Byzantine music

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Byzantine music (Modern Greek: Βυζαντινή μουσική) in a narrow sense is the music of the Medieval Roman Empire. Originally it consisted of songs and hymns composed to Greek texts used for courtly ceremonials, during festivals, or as paraliturgical and liturgical music. The ecclesiastical forms of Byzantine music are the best known forms today, because different Orthodox traditions still identify with the heritage of Byzantine music, when their cantors sing monodic chant out of the traditional chant books like sticherarion which in fact consisted of five books, and the heirmologion. Byzantine music is not only the music of the Byzantine empire, because it did not dissappear after the fall of Constantinople. It was continued under the Patriarchate which became the part of the Ottoman administration responsible for Orthodox Christians. During the 19th century, when the empire was splitted into different nations, the new existence of certain Balkan countries was usually established by the declaration of autokephalia against the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The new self-declared patriarchates made up an independent country which was basically defined as a nation by its religion, but the continuity between the Orthodox chant of the Ottoman empire and the one of Bulgaria or Greece, for example, was based on a historical view which traced its roots back to the Byzantine empire, while the Ottoman past was usually regarded as "post-Byzantine". This explains, why Byzantine music means several Orthodox chant traditions of the Mediterranean and the Caucasus until today and not only a limited period of a certain music culture of the Byzantine past.


Imperial Age[edit]

The tradition of eastern liturgical chant, encompassing the Greek-speaking world, developed in the Byzantine Empire from the establishment of its capital, Constantinople, in 330 until its fall in 1453. It is undeniably of composite origin, drawing on the artistic and technical productions of the classical Greek age and inspired by the monophonic vocal music that evolved in the early Greek Christian cities of Alexandria, Antioch and Ephesus.[1] It was imitated by musicians of the 7th century to create Arab music as a synthesis of Byzantine and Persian music, and these exchanges were continued through the Ottoman Empire until Istanbul today.

The term Byzantine music is commonly associated with the medieval sacred chant of Christian Churches following the Constantinopolitan Rite. The identification of "Byzantine music" with "Eastern Christian liturgical chant" is a misconception due to historical cultural reasons. Its main cause is the leading role of the Church as bearer of learning and official culture in the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium), a phenomenon that was not always that extreme but that was exacerbated towards the end of the empire's reign (14th century onwards) as great secular scholars migrated away from a declining Constantinople to rising western cities, bringing with them much of the learning that would spur the development of the European Renaissance. The shrinking of Greek speaking official culture around a church nucleus was even more accentuated by political force when the official culture of the court changed after the capture of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire on May 29, 1453.

The earliest sources and the tonal system of Byzantine music[edit]

According to the chant manual "Hagiopolites," the earliest which has survived until today, chanters of the Hagia Sophia used a system 16 church tones (echoi), while the author of this treatise introduces to a tonal system of 10 echoi. Nevertheless, both schools have in common a set of 4 octaves (protos, devteros, tritos, and tetartos), each of them had a kyrios echos (authentic mode) with the finalis on the degree V of the mode, and a plagios echos (plagal mode) with the final note on the degree I. The resulting eight modes (octoechos) had been identified with the seven tropes (tropoi) of the Ancient Greek harmonikai, the Pythagorean mathematic discipline of music theory as it had been formulated by the harmonikoi during the Hellenic period. Today, chanters of the Christian Orthodox churches identify with the heritage of Byzantine music whose earliest composers are remembered by name since the 5th century, with compositions which are related to them, although it is nearly impossible to reconstruct its original form. The melodic neume notation of Byzantine music developed late since the 10th century, with the exception of an earlier ekphonetic notation, interpunction signs used in lectionaries, but modal signatures for the eight echoi can already be found in fragments (papyri) of monastic hymn books (tropologia) dating back to the 6th century.[2]

Despite censorship and the decline of knowledge which marks the rise of Christian civilization within Hellenism, certain concepts of knowledge and education did still survive during the imperial age, when Christianity became the official religion. The Pythagorean sect and music as part of the four "cyclical exercises" (οἱ ἐγκυκλικοί μαθήματα) which preceded the Latin quadrivium and science today based on mathematics, established mainly among Greeks in southern Italy (at Tarent and Croton). Greek anachoretes of the early Middle Ages did still follow this education. The Calabrian Cassiodorus founded Vivarium where he translated Greek, and John of Damascus who learnt Greek from a Calabrian monk Kosmas, a slave in the household of his privileged father at Damascus, mentioned mathematics as part of the speculative philosophy.[3]

According to him philosophy was divided into theory (theology, physiology, mathematics) and pratice (ethics, economy, politics), and the Pythagorean heritage was part of the former, while only the ethic effects of music were relevant in practice. The mathematic science harmonics was usually not mixed with the concrete topics of a chant manual.

