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The Vocation of Music A Conversation with Benedict Sheehan and Harrison Russin

FULK NERA

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The Vocation of Music A Conversation with Benedict Sheehan and Harrison Russin
from OCA.org

In his 2018 encyclical Of What Life Do We Speak?, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon articulates the stark reality facing Orthodox church musicians in America today: church music, though it is “often the first thing which deeply strikes people when they walk into an Orthodox church,” is “a tool that has become sadly blunted in many of our present-day parishes.” (p23) There is indeed a great amount to celebrate in our present-day musical situation. We ought to celebrate the professional-level quality of ensembles focused on Orthodox liturgical repertoire — ensembles like Cappella Romana, the PaTRAM Institute, and the Saint Tikhon Choir. We ought to endorse, sing, and support the work of professional composers working in the Orthodox tradition. We ought to purchase and use the publications coming out of Saint Tikhon’s Monastery, Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, Musica Russica, and the OCA Department of Liturgical Music and Translations.

Yet at the same time, those involved in the weekly liturgical worship at their parish know that the musical situation is bad in many places, and getting worse. Research for Father Peter Simko’s M.Div. thesis at Saint Tikhon’s Seminary indicates that of 268 parish bodies he surveyed, only 18 had any sort of payment for choir directors or members, and about one-third of parishes have changed musical leadership in the past five years, primarily due to moving, retirement, or death, and less than one-third of parishes had any sort of youth musical education component. This situation is far removed from the days of my (Harrison’s) father’s generation, when he grew up with a “Professor” who directed the services (including two liturgies every Sunday), taught Russian school, and was provided a house at the parish. Both of us, Benedict at Saint Tikhon’s and Harrison at Saint Vladimir’s, regularly receive emails from parishes across the country seeking qualified music directors. Many of these parishes are willing to offer stipends, but only extremely rarely, if ever, are they prepared to offer full salaries and benefits for directors. Even when the support is there, moreover, it is unclear where qualified candidates for us to recommend for such positions will come from.

please open link to read the interview
 
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The Vocation of Music A Conversation with Benedict Sheehan and Harrison Russin
from OCA.org

In his 2018 encyclical Of What Life Do We Speak?, His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon articulates the stark reality facing Orthodox church musicians in America today: church music, though it is “often the first thing which deeply strikes people when they walk into an Orthodox church,” is “a tool that has become sadly blunted in many of our present-day parishes.” (p23) There is indeed a great amount to celebrate in our present-day musical situation. We ought to celebrate the professional-level quality of ensembles focused on Orthodox liturgical repertoire — ensembles like Cappella Romana, the PaTRAM Institute, and the Saint Tikhon Choir. We ought to endorse, sing, and support the work of professional composers working in the Orthodox tradition. We ought to purchase and use the publications coming out of Saint Tikhon’s Monastery, Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, Musica Russica, and the OCA Department of Liturgical Music and Translations.

Yet at the same time, those involved in the weekly liturgical worship at their parish know that the musical situation is bad in many places, and getting worse. Research for Father Peter Simko’s M.Div. thesis at Saint Tikhon’s Seminary indicates that of 268 parish bodies he surveyed, only 18 had any sort of payment for choir directors or members, and about one-third of parishes have changed musical leadership in the past five years, primarily due to moving, retirement, or death, and less than one-third of parishes had any sort of youth musical education component. This situation is far removed from the days of my (Harrison’s) father’s generation, when he grew up with a “Professor” who directed the services (including two liturgies every Sunday), taught Russian school, and was provided a house at the parish. Both of us, Benedict at Saint Tikhon’s and Harrison at Saint Vladimir’s, regularly receive emails from parishes across the country seeking qualified music directors. Many of these parishes are willing to offer stipends, but only extremely rarely, if ever, are they prepared to offer full salaries and benefits for directors. Even when the support is there, moreover, it is unclear where qualified candidates for us to recommend for such positions will come from.

please open link to read the interview
As a choir member at my church, I believe the most important thing to for Orthodox music reform and to ensure quality singing at liturgy is firstly vetting people who are passionate about music vs those who are just volunteering because they can.

