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Author Topic: Explain octoechos to the musically challenged  (Read 862 times) Average Rating: 0
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Remnkemi
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« on: February 14, 2013, 10:16:15 AM »

Hello all,
I've been trying to research the octoechos system from all Christian families. While I understand the basic concept, I have some questions. Everywhere I look online or in musical articles the information is either way too technical or not found at all. I hope people here can explain their respective octoechos system to someone who is not musically apt.

1. Without musical notation, how do you distinguish one tone from another? Is it purely by memorization or can you identify a certain cue from the melody? Or are you simply told which tone the hymn will be said in?
2. Does one tone correspond to a specific emotional response? I have noticed that a single tone of the eight tones can be used in both Lent seasons and feasts. Some churches simply have tone 1-tone 8 and each tone represents a way to sing the same text to a different mood (a psalm in said in a joyous tone and the same psalm is said in a sad tone). Does this apply to Byzantine octoechos?
3. The Syrian octoechos attaches the 4 classical elements (hot, dry, cold, wet) to their octoechos. Is this found in any other octoechos system (whether Byzantine, Russian, Gregorian, or classical hagiopolite)?
4. If you have any references that can clarify these questions, can you please post it?

Thank you in advance.
PS. I am looking for every Church to respond (Byzantine, Russian, Ethiopian, Armenian, Syrian, Latin rite, Eastern Catholic Churches of the Middle East, etc)
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Remnkemi
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« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2013, 11:58:06 AM »

Anyone?
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« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2013, 12:03:34 PM »

http://sor.cua.edu/BethGazo/index.html
http://sor.cua.edu/BethGazo/BGModalSystem.html
http://sor.cua.edu/BethGazo/BGModesGuide.html

The above three links are, respectively, an overview of the Music System, an overview of the Modes, and a guide to when the modes are used in the West Syrian rite.
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« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2013, 12:27:53 PM »

Hello all,
I've been trying to research the octoechos system from all Christian families. While I understand the basic concept, I have some questions. Everywhere I look online or in musical articles the information is either way too technical or not found at all. I hope people here can explain their respective octoechos system to someone who is not musically apt.

1. Without musical notation, how do you distinguish one tone from another? Is it purely by memorization or can you identify a certain cue from the melody? Or are you simply told which tone the hymn will be said in?
2. Does one tone correspond to a specific emotional response? I have noticed that a single tone of the eight tones can be used in both Lent seasons and feasts. Some churches simply have tone 1-tone 8 and each tone represents a way to sing the same text to a different mood (a psalm in said in a joyous tone and the same psalm is said in a sad tone). Does this apply to Byzantine octoechos?
3. The Syrian octoechos attaches the 4 classical elements (hot, dry, cold, wet) to their octoechos. Is this found in any other octoechos system (whether Byzantine, Russian, Gregorian, or classical hagiopolite)?
4. If you have any references that can clarify these questions, can you please post it?

Thank you in advance.
PS. I am looking for every Church to respond (Byzantine, Russian, Ethiopian, Armenian, Syrian, Latin rite, Eastern Catholic Churches of the Middle East, etc)
The Copts have an Octoechos?  I thought everything was Vatos or Adam.

(I too am severely musically challenged).
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« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2013, 12:54:42 PM »

1. Without musical notation, how do you distinguish one tone from another? Is it purely by memorization or can you identify a certain cue from the melody? Or are you simply told which tone the hymn will be said in?

This is perhaps why you have not received any responses. If you can not hear the differences between the tones then how does one explain music to you? Each of the tones sound different, they are different scales. If you can not distinguish this basic concept, there is no way to explain to the rest to you. So anyone who does understand how they sound has no way to communicate these concepts to you because there is no common language.
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« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2013, 01:12:04 PM »

1. Without musical notation, how do you distinguish one tone from another? Is it purely by memorization or can you identify a certain cue from the melody? Or are you simply told which tone the hymn will be said in?

In Byzantine music, there's the apechema to help you with that. But it's not always intoned at the beginning of every hymn/chant. The tone would be announced with the Prokeimena (the verses before the reading of the Apostle or Gospel, or at Vespers). Where there's a kanonarchos, he prompts chanters with the words of the hymns as well as the tone they're supposed to sing in.   