Nevertheless, Byzantine music is modal and entirely dependent on the Ancient Greek concept of harmonics. Its tonal system is based on a synthesis with ancient Greek models, but we have no sources left which explain us, how this synthesis was done. Carolingian cantors could mix the science of harmonics with a discussion of church tones, named after the ethnic names of the octave species and their transposition tropes, because they invented an own octoechos on the basis of the Byzantine one. But they made no use of earlier Pythagorean concepts which had been fundamental for Byzantine music like:

Greek Reception Latin Reception
the division of the tetrachord by three different intervals the division by two different intervals (twice a tone and one half tone)
the temporary change of the genus (μεταβολὴ κατὰ γένος) the official exclusion of the enharmonic and chromatic genus
the temporary change of the echos (μεταβολὴ κατὰ ἤχον) a definitive classification according to one church tone
the temporary transposition (μεταβολὴ κατὰ τόνον) absonia (Musica and Scolica enchiriadis, Berno of Reichenau, Frutolf of Michelsberg)
the temporary change of the tone system (μεταβολὴ κατὰ σύστημα) no alternative tone system, except the explanation of absonia
the use of at least three tone systems (triphonia, tetraphonia, heptaphonia) the use of the systema teleion (heptaphonia), relevance of Dasia system (tetraphonia) outside polyphony and of the triphonia mentioned in the Cassiodorus quotation (Aurelian) unclear
the microtonal attraction of mobile degrees (κινούμενοι) by fixed degrees (ἑστώτες) of the mode (echos) and its melos, not of the tone system the use of dieses (attracted are E, a, and b flat within a half tone)

It is not evident by the sources, when exactly the position of the minor or half tone moved between the devteros and tritos. It seems that the fixed degrees (hestotes) became part of a new concept of the echos as melodic mode (not simply octave species), after the echoi had been called by the ethnic names of the tropes.

Instruments between the Byzantine and the Carolingian court[edit]

Earliest known depiction of lyra in a Byzantine ivory casket

The 9th century Persian geographer Ibn Khurradadhbih (d. 911); in his lexicographical discussion of instruments cited the lyra (lūrā) as the typical instrument of the Byzantines along with the urghun (organ), shilyani (probably a type of harp or lyre) and the salandj (a bagpipe).[5] The first of these, the bowed stringed instrument known as the Byzantine lyra, would come to be called the lira da braccio,[6] in Venice, where is it considered by many to have been the predecessor of the contemporary violin, which first flourished there.[7] The bowed "lyra" is still played in former Byzantine regions, where it is known as the Politiki lyra (lit. "lyra of the City" i.e. Constantinople) in Greece, the Calabrian lira in Southern Italy, and the Lijerica in Dalmatia. The second Byzantine instrument mentioned by Ibn Khurradadhbih, the organ, originated in the East (see Hydraulis) and was used in the Hippodrome. A pipe organ with "great leaden pipes" was sent by the emperor Constantine V to Pepin the Short King of the Franks in 757. Pepin's son Charlemagne requested a similar organ for his chapel in Aachen in 812, beginning its establishment in Western church music.[8] The final Byzantine instrument, the bagpipes, known as Dankiyo (from ancient Greek: angion (Τὸ ἀγγεῖον) "the container"), had been played even in Roman times. Dio Chrysostom wrote in the 1st century of a contemporary sovereign (possibly Nero) who could play a pipe (tibia, Roman reedpipes similar to Greek aulos) with his mouth as well as with a bladder under his armpit.[9] They continued to be played throughout the empire's former realms through to the present.[10]

Acclamations at the court and the Book of Ceremonies[edit]

Another genre which lies between liturgical chant and court ceremonial are the so-called polychronia and acclamations. The acclamations by the choir to announce the entrance of the Emperor in the court or in the cathedral can be distinct from polychronia, prayers of the deacon for present political rulers which are usually answered by a choir with formulas like "Lord have mercy on us/them" (κύριε ἐλέησον).[11] The documented polychronia in books of the cathedral rite allow a geographical and a chronological classification of the manuscript and they are still used during ektenies of the divine liturgies of national Orthodox ceremonies today.

