Klara Mechkova's books on Tetraphony and Triphony


Nikola Antonov
Dear friends, I would like to present to you two books by Bulgarian researcher musicologist and professor of music history Klara Mechkova.

Over the last decade, she has published two books on Tetraphony and Triphony as the major systems of the Byzantine music.

1. The Oktaechon System of the Byzantine Music in the Theoretical Texts Sources. The Tetraphony (2009). The book follows strictly the medieval Byzantine sources. The researcher examines in detail key issues of Byzantine music theory, makes a detailed and in-depth analysis of the St. John Kukuzel's wheel (Τροχός). She pays special attention to terms and issues such as φωνή, ήχος (functional theory of the echos), the discrepancy between the order and naming of the Ancient Greek scales and Byzantine scales, the relation between music and theology in the medieval Byzantium.

2. The Triphony in the Tetraphonic Musical System and in the Life of the Byzantine Oktaechon (2018). The book is a continuation of the first with an emphasis on the Triphony as a subsystem of the Byzantine music. The author makes a detailed analysis on the graphic of John Plusiadinos (Η σωφοτάτη παραλλαγή). Also, in this book she translates and analyzes the δοξαστικό Θεαρχίω νεύματι by various Byzantine sources. She pays special attention to terms such as φθορά, νανά, λέγετος, νενανώ and others key concepts. The question about the tonal system is also addressed in this book. She mentions the testimony of Chrysanthos about the three types of tonal intervals and traces the connection with the sources of Arabic music in the Middle Ages. It suggests that Arab musicians may have borrowed the idea of the intervals from the medieval Byzantium (there is no direct evidence, so this remains only a scientific assumption and hypothesis).

The Klara Mechkova's research focus is on the musical systems, functional analysis and the way these major components of music work, following strictly Byzantine music sources. In addition, she has deep knowledge and gives credit to the Three Teachers' reform. On one hand, she traces the continuity between medieval Byzantine music and the music of The Modern Times (the Three teachers' reform). On the other hand, she does not make the mistake of fully identifying or completely negating any connection between the Middle Ages and Modern Times (as many Western researchers make).

Unfortunately, Klara Mechkova's books are only available in Bulgarian for the time being.


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Nikola Antonov
The Oktaechon System of the Byzantine Music in the Theoretical Text Sources. The Tetraphonia (2009).

Main Topics:
  • The theological background related to the specifics, contents and time of appearance of the Byzantine theoretical texts
  • The idea of phone in the Byzantine music system and medieval treatises
  • Phone and the accompanying terms in the texts sources
  • Phone - the definition
  • The quality of the note and phone
  • Phone and Tetraphonia
  • The melos of the note
  • The melos of the note and the polysyllabic naming of the notes
  • The melos of the notes and the interval matter of phone
  • Tetraphonia and genus
  • Metrophonia and parallage
  • The functionality of tetraphonia. The Oktaechia.
  • The tetraphonia features: 1) the tetraphonia as a hypostatic union; 2) the principle of the corresponding pair phone-tetraphonia; 3) the principle of the circular motion-tetraphonia; 4) the common operations ot the both principles
  • The tetraphonia and mastering of the acoustic space
  • The Oktaechia: 1) the principle of the corresponding pairs; 2) the tetraphonia and the filling of scales of the echoi
  • The principle of the circular motion in the Oktaechia
  • The Wheel of the St. John Koukouzelis: 1) the meaning of the small circles; 2) the meaning of the Tree; 3) the optimal variant of the circular motion in the Wheel and the small circles of the Wheel; 4) the second element of the Wheel; 5) the maximal variant of the circular motion in the Tree and the Wheel; 6) the spiral motion in the Tree; 7) the central body of the Wheel; 8) about the Wheel as a musical incarnation of the theological idea about the "saved space"
  • The Ancient naming of the scales and Byzantine echoi in the treatise of Agiopolitis. The principle of the circular motion. The treatise Vaticanus Graecus 871. The principle of the corresponding pairs echoi in to the Koukouzeli's Wheel.
  • A functional theory of the echoi: the historical and theological background; the meaning of the term ήχος; the theological aspect of the terms κύριος and πλάγιος.
  • The main ideas in to the treatise of the Monk Gabriel (Codex Lavra 610): γνωριστική and δηλωτική idea; mesos, diplasmos, naos.
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Nikola Antonov
The Triphonia in the Tetraphonic Musical System and in the Life of the Byzantine Oktaechon (2018).
Main Topics:

  • The Triphonia in to the contemporary science and the medieval text sources
  • The basics of Triphonia: 1) definition; 2) the functionality of the triphonia and tetraphonia; 3) a functional relationships between the triphonia and tetraphonia; 4) the melodic "holdingness" and "unholdingness" as a prerequisite for a functional "holdingness" and "unholdingness"
  • The Triphonia as a phtora: 1) different kind of modulations in the echoi; 2) the double parallage
  • The "turnover" of the Triphonia: 1) the monophonia; 2) an extended (compound) triphonia
  • Acoustic parameters in to the Byzantine music system: 1) the hypothesis; 2) the idea of the "unequal fourths"; 3) the "unequal fourths" in to the context of the Byzantine echoi
  • Nana, nenano, legetos
  • The Triphonia in to the didactic aids: 1) "Η σοφοτάτη παραλλαγή" of John Plousiadenos; 2) the method of John Laskaris
  • The Triphonia in to the manuscripts
  • The Byzantine music system by the example of the sticheron "Θεαρχίω νεύματι".
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Dear Nikola

I thank you for a more competent translation (the English abstracts at Bulgarian Musicology are still somehow rhapsodic):
Buleva, Mariyana. «Клара Мечкова: “Трифонията В Тетрафоничната Музикална Система И В Живота На Византийското Осмогласие.” Българско Музикознание n. 1 (2019): 102–5.