Angelos Boudouris on Chronos And Rhythm


Δημήτρης Κουμπαρούλης, Administrator
Staff member
Draft translated passages by D. Koubaroulis from Angelos Boudouri's book "Eisagoge eis ten Byzantinen Ecclesiastiken Mousiken" (take from here)

Part of chapter on Tempo

§280 In the slow pieces (Doxastika, Polyelaioi, Cheroubika, Koinonika) we use the following tempo indication "argon over x". However, the kratemata are chanted with tempo "gorgon over x". At the end of the piece, the original tempo is restored. Note that the general nature of tempo in the kratemata ("apas o dromos tis agoges") is double ("diplous"), therefore we chant two notes at every hit of the hand ("dyo fthoggoi eis ena ktypon").

On Rhythm and its components

§281. The duration of beats ("chronoi") of a melody is determined by the tempo ("chronike agoge"). Many times, the beats of the melody have some regularity. That is the beats form groups which divide the melody into short, same-duration, well defined parts. When a certain number of beats (two, three, four, *etc.*) divides the melody regularly in parts of same duration, then rhythm is produced. According to the above, rhythm in Byzantine Music is the division of the melody into regular parts ("kata taksin") consisting of the same number of beats always.

§283... Beats can be characterised as simple of complex. Simple beat ("aplos chronos") is the smallest unit of time that is part of rhythm. This time unit, which can not be further divided but only multiplied, coincides with the pronounciation ("apaggelia") of one short syllable of the Ancient Greeks. It was then known as "short beat" ("chronos braxys")
or "first beat" ("chronos protos") or "point" ("semeion") and was notated liek this "u". Complex beat ("synthetos chronos") is a multiple of the simple one, that is, double, triiple, etc. The double beat is the so called by the Ancient Greeks "long beat" ("chronos makros") or "Disemos", as consisting of two units ("ws apoteloumenos ek dyo semeiwn") and was notated like this "__".

§286 One "short beat" of the Ancient Greeks lasts exactly as one quantity sign of Byzantine Music (excl. the hyporroe) without it carrying any time-related signs, when the melody is heirmologic.

§287. The beats of the melody form groups, each consisting of 2, 3,4 etc. These groups are called bars ("podes h metra").

§288. ... There are various types of bars:
Disemos bars: consisting of two short beats
Trisemos bars: consisting of three short beats
Tetrasemos bars: consisting of four short beats
and so on so forth.

(footnote) Bars in modern music ("oi podes eis ten newteran mousiken") are called "meters" ("metra"). the rhythm of the Ancient Greeks was based on prosody, that is the distinction of syllables intro short and long. That rhythm was called prosodic. Modern musicians use the emphasis of the accented syllable to form the rhythm ad not the short and long syllables. such a rhythm is called "tonikos" ("tonistikos", dimitri: accent-based). It is possible ("einai de dynaton") for the rhythmic emphasis to coincide or not with the logical, grammatical accept of words. In this rhyhtm, every bar consists of two or three syllables.

§289 Bars are categorised in simple and complex ones. Simple are Disemos and Trisemos. Complex are those that consist of multiplying and combining the simple ones.

§290 The beats of the bar are not counted each with thesis and arsis, but some are taken in thesis and some are taken in arsis. ("oi chronou tou rhythmikou podos den metrountai eis ekastos me thesin kai me arsin, alla allos lambanetai eis tin thesin kai allos eis tin arsin"). (dimitri: direct argument against monosemos counting "tak tak tak").

§291. Terminology: Tempo = Rhythmike agoge = Chronike agoge

§292 Tempo can be indicated by either a tempo indication sign (e.g. hemiargon over x) or by using appropriate time-related signs on the quantity characters to extend or reduce the duration of quality characters in the piece.

§293 (this is the part that is scanned on the Analogion). Rhythm consists of bars. The type of bars, characterises the rhythm, therefore Disemos bars form Disemos Rhythm, Trisemos bars form Trisemos Rhythm, Tetrasemos bars form Tetrasemos Rhythm and so on and so forth".

§294 Like bars, rhythms can be simple or complex, depending on whether they consist of simple of complex bars.

§295 Simple rhythms are Disemos and Trisemos. Complex rhythms are Tetrasemos, Pentasemos, Hexasemos, Heptasemos etc. *Ecclesiastical music, most of the time, makes use of Disemos, Trisemos and Tetrasemos. Ecclesiastical chants are usually chanted on the basis of Disemos Rhyhtm and are witten according to that.

§296 According to Disemos rhythm, every bar consists of two equal beats, either simple or complex. In chanting, the first beat is taken in the thesis and second beat is taken in the arsis. The first beat is always emphasised more than the second". To count this rhythm, we hit the knee once of a thesis and we hit the air once for an arsis. (footnote) Some modernists divide the Disemos bars inside the piece by small vertical lines called "Diastolai". In Byzantine Ecclesiastical Chants it is not allowed to use bar lines because they destroy the form and unity of the melos ("dioti katastrefetai i ploki kai i enotita tou melous").