There are also melodic patterns peculiar to each tone. The pitch of the ison/drone can help as well to recognize the tone. To make it more complicated, there can be tone fluctuations within the same piece of chant/hymn. There are even pieces composed in all 8 tones - the Doxa at the Vespers of the Dormition of the Theotokos IIRC.   
« Last Edit: February 15, 2013, 01:14:25 PM by Romaios » Logged
Remnkemi
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« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2013, 05:50:08 PM »

http://sor.cua.edu/BethGazo/index.html
http://sor.cua.edu/BethGazo/BGModalSystem.html
http://sor.cua.edu/BethGazo/BGModesGuide.html

The above three links are, respectively, an overview of the Music System, an overview of the Modes, and a guide to when the modes are used in the West Syrian rite.
Thank you Sheenj,
I read these sources already. None of them answer question #1.
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Remnkemi
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« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2013, 05:58:25 PM »

1. Without musical notation, how do you distinguish one tone from another? Is it purely by memorization or can you identify a certain cue from the melody? Or are you simply told which tone the hymn will be said in?

This is perhaps why you have not received any responses. If you can not hear the differences between the tones then how does one explain music to you? Each of the tones sound different, they are different scales. If you can not distinguish this basic concept, there is no way to explain to the rest to you. So anyone who does understand how they sound has no way to communicate these concepts to you because there is no common language.
Arimethea, thank you for your response. I guess I should rephrase my Question #1. If a convert who is musically challenged comes to the Eastern Orthodox service but can't read musical transcription, would you tell him "go learn the common language of music transcription and all your questions will be answered"?

I guess what I'm looking for in Question #1 was not a technical answer on musical scales but a practical answer. In other words, if you walked into the middle of a service and there were no more books with musical transcription, can you recognize "Oh this hymn is being said in Tone 7" Or do you need to be told which tone with a kanonarchos or an apechema?

Also, can you or anyone else familar with the Byzantine system kindly respond to questions #2 and #3. They have more priority to me.
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« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2013, 06:01:40 PM »

The Copts have an Octoechos?  I thought everything was Vatos or Adam.

(I too am severely musically challenged).
Depending on how you define Vatos and Adam and octoechos, the Coptic church uses many echoi. My research is pointing to about 35 echoi but the basic principles of the Syrian octoechos is found in the Coptic Church.
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« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2013, 06:10:45 PM »

In other words, if you walked into the middle of a service and there were no more books with musical transcription, can you recognize "Oh this hymn is being said in Tone 7"

Yes. The tones are all sung using different scales, a different set of notes, and so have quite a distinct sound, as well as having characteristic melodies.

Actually, if you didn't know how the scales for each tone sounded, you wouldn't be able to read the music. Byzantine notation doesn't tell you which note to hit, but how many notes up or down, at what speed, and in what way. So the jump from 'ga' to 'di' in Plagal Second would be very different than in Plagal Fourth, for example, but the notation would be the same.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2013, 06:15:20 PM by Orthodox11 » Logged
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« Reply #10 on: February 15, 2013, 06:14:10 PM »

http://sor.cua.edu/BethGazo/index.html
http://sor.cua.edu/BethGazo/BGModalSystem.html
http://sor.cua.edu/BethGazo/BGModesGuide.html

The above three links are, respectively, an overview of the Music System, an overview of the Modes, and a guide to when the modes are used in the West Syrian rite.
Thank you Sheenj,
I read these sources already. None of them answer question #1.

The third one does, assuming you know the Syriac Liturgical Calendar, which IMO is easier to learn than the Octoechoes. Wink
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« Reply #11 on: February 15, 2013, 06:16:16 PM »

1. Without musical notation, how do you distinguish one tone from another? Is it purely by memorization or can you identify a certain cue from the melody? Or are you simply told which tone the hymn will be said in?

This is perhaps why you have not received any responses. If you can not hear the differences between the tones then how does one explain music to you? Each of the tones sound different, they are different scales. If you can not distinguish this basic concept, there is no way to explain to the rest to you. So anyone who does understand how they sound has no way to communicate these concepts to you because there is no common language.
Arimethea, thank you for your response. I guess I should rephrase my Question #1. If a convert who is musically challenged comes to the Eastern Orthodox service but can't read musical transcription, would you tell him "go learn the common language of music transcription and all your questions will be answered"?

I guess what I'm looking for in Question #1 was not a technical answer on musical scales but a practical answer. In other words, if you walked into the middle of a service and there were no more books with musical transcription, can you recognize "Oh this hymn is being said in Tone 7" Or do you need to be told which tone with a kanonarchos or an apechema?

Also, can you or anyone else familar with the Byzantine system kindly respond to questions #2 and #3. They have more priority to me.
I'm speaking as a convert with a fairly decent background in Western music who has learned the sometimes maligned North American variety of Byzantine chant, but which does make sense to those of our culture.

