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Byzantine music

Byzantine music

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Byzantine music is the music of the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 composed to Greek texts as ceremonial, festival, or church music. Greek and foreign historians agree that the ecclesiastical tones and in general the whole system of Byzantine music is closely related to the ancient Greek system. It remains the oldest genre of extant music, of which the manner of performance and (with increasing accuracy from the 5th century onwards) the names of the composers, and sometimes the particulars of each musical work's circumstances, are known.

Extent of Byzantine music culture vs. liturgical chant proper


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
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 to rising western cities, bringing with them much of the learning that would spur the development of the European Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

. The shrinking of Greek speaking
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 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
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 by the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 on May 29, 1453.

Today, few sources and studies exist about Byzantine music on the whole. A Persian
Persian people
The Persian people are part of the Iranian peoples who speak the modern Persian language and closely akin Iranian dialects and languages. The origin of the ethnic Iranian/Persian peoples are traced to the Ancient Iranian peoples, who were part of the ancient Indo-Iranians and themselves part of...

 geographer of the 9th century (Ibn Khordadbeh
Ibn Khordadbeh
Abu'l Qasim Ubaid'Allah ibn Khordadbeh , author of the earliest surviving Arabic book of administrative geography, was a Persian geographer and bureaucrat of the 9th century...

), mentioned in his lexicographical discussion of music instruments that Byzantines typically used urghun (organ), shilyani (probably a type of harp or lyre), salandj and the bowed lyra
Byzantine lyra
The Byzantine lyra or lira , was a medieval bowed string musical instrument in the Byzantine Empire and is an ancestor of most European bowed instruments, including the violin. In its popular form the lyra was a pear-shaped instrument with three to five strings, held upright and played by stopping...

 (Greek: λύρα - lūrā) (lyre
Lyre
The lyre is a stringed musical instrument known for its use in Greek classical antiquity and later. The word comes from the Greek "λύρα" and the earliest reference to the word is the Mycenaean Greek ru-ra-ta-e, meaning "lyrists", written in Linear B syllabic script...

), an instrument similar to the Arabic Rabab. Byzantine music included a rich tradition of instrumental court music and dance, as would be expected considering the historically and archaeologically documented opulence of the Eastern Roman Empire. There survive but a few explicit accounts of secular music. A characteristic example are the accounts of pneumatic organs
Pipe organ
The pipe organ is a musical instrument that produces sound by driving pressurized air through pipes selected via a keyboard. Because each organ pipe produces a single pitch, the pipes are provided in sets called ranks, each of which has a common timbre and volume throughout the keyboard compass...

, whose construction was most advanced in the eastern empire prior to their development in the west after the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

. To a certain degree we may look for remnants of Byzantine or early (Greek-speaking, Orthodox Christian
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

) near eastern music in the music of the Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 Court. Examples such as that of the eminent composer and theorist Prince Cantemir
Dimitrie Cantemir
Dimitrie Cantemir was twice Prince of Moldavia . He was also a prolific man of letters – philosopher, historian, composer, musicologist, linguist, ethnographer, and geographer....

 of Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 learning music from the Greek musician Angelos, indicate the continuing participation of Greek speaking
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 people in court culture. However, the sources are too scarce to permit any well-founded stipulations about what cultural musical changes, took place when and under which influences during the long histories of the Byzantine empire, but the influences of ancient Greek basin and the Greek
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 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). It seems also remarkable that Ottoman music is a synthesis, carrying the culture of Greek
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 Christian chants. It emerged as the result of a sharing process between the Greek people
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 and the minorities living alongside Byzantium
Byzantium
Byzantium was an ancient Greek city, founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas . The name Byzantium is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion...

, 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 rest of this article confines itself to a discussion of the musical tradition of Greek Orthodox
Greek Orthodox Church
The Greek Orthodox Church is the body of several churches within the larger communion of Eastern Orthodox Christianity sharing a common cultural tradition whose liturgy is also traditionally conducted in Koine Greek, the original language of the New Testament...

 liturgical chant, and is reproduced from Dr. Conomos text as cited at the end of the article.

Origins and early Christian period


Byzantine music is modal and dependent on the sound system. The sounds are based on ancient Greek models. The tradition of eastern liturgical chant, encompassing the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

-speaking world, developed in the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 from the establishment of its capital, Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

, in 330 until its fall
Fall of Constantinople
The Fall of Constantinople was the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire, which occurred after a siege by the Ottoman Empire, under the command of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, against the defending army commanded by Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI...

