Σίμων Καράς / Simon Karas
Ο λόγιος υποστηρικτής, ερευνητής και δάσκαλος της Ελληνικής μουσικής / The intellectual supporter, researcher and teacher of Greek Music
Simon Karas is probably the most controversial figure in Byzantine Music history of the 20th century. A number of his students and supporters place him amongst the greatest contributors to Byzantine Music ever. His opponents usually condemn most or all of his work and consider his musical views "heretic" and alienating from the traditional performance style ("ektelesis") of Psaltiki. Others (including the Authors) find positive and negative sides to his work. In this page, we present information regarding Karas' life and work.
Βιογραφικά / Biography
Tribute to the life and work of Simon Karas from the radio show "From our Orthodox and Eastern Musical Tradition" of Lykourgos Angelopoulos and Konstantinos Angelidis, broadcasted shortly after Karas' death in 1999. Some of Karas students and collaborators are invited to the program. Among other things the shows contain Karas' presentation at a musicological conference in Delphi, Greece and Karas' obituary speech by Prof. Gregorios Stathis. There are 6 radio shows in mp3 format and a pdf file with the contents of all shows (in Greek). The recordings were offered by Vasili Zacharis.

Αφιέρωμα στο Σίμωνα Καρά με αφορμή τον πρόσφατο τότε (1999) θάνατό του, από την εκπομπή του κ.Λυκούργου Αγγελόπουλου και κ. Κωνσταντίνου Αγγελίδη "Από την Ορθόδοξη και Ανατολική Μουσική Παράδοση" που μεταδίδεται από την ΕΡΑ2. Σ' αυτές τις 6 εκπομπές φιλοξενούνται μαθητές του Καρά και μιλούν για διάφορές πτυχές του έργου του. Είναι 6 εκπομπές σε mp3 και ένα αρχείο pdf που έχει τα περιεχόμενα των εκπομπών. Οι εκπομπές είναι προσφορά του Βασίλη Ζάχαρη.

1. Περιεχόμενα / Contents [pdf]
2. 21-02-1999 [mp3, 40 Mb]
3. 28-02-1999 [mp3, 40 Mb]
4. 07-03-1999 [mp3, 40 Mb]
5. 14-03-1999 [mp3, 40 Mb]
6. 21-03-1999 [mp3, 40 Mb]
7. 28-03-1999 [mp3, 40 Mb]

Βιογραφία του Καρά και μαρτυρίες μαθητών του [html] (στα Ελληνικά από το www.gnl.gr)

Karas biography with photos and testimonies of some of his students [html] (in English, from www.gnl.gr)

