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This article is about the musical concept. For the plural of echo and other uses, see Echoes (disambiguation).

Echos (Greek: ἦχος, [ˈixos]; pl. Echoi ἦχοι [ˈiçi]) is the name in Byzantine music theory for a mode within the eight mode system (oktoechos), each of them ruling several melody types, and it is used in the melodic and rhythmic composition of Byzantine chant ("thesis of the melos"), differentiated according to the chant genre and according to the performance style ("method of the thesis"). It is akin to a Western medieval tonus, an Andalusian tab', an Arab naġam (since 1400 "maqam"), or a Persian parde (since 18th century dastgâh).

Overview and semantics[edit]

The noun echos in Greek means "sound" in general. It acquired the specialized meaning of mode early on in the development of Byzantine music theory since the Octoechos reform in 692.

In general, the concept of echos denotes the scale, intervallic structure as well as a set of more or less explicitly formulated melodic rules and formulae that represent a certain category of melodies within the musical genre. As such, echos is the basis for composing or improvising new melodies that belong to it, as well as for properly performing existing pieces that have been written in it. These rules include the distinction of a hierarchy of degrees (tones, notes), where certain degrees figure as cadence notes (ἑστώτες) around which the melody will revolve prominently, or on which the melody will end most of the time. However, only very late stages of the theory (19th-20th century) actually provide systematic descriptions of echoi, while earlier stages use mostly diagrams, indirect descriptions and examples. Explicit detailed descriptions must still be provided based on extensive analysis, as is the case with modal phenomena in numerous other cultures.

History and reconstruction[edit]

Early treatises only state the initial or "base" degree which is the tone from which one starts chanting the scale of the echos, as well as its relative position within the overall scale of the echoi:

Parallage of John Koukouzeles
"Parallage of John Koukouzeles": The four peripheral wheels for the Octoechos (top left: protos echoi; top right: devteros echoi; bottom left: tritos echoi; bottom right: tetartos echoi) and the tetraphonic tone system and its transpositions in the center—Koukouzelian wheel in an 18th-century manuscript (manuscript of the private collection by Demetrios Kontogiorges)

More information on the structure of echoi is only indicated in a very rudimentary way through diagrams written in Byzantine music notation involving neumes. The details of the actual intervallic and melodic structure of echoi are virtually impossible to deduce from theoretical treatises prior to the 18th century. In fact, only relatively late systematic comparisons of the echoi with the makamlar of Ottoman court music, such as those by the Kyrillos Marmarinos, Archbishop of Tinos, in his manuscript dated 1747, and the western-oriented reform of the Byzantine notation by Chrysanthos of Madytos at the first half of the 19th century make it possible to understand the structure of echoi and to attempt reconstructions of melodies from earlier manuscripts.

Chrysanthos' Parallage according to the trochos system (1832, p. 30)

He already introduced his readers into the diatonic genus and its phthongoi in the 5th chapter of the first book, called "About the parallage of the diatonic genus" (Περὶ Παραλλαγῆς τοῦ Διατονικοῦ Γένους). In the 8th chapter he demonstrates, how the intervals can be found on the keyboard of the tambur.[2]

Hence, the phthongoi of the diatonic genus had been defined according to the proportions, as they were later called the "soft chroa of the diatonic genus" (τὸ γένος μαλακὸν διατονικὸν). For Chrysanthos this was the only diatonic genus, as far as it had been used since the early church musicians, who memorised the phthongoi by the intonation formulas (enechemata) of the Papadic Octoechos. In fact, he did not use the historical intonations, he rather translated them in the Koukouzelian wheel in the 9th chapter (Περὶ τοῦ Τροχοῦ) according to a current practice of parallage, which was common to 18th-century versions of Papadike:

The pentachord which was also called wheel (τροχὸς), contains four intervals which we regard as certain tones [ἐλάσσων τόνος, ἐλάχιστος τόνος, and 2 μείζονες τόνοι]. The four intervals spanned five phthongoi:

πα βου γα δι Πα ["Πα" means here the fifth-equivalent for the protos: α']

These five stations of the pentachord could be memorised by the echemata of the kyrioi echoi in ascending direction or by those of the plagioi echoi in descending direction. Each of these echemata had the potential to develop an own melos within its melody types:

Each echema is followed by the incipit of a sticheron ideomelon which illustrates a certain melos of the echos. The following book kekragarion illustrates, how the hesperinos psalm κύριε ἐκέκραξα has to be sung in each echos.