The Desert Fathers and urban monasticism[edit]

Chludov Psalter, 9th century (Moscow, Hist. Museum Ms. D.129, fol. 135) River of Babylon as illustration of Ps. 137:1-3

Two concepts must be understood to appreciate fully the function of music in Byzantine worship and they were related to a new form of urban monasticism which even formed the representative cathedral rites of the imperial ages which had to baptise many catechumens.

The first, which retained currency in Greek theological and mystical speculation until the dissolution of the empire, was the belief in the angelic transmission of sacred chant: the assumption that the early Church united men in the prayer of the angelic choirs. It was partly based on the Hebrew fundament of Christian worship, but in the particular reception of St. Basil of Caesarea's divine liturgy. John Chrysostom, since 397 Archbishop of Constantinople, abridged the long formular of Basil's divine liturgy for the local cathedral rite.

The notion of angelic chant is certainly older than the Apocalypse account (Revelation 4:8-11), for the musical function of angels as conceived in the Old Testament is brought out clearly by Isaiah (6:1-4) and Ezekiel (3:12). Most significant in the fact, outlined in Exodus 25, that the pattern for the earthly worship of Israel was derived from heaven. The allusion is perpetuated in the writings of the early Fathers, such as Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, Ignatius of Antioch, Athenagoras of Athens, John Chrysostom and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. It receives acknowledgement later in the liturgical treatises of Nicolas Kavasilas and Symeon of Thessaloniki.[12]

The second, less permanent, concept was that of koinonia or "communion". This was less permanent because, after the fourth century, when it was analyzed and integrated into a theological system, the bond and "oneness" that united the clergy and the faithful in liturgical worship was less potent. It is, however, one of the key ideas for understanding a number of realities for which we now have different names. With regard to musical performance, this concept of koinonia may be applied to the primitive use of the word choros. It referred, not to a separate group within the congregation entrusted with musical responsibilities, but to the congregation as a whole. St. Ignatius wrote to the Church in Ephesus in the following way:

You must every man of you join in a choir so that being harmonious and in concord and taking the keynote of God in unison, you may sing with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father, so that He may hear you and through your good deeds recognize that you are parts of His Son.

A marked feature of liturgical ceremony was the active part taken by the people in its performance, particularly in the recitation or chanting of hymns, responses and psalms. The terms choros, koinonia and ekklesia were used synonymously in the early Byzantine Church. In Psalms 149 and 150, the Septuagint translated the Hebrew word machol (dance) by the Greek word choros Greek: Χορος . As a result, the early Church borrowed this word from classical antiquity as a designation for the congregation, at worship and in song in heaven and on earth both.

Concerning the practice of psalm recitation, the recitation by a congregation of educated chanters is already testified by the soloistic recitation of abridged psalms by the end of the 4th century. Later it was called prokeimenon. Hence, there was an early practice of simple psalmody which was used for the recitation of canticles and the psalter, and usually Byzantine psalters have the 15 canticles in an appendix, but the simple psalmody itself was not notated before the 13th century, in dialogue or papadikai treatises preceding the book sticheraria.[13] Later books like the akolouthiai and some psaltika also contain the elaborated psalmody, when a protopsaltes recited just one or two psalm verses. Between the recited psalms and canticles troparia were recited according to the same more or less elaborated psalmody. This context relates antiphonal chant genres like antiphona (kind of introits), trisagion and its substitutes, prokeimenon, allelouiarion, the later cherubikon and its substitutes, the koinonikon cycles as they were created during the 9th century. In most of the cases they were simply troparia and their repetitions or segments were given by the antiphonon, whether it was sung or not, its three sections of the psalmodic recitation were separated by the troparion.