For instance, many people treat choir practice as an unwanted chore. To ensure professional quality the people who are interested in improving their performance should be focused on rather than anyone who volunteers. Unless the Church is in dire need of more singers, only people who take their role in the choir seriously should be allowed to sing in the choir and not anyone who wants to sing but without the commitment.

In that regard, i am in favor of the Greek office of psaltes in some way being restored and churches should focus on training select choirmembers to a high standard like the Greeks do their cantors. I don't think it should require a degree in ecclesiastical music per se as the Greeks require for their cantors, but there should definitely be intensive instruction in the tones and various traditions of Orthodox music, as well as good sight reading skills before being a choir member.

Choir members should be familiar with all types of Orthodox music and able to sing both 4 part harmony and monophonic music. During services in small churches where they might not have all 4 parts (often at my church the tenor can't make it), Byzantine or Zmanneny/Carpatho-Russian chant will sound better. There have been times where I was the only one singing, and it would have been better if a monophonic chant was used instead of singing the melody for obikhoid with no accompaniment. My church just began a class on Byzantine music theory and practice, so that will soon be remedied, as well as I have some books of Georgian polyphony that would be both more melodious and easy for small choirs (only three parts, as well as the harmonies are tighter so it could be 3 sopranos, or 2 sopranos and a tenor etc instead of dividing by range so much).

Another important thing is in the OCA/Russian tradition, I believe the typical obikhoid (for vespers and such) is musically too simple. Simple music isn't bad per se, especially in a mission church, but a choir should be stretched and challenged with more difficult pieces as time goes on. Most of the 8 tones in OCA practice are so simple they don't even require sheet music. I think this causes a choir to stagnate in using more repertoire as the music tends to be more or less the same every week. Consider the difference between Rachmaninoff's blessed is the man vs the simple obikhoid version. They are somewhat similar in melody, but the Rachmaninoff version is incomparably more beautiful.

As per the advice about paying choir directors, I'm not sure if it's necessary.. At at church like mine, the director works between 4 and 5 hours a week at the church which doesn't really justify a full time stipend. However the Church should pay to have music professionals come to the Church and train choir directors and members when possible.
 
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The sad reality is that you get what you pay for. You could also ask volunteers who have taken a few iconography workshops to get a few buckets of paint and put some icons on your walls, but I'd imagine the results would be dissatisfactory. Why does anybody expect differently when music is involved?
 

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Furthermore, I should add that in my opinion, church choirs have been making do with the decaying remnants of musical literacy once having been widespread throughout our society. These days, I would estimate that the majority of people I know from the ages of 20-40 either cannot read music, cannot vocally match pitch, or cannot do both of these things, and without receiving some very fundamental training they are essentially unfit to sing in a choir of any sort (be it plainchant or polyphony). We already see the fruits of this approach ripening within the GOA where the average age of church choirs is skyrocketing (it is probably near 70 now). What shall they do when the inevitable happens and these people no longer sing with any earthly choirs? There is a very real need for professional musicians to teach the fundamentals of music and singing at orthodox parishes, but most people, I feel, lack the foresight to recognize that this will be an issue until it is too late.
 

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Instead of asking for highly valuable instructors to come out to a church, wouldn't it be wiser to send out alot of people with a passion for music to where the instructors live and to schools and they all could learn under these instructors/ wise men/ new dessert fathers. Then go back with the music treasure after so many years? Music missionaries. It would take a sacrifice. And commitment. And maybe a church could offer scholarships for such? But what to do in the missions? Its kind of rough.
 

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I don't know where people get the idea that academic compositions such as the ones Benedict Sheehan provides with his recent rendition of the Divine Liturgy are meant to be sung in a village parish setting. There is absolutely no need to overprofessionalize something as basic as congregational singing, be it in a choir.
 

