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Author Topic: Greek liturgical singing  (Read 1419 times) Average Rating: 0
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Heorhij
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« on: October 19, 2007, 03:16:04 PM »

I was very deeply impressed by the singing in the Greek Orthodox church that my wife and I visited one week ago. The tunes were so, so unusual, not really resembling any modern (i.e. dating back not later than the 17th or 16th century) European music... So elaborate, so fastidious were these tunes, so "different..." Maybe the closest association that I have with these tunes (apparently, very old, very ancient) is the singing of an Arab Muslim "muedzin" (sp.?), the one who sings from the top of a "minaret" (sp.?) of a mosque. Have these tunes been preserved from those times (say, 7th or 6th or 5th century A.D.) when the Byzantine culture, including the music, was really different from what we tend to perceive as the "European" culture and music? Thanks in advance for enlightening me in this. Smiley
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« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2007, 08:03:11 AM »

Have these tunes been preserved from those times (say, 7th or 6th or 5th century A.D.) when the Byzantine culture, including the music, was really different from what we tend to perceive as the "European" culture and music? 

Yes and no. 
Yes: The musical system (the multi-modal "Byzantine Music" system) has indeed come from pre-5th century; but during those earlier times, Western Music wasn't as restricted as it is now, either.  The Modes of Byzantine Music (i.e. the musical scales and whatnot) are carry-overs from Greek folk music and Hebrew worship music of the pre-Christian era (with modifications).

No: The actual melodies are probably not from before the 10th century at earliest, with very few exceptions.  Some of the hymns in Orthodoxy are from early centuries (O Joyful Light and O Only-Begotten Son are pre-7th century hymns, with O Joyful Light being a pre-5th century hymn).
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« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2007, 09:25:50 AM »

Thank you, Cleveland. Yes, one of the hymns that I was referring to, one of those that impressed me so much, was "O Only Begotten Son" ("O Monogenis Ios ke Logos tu Theu athanatos..."). I am not sure whether I heard the other one you mention, the "O Joyful Light." When in the Divine Liturgy is it sung?
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« Reply #3 on: October 20, 2007, 01:16:04 PM »

Thank you, Cleveland. Yes, one of the hymns that I was referring to, one of those that impressed me so much, was "O Only Begotten Son" ("O Monogenis Ios ke Logos tu Theu athanatos..."). I am not sure whether I heard the other one you mention, the "O Joyful Light." When in the Divine Liturgy is it sung?

That one is sung during vespers.  "Fos Ilaron tis agias doxis...."
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« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2007, 05:28:29 PM »

Thank you, Nektarios. I am yet to hear it. --G. Smiley
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pensateomnia
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« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2007, 01:06:07 PM »

There's a short article on the history of Byzantine chant by the leading academic historian on the matter available here:

http://www.stanthonysmonastery.org/music/History.htm

It begins:

1. Overview

Byzantine music is the medieval sacred chant of all Christian churches following the Eastern Orthodox rite. This tradition, principally encompassing the Greek-speaking world, developed in Byzantium from the establishment of its capital, Constantinople, in 330 until its conquest in 1453. It is undeniably of composite origin, drawing on the artistic and technical productions of the classical age and on Jewish music, and inspired by the plainsong that evolved in the early Christian cities of Alexandria, Antioch, and Ephesus. In common with other dialects in the East and West, Byzantine music is purely vocal and exclusively monodic. Apart from the acclamations (polychronia), the texts are solely designed for the several Eastern liturgies and offices. The most ancient evidence suggests that hymns and Psalms were originally syllabic or near-syllabic in style, stemming, as they did, from pre-oktoēch congregational recitatives. Later, with the development of monasticism, at first in Palestine and then in Constantinople, and with the augmentation of rites and ceremonies in new and magnificent edifices (such as Hagia Sophia), trained choirs, each with its own leader (the protopsáltes for the right choir; the lampadários for the left) and soloist (the domestikos or kanonarch), assumed full musical responsibilities. Consequently after ca. 850 there began a tendency to elaborate and to ornament, and this produced a radically new melismatic and ultimately kalophonic style
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« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2007, 01:23:47 PM »

Many thanks for the link, Pentaseomnia! Very informative and interesting.
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