Is Byzantine Notation suitable for chanting in English?

ρόδι

Super Moderator Team
#4
what a fantastic summary frephraim, thanks for the link :)

For me the crux of why western notation is incompatible for traditional BM is the issue of modes/scales/tonalities. If a BM piece which is not in a mode that lends itself easily to major/minor interpretation then the western transcription becomes confusing and serves little purpose for someone wanting to perform from it. I think the other important considerations of rhythm/metre and formulaic phrases are secondary as these can often be either worked around, sometimes avoided altogether (you dont technically need time signatures and indeed they are inappropriate at times), or with repetition (Im talking about the phrases here) may become recognisable in western notation as well. But both notation systems were developed specifically for the musics and tonal systems that they describe. I believe that western music doesnt lend itself well to BM transcription either. Try transcribing the melodies of Schoeberg for example and how does BM notation fair with vertical harmony? Im sure it could be "achieved" somehow but would be cumbersome to say the least.

I do however see the educational merits to western transcriptions - even those that cant help but be cumbersome. As we all know western transcriptions open a window into the world of BM for those that cant read BM notation. So this in itself is important.

Now back to the original question: Is BM notation suitable for chanting in English? Let me rephrase it. I think what Dimitri is asking is: How suitable is the English language for Byzantine Chant - given that the melodies were written (not all the time) to suit the words which were in Greek. Thus when translating into English there are many issues to consider and not just the meaning of the text. To keep the music true to its original then the metre of the language/poetry itself is of utmost importance.

So to those members who have translated texts to different languages I ask: How important is this consideration? How difficult is it to remain true to the music whilst also translating the meaning? And does the end result achieve what the original achieves in terms of conveying the poetic nature of the texts and enhancing the "spirituality" of the experience?

Kiriaki
 
#5
what a fantastic summary frephraim, thanks for the link :)


Now back to the original question: Is BM notation suitable for chanting in English? Let me rephrase it. I think what Dimitri is asking is: How suitable is the English language for Byzantine Chant - given that the melodies were written (not all the time) to suit the words which were in Greek.



Kiriaki
I would say to this that English is as compatible with Byzantine Music as any other language BM is commonly used in. Arabic isn't even read in the right direction to use with Byzantine Notation yet it is done. Romanian has a beautiful Byzantine Music tradition. Holy Transfiguration Monastery I believe has proven with their translations the poetry aspect can be maintained to a certain degree. While it may not keep all of the poetic value of the original Greek, I doubt any of the other languages of Orthodoxy do either. I also think that Papa Ephraim's work proves how Byzantine music and its formulas can be applied to English. I feel in the field of both translation and composition enough has been proven to show that both can be done more than adequately in English. In fact, if the paths that are being taken now in the field of Byzantine music in English continue, in 20 years every piece needed for having a strong English BM tradition will be available and well translated.
 

Thomas

Νέο μέλος
#6
Well, I'm not nearly as experienced in Byzanitne notation as everyone else, but I think it's definitely suitable for English.

Even though I'm an 'American' ie: western, for some reason I've never quite gotten staff notation. I find it difficult and complicated to read in all but the simpliest hymns...I don't know a C from an F sharp, and even though I've learned a little more about it over the last few years, I still simply don't "get" it. However Byzantine notation, once I got past that initial "huh?" period, which granted took a few months, is now much, much easier for me to comprehend. I have no problem "thinking" in the language of byzantine notation, and for me, it's just much easier...maybe because my brain comprehends differently, I really don't know.

Granted I can't have in depth conversations about the notation, I'm just not that experienced at this point, and I probably can't even remember all the names of the notes, but I know what each symbol means and what I'm supposed to do with it. It totally works for me. Maybe I'm just wired differently or something. But it works in English very well. Of course not everyone is going to learn byzantine notation, but for those willing, I see no problem in using it.
 

Panagiotis

Γενικός συντονιστής
#7
The Byzantine psaltic notation has been hitherto used very successfully for other languages like Romanian, Church Slavonic and Arabic. So, why not in English? :)
 

saltypsalti

Παλαιό Μέλος
#8
I would say to this that English is as compatible with Byzantine Music as any other language BM is commonly used in. Arabic isn't even read in the right direction to use with Byzantine Notation yet it is done. Romanian has a beautiful Byzantine Music tradition. Holy Transfiguration Monastery I believe has proven with their translations the poetry aspect can be maintained to a certain degree. While it may not keep all of the poetic value of the original Greek, I doubt any of the other languages of Orthodoxy do either. I also think that Papa Ephraim's work proves how Byzantine music and its formulas can be applied to English. I feel in the field of both translation and composition enough has been proven to show that both can be done more than adequately in English. In fact, if the paths that are being taken now in the field of Byzantine music in English continue, in 20 years every piece needed for having a strong English BM tradition will be available and well translated.
Thanks Tennessee Sam! This is really the divide between HTM's translational skills and the music that been coming out of that institution in the past (which have largely been the product of the musical biases of one person --there are new minds at work at HTM which are changing some of these old biases -results to be determined). Fr. Pachomios, the arch-translator there, is not only an excellent translator, but also a skilled poet (with a dry sense of humour that sometimes has made its way into some of the text recently, of the Menaion), and deliberately lends itself (at least IMHO) to the general meter of chanted Byzantine music in its original language. I was told, particularly in their latest edition, this was part of their intent. Fr. P is not a chanter there, and simply goes directly the meter of the written text.

Making the final chanted product (to coin a term) "work" convincingly, requires a certain amount of "pluckiness" and cleverness on the part of both the translator, as well as the music arranger who is adapting the hymn tune from one language to another and a willingness to "go on beyond zebra" so to speak with respects to well loved Greek melodies, while making them "sound" intact and yet respect the text. Perhaps that is the advantage of having us "xeni" learn the rules, and then apply them to our native language. We simply don't have prejudices that have lead to stretching out English text into Greek melodies.

Enough blustering on my part.:eek:
 

Panagiotis

Γενικός συντονιστής
#9
Though the prerservation of the original Greek meter is very suitable for me (should I chant in English), I am not totally persuaded that it is the best solution. :confused: The other Orthodox national Churches (Romanians, Arabs etc) did not adopt this solution as a rule but only in exceptional circumstances (eg the Romanians for the Epitafios Encomia).
Of course another major problem when it comes to English is many translations, many jurisdictions etc. :(
 

saltypsalti

Παλαιό Μέλος
#10
For me the crux of why western notation is incompatible for traditional BM is the issue of modes/scales/tonalities. If a BM piece which is not in a mode that lends itself easily to major/minor interpretation then the western transcription becomes confusing and serves little purpose for someone wanting to perform from it.
So much for me stopping my blustering :D

This is a crux of a vociferous argument I have been having with one of my female helpers --staff notation was the brain child, originally, of Guido of Arrezo largely to expand the range and ability of written music to record any melody, whereas the "Byzantine" notation in many ways, actually restricts the melodist/composer to a limited body of musical figures and doesn't really work outside of that. Additionally, western notation has no way to cope with the classical ornamentation beyond the recording of a structural melody-one of my favourite examples is the oligon/kentemata/psifiston followed by two plus descents, which has multiple (3 or 4 in my admittedly Karas biased schooling) realizations, depending on the school, outside of a literal reading of the figure. An experienced chanter could read western notation and read these figures in, but it means nothing in and of itself to the Byzantine illiterate reading a staff score.

Beyond recording a basic melody, the two systems grossly diverge. I find that western notation, as Kiriaki has implied, can actually muddy the waters.

Pray for me --today July 2 (NS June 17 OS) is my nameday -St. John of San Franciso

John, the salty protopsalti
 
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