A timeline of Karas' life and career [html] (in Greek, from ecclesia.gr)
Biographical info [html] (in Greek, from musicale.gr)
More biographical information is presented in this letter to Archbishop Christodoulos [pdf] (in Greek, written and offered by Ioannis Arvanitis, a student of Karas)
Letter of Patriarchal approval of Karas' work offering him an (undisclosed) offikion [pdf] (in Greek, offered by Ioannis Arvanitis).
Έργα / Works
Method of Greek Music: Theoretikon, book in two volumes published by Simon Karas in 1982, presenting the conlusions of his research on the theory and practice of Byzantine Music (for exact references see [html]). In this book Karas presents a new perspective of looking at Greek music. An example of this book where Karas studies and supports the older traditional practice can be found on our study regarding the mathema "Ton Despotin kai Archierea" [html]. Here is also the Kekragarion of first mode [pdf] and one Esperion (troparion) from his theory book (vol. I).
Method of Greek Music, series of books published by the Association of Simon Karas containing exercises (parallage), hymns and folk songs written in Karas' extended Byzantine notation to be used as teaching materials in music schools. [exact reference pending].
Extended notation. Karas (like many others before him) argued that the Three Teacher's notation is not completely suitable for capturing oral tradition. Therefore he proposed a number of extra symbols (their shapes borrowed from the old notation) that could be added to music scores to represent possible ornamentation(s) according to oral tradition. For a thorough coverage of the subject refer to Karas' theory book. A more or less summary of the philosophy of Karas regarding notation (coming from an unrelated source) and many explanatory examples of the proposed signs and their purpose and meaning was given by Dimitrios Nerantzis in this article [html]. Here is another example of an enhanced score by Karas himself. It is the Kekragarion of first mode [pdf] and one Esperion (troparion) from his theory book (vol. I).
Ioannis Maistor Koukouzelis and his era, book published by Simon Karas, aiming to uncover the myths regarding the life and work of Ioannis Koukouzelis and present credible evidence instead. Karas argues that there is a mix up of Maistor (not saint) Ioannis Koukouzelis with St. Gregorios Koukouzelis Domestikos of the Holy Monastery of Megisti Lavra of of Mt Athos who - according to the Menaion - was the one actually to receive the gold coin from the Theotokos (and not Ioannis). He also argues against Koukouzelis' Bulgarian background and places his life in the 12th century (for exact references see [html]). See also Koukouzelis' page on the Analogion [html].
Palaeography. Karas spent a great deal of time and effort studying the evolution of notation from the early medieval times till his time. He published a book on his palaeographic research and made numerous conference presentations about it (for exact references see [html]). He fought against the Western belief that the long melismatic exegesis of the older repertoire by the Three Teachers was unfounded.
Short and long exegesis. Karas supported that the older stenographic notation of Byzantine Music could be transcribed in both a long and a short manner. Here is a short exegesis (transcription) of "Fos Ilaron" by Simon Karas himself [pdf]. Michael Lagoudakis, who scanned this transcription said, "I don't remember where I copied this from, but it should be the Akathist Hymn book by Constantinos Markos. The added markings are mine ... it is very interesting to see how the classic (slow) "Fos Ilaron" and this one match each other in structure. The slow vs. brief exegesis is a huge chapter. A common example of it (that precedes Karas) is the ancient Axion Estin in 2nd mode and its two exegeses: the brief one (most common) and the slow one found in the books of Raidestinos and Alexandros Byzantios (perhaps elsewhere, too)."
Engomia. book containing the traditional way (perhaps with the exception of explicitly notated double isokratema) of chanting the Engomia (Praises or Lamentations) of Great Saturday. The book contains music scores, the text of the Engomia and the accompanying verses. See also relevant page on the Analogion [html].
Preservation Karas went to Constantinople in the late 1930s with the aim to collect national treasures and safeguard them by bringing them to Greece. Angelos Boudouris gives a more detailed account of that effort [html]. The most important treasure of all seems to be the collection of autograph manuscripts of Chourmouzios Chartophylax which were placed and preserved in the National Library of Greece since then.
Radio show Many years of contribution to the presentation of authentic traditional Greek music from Greek national radio.
Recording Archive While a head of a department of Greek national radio, he invited and professionally recorded many psaltai and choirs of his time. For instance he recorded the choirs of Athanasios Pettas, Konstantinos Katsoulis, Georgios Syrkas and others in the 1970s. Samples from that recording archive have been broadcasted by Lykourgos Angelopoulos in his radio show on national radio.
Folk Music Karas travelled extensively around Greece and recorded around 50,000 folk songs. He wrote down many (all?) of them in Byzantine notation, some of which have been published in his "Method of Greek Music" series of books and have been played and recorded by his and other choirs. For his contribution to Greek folk music, the Academy of Athens awarded him a prestigious award towards the end of his life.