A musically challenged convert really doesn't need to know the technical aspects. Why would he? Really, unless you are a chanter or choir member, there's really no need to be able to identify the tone. Chanters and choir members rarely (I would hope never) fall into the category of "musically challenged".

Like anything else, some study is required. It may be formal or informal. Those with a reasonably good ear for music can learn to identify the tone being sung (just about to post and I see this is what Orthodox11 has said). However, the ordinary person really doesn't know, and likely doesn't care. If he wishes, I'm certain someone at his church can work with him a bit.

As for question #2: I haven't noticed anything consistent about evoking emotional responses arising from the tone. It is true that some tones seem lighter, some seem darker. However, musical expression definitely has a cultural context, so those of other cultures may not view them the same way. That's why I rather suspect that there is a lack of consistency.

Question #3: no idea. I know nothing about the Syrian octoechos, so have no way to compare it.

Question #4: anything I might have, you have probably already found with ordinary search engines.
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« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2013, 06:37:23 PM »

If you walked into the middle of a service and there were no more books with musical transcription, can you recognize "Oh this hymn is being said in Tone 7" Or do you need to be told which tone with a kanonarchos or an apechema?

Tone 7 actually stands out and is easily recognizable - it's more somber and grave than the others, so they call it echos barys - "the heavy tone". It would take some time for the average convert with some musical education, but he could learn to recognize the basic tones without much difficulty. There might be a certain mood each tone creates, for instance the 8th tone of the Paraklesis Canons is always joyful and uplifting - but no unequivocal relation between a tone and a mood or emotion exists.

In Byzantine hymnography, each hymn has its own tone - prescribed in the liturgical books. Only for the fixed hymns of Liturgy (Heruvikon, Axion estin, etc.) would there be multiple settings in different tones. Traditionally, the first - processional - part of the Divine Liturgy (the Antiphons up to the Trisagion) would be sung in tone 2. But now you can find settings for all the chants of the Liturgy in all tones. The variable parts, however, have their assigned tones.

I've never read or heard of an association between the four elements and the tones in the Byzantine or Gregorian musical system.

   
« Last Edit: February 15, 2013, 06:38:46 PM by Romaios » Logged
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« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2013, 06:44:05 PM »

In the Octoechos there is a short poetic description of the characteristics of each tone, which you might find helpful.

Tone 1
The art of music marvels at your sounds,
Gives you the first place. Ah, how well deserved!
As you are called First Tone by music’s art,
First then be eulogised by us in words.
O First, the first of beauties you obtain;
First prize you hold of all in every place.

Tone 2
Though only second place in rank you hold,
First pleasure falls to you of honeyed flow.
Your melody, all honeyed and most sweet,
Cherishes bones and gives to hearts delight.
The Sirens surely sang in second Tone,
So gently flows your song with honeyed drops.

Tone 3
Though third, yet to express brave manly toils,
Close neighbour of the first are you, O Third.
Plain, simple, wholly masculine, O Third,
You are, and so we honour you, O Third.
Source of a multitude of equal count, O Third,
You to a well-tuned multitude belong.

Tone 4
A festal and a dancing tone, you bear
By musical opinion a fourth boast.
Dancers you welcome, and you form them too,
To voices give the prize, on cymbals beat.
You, the fourth Tone, as filled with melodies,
The serried lines of dancers eulogize.

Plagal 1
Mournful you are and greatly pitying,
But for the most part rhythmically you dance.
O mind, which art with music has informed,
Which is the bent oblique of plagal tones?
Rank holds you fifth, but first of the unique,
And calls you so, O Plagal of the First.

Plagal 2
Sixth tone in order, but by far the first,
You rank as second in the second group.
Double-compounded the delights you bear,
Though only second in the second rank.
O dulcet-toned cicada, honey-sweet,
Can any then not love you, fair tone six?

Plagal 3
For regiments of hoplites a fit tune,
You take and bear the appellation grave.
One who hates thoughts to be expressed with shouts
Loves the plain tone that bears the title grave.
With manly song you murmur, second-third;
Though many-sided you have simple friends.

Plagal 4
Seal of the tones, O Plagal of the Fourth,
As bearing in yourself all fairest sounds.
You broaden out the ranges of the songs,
The final flourish of the Tones, and end.
As limit in both notes and voices’ pitch,
Limit of sound I call you twice, and end.