The recitation of the biblical odes[edit]

Chludov Psalter, beginning of the canticles

The fashion in all cathedral rites of the Mediterranean was a new emphasis on the psalter. In older ceremonies before Christianity became the religion of empires, the recitation of the biblical odes (mainly taken from the Old Testament) was much more important. They did not disappear in certain cathedral rites, like the Milanese and the Constantinopolitan rite.

Before long, however, a clericalizing tendency soon began to manifest itself in linguistic usage, particularly after the Council of Laodicea, whose fifteenth Canon permitted only the canonical psaltai, "chanters," to sing at the services. The word choros came to refer to the special priestly function in the liturgy - just as, architecturally speaking, the choir became a reserved area near the sanctuary - and choros eventually became the equivalent of the word kleros (the pulpits of two or even five choirs).

The nine canticles or odes were:

and in Constantinople they were combined in pairs against the canonical order:[14]

  • Ps. 17 with troparia Ἀλληλούϊα and Μνήσθητί μου, κύριε.
  • (1) with troparion Tῷ κυρίῳ ἄισωμεν, ἐνδόξως γὰρ δεδόξασται.
  • (2) with troparion Δόξα σοι, ὁ θεός. (Deut. 1-14) Φύλαξόν με, κύριε. (Deut. 15-21) Δίκαιος εἶ, κύριε, (Deut. 22-38) Δόξα σοι, δόξα σοι. (Deut. 39-43) Εἰσάκουσόν μου, κύριε. (3)
  • (4) & (6) with troparion Οἰκτείρησόν με, κύριε.
  • (3) & (9a) with troparion Ἐλέησόν με, κύριε.
  • (5) & Mannaseh (apokr. 2 Chr 33) with troparion Ἰλάσθητί μοι, κύριε.
  • (7) which has a refrain in itself.

The troparion[edit]

The common term for a short hymn of one stanza, or one of a series of stanzas, is troparion. As a refrain interpolated between psalm verses it had the same function like the antiphon in Western plainchant. The simplest troparion was probably "allelouia", and similar to troparia like the trisagion or the cherubikon or the koinonika a lot of troparia became a chant genre of their own.

A famous example, whose existence is attested as early as the 4th century, is the Easter Vespers hymn, Phos Hilaron ("O Resplendent Light"). Perhaps the earliest set of troparia of known authorship are those of the monk Auxentios (first half of the 5th century), attested in his biography but not preserved in any later Byzantine order of service. Another, O Monogenes Yios ("Only Begotten Son"), ascribed to the emperor Justinian I (527-565), followed the doxology of the second antiphonon at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy.

Romanos the Melodist, the kontakion, and the Justinian Hagia Sophia[edit]

An icon depicting Romanos the Melodist, c. 490–556

The development of large scale hymnographic forms begins in the fifth century with the rise of the kontakion, a long and elaborate metrical sermon, reputedly of Syriac origin, which finds its acme in the work of St. Romanos the Melodist (6th century). This dramatic homily, which usually paraphrases a Biblical narrative, comprises some 20 to 30 stanzas and was sung during the Morning Office (Orthros) in a simple and direct syllabic style (one note per syllable). The earliest musical versions, however, are melismatic (that is, many notes per syllable of text), and belong to the time of the ninth century and later when kontakia were reduced to the prooimion (introductory verse) and first oikos (stanza, literally "house"). Romanos' own recitation of all the numerous oikoi must have been much simpler, but the most interesting question of the genre are the different functions that kontakia once had.