Recordings Many recordings of chants and folk songs with the choir and orchestra of the Association. Some are mentioned below in this page [exact references pending].
Compositions Karas left a number of his own compositions and transcriptions. Some of them have been published by Karas himself as examples in his own books and some by Panayiotis Pappas in his liturgy book and surely there are many of them that remain unpublished.[exact references pending].
Unpublished works, a huge corpus of unpublished (due to lack of funds) manuscripts of the church year and other repertoire written by Karas with his suggested extended Byzantine notation. [exact reference pending].
More Many more books and articles on palaeography, intervals and other topics [exact references pending]
Many other views and works of Karas are discussed in other pages of Analogion, especially the Musicology page.
Ηχογραφήσεις / Recordings
Old recordings from the 1930s
Various recordings with Karas' mixed polyphonic choir from musicale.gr. (a) [htm] (b) 2 [htm]. Karas later in his life seemed to have abandoned such a polyphonic style although he kept recording with mixed choirs.
Various hymns from ecclesia.gr [html]
Directing the Choir of his "Association for the Dissemination of National Music"
Christmas Hymns (buy here from studio52.gr)
Hymns of the Epitaphios and Pascha (buy here from studio52.gr)
Η "σχολή" του Σίμωνος Καρά / The "school" of Simon Karas
People who studied with Karas or otherwise followed his teachings to large or small extent [html]
Το μουσικολογικό ζήτημα / The musicological issue
The work of Simon Karas has been the cause of a fierce debate (often flame war) which has even led to a court battle on defamation charges in one case (of Lykourgos Angelopoulos, Archon Protopsaltis of the Holy Archdiocese of Constantinople against Vasileios Katsifis, now Archon Mousikodidaskalos of the Great Church). Numerous discussions and publications have taken place so far.
An account of the work of Simon Karas in Constantinople in the 1930's by Archon Domestichos Angelos Boudouris. [html] including the views of Archon Protopsaltis Iakovos Nafpliotis on Simon Karas at that time: "The teacher has formed the opinion that Karas is an intellectual man (λόγιος) with a desire to work on the matters of our music, of which music he happens to be a fan and supporter (θιασώτης και υποστηρικτής), although he doesn't know it (αν και δεν την γνωρίζει)".
Thrasyvoulos Stanitsas also criticised Simon Karas' interpretation as non-traditional in his interview published by Christos Tsiounis. [reference pending]
Avraam Eythemiadis said in an interview that for someone to be able to criticise Karas responsibly, he should be equal or better than Karas [recording pending]
"On the musicological issue", a number of letters by Georgios Konstantinou, Nektarios Thanos and Sotirios Despotis (supporters of Karas' method) and a number of letters by Vasileios Katsifis, Konstantinos Zarakovitis, Dimitrios Ioannidis, Georgios Hatzichronoglou, Theodoros Akridas and Manolis Hatzimarkos (harsh critics of Karas' method) [htm] (from cmkon.org).
"Notes regarding the musicological issue", letter of Ioannis Arvanitis (a student of Karas) to the Archbishop of Greece, describing his views on Karas and his critics pdf] (offered by Ioannis Arvanitis).
"Simon Karas", series of radio broadcasts by Lykourgos Angelopoulos and Konstantinos Angelidis on the work of Simon Karas (see above on this page)
"Simon Karas", article by Kostis Drygiannakis, on Karas' life and work from musicale.gr. [htm]
"Ecclesiastical Hymns Recorded in 1930 by Melpo Merlie", article by Lykourgos Angelopoulos reviewing this oldest recording of Simon Karas [htm].
"Isokratema technique in recent musical praxis" [htm] (from peemde.gr)
"The importance of the research and teaching of Simon Karas regarding the identification and notation of the analysis of the cheironomic signs", book published by Lykourgos Angelopoulos.Here is an on-line version of this book together with its examples [htm] (made available on-line by S. Kyritsis)
"Simon Karas and Byzantine Music in Greece in the 20th century", article by Lykourgos Angelopoulos [htm] (from peemde.gr)
"The modes of Byzantine Music: A musicological dialogue", booklet published by Fr. Georgios Stathopoulos of the Metropolis of Ilia, defending Simon Karas' theory of the presentation of the Modes arguing that it is directly derived from the writings of the Three Teachers [ htm (made available on-line by S. Kyritsis).
"The Ecumenical Patriarchate, Cradle of Byzantine Music and the Ambitious Reformers", book published by Vasileios Katsifis and Dimitrios Ioannidis criticising the work of Karas, Karamanis and others.
"Criticism on the Theory Book of Simon Karas", book published by Vasileios Katsifis criticising the theory book of Simon Karas [ref. pending]. See special page reviewing this book [pending].
"From the Byzantine Tradition", article by Vasileios Nonis (a student of Karas) [htm] (from e-politismos.gr)
"Simon Karas", article by Nektaria Karantzi [htm] (from musicheaven.gr)
"Simon Karas", newspaper article from "To Vima" newspaper [htm] (from tovima.dolnet.gr)
Website of Georgios Michalakis, a critic of Karas' method. The author presents various arguments with examples and comparisons to prove that Simon Karas' method does not result in a traditional interpretation. [htm].
"Violin as a traditional Cretan instrument", article by Kostas "Naftis" Papadakis criticising Karas about his disregard of the violin as a traditional Cretan instrument (Karas himself admitted that he was wrong on that issue towards the end of his life from what I have been told) [htm]