 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
Monophony
In music, monophony is the simplest of textures, consisting of melody without accompanying harmony. This may be realized as just one note at a time, or with the same note duplicated at the octave . If the entire melody is sung by two voices or a choir with an interval between the notes or in...

 vocal music that evolved in the early Greek Christian cities of Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

, Antioch
Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

 and Ephesus
Ephesus
Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Asia Minor, near present-day Selçuk, Izmir Province, Turkey. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era...

.

Byzantine chant manuscript
Manuscript
A manuscript or handwrite is written information that has been manually created by someone or some people, such as a hand-written letter, as opposed to being printed or reproduced some other way...

s date from the 9th century, while lectionaries
Lectionary
A Lectionary is a book or listing that contains a collection of scripture readings appointed for Christian or Judaic worship on a given day or occasion.-History:...

 of biblical readings in Ekphonetic notation
Ekphonetic notation
Ekphonetic notation consists of symbols added to certain sacred texts, especially lectionary readings of Biblical texts, as a mnemonic device to assist in their cantillation. Ekphonetic notation can take a number of forms, and has been used in several Jewish and Christian plainchant traditions,...

 (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. 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
Poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

; but the change of pronunciation
Pronunciation
Pronunciation refers to the way a word or a language is spoken, or the manner in which someone utters a word. If one is said to have "correct pronunciation", then it refers to both within a particular dialect....

 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 common term for a short hymn of one stanza, or one of a series of stanzas, is troparion
Troparion
A troparion in Byzantine music and in the religious music of Eastern Orthodox Christianity is a short hymn of one stanza, or one of a series of stanzas. The word probably derives from a diminutive of the Greek tropos...

 (this may carry the further connotation of a hymn interpolated between psalm verses). A famous example, whose existence is attested as early as the 4th century, is the Easter
Easter
Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...

 Vespers
Vespers
Vespers is the evening prayer service in the Western Catholic, Eastern Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran liturgies of the canonical hours...

 hymn, Phos Hilaron
Phos Hilaron
Phos Hilaron is an ancient Christian hymn originally written in New Testament Greek. Often referred to by its Latin title Lumen Hilare it has been translated into English as Hail Gladdening Light or O Gladsome/Joyous Light. It is the earliest known Christian hymn recorded outside of the Bible...

("O Resplendent Light"); another, O Monogenes Yios
O Monogenes Yios
O Monogenes Yios , is a hymn ascribed to Pope Athanasius I of Alexandria. It was written after the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea as an affirmation of the Christological Formula set down by Athanasius. It was first used in the Church of Alexandria but was distributed by Athanasius to all the...

("Only Begotten Son"), ascribed to the emperor Justinian I
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

 (527-565), figures in the introductory portion of the Divine Liturgy
Divine Liturgy
Divine Liturgy is the common term for the Eucharistic service of the Byzantine tradition of Christian liturgy. As such, it is used in the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches. Armenian Christians, both of the Armenian Apostolic Church and of the Armenian Catholic Church, use the same term...

. Perhaps the earliest set of troparia of known authorship are those of the monk
Monk
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

 Auxentios (first half of the 5th century), attested in his biography but not preserved in any later Byzantine order of service.

Medieval period


Two concepts must be understood to appreciate fully the function of music in Byzantine worship. The first, which retained currency in Greek theological and mystical speculation until the dissolution of the empire, was the belief in the angel
Angel
Angels are mythical beings often depicted as messengers of God in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles along with the Quran. The English word angel is derived from the Greek ἄγγελος, a translation of in the Hebrew Bible ; a similar term, ملائكة , is used in the Qur'an...

ic transmission of sacred chant: the assumption that the early Church united men in the prayer of the angelic choirs. This notion is certainly older than the Apocalypse
Apocalypse
An Apocalypse is a disclosure of something hidden from the majority of mankind in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception, i.e. the veil to be lifted. The Apocalypse of John is the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament...

 account (Revelation
Revelation
In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing, through active or passive communication with a supernatural or a divine entity...

 4:8-11), for the musical function of angels as conceived in the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 is brought out clearly by Isaiah
Isaiah
Isaiah ; Greek: ', Ēsaïās ; "Yahu is salvation") was a prophet in the 8th-century BC Kingdom of Judah.Jews and Christians consider the Book of Isaiah a part of their Biblical canon; he is the first listed of the neviim akharonim, the later prophets. Many of the New Testament teachings of Jesus...

 (6:1-4) and Ezekiel
Ezekiel
Ezekiel , "God will strengthen" , is the central protagonist of the Book of Ezekiel in the Hebrew Bible. In Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Ezekiel is acknowledged as a Hebrew prophet...

 (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
Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr, also known as just Saint Justin , was an early Christian apologist. Most of his works are lost, but two apologies and a dialogue survive. He is considered a saint by the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church....