Some of them had a clear liturgical assignation, others not. Some of Romanos creations can be even regarded as political propaganda in connection with the new and very fast reconstruction of the famous Hagia Sophia by Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles, after a hole quarter of Constantinople had been burnt down during a civil war, after Justinian had ordered its violent destruction and a massacre at the hippodrome.[15]

Changes in architecture and liturgy, and the introduction of the cherubikon[edit]

Icon screen of SS. Forty Martyrs Church at Veliko Tarnovo (Bulgaria)
Main article: Cherubikon

The separation of the prothesis where the bread was consecrated during a separated service called proskomide, required a procession of the gifts at the beginning of the second eucharist part of the divine liturgy. The troparion "Οἱ τὰ χερουβὶμ" which was sung during the procession, was often ascribed to Emperor Justin II, but the changes in sacral architecture were definitely traced back to his time by archaeologues.[16] Concerning the Hagia Sophia which was constructed earlier, the procession was obviously within the church.[17] It seems that the cherubikon was a prototype of the Western chant genre offertory.[18]

With this change came also the dramaturgy of the three doors in a choir screen before the bema (sanctuary). They were closed and opened during the ceremony.[19] Outside Constantinople these choir or icon screens of marble were later replaced by iconostaseis.

Monastic reforms at Constantinople and Palestine[edit]

By the end of the seventh century, the kontakion, Romanos' genre which more or less replaced the former canticle recitation, was overshadowed by a certain monastic type of homiletic hymn, the kanon. Essentially, the kanon is an hymnodic complex composed of nine odes which were originally attached to the nine Biblical canticles and to which they were related by means of corresponding poetic allusion or textual quotation (see the section about the biblical odes). Out of the custom of canticle recitation, monastic reformers at Constantinople, Jerusalem and Mount Sinai developed a new homiletic genre whose verses in the complex ode meter were composed over a melodic model: the heirmos.[20]

The nine heirmoi, however, are metrically dissimilar; consequently, an entire kanon comprises nine independent melodies (eight, when the second ode is omitted), which are united musically by the same mode and textually by references to the general theme of the liturgical occasion, and sometimes by an acrostic.

The earliest examples were composed during the 6th century and have mainly survived in the Georgian Iadgari tropologion.[21] After the octoechos reform of the Quinisext Council in 692, especially monks at Mar Saba like St. Andrew of Crete (ca. 660-ca. 740), Saints John of Damascus and Cosmas of Jerusalem composed in these genres.

Today the second ode is usually omitted, but it was medieval custom, that the extremely strict spirit of Moses' last prayer was recited during Lenten period.

The monastic reform of the Stoudites and their notated chant books[edit]

Saint Kassia, c. 810–865

During the 9th-century reforms of the Stoudios Monastery, a monastic hymn reform favoured Palestinian composers in their new notated chant books heirmologion and sticherarion. Festal stichera, accompanying both the fixed psalms at the beginning and end of Vespers and the psalmody of the Lauds (the Ainoi) in the Morning Office, exist for all special days of the year, the Sundays and weekdays of Lent, and for the recurrent cycle of eight weeks in the order of the modes beginning with Easter. Their melodies were originally preserved in the tropologion. During the 9th century two new notated chant book were created at the Stoudios Monastery which were supposed to replace the tropologion: the sticherarion, consisting of the idiomela in the menaion (fixed cycle), the triodion and the pentekostarion (mobile cycle around the holy week), and the octoechos (hymns of the weekly cycle), a bulky volume which first appeared in the middle of the tenth century and contains over a thousand model troparia, and the heirmologion which was either composed according to the eight echoi or according to the nine odes of the canon. These books were not only provided with musical notation, with respect to the former tropologia they were also considerably more elaborated and varied as a collection of various local traditions. In practice it meant that only a small part of the repertory was really chosen to be sung during the divine services.

The new custom established by the reformer was that each ode consists of an initial troparion, the heirmos, followed by three, four or more troparia from the menaion which are the exact metrical reproductions of the heirmos (akrostics), thereby allowing the same music to fit all troparia equally well.

The cyclic organization of lectionaries[edit]

Byzantine chant manuscripts date from the 9th century, while lectionaries of biblical readings in ekphonetic notation (a primitive graphic system designed to indicate the manner of reciting lessons from Scripture) begin about a century earlier and continue in use until the 12th or 13th century.[22] Our knowledge of the older period is derived from Church service books Typika, patristic writings and medieval histories. Scattered examples of hymn texts from the early centuries of Greek Christianity still exist. Some of these employ the metrical schemes of classical Greek poetry; but the change of pronunciation had rendered those meters largely meaningless, and, except when classical forms were imitated, Byzantine hymns of the following centuries are prose-poetry, unrhymed verses of irregular length and accentual patterns.