From: http://anastasis.org.uk/oktoich.htm
« Last Edit: February 15, 2013, 06:44:33 PM by Orthodox11 » Logged
Remnkemi
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« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2013, 08:56:24 PM »

The third one does, assuming you know the Syriac Liturgical Calendar, which IMO is easier to learn than the Octoechoes. Wink
I guess what you're saying is that in the Syriac tradition, one knows which tone is being sung simply by knowing the date the liturgy is taking place in the Liturgical year. Is this accurate?

What I wanted to know really deals more with practicality. Let me phrase it this way. If someone walked into the Liturgy service on the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany and the 2nd Sunday of Lent, both using Tone 2, will the hymns sound alike? Will they follow the same musical notation?

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« Reply #15 on: February 15, 2013, 09:04:46 PM »

The third one does, assuming you know the Syriac Liturgical Calendar, which IMO is easier to learn than the Octoechoes. Wink
I guess what you're saying is that in the Syriac tradition, one knows which tone is being sung simply by knowing the date the liturgy is taking place in the Liturgical year. Is this accurate?

What I wanted to know really deals more with practicality. Let me phrase it this way. If someone walked into the Liturgy service on the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany and the 2nd Sunday of Lent, both using Tone 2, will the hymns sound alike? Will they follow the same musical notation?


In the Chalcedonian world the Liturgy music is going to be fixed for the most part, but often unique to individual parish.  There are very few places that follow the Octoechos for the fixed parts of the liturgy. Only the changeable hymns will follow the Octoechos and Menaion. Those changeable hymns are indicted what tone they are in, so those who know the tones can sing along. 
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« Reply #16 on: February 15, 2013, 09:07:06 PM »

I've never read or heard of an association between the four elements and the tones in the Byzantine or Gregorian musical system.
This is what I wanted to confirm. Given the lack of Byzantine references associating the four elements to the octoechos within ethnomusical community, I assumed Byzantine music theory deals solely with melodic explanations of the octoechos, while Syrian, Armenian, "Coptic", and Islamic music deal heavily with philosophical explanations of the octoechos.

The reason I bring this up is that current Byzantine research on the octoechos almost always starts by making statements like "[The octoechos] is the name of the eight mode system used for the composition of religious chant in Byzantine, Syrian, Coptic, Armenian, Latin and Slavic churches since the Middle Ages." And there is really no evidence at all.
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« Reply #17 on: February 15, 2013, 09:21:10 PM »

The third one does, assuming you know the Syriac Liturgical Calendar, which IMO is easier to learn than the Octoechoes. Wink
I guess what you're saying is that in the Syriac tradition, one knows which tone is being sung simply by knowing the date the liturgy is taking place in the Liturgical year. Is this accurate?

What I wanted to know really deals more with practicality. Let me phrase it this way. If someone walked into the Liturgy service on the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany and the 2nd Sunday of Lent, both using Tone 2, will the hymns sound alike? Will they follow the same musical notation?



Practically? Very few churches use the 8 modes during liturgy anymore outside of the few songs that aren't fixed.  But the songs that are done in the same mode will have the same tune as their corresponding songs. I.E. The quqlya will sound the same respective to other quqlya, quqoye to other quqoye etc. etc.
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« Reply #18 on: March 25, 2013, 05:31:26 PM »

Tone 7 actually stands out and is easily recognizable - it's more somber and grave than the others, so they call it echos barys - "the heavy tone"

Can you elaborate on this? I've read this before, but I personally find the Grave tone to be one of the least somber-sounding.
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« Reply #19 on: March 25, 2013, 05:47:50 PM »

Tone 7 actually stands out and is easily recognizable - it's more somber and grave than the others, so they call it echos barys - "the heavy tone"

Can you elaborate on this? I've read this before, but I personally find the Grave tone to be one of the least somber-sounding.

Only if I give you examples:

Χερουβικο Φωκαεα ηχος βαρυς - Φιρφιρης

Άξιον Εστίν (Βαρύς) Κ. Πρίγγου - Γρηγόρης Νταραβάνογλου

Δ.Παικοπουλος - Χερουβικον Ηχος βαρυς

Παικοπουλος-Γαβαλακης Λειτουργικα ηχος βαρυς

It gives a more austere flavour even to more joyful chants like the Doxology: Δοξολογία ηχος βαρυς

ΔΟΞΟΛΟΓΙΑ ΗΧΟΣ ΒΑΡΥΣ ΕΝΑΡΜΟΝΙΟΣ
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« Reply #20 on: March 25, 2013, 11:10:27 PM »


Thanks. The Cherubic hymns illustrate it well. Though, I still think the Doxologies don't sound austere—but who am I to talk, 99% of my Orthodox musical experience is in the OCA!
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