, Ignatius of Antioch
Ignatius of Antioch
Ignatius of Antioch was among the Apostolic Fathers, was the third Bishop of Antioch, and was a student of John the Apostle. En route to his martyrdom in Rome, Ignatius wrote a series of letters which have been preserved as an example of very early Christian theology...

, Athenagoras of Athens
Athenagoras of Athens
Athenagoras was a Father of the Church, a Proto-orthodox Christian apologist who lived during the second half of the 2nd century of whom little is known for certain, besides that he was Athenian , a philosopher, and a convert to Christianity. In his writings he styles himself as "Athenagoras, the...

 and Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, also known as Pseudo-Denys, was a Christian theologian and philosopher of the late 5th to early 6th century, the author of the Corpus Areopagiticum . The author is identified as "Dionysos" in the corpus, which later incorrectly came to be attributed to Dionysius...

. It receives acknowledgement later in the liturgical treatises of Nicolas Kavasilas and Symeon of Thessaloniki (Patrologia Graeca
Patrologia Graeca
The Patrologia Graeca is an edited collection of writings by the Christian Church Fathers and various secular writers, in the ancient Koine or medieval variants of the Greek language. It consists of 161 volumes produced in 1857–1866 by J. P. Migne's Imprimerie Catholique...

, CL, 368-492 and CLV, 536-699, respectively).

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
Amen
The word amen is a declaration of affirmation found in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament. Its use in Judaism dates back to its earliest texts. It has been generally adopted in Christian worship as a concluding word for prayers and hymns. In Islam, it is the standard ending to Dua and the...

, Alleluia
Alleluia
The word "Alleluia" or "Hallelujah" , which at its most literal means "Praise Yah", is used in different ways in Christian liturgies....

, Trisagion
Trisagion
The Trisagion , sometimes called by its opening line Agios O Theos or by the Latin Tersanctus, is a standard hymn of the Divine Liturgy in most of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, Oriental Orthodox Churches and Catholic Churches.In those Churches which use the Byzantine Rite, the Trisagion is chanted...

, Sanctus
Sanctus
The Sanctus is a hymn from Christian liturgy, forming part of the Order of Mass. In Western Christianity, the Sanctus is sung as the final words of the Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer, the prayer of consecration of the bread and wine...

 and Doxology
Doxology
A doxology is a short hymn of praises to God in various Christian worship services, often added to the end of canticles, psalms, and hymns...

. Consequently, until Palaeologan times, it was inconceivable for a composer to place his name beside a notated text in the manuscripts.

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
Fourth Crusade
The Fourth Crusade was originally intended to conquer Muslim-controlled Jerusalem by means of an invasion through Egypt. Instead, in April 1204, the Crusaders of Western Europe invaded and conquered the Christian city of Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire...

 (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 second, less permanent, concept was that of koinonia
Koinonia
Koinonia is the anglicisation of a Greek word that means communion by intimate participation. The word is used frequently in the New Testament of the Bible to describe the relationship within the Early Christian church as well as the act of breaking bread in the manner which Christ prescribed...

 or "communion
Communion (Christian)
The term communion is derived from Latin communio . The corresponding term in Greek is κοινωνία, which is often translated as "fellowship". In Christianity, the basic meaning of the term communion is an especially close relationship of Christians, as individuals or as a Church, with God and with...

". 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
Psalms
The Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...

 149 and 150, the Septuagint translated the Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 word machol (dance) by the Greek word choros . 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. Before long, however, a clericalizing tendency soon began to manifest itself in linguistic usage, particularly after the Council of Laodicea
Council of Laodicea
The Council of Laodicea was a regional synod of approximately thirty clerics from Asia Minor that assembled about 363–364 AD in Laodicea, Phrygia Pacatiana.-Historical context:...

, whose fifteenth Canon
Canon law
Canon law is the body of laws & regulations made or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law governing the Catholic Church , the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion of...

 permitted only the canonical
Canonical
Canonical is an adjective derived from canon. Canon comes from the greek word κανών kanon, "rule" or "measuring stick" , and is used in various meanings....

 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 development of large scale hymnographic forms begins in the fifth century with the rise of the kontakion
Kontakion
Kontakion is a form of hymn performed in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The word derives from the Greek word kontax , meaning pole, specifically the pole around which a scroll is wound. The term describes the way in which the words on a scroll unfurl as it is read...

, 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
Homily
A homily is a commentary that follows a reading of scripture. In Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Eastern Orthodox Churches, a homily is usually given during Mass at the end of the Liturgy of the Word...