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I don't know, in my opinion the Lord Himself takes care of the church service. Several times I thought that we would be left without a choir at all, and each time new singers appeared. Now we have a regent with a musical education*, and 5 singers.
* but without experience singing in a church choir. Therefore, me have to deal with such things:
2021-10-06_062852.jpg
 
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Instead of asking for highly valuable instructors to come out to a church, wouldn't it be wiser to send out alot of people with a passion for music to where the instructors live and to schools and they all could learn under these instructors/ wise men/ new dessert fathers. Then go back with the music treasure after so many years? Music missionaries. It would take a sacrifice. And commitment. And maybe a church could offer scholarships for such? But what to do in the missions? Its kind of rough.
That could work sometimes but as you say with missions or any relatively small parish it's not practical. Years of training for no pay, unfortunately. It would be difficult for those not going to make a career of church singing.

@Katechon
All church music traditions are somewhat beyond the level of congregational singing nowadays. Even with the congregational znammeny chant among the Old Believers they would teach the children at a young age the melodies of plain chant and how to read it. There was also a level of training both at matching pitch and the person giving pitch had to know the best range for each song. To this day in zmanneny chant, there are "light" and "dark" tones which describe the range of the pitch and its corresponding interval on solfege.

Nowadays the average parishioner (who isn't in the choir) can't hardly match a pitch let alone read sheet music and harmonize. So some level of training is necessary to sing today, and while it doesn't need to be at the academic level like with Benedict Sheehan, striving to improve the professionalism of Church singing beyond simple obikhoid I think is necessary to keep ecclesiastical music alive. Orthodox music is traditionally never that simple that it can be sung without training, whether it's a Russian choral piece, or any of the monophonic chant traditions.
 

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As a choir member at my church, I believe the most important thing to for Orthodox music reform and to ensure quality singing at liturgy is firstly vetting people who are passionate about music vs those who are just volunteering because they can.

For instance, many people treat choir practice as an unwanted chore. To ensure professional quality the people who are interested in improving their performance should be focused on rather than anyone who volunteers. Unless the Church is in dire need of more singers, only people who take their role in the choir seriously should be allowed to sing in the choir and not anyone who wants to sing but without the commitment.

In that regard, i am in favor of the Greek office of psaltes in some way being restored and churches should focus on training select choirmembers to a high standard like the Greeks do their cantors. I don't think it should require a degree in ecclesiastical music per se as the Greeks require for their cantors, but there should definitely be intensive instruction in the tones and various traditions of Orthodox music, as well as good sight reading skills before being a choir member.

Choir members should be familiar with all types of Orthodox music and able to sing both 4 part harmony and monophonic music. During services in small churches where they might not have all 4 parts (often at my church the tenor can't make it), Byzantine or Zmanneny/Carpatho-Russian chant will sound better. There have been times where I was the only one singing, and it would have been better if a monophonic chant was used instead of singing the melody for obikhoid with no accompaniment. My church just began a class on Byzantine music theory and practice, so that will soon be remedied, as well as I have some books of Georgian polyphony that would be both more melodious and easy for small choirs (only three parts, as well as the harmonies are tighter so it could be 3 sopranos, or 2 sopranos and a tenor etc instead of dividing by range so much).

Another important thing is in the OCA/Russian tradition, I believe the typical obikhoid (for vespers and such) is musically too simple. Simple music isn't bad per se, especially in a mission church, but a choir should be stretched and challenged with more difficult pieces as time goes on. Most of the 8 tones in OCA practice are so simple they don't even require sheet music. I think this causes a choir to stagnate in using more repertoire as the music tends to be more or less the same every week. Consider the difference between Rachmaninoff's blessed is the man vs the simple obikhoid version. They are somewhat similar in melody, but the Rachmaninoff version is incomparably more beautiful.

As per the advice about paying choir directors, I'm not sure if it's necessary.. At at church like mine, the director works between 4 and 5 hours a week at the church which doesn't really justify a full time stipend. However the Church should pay to have music professionals come to the Church and train choir directors and members when possible.
The Bakhmetev-Lvov Obikhod has no melody. It’s just some left-hand chord changes that indicate a vestige of Kievan and Znammeny type chant cadences.

The near total musical illiteracy of Americans has largely killed church music. We are about to run off a cliff if churchgoers don’t catch a clue and man up to attaining some vocal musicianship.

