/ Mediaeval Byzantine Chant
/ Speculative recostructions: story in a nutshell

Probably the earliest attempts to transcribe the mediaeval repertory in an analytical notation were made by Petros Lambadarios. His train of thought was followed by Gregorios Protopsaltis and Chourmouzios Chartophylax who transcribed a large deal of mediaeval compositions, including the Papadike and the Sticherarion. The main characteristic of their work is the assumption that the so-called signs of great hypostases represent the whole melodic lines and consequently the assumption that the mediaeval scores were written in a concise manner and require a thorough, long exegesis. The best known earliest example of long exegesis is the exegesis of the Nekrosemon Trisagion done by Balasios the Priest (17th c.). The practice of long exegesis is well-documented in the 18th c. and contrary to the opinions of early Western researchers of the Byzantine chant (Tillyard, Wellesz, Strunk...) it's not the invention of the Three teachers: they did what their predecessors did in the 18th c. There is an early 18th c. ms discovered by Prof. Stathis with transcriptions to the Western notation which unambiguously attests to the fact of existence of the long exegesis. The person to systematise the theory of long exegesis was Konstantinos Psachos, who mainly relied on the work of Panagiotis Kiltzanidis. The elements of the theory of long exegesis can be found in Chrysanthos' Great Theoretikon and Kyriakos Filoxenis' Lexikon of the Ecclesiastic music. Psachos' ideas were met with opposition not only in the West, but also within the Patriarchate, his main opponent being Markos Vasileiou. In 1930s the Western researchers reached the general consensus on how to reconstruct the mediaeval Byzantine chant: the great hypostases were essentially discarded in transcriptions, the second and plagal second modes were assumed to be diatonic, the Western notation sufficient to represent microtonal nuances and the rhythm similar to that empolyed in transcriptions of mediaeval Gregorian chant done by Solesme abbey monks. The received Greek tradition was declared to be corrupted by oriental influences and the sole source used were the mediaeval mss and theoretical treatises, which can however provide only a limited amount of information. At about this time then still a young musicologist Simon Karas enters the scene. It took him some time to formulate his views, but according to him the Western transcriptions were wrong. However he accepted that the long exegesis of the mediaeval repertory wasn't the only possibility, especially in case of the Sticherarion and offered his method of transcription. In 1960s the MMB, the foundation to study the Byzantine chant established by Hoeg, Tillyard and Wellesz stopped publishing the transcriptions evidently due to ceratin inconsistencies they encountered. At about this time an article on the analysis of the sticheron Ton ilion krypsanta by Gregorios Stathis was published in Studies in Eastern chant, the main Western journal on the Byzantine musicology. This article marks a change in Western attitude toward the received tradition of the Byzantine chant and many Western musicologists and notably J. Raasted start to admit that a diachronic approach has to be used. Stathis became the main exponent of the stenographic theory (i.e. the theory of long exegesis). Another Greek scholar G. Amargianakis claimed that through his study of the mediaeval Sticherarion and cataloguing its formulae he reached the conclusion that the stenographic theory was indeed true. As far as modern research in Greece is concerned, following Karas' ideas several new generation musicologists, and especially Ioannis Arvanitis, question the fact that the long exegesis was the only possibility and talk about short exegesis of the mediaeval Byzantine repertory.

For more detailed information check dr. Alexander Lingas' article [pdf, 430 Kb] (courtesy of csbi.ro).

Studies and Research articles

Konstantinos Psachos

"Parasemantike" book (details pending).

Markos Vasileiou

Articles from the Parartema tes Ekklesiastikes aletheias

H.J.W. Tillyard

Handbook of the middle Byzantine musical notation

Oliver Strunk

The tonal system of Byzantine music
[zip, 800 Kb]

Jan van Biezen

Middle Byzantine kanon-notation of manuscript H

Simon Karas

Short exegesis of Fos ilaron
[pdf, 80 Kb]

Constantin Floros

Universale Neumenkunde

Dimitri Conomos

Communion chants in Magna Graecia and Byzantium
[pdf, 2 Mb]

Georgios Amargianakis

Appendix of the doctoral thesis dealing with chromaticism in Byzantine chant
[zip, 500 Kb]

Gregorios Stathis

Analysis of the sticheron Ton helion krypsanta

Exegesis of the old Byzantine semiography

Ioannes Koukouzeles' "Method of theseis" and its application

Ioannis Arvanitis

A way to the transcription of old Byzantine chant by means of written and oral tradition
[zip, 4 Mb]

The rhythmical and metrical structure of the Byzantine heirmoi and stichera as a means
to and as a result of a new rhythmical interpretation of the Byzantine chant
[pdf, 390 Kb]
(courtesy of csbi.ro)

Exegesis of the Katabasia Christos en polei
Score in paleobyzantine notation [tif, 70 Kb]
New method Transcription [tif, 100 Kb]

Eustathios Makris

The chromatic scales of the deuteros modes in theory and practice
[pdf, 240 Kb]
(published in Plainsong and Mediaeval Music)

Nicolae Gheorgita

Some observations on Nouthesia pros mathetas by Chrysaphes the Younger from Gr. ms. no 840
in the Library of the Romanian Academy (A.D. 1821)
[pdf, 140 Kb]
(courtesy of csbi.ro)


Greek Byzantine choir
(director L. Angelopoulos)

O thelon mousiken mathein
(Teaching tool of the old sticheraric melos by Panagiotes Chrysaphes. Short exegesis by I. Arvanitis)
(Offered by B. Zacharis)

Maistores of Psaltic Art
(director A. Chaldaiakis)

O thelon mousiken mathein
(Teaching tool of the old sticheraric melos by Panagiotes Chrysaphes. Long exegesis by Prof. Gr. Stathis)
(Offered by B. Zacharis)

Capella Romana
(director Alexander Lingas)

Ti ypermaho
[wma, 3.6 Mb]
(speculative reconstruction from the 13th c. ms)

Romeiko ensemble
(director Yorgos Bilalis)

Katabasia Christos en polei
(transcribed from the ms Coislin 220 by Ioannis Arvanitis, see scores above)
[wma, 1.5 Mb]

(director Ioannis Arvanitis)

Byzantine Katavasia Anastaseos imera (transcribed from the old notation by I. Arvanitis from a manuscript of the 13th c.)
[mp3, 387 Kb]
(broadcasted by L. Angelopoulos and K. Angelidis on Greek radio)

Byzantine Choir of Paiania

Katavasiai of the Theofaneia by Panagiotis Chrysaphes (transcribed from the old notation by Konstantinos Markos)
[mp3, 635 Kb]
(broadcasted by L. Angelopoulos and K. Angelidis on Greek radio, low sound quality)
Extract from a CD published by the choir in 2004

Solesme abbey

Heirmos Anastaseos imera
[mp3, 370 Kb]

Case study

Heirmos Anastaseos imera

Transcription by Jan van Biezen
(notice the similarities to the transcription by I. Arvanitis)
[jpg, 35 Kb]

Transcription by Egon Wellesz

Interpretation of Wellesz's version by Solesme choir
[mp3, 370 Kb]
(notice the arrhythmic style and paratonismoi)

Interpretation of I. Arvanitis' version by Hagiopolites choir
[mp3, 390 Kb]

Interpretation and comments by Georgios K. Michalakis
[mp3, 1.2 Mb]