x. 16, Heb.); "The Lord reigneth" (Ps. xciii. 1); and "The Lord shall reign for ever and ever" (Ex. xv. 18). Being introduced into the penitential services of both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic liturgies as a refrain, phrase by phrase, to poems in stanzas of three verses, the two traditional melodies may be quoted in contrast, since they are characteristic of the individual differences between the traditional music of the northern and that of the southern Jews of Europe. In the Sephardic liturgy (along, at least, the Dutch, which is also the British and Colonial, line of transmission;for the Italians have perhaps approximated to the Ashkenazim in this respect) the melodies are intended more for congregational singing than for the cantor's elaboration. Thus they usually present a definite rhythmic form, with the simple outline of a folk-song, from which, indeed, many were first adapted; and their tonality rarely is other than the minor or the major mode. The Sephardim have more traditional strains suited for rendering by a congregational unison, and as a result these melodies have varied but little in local tradition.
In the Ashkenazic liturgy, however, the cantor was, from ancient times, not so much the leader of the congregational song as the practised vocalist who musically interpreted the text to the listening congregation. More rarely, in consequence, were the melodies founded on, or imitated from, the secular music of the land and time; but they were developed from snatches of tune of earlier origin or from brief quotations from parts of the service-music of cognate intention. Thus the northern intonations for parallel passages are, generally, nearer to cantillation than to tune, of irregular and unrhythmic form, and the original lines are well overlaid with melismatic adornment, ill-adapted for congregational rendering, and frequently varying in non-essential details, according to the particular line of tradition.
Moreover, the northern melodies handed down from the Middle Ages are largely "modal"—constructed, that is, in scales such as those of the Catholic plainsong, where the "tonic" is some note other than the do or la of the modern modes, and the semitones in consequence fall into a different position in the octave from those which characterize the major and minor scales.
Finally, the old northern intonations often differ in the phrase with which they close, alike from the Sephardic and from modern melodies, since the cadence rarely rises to the keynote, but falls to it, or often to the dominant, as in the "plagal cadence," a frequent form of which is given in the example above. Bourgault-Ducoudray has drawn attention to the frequent occurrence of this interval in the melodies of the Levant.