Musical Gesture and Transcendence in Bloch’s Nigun




Ernest Bloch, Nigun, Performance, Devekut, Musical gesture


In 1923, Ernest Bloch composed “Baal Shem: Three Pictures of Chassidic Life”. This musical work has three parts representing the Hasidic overground, respectively “Vidui”, “Nigun” and “Simchas Torah”. The second movement became a widely known piece and incorporated into the repertoire of violinists. Bloch associates the nigun, interpreted by the human voice, with the violin, putting the instrument in the place of the Cantor or Rabbi. The violin incorporates the praying figure that characterizes the nigun, including gestures, and using music as a vehicle from materiality to transcendence (devekut). Through expressive analysis, this essay aims to show the similarities between Nigun's composition and the homonymous musical genre, emphasizing musical gesture and interpretative cadential movement, and to awaken some thoughts about the theme, without the intention of presenting conclusive answers.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Edison Valério Verbisck, Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil

Doctoral student in Music and Musicology at the University of Évora, develops the thesis “The violin as protagonist of the musical aesthetics of composer Ernest Bloch” (temporary title). He holds a Masters in Musical Interpretation (Violin) at the University of Évora (2012). Performed as a violinist in orchestras in Portugal and Brazil, such as Orquestra do Algarve, Orquestra Sinfónica Juvenil, Orquestra Clássica da Academia (Portugal), Orquestra de Câmara do Pantanal, Orquestra Clássica de Mato Grosso do Sul and Orquestra Sinfónica Municipal de Campo Grande (Brazil). Worked as a violin teacher at the Conservatório de Portimão, Centro de Artes de Sines, Academia de Música de Lagos (Portugal). At the moment, he is Assistant Professor of Music at the Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul (Brazil).

Eduardo Lopes, University of Évora, Portugal

Studied classical percussion and drum set at the Rotterdams Conservatorium in the Netherlands. Holds a Bachelor Degree in Performance and Composition with the highest honours (Summa Cum Laude) from the Berklee College of Music in Boston-USA. He obtained a PhD in Music Theory from the University of Southampton-UK, under the supervision of Nicholas Cook. In 2015 he was award by unanimity the Habilitation in Music and Musicology at the University of Évora-Portugal. Throughout his career he has received many national and international prizes and scholarships. Performs on a regular basis with some of the most relevant Portuguese musicians and renown international artists such as: Mike Mainieri (Steps Ahead); Dave Samuels (Spyro Gyra); Myra Melford; Susan Muscarella; Kevin Robb, Phil Wilson; e Bruce Saunders. He has recorded several CDs, some of these as the main artist. Performed in concerts in Portugal, Spain, France, Netherlands, England, Scotland, Brazil, Japan, and the USA. He is Yamaha Artist (Europe), and endorses Zildjian cymbals and Remo. He is the author of many published texts and articles on the topics of performance practice; music theory and rhythm; jazz studies; and music education. He has taught at the University of Southampton-UK and at the Superior School of Music and Performing Arts, Porto-Portugal. From 2012 to 2016 he was the Head of the Department of Music at the University of Évora. During the academic period of 2016-1017 he was Full Visiting Professor in the School of Music and Scenic Arts at the Federal University of Goiás, Brazil. At the moment he is Associate Professor with Habil. in the Department of Music at the University of Évora; Head of the PhD program in Music and Musicology of the UÉ; Coordinator of the CESEM branch at the UÉ; co- editor of the Brazilian musicology journal HODIE; and editor of the Portuguese Journal of Music Education.


Albrecht, Joshua. 2018. “Expressive Meaning and the Empirical Analysis of Musical Gesture: The Progressive Exposure Method and the Second Movement of Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata”. Music Theory Online, 24 (3). Disponível em:

Avenary, Hanoch. 1964. “The Hasidic Nigun. Ethos and Melos of a Folk Liturgy”. Journal of the International Folk Music Council, 16: 60-63. Disponível em: 10.2307/835078.

Bloch, Ernest. 2001. “Baal Shem”. Music for Violin and Piano. Nova Iorque: Carl Fischer: 27-45.

Bloch, Ernest, e Frank, Waldo. 1933. “Man and Music”. The Musical Quaterly, 19 (4): 374-381. Disponível em:

Bloch, Suzanne. 1976. Ernest Bloch: Creative Spirit. New York City: Jewish Council of the Jewish Welfare Board.

Cook, Nicholas. 1999. “Analysing Performance and Performing Analysis”. Rethinking music. Eds. Cook, N., & Everist, M. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 239-261.

Gollance, Sonia Beth. 2019. “Gesture, Repertoire, and Emotion: Yiddish Dance Practice in German and Yiddish Literature”. Jewish Social Studies: History, Culture, Society, 25 (1) Disponível em: 10.2979/jewisocistud.25.1.04

Hatten, Robert. 2004. Interpreting Musical Gestures, Topics, and Tropes: Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Hatten, Robert. 2019. “Performance and Analysis - Or Synthesis: Theorizing Gesture, Topics, and Tropes in Chopin's F-Minor Ballade”. Indiana Theory Review, 28 (1/2): 45-66.

Johnson, Eric. (1972). “A Composer's Vision photographs by Ernest Bloch”. Aperture, 16 (3), 63. Disponível em: 10.2307/24471023

Knapp, Alexander. 1970-1971. “The Jewishness of Bloch: Subconscious or Conscious?”. Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, 97: 99-112.

Kushner, David. 2010. “Ernest Bloch. The Cleveland Years”. Min-Ad – Israel Studies in Musicology Online, 8(II): 175-200.

Lazar, Aryeh. 2017. “A Reexamination of the Structure of the Inward Outward Upward Prayer Scale”. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 27 (3): 141–153. Disponível em: 10.1080/10508619.2017.1313014

Maróthy, Janos. 1993-1994. “Rite and Rhythm. From Behaviour Patterns to Musical Structures”. Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, 35 (4): 421-433. Disponível em: 10.2307/902316

Mayse, Ariel Evan, e Reiser, Daniel. 2018. “Territories and Textures: The Hasidic Sermon as the Crossroads of Language and Culture”. Jewish Social Studies, 24 (1): 127-160. Disponível em: 10.2979/jewisocistud.24.1.05

Östersjö, Stefan. 2016. “Go To Hell: Towards a Gesture-Based Compositional Practice”. Contemporary Music Review, 35 (4–5): 475–499. Disponível em: 10.1080/07494467.2016.1257625

Robinson, Jenefer, e Hatten, Robert. 2012. “Emotions in Music”. Music Theory Spectrum, 34 (2): 71-106. Disponível em: 10.1525/mts.2012.34.2.71

Rubin, Joel. 2005. "Music Is the Pen of the Soul: Recent Works on Hasidic and Jewish Instrumental Klezmer Music”. AJS Review, 29 (1): 145-158. Disponível em: 10.2307/4131814

Schleifer, Ronald. 2019. “Modernism as Gesture: The Experience of Music, Samuel Beckett, and Performed Bewilderment”. Criticism, 61 (1): 73-96. Disponível em: 10.13110/criticism.61.1.0073

Seroussi, Edwin. 2017. “Shamil: Concept, Practice and Reception of a Nigun in Habad Hasidism”. Studia Judaica, 20, 2(40): 287–306. Disponível em: 10.4467/24500100STJ.17.013.8248



How to Cite

Verbisck, Edison Valério, and Eduardo Lopes. 2021. “Musical Gesture and Transcendence in Bloch’s Nigun”. Per Musi, no. 41 (July):1-15.



Articles in Portuguese/Spanish