Echos vs. maqam in eponymous compositional practice[edit]

While in other traditions such as that of Ottoman music, the creation of new modes by eponymous masters resulted in a proliferation of modes (makamlar, maqamat), echoi are not attributed to specific composers, but are rather regarded as belonging to the collective and anonymous heritage of liturgical chant. Eponymous compositions do exist throughout most of the history of Byzantine chant, but their echos is always classified from within the system of existing echoi. Due to an interest for makamlar compositions, Byzantine notation developed as a universal notation system during the 19th century which could even integrate makamlar within the meloi of the Octoechos, while ornamental details became part of an oral tradition.[4]

Cultural "relations"[edit]

The system of echoi is rich and diverse. Closer study and comparison with modal systems of neighboring cultures reveals a complex network of cultural and ethnic influences throughout the century-old histories of the participating peoples. The basic theory of echoi is formalized in a system of eight modes called the Octoechos. See the article, Octoechos, for a discussion of its origins and a critique of this concept vis-a-vis actual practice.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Christian Hannick & Gerda Wolfram (1997, pp. 84f) quoted according Mount Athos, S. Dionysios Monastery, Ms. 570, fol. 26-26'.
  2. ^ Chrysanthos' chapter "About the diapason system" (Μερ. Α', Βιβ. α', κεφ. η' Περὶ τοῦ Διαπασῶν συστήματος, p. 28) introduced into the chord lengths and recognised in a schematic representation of the tetrachord (12+9+7=28).
  3. ^ Chrysanthos (1832, Μερ. Α', Βιβ. α', κεφ. θ' Περὶ τοῦ Τροχοῦ, p. 28, § 66).
  4. ^ See the treatises by Keïvelis (1856) and Keltzanides (1881).


  • Hannick, Christian; Wolfram, Gerda, eds. (1997), Die Erotapokriseis des Pseudo-Johannes Damaskenos zum Kirchengesang, Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae - Corpus Scriptorum de Re Musica 5, Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, ISBN 3-7001-2520-8 .
  • Conomos, Dimitri, ed. (1985), The Treatise of Manuel Chrysaphes, the Lampadarios: [Περὶ τῶν ἐνθεωρουμένων τῇ ψαλτικῇ τέχνῃ καὶ ὧν φρουνοῦσι κακῶς τινες περὶ αὐτῶν] On the Theory of the Art of Chanting and on Certain Erroneous Views that some hold about it (Mount Athos, Iviron Monastery MS 1120, July 1458), Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae - Corpus Scriptorum de Re Musica 2, Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, ISBN 978-3-7001-0732-3 .
  • Hannick, Christian; Wolfram, Gerda, eds. (1985), Gabriel Hieromonachus: [Περὶ τῶν ἐν τῇ ψαλτικῇ σημαδίων καὶ τῆς τούτων ἐτυμολογίας] Abhandlung über den Kirchengesang, Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae - Corpus Scriptorum de Re Musica 1, Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, ISBN 3-7001-0729-3 .
  • Panagiotes the New Chrysaphes. "London, British Library, Harley Ms. 5544". Papadike and the Anastasimatarion of Chrysaphes the New, and an uncomplete Anthology for the Divine Liturgies (17th century). British Library. Retrieved 3 May 2012. 

Treatises of the New Method (since 19th century)[edit]

Anthologies of Makam Music[edit]


  • Brandl, Rudolf Maria (1989). Elsner, Jürgen, ed. "Konstantinopolitanische Makamen des 19. Jahrhunderts in Neumen: die Musik der Fanarioten". Maqam - Raga - Zeilenmelodik: Konzeptionen und Prinzipien der Musikproduktion. 1. Arbeitstagung der Study Group "maqām" beim International Council for Traditional Music vom 28. Juni bis 2. Juli 1988 in Berlin (Berlin): 156–169. 
  • Erol, Merıh (25 May 2008). "'External' music in Constantinople". Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World, Constantinople. Retrieved 22 August 2012. 
  • Gerlach, Oliver (2011). "Religious Chant in the late Ottoman Empire – Between Petros Bereketēs and Hamamîzade İsmail Dede Efendi". Studies of the Dark Continent in European Music History: Collected Essays on Traditions of Religious Chant in the Balkans. Rome: Aracne. pp. 81–110. ISBN 9788854838406. 
  • Joubran, Romanos Rabih (2009). The Use of Eastern Musical Modes in Byzantine Compositions during the 19th and 20th Century (PDF). Pittsburgh. pp. 530–553. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  • Popescu-Judeţ, Eugenia; Şırlı, Adriana Ababi (2000). Sources of 18th-century music : Panayiotes Chalathzoglou and Kyrillos Marmarinos' comparative treatises on secular music. Istanbul: Pan Yayıncılık. ISBN 975-843405-5. 
  • Zannos, Ioannis (1994). Vogel, Martin, ed. Ichos und Makam - Vergleichende Untersuchungen zum Tonsystem der griechisch-orthodoxen Kirchenmusik und der türkischen Kunstmusik. Orpheus-Schriftenreihe zu Grundfragen der Musik 74. Bonn: Verlag für systematische Musikwissenschaft. ISBN 9783922626749. 

External links[edit]