The effect that this concept had on church music was threefold: first, it bred a highly conservative attitude to musical composition; secondly, it stabilized the melodic tradition of certain hymns; and thirdly, it continued, for a time, the anonymity of the composer. For if a chant is of heavenly origin, then the acknowledgment received by man in transmitting it to posterity ought to be minimal. This is especially true when he deals with hymns which were known to have been first sung by angelic choirs - such as the Amen, Alleluia, Trisagion, Sanctus and Doxology. Consequently, until Palaeologan times, it was inconceivable for a composer to place his name beside a notated text in the manuscripts.

The Hagiopolites treatise[edit]

The earliest chant manual pretends right at the beginning that John of Damascus was its author. Its first edition was based on a more or less complete version in a 14th-century manuscript,[23] but it is widely accepted that it was part of the reform redaction of the tropologia by the end of the 8th century, after Irene's Council of Nikaia had confirmed the octoechos reform of 692 in 787. It fits well to the later focus on Palestine authors in the new chant book heirmologion.

Concerning the octoechos, the Hagiopolitan system is characterised as a system of eight diatonic echoi with two additional phthorai, which were not used by John of Damascus, but by Joseph the Hymnographer. It also mentions an alternative system of the Asma (the cathedral rite was called ἀκολουθία ᾀσματική) which consisted of 4 kyrioi echoi, 4 plagioi, 4 mesoi, and 4 phthorai. It seems that until the time, when the Hagiopolites was written, the octoechos reform did not work out for the cathedral rite, because singers at the court and at the Patrairchate still used a tonal system of 16 echoi which was obviously part of the particular notation of their books: the asmatikon and the kontakarion or psaltikon.

But neither 9th-century Constantinopolitan chant book nor an introducing treatise which explains the fore-mentioned system of the Asma, have survived. Only a 14th-century manuscript of Kastoria testifies cheironomic signs used in the Kontakarion which are transcribed in longer melodic phrases by the notation of the contemporary sticherarion, the middle Byzantine Round notation.

The Slavic reception[edit]

The missions of Cyril and Methodius[edit]

The Kievan Rus' and the earliest manuscripts of the cathedral rite[edit]

The end of the cathedral rite at Constantinople[edit]

Ideas of originality and free invention similar to those seen in later music probably never existed in early Byzantine times. The very notion of using traditional formulas (or melody-types) as a compositional technique shows an archaic concept in liturgical chant, and is quite the opposite of free, original creation. It seems evident that the chants of the Byzantine repertory found in musical manuscripts from the tenth century to the time of the Fourth Crusade (1204–1261), represent the final and only surviving stage of an evolution, the beginnings of which go back at least to the sixth century. What exact changes took place in the music during the formative stage is difficult to say; but certain chants in use even today exhibit characteristics which may throw light on the subject. These include recitation formulas, melody-types, and standard phrases that are clearly evident in the folk music and other traditional music of various cultures of the East.

The kontakarion of the Norman Archimandritates[edit]

The kontakarion of the Peninsula Athos[edit]

The era of psaltic art and the new mixed rite of Constantinople[edit]

A musical manuscript of 1433 from Pantokratoros monastery

With the end of creative poetical composition, Byzantine chant entered its final period, devoted largely to the production of more elaborate musical settings of the traditional texts: either embellishments of the earlier simpler melodies, or original music in highly ornamental style. This was the work of the so-called Maïstores, “masters,” of whom the most celebrated was St. John Koukouzeles (active c. 1300), compared in Byzantine writings to St. John of Damascus himself, as an innovator in the development of chant. The multiplication of new settings and elaborations of the old continued in the centuries following the fall of Constantinople, until by the end of the eighteenth century the original musical repertory of the medieval musical manuscripts had been quite replaced by later compositions, and even the basic model system had undergone profound modification.

