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Word of the Day – Thursday, November 23rd



Word of the Day


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A song of joy or praise
clues: Song of triumph; Song of praise; Song of joy; Hymn of praise; Hymn of thanksgiving
Crossword puzzle frequency: once a year
Frequency in English language: 54478 / 86800
A paean of Beethoven

Paean is a term used to describe a type of song. It comes from the ancient Greek use of the term, which was also used as the name of the healer of the gods.

The most famous paeans are those of Pindar

Paeans were sung at the festivals of Apollo (especially the Hyacinthia), at banquets, and later even at public funerals. In later times they were addressed not only to the gods, but to human beings. In this manner the Rhodians celebrated Ptolemy I of Egypt, the Samians Lysander of Sparta, the Athenians Demetrius, the Delphians Craterus of Macedon.

Musically, the paean was a choral ode, and originally had an antiphonal character, in which a leader sang in a monodic style, with the chorus responding with a simple, informal phrase; however, later in its development, the paean was an entirely choral form. Typically the paean was in the Dorian mode (note that the Ancient Greek Dorian was different from the modern Dorian mode; see musical mode), and was accompanied by the kithara, which was Apollo's instrument. Paeans meant to be sung on the battlefield were accompanied by aulos and kithara.

Paean is now used in the sense of any song of joy or triumph. A particularly cogent Paean is that composed in the later twentieth century by the British composer, Kenneth Leighton, a work that is both triumphal and ascerbic and that poses questions to the listener that are both challenging and re-enforcing in the spiritual sense. It also describes a poetic foot of four syllables, one long and three short.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Paean".