, 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 melisma
Melisma
Melisma, in music, is the singing of a single syllable of text while moving between several different notes in succession. Music sung in this style is referred to as melismatic, as opposed to syllabic, where each syllable of text is matched to a single note.-History:Music of ancient cultures used...

tic (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). In the second half of the seventh century, the kontakion was supplanted by a new type of hymn, the kanon
Canon (hymnography)
A canon is a structured hymn used in a number of Eastern Orthodox services. It consists of nine odes, sometimes called canticles or songs depending on the translation, based on the Biblical canticles. Most of these are found in the Old Testament, but the final ode is taken from the Magnificat and...

, initiated by St. Andrew of Crete (ca. 660-ca. 740) and developed by Saints John of Damascus
John of Damascus
Saint John of Damascus was a Syrian monk and priest...

 and Cosmas of Jerusalem (both eighth century). Essentially, the kanon is an hymnodic complex composed of nine odes which were originally attached to the nine Biblical canticle
Canticle
A canticle is a hymn taken from the Bible. The term is often expanded to include ancient non-biblical hymns such as the Te Deum and certain psalms used liturgically.-Roman Catholic Church:From the Old Testament, the Roman Breviary takes seven canticles for use at Lauds, as follows:*...

s and to which they were related by means of corresponding poetic allusion or textual quotation.

The nine canticles are:
  • (1) The Song of the sea
    Song of the sea
    The Song of the Sea is a poem that appears in the Book of Exodus of the Hebrew Bible, at . It is followed in verses 20 and 21 by a much shorter song sung by Miriam and the other women...

     (Exodus 15:1-19);
  • (2) The Song of Moses
    Song of Moses
    The Song of Moses in this article relates to the name sometimes given to the poem that appears in Deuteronomy of the Hebrew Bible written/orated just prior to Moses' death atop Mount Nebo....

     (Deuteronomy 32:1-43);
  • (3)-(6) The prayers of Hannah
    Song of Hannah
    The Song of Hannah is a poem interrupting the prose text of the Books of Samuel. According to the surrounding narrative, the poem was a prayer delivered by Hannah, to give thanks to God for the birth of her son, Samuel.-Contents and themes:...

    , Habakkuk, Isaiah, Jonah (1 Kings [1 Samuel] 2:1-10; Habakkuk 3:1-19; Isaiah 26:9-20; Jonah 2:3-10);
  • (7)-(8) The Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children
    The Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children
    The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Holy Children is a lengthy passage that appears after Daniel 3:23 in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, as well as in the ancient Greek Septuagint translation. It is listed as non-canonical in Article VI of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the...

     (Apoc. Daniel 3:26-56 and 3:57-88);
  • (9) The Magnificat
    Magnificat
    The Magnificat — also known as the Song of Mary or the Canticle of Mary — is a canticle frequently sung liturgically in Christian church services. It is one of the eight most ancient Christian hymns and perhaps the earliest Marian hymn...

     and the Benedictus (Luke 1:46-55 and 68-79).


The second ode is usually omitted unless the general theme of the kanon is fasting and repentance, because of its extremely strict spirit.

Each ode consists of an initial troparion, the heirmos, followed by three, four or more troparia which are the exact metrical reproductions of the heirmos, thereby allowing the same music to fit all troparia equally well.

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. Heirmoi in syllabic style are gathered in the Heirmologion, a bulky volume which first appeared in the middle of the tenth century and contains over a thousand model troparia arranged into an oktoechos (the eight-mode
Musical mode
In the theory of Western music since the ninth century, mode generally refers to a type of scale. This usage, still the most common in recent years, reflects a tradition dating to the middle ages, itself inspired by the theory of ancient Greek music.The word encompasses several additional...

 musical system).

Another kind of hymn, important both for its number and for the variety of its liturgical use, is the sticheron
Sticheron
A sticheron is a particular kind of hymn used in the Divine Liturgy, acolouthia or other services of the Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite....

. Festal stichera, accompanying both the fixed psalms at the beginning and end of Vespers
Vespers
Vespers is the evening prayer service in the Western Catholic, Eastern Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran liturgies of the canonical hours...

 and the psalmody of the Lauds
Lauds
Lauds is a divine office that takes place in the early morning hours and is one of the two major hours in the Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Hours. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, it forms part of the Office of Matins...

 (the Ainoi) in the Morning Office, exist for all special days of the year, the Sundays and weekdays of Lent
Lent
In the Christian tradition, Lent is the period of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer – through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial – for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and...

, and for the recurrent cycle of eight weeks in the order of the modes beginning with Easter
Easter
Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...

. Their melodies preserved in the Sticherarion, are considerably more elaborate and varied than in the tradition of the Heirmologion.