When the Moscow Patriarchate set up its missionary diocese in these lands each priest who was sent out was accompanied by a reader-typikonchik and choirmaster. These lay liturgists were understood by the provident hierarchs of the world’s best equipped church at that time to be essential to assist the priest in evangelizing the people am doin training them to be Orthodox Christian parishioners. Unless we do something similar we are bound to liturgical destruction.
 
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The Bakhmetev-Lvov Obikhod has no melody. It’s just some left-hand chord changes that indicate a vestige of Kievan and Znammeny type chant cadences.
Yes, exactly. And I think it contributes to music illiteracy and the stagnation of the choir. Not that it's inherently wrong, of course, but I think phasing it out will help choirs in the Slavic tradition.


The near total musical illiteracy of Americans has largely killed church music. We are about to run off a cliff if churchgoers don’t catch a clue and man up to attaining some vocal musicianship.
I agree. My church is having choir practice bi-monthly along with the Byzantine music class. While our vespers service remains in the obikhoid, the choir director has composed a good amount of music for Divine Liturgy that isn't overall complicated for our current training in the choir but certainly is a step up from obikhoid chordal singing.
When the Moscow Patriarchate set up its missionary diocese in these lands each priest who was sent out was accompanied by a reader-typikonchik and choirmaster. These lay liturgists were understood by the provident hierarchs of the world’s best equipped church at that time to be essential to assist the priest in evangelizing the people am doin training them to be Orthodox Christian parishioners. Unless we do something similar we are bound to liturgical destruction.
I wasn't aware of this. But that makes sense. As far as I've read Orthodox music has gotten more and more simple in Russian churches. Many unused (complicated) cherubic hymns are not sung, many have not even been translated to English due to their lack of use.
 

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@Katechon
All church music traditions are somewhat beyond the level of congregational singing nowadays. Even with the congregational znammeny chant among the Old Believers they would teach the children at a young age the melodies of plain chant and how to read it. There was also a level of training both at matching pitch and the person giving pitch had to know the best range for each song. To this day in zmanneny chant, there are "light" and "dark" tones which describe the range of the pitch and its corresponding interval on solfege.

Nowadays the average parishioner (who isn't in the choir) can't hardly match a pitch let alone read sheet music and harmonize. So some level of training is necessary to sing today, and while it doesn't need to be at the academic level like with Benedict Sheehan, striving to improve the professionalism of Church singing beyond simple obikhoid I think is necessary to keep ecclesiastical music alive. Orthodox music is traditionally never that simple that it can be sung without training, whether it's a Russian choral piece, or any of the monophonic chant traditions.
Wasn't there a time when nobody could read sheet music because it simply wasn't invented yet? What's with the neumatic chant used back in the days? I think we shouldn't necessarily hold the heights of secular classical music as the standard as a lot of 19th century composers did, with the problems accompanying such a view. I am not sure how justified the alarmism expressed in this thread is.
 
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Wasn't there a time when nobody could read sheet music because it simply wasn't invented yet? What's with the neumatic chant used back in the days? I think we shouldn't necessarily hold the heights of secular classical music as the standard as a lot of 19th century composers did, with the problems accompanying such a view. I am not sure how justified the alarmism expressed in this thread is.
There was no sheet music up to the 6th or 7th century. I think it was st. Isidore of Seville who lamented that music wasn't able to be recorded to the lack of notation. It is unlikely that music was therefore very simple because it was written down. Rather it would be memorized by a psaltes or cantor (which office existed from at least the 4th century) and sung according to oral tradition. It still took a level of musical training, and as early as the 8th century we have musical theory books on ecclesiastical singing, the modes and harmonization (mainly simple 4ths or 5ths).

Neunatic chants can be complex especially with the Byzantine. The znammeny neumes are simpler due to less chromaticism, but still require a degree of training to sing anything more complicated than a canon which repeats more or less the same short melody 8 times.