§298 The two beats of the of a Disemos bar are often represented not by two quantity signs but by one two-beat sign ("apo enan xaraktera dixronon") and vice-versa, instead of a one-beat sign, there are two half-beat characters.

§299. In Trisemos Rhythm, each bar consists of three beats, *simple or complex*. In chanting, the first beat is always emphasised more than the others.... It is counted with one thesis and two arsis...

§301. In Tetrasemos Rhythm, each bar consists of four beats, simple or complex. ... The first beat is always emphasised more than the other three, and the third beat is emphasised more than the second and fourth beat... It is counted with one thesis and three arsis...

Chapter: Ecclesiastical Melos and Rhythm

§304. Some Eccl. chants, in terms of rhythm, follow a well defined rhythm ("orismenon kanonikon rhythmon") consisting of homogeneous ("omoeideis") bars. Other chants consist of heterogeneous ("eteroeideis') bars e.g. Disemos, Trisemos etc.

§305. Most melodies, from those the heirmologic in particular, don't follow a fixed rhythm ("kanonikon rhythmon") in the strict sense (according to the definition of rhythm above). Usually the chants in practice they follow the "tonikos" rhythm., and in particular the by-beat such rhythm ("akolouthousi ton tonikon rythmon, kai malista ton xronikon toiouton"). That is the melody is executed by observing the beats of each rhythmic bar ("to melos ekteleitai, tiroumenwn twn xronwn tou rhythmikou podos").

Fast Heirmologic Pieces and Rhythm

§306. In fast Heirmologic pieces, there rarely is regular rhythm. In such chants, the "tonikos" (accent-based) rhythm is appropriate ("prosidiazei"). which is based on the accents of the words and therefore renders clearly the words and helps (dimitri: the listeners) in following the meaning of troparia.

§307. In Heirmologic pieces, the grammatically emphasised syllables are represented by chanracters (signs) carrying one of the quality signs, like psephiston, vareia, omalon in particular, and *those syllables become the beginning of a bar. Mainly such chants are chanted in single chronos ("monosemos") alsoknown as simple chronos ("chronos aplous")*.

Slow Heirmologic Chants and Rhythm

§308. Slow Heirmologic pieces generally follow regular ("kanonikon") rhythm. That is facilitated by the fact that each syllable usually lasts for 2 beats )sometimes more), it is therefore easy to form homogeneous rhythmic bars.

§309. In slow Heirmologic pieces, rhythm is usually *Disemos or Tetrasemos (consisting of four simple beats)*. The most common tempo appropriate for melodies in Disemos rhythm is this "argon over x". In such pieces the performer tries to adhere to the following rules: the first "tic" ("ktypon") of half-second duration measures one simple syllable in the thesis and the second "tic" measures one simple syllable in the arsis. If a simple syllable has duration of one "tic" then we will spend one whole second on a syllable with two time "tics" (the above is related to a previous chapter on tempo).

Slow Sticheraric Chants and Rhythm

§310. In such pieces, rhythm is either regular or, more often, mixed (that is "tonikos"), consisting of Disemos, Trisemos and Tetrasemos bars.

§311. *Accented syllables become beginnings of bars (as in the heirmologic pieces).*

§312.* Sticheraric pieces too, when chanted in the so called "simple chronos" ("chronos haplous") proceed smoothly without stumblic rhythmically ("xwris na proskrouwsi rythmikws"). However, there are also such pieces with regular rhythm, Tetrasemos or Disemos*.

Papadic Chants and Rhythm

§313 Due to the extending of each syllable to many beats, there are formed homogeneous bars and therefore *regular rhythm, Disemos or Tetrasemos*.

Ancient Byzantine Pieces

§314 There are a number of preserved ancient melodies in which each syllable (with some exceptions) is extended into four beats and constitutes a Tetrasemos bar. Such pieces are the following examples:

"Fos Ilaron", "Kyrie twn Dynamewn", "Tin Pasan Elpida Mou", "Kateuthenthetw (Presanctified)", "Alleluia of Nymphios", "Idou o Nymphios" and others.

On changing the rhythm of melos

§314 (mistake in AB's numbering). Byz. Eccl. melodies proceed from beginning to end with the same rhythm. Only in the kratemata of slow compositions a change of rhythm is indicated as "gorgon over x". This general observation applies to all kratemata which are usually chanted in Disemos Rhythm.

(footnote) Despite received tradition, many modern teachers chant the kratema of Theotoke Parthene of Petros Bereketis in Trisemos rhythm, indicating the rhythmic change as "hemiargon over x gorgon over x". According to them, slow tempo ("chronike agoge") becomes fast tempo while one-beat characters are extended into two-beat ones and two-beat characters are extended into three-beat ones and thus form Trisemos bars. Characters with more beats are extended accordingly. This act of modernists is not only totally arbitrary ("authairetos") but also destroys the rules of interpretationof Ecclesiastical music.


In another of Boudouris' books called "Mousikokritika" (p. 156) we read this very clear and important quote:

§239 ... Every piece can be chanted by-beat ("kata chronon") and by-rhythm ("kata rhythmon"). However, what dominates the musical melos of the troparion in the rhythm, which is given to it during chanting by the person who chants it.