Later Byzantine and post-Byzantine periods



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
John of Damascus
Saint John of Damascus was a Syrian monk and priest...

 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.

Chrysanthos of Madytos
Chrysanthos of Madytos
Chrysanthos of Madytos was responsible for a reform of the notation of Byzantine Greek ecclesiastical music, along with Gregory the Protopsaltes and Chourmouzios the Archivist....

 (ca. 1770-46), Gregory the Protopsaltes, 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.

Simon Karas
Simon Karas
Simon Karas was a Greek musicologist, who specialized in Byzantine music tradition.Simon Karas studied paleography of Byzantine musical notation, was active in collecting and preserving ancient musical manuscripts, collected performances of folk Greek songs and of Byzantine chant from different...

 (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
Lycourgos Angelopoulos
Lycourgos Angelopoulos is the founder and director of the Greek Byzantine Choir. He is also an Archon Protopsaltes of the Archdiocese of Constantinople....

 and other psaltai (cantors) of Byzantine music. Two major styles of interpretation have evolved, the Hagioritic
Mount Athos
Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula in Macedonia, Greece. A World Heritage Site, it is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries and forms a self-governed monastic state within the sovereignty of the Hellenic Republic. Spiritually, Mount Athos comes under the direct jurisdiction of the...

, which is simpler and is mainly followed in monasteries, and the Patriarchal
Patriarchate
A patriarchate is the office or jurisdiction of a patriarch. A patriarch, as the term is used here, is either* one of the highest-ranking bishops in Eastern Orthodoxy, earlier, the five that were included in the Pentarchy: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, but now nine,...

, 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 (literally: "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.

See also

  • Ancient Greek music
  • Modern Greek music
    Music of Greece
    The music of Greece is as diverse and celebrated as its history. Greek music separates into two parts: Greek traditional music and Byzantine music, with more eastern sounds...

  • Traditional music of Crete
    Music of Crete
    The music of Crete is a traditional form of Greek folk music called κρητικά . The lyra is the dominant folk instrument on the island; there are three-stringed and four-stringed versions of this bowed string instrument, closely related to the medieval Byzantine lyra. It is often accompanied by the...

  • The Lyra of the Byzantine
    Byzantine lyra
    The Byzantine lyra or lira , was a medieval bowed string musical instrument in the Byzantine Empire and is an ancestor of most European bowed instruments, including the violin. In its popular form the lyra was a pear-shaped instrument with three to five strings, held upright and played by stopping...

  • Znamenny Chant - the Russian chant style that evolved from the Byzantine system


For more on the theory of Byzantine music and its cultural relatives in Greek-speaking peoples see:
  • Echos
    Echos
    Echos is the name in Byzantine music theory for a mode within the eight mode system , each of them ruling several melody types, and it is used in the melodic and rhythmic composition of Byzantine chant , differentiated according to the chant genre and according to the performance style...

  • Octoechos
    Octoechos
    Oktōēchos is the name of the eight mode system used for the composition of religious chant in Syrian, Coptic, Byzantine, Armenian, Latin and Slavic churches since the middle ages...



For collections of Byzantine hymnography see:
  • Octoechos (liturgy)
    Octoechos (liturgy)
    The Octoechos —literally, the book "of the Eight Tones"—contains an eight-week cycle, providing texts to be chanted for every day at Vespers, Matins, the Divine Liturgy, Compline and the Midnight Office...

  • Pentecostarion
    Pentecostarion
    The Pentecostarion is the liturgical book used by the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite during the Paschal Season which extends from Pascha to the Sunday following All Saints Sunday The Pentecostarion (Greek: Πεντηκοστάριον, Pentekostárion; Slavonic:...

  • Triodion
    Triodion
    The Triodion , also called the Lenten Triodion , is the liturgical book used by the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches of Byzantine rite during Great Lent, the three preparatory weeks leading up to it, and during Holy Week.Many canons in the Triodion contain only three odes or...



For contemporary works featuring Byzantine chant see:
  • Prayer Bells
    Prayer Bells
    Prayer Bells is a choral concert piece by Tasmanian composer Constantine Koukias featuring dozens of handbells cast for the celebration of Australia's 2001 Centenary of Federation . Also comprising three solo cantors and a small male choir, the one-hour work premiered at the Federation Festival of...

  • Days and Nights with Christ
    Days and Nights with Christ
    Days and Nights with Christ is the first of five full-scale operas by the Australian composer Constantine Koukias , and was the first opera / music theatre production by IHOS Experimental Theatre Troupe . It premiered at Hobart’s Salamanca Arts Festival in 1990 and two years later was a highlight...


External links