The revision of the chant books[edit]


The synthesis between harmonikai and papadikai[edit]

Ottoman era[edit]

Chant between Raidestinos, Chrysaphes the Younger, Germanos of New Patras and Balasios[edit]

Petros Bereketes and the school of the Phanariotes[edit]

To a certain degree we may look for remnants of Byzantine or early (Greek-speaking, Orthodox Christian) near eastern music in the music of the Ottoman Court. Examples such as that of the eminent composer and theorist Prince Cantemir of Romania learning music from the Greek musician Angelos, indicate the continuing participation of Greek speaking people in court culture. The influences of ancient Greek basin and the Greek Christian chants in the Byzantine music as origin, are confirmed. Music of Turkey was influenced by Byzantine music, too (mainly in the years 1640-1712).[24] It seems also remarkable that Ottoman music is a synthesis, carrying the culture of Greek and Armenian Christian chant. It emerged as the result of a sharing process between the many civilizations which met together in the Orient, considering the breadth and length of duration of these empires and the great number of ethnicities and major or minor cultures that they encompassed or came in touch with at each stage of their development.

The Putna school of the Bukovina[edit]

Phanariotes at the new music school of the patriarchate[edit]

The Orthodox reformulation according to the new method[edit]

Chrysanthos of Madytos (ca. 1770-1846), Gregory the Protopsaltes (ca. 1778 - ca. 1821), and Chourmouzios the Archivist were responsible for a reform of the notation of Greek ecclesiastical music. Essentially, this work consisted of a simplification of the Byzantine musical symbols which, by the early 19th century, had become so complex and technical that only highly skilled chanters were able to interpret them correctly. The work of the three reformers is a landmark in the history of Greek Church music, since it introduced the system of neo-Byzantine music upon which are based the present-day chants of the Greek Orthodox Church. Unfortunately, their work has since been misinterpreted often, and much of the oral tradition has been lost.

Konstantinos Byzantios' renunciation of the new method[edit]

The old school of the patriarchate[edit]

The modern school of the patriarchate[edit]

The Simon Karas school at Athens[edit]

Simon Karas[25] (1905–1999) began an effort to assemble as much material as possible in order to restore the apparently lost tradition. His work is continued by Lycourgos Angelopoulos and other psaltai (“cantors”) of Byzantine music. Two major styles of interpretation have evolved, the Hagioritic, which is simpler and is mainly followed in monasteries, and the Patriarchal, as exemplified by the style taught at the Great Church of Constantinople, which is more elaborate and is practised in parish churches. Nowadays the Orthodox churches maintain chanting schools in which new cantors are trained. Each diocese employs a protopsaltes (“first cantor”), who directs the diocesan cathedral choir and supervises musical education and performance. The protopsaltes of the Patriarchates are given the title Archon Protopsaltes (“Lord First Cantor”), a title also conferred as an honorific to distinguished cantors and scholars of Byzantine music.

Modern composers[edit]

Jessica Suchy-Pilalis is an example of a modern composer who writes and arranges sacred music in the Byzantine tradition. Dr. Suchy-Pilalis serves as Protopsaltes at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.[26]

See also[edit]

For more on the theory of Byzantine music and its cultural relatives in Greek-speaking peoples see:

For collections of Byzantine hymnography see:

For contemporary works featuring Byzantine chant see:


  1. ^ The origin of Byzantine music Institute For Research On Music And Acoustics
  2. ^ Troelsgård, Christian (2007). "A New Source for the Early Octoechos? Papyrus Vindobonensis G 19.934 and its musical implications". Proceedings of the 1st International Conference of the ASBMH. pp. 668–679. Retrieved 14 April 2012. 
  3. ^ John of Damascus (1958). Πηγή Γνώσεως. New York. p. 12. 
  4. ^ PG 94, col. 533.
  5. ^ Kartomi, Margaret J. (1990), On Concepts and Classifications of Musical Instruments, University of Chicago Press, p. 124, ISBN 0-226-42548-7 
  6. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica (2009), lira, Encyclopædia Britannica Online, retrieved 2009-02-20 
  7. ^ Arkenberg, Rebecca (October 2002), Renaissance Violins, Metropolitan Museum of Art, retrieved 2006-09-22 
  8. ^ Douglas Bush and Richard Kassel eds., "The Organ, an Encyclopedia." Routledge. 2006. p. 327.
  9. ^ "Discourses by Dio Chrysostom (Or. 71.9)", The Seventy-first Discourse: On the Philosopher (Volume V) (Loeb Classical Library) V: 173, retrieved 2013-01-02 
  10. ^ See Balkan Gaida, Serbo-Croatian Diple, Greek Tsampouna, Pontic Tulum, Cretan Askomandoura, Armenian Parkapzuk, Georgian Gudastviri, and Romanian Cimpoi.
  11. ^ These formulas are documented in various regions of the Mediterranean, see the Gallican and Visigothic preces, the terkyrie of the Ambrosian rite, but also in coronation rites which were even performed at Montecassino, when the Pope accepted the Normans as allies.
  12. ^ Patrologia Graeca, CL, 368-492 and CLV, 536-699, respectively.
  13. ^ Troelsgård, Christian. "Psalm, § III Byzantine Psalmody". Grove Music Online. Retrieved 20 April 2012. 
  14. ^ Strunk, William Oliver (1956). "The Byzantine Office at Hagia Sophia". Dumbarton Oaks Papers 9/10: 175–202. Retrieved 11 April 2012. 
  15. ^ Koder, Johannes (2008). "Imperial Propaganda in the Kontakia of Romanos the Melode". Dumbarton Oaks Papers 62: 275–291. ISSN 0070-7546. JSTOR 20788050. 
  16. ^ See the marble screen of Veliko Tarnovo which is close to the reconstruction based on a marble fragment of the 6th century. Tschilingirov, Assen (1978). Die Kunst des christlichen Mittelalters in Bulgarien. Berlin: Union. p. 18. 
  17. ^ Neil Moran offers a discussion of different hypotheses concerning the exact way of the procession. He also regards a central ambo, positioned slightly eastwards to the narthex, as the regular place of the chanters since the 5th century. Since Justinian two choirs had to been limited to the number of 12 singers each. Moran, Neil (1979). "The Musical 'Gestaltung' of the Great Entrance Ceremony in the 12th century in accordance with the Rite of Hagia Sophia". Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinistik 28: 167–193. 
  18. ^ The old term of the pre-Carolingian Gallican rite was "sonus." Since Abbot Hilduin at the Abbey Saint Denis, a diplomate at the Court of Louis the Pious, the cherubikon was re-introduced within the so-called Missa greca in honour of the patron who became identified with the Greek father Pseudo-Dionysius. The chant books of the abbey also provide the cherubikon as the offertory chant for the Pentecost Mass.
  19. ^ Neil Moran (1979) interpreted the four antiphona which interrupted the cherubikon in the Italobyzantine psaltikon Cod. mess. 161 (I-ME, Fondo SS. Salvatore, Ms. gr. 161 ff.71-74), as of Constantinopolitan origin, but the dramaturgy of the doors were not those of the choir screen, but of the ambo concerning the Hagia Sophia.
  20. ^ Frøyshov, Stig Simeon R. (2007). "The Early Development of the Liturgical Eight-Mode System in Jerusalem". Saint Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 51: 139–178. Retrieved 20 April 2012. 
  21. ^ Frøyshov, Stig Simeon R. (2012). "The Georgian Witness to the Jerusalem Liturgy: New Sources and Studies". In Bert Groen, Steven Hawkes-Teeples, Stefanos Alexopoulos (eds.). Inquiries into Eastern Christian Worship: Selected Papers of the Second International Congressof the Society of Oriental Liturgy (Rome, 17–21 September 2008). Eastern Christian Studies 12. Leuven, Paris, Walpole: Peeters. pp. 227–267. 
  22. ^ "The Byzantine music and notation system" according to the Institute for Research on Music and Acoustics.
  23. ^ Raasted, Jørgen, ed. (1983). The Hagiopolites: A Byzantine Treatise on Musical Theory. Cahiers de l'Institut du Moyen-Âge Grec et Latin 45. Copenhagen: Paludan. 
  24. ^ Influences of Byzantine music (The music of Turkey is also, a reference to the Byzantine music. In the period of classical music, Ottoman music was influenced by Byzantine music - specifically in:1640-1712)
  25. ^ Center for Research and Promotion of National Greek Music - Archives of Simon and Aggeliki Karas
  26. ^ "Dr. Jessica Suchy-Pilalis, Research Specialty: Byzantine Chant". Retrieved 10 February 2012. 

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