Antiphon (music)

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The Liber responsorialis, showing on the right-hand page the antiphons for the first night office of Christmas. The associated psalm tones are indicated by number and ending pitch, and the pitches for the ending of the doxology are indicated by vowels: et in secula seculorum amen.

In Christian liturgy, an antiphon is the name of a short section, between the cleric, and usually the crowd. These sections are either spoken (the priest asks something, and the crowd gives a predefined answer, also spoken), or they are sung. When they are sung, the often use simple melodies. Antiphons are very old: In the 4th century they were used in what is called Ambrosian chant today. In liturgy, antiphons are not used on their own: the priest or person of the clergy says or chants these, while performing a ritual. In many pieces of church music, the choir (who replaces the crowd) starts singing as a response to an antiphon.

In more modern forms of church music (such as Gospels, but also traditional African music), there's a tradition of call and response. A lead singer calls something, and the choir responds.