19th century composers don't need to be the standard. Orthodox music is universally complex in all Orthodox countries from the earliest manuscripts we have, Byzantine, znammeny, carpatho Russian, Georgian etc. Perhaps the simplest kind of church music is Gregorian chant, and even that requires training to understand the neumes and their "order of operations", and we know historically Gregorian chant lost much of its character (including chromaticism and ornamentation probably not unlike Byzantine chant) that was passed by oral tradition and lost because of the simplification of Western neumes.
 

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19th century composers don't need to be the standard. Orthodox music is universally complex in all Orthodox countries from the earliest manuscripts we have, Byzantine, znammeny, carpatho Russian, Georgian etc. Perhaps the simplest kind of church music is Gregorian chant, and even that requires training to understand the neumes and their "order of operations", and we know historically Gregorian chant lost much of its character (including chromaticism and ornamentation probably not unlike Byzantine chant) that was passed by oral tradition and lost because of the simplification of Western neumes.
Modern day Gregorian chant sounds pretty bland, boring and soulless. Do you have further insights on it's degeneration?
 
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Modern day Gregorian chant sounds pretty bland, boring and soulless. Do you have further insights on it's degeneration?
"These notions included two things: (1) the tone system, which comprised a double octave of natural tones, from A to a' with G added below, and allowing only one chromatic note, namely b flat instead of the second b; and (2) eight modes theory. As some of the Gregorian melodies did not well fit in with this theoretic system, exhibiting, if ranged according to the mode theory, other chromatic notes, such as e flat, fsharp, and a lower B flat, some theorists declared them to be wrong, and advocated their emendation. Fortunately the singers, and the scribes who noted the traditional melodies in staff notation, did not all share this view. But the difficulties of expressing the melodies in the accepted tone system, with b flat as the only chromatic note, sometimes forced them to adopt curious expedients and slight changes. But as the scribes did not all resort to the same method, their differences enable us, as a rule, to restore the original version. Another slight change regards some melodic ornaments entailing tone steps smaller than a semi-tone. The older chant contained a good number of these, especially in the more elaborate melodies. In the staff notation, which was based essentially on a diatonic system, these ornamental notes could not be expressed, and, for the small step, either a semitone or a repetition of the same note had to be substituted. Simultaneously these non-diatonic intervals must have disappeared from the practical rendering, but the transition was so gradual that nobody seems to have been conscious of a change, for no writer alludes to it. Richard Wagner (op. cit., II, passim), who holds that these ornaments are of Oriental origin though they formed a genuine part of the sixth-century melodies, sees in their disappearance the complete latinization of the plain chant."
 
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20211005_152133.jpg

Very likely, at places such as the "rra" part of terra at the beginning and the three note repetition at the first alleluia had microtonal ornamentation, and the scribes wrote it as repeating the same note three times. If I recall correctly the melody root for this chant is the 8th or 9th century.
 

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"These notions included two things: (1) the tone system, which comprised a double octave of natural tones, from A to a' with G added below, and allowing only one chromatic note, namely b flat instead of the second b; and (2) eight modes theory. As some of the Gregorian melodies did not well fit in with this theoretic system, exhibiting, if ranged according to the mode theory, other chromatic notes, such as e flat, fsharp, and a lower B flat, some theorists declared them to be wrong, and advocated their emendation. Fortunately the singers, and the scribes who noted the traditional melodies in staff notation, did not all share this view. But the difficulties of expressing the melodies in the accepted tone system, with b flat as the only chromatic note, sometimes forced them to adopt curious expedients and slight changes. But as the scribes did not all resort to the same method, their differences enable us, as a rule, to restore the original version. Another slight change regards some melodic ornaments entailing tone steps smaller than a semi-tone. The older chant contained a good number of these, especially in the more elaborate melodies. In the staff notation, which was based essentially on a diatonic system, these ornamental notes could not be expressed, and, for the small step, either a semitone or a repetition of the same note had to be substituted. Simultaneously these non-diatonic intervals must have disappeared from the practical rendering, but the transition was so gradual that nobody seems to have been conscious of a change, for no writer alludes to it. Richard Wagner (op. cit., II, passim), who holds that these ornaments are of Oriental origin though they formed a genuine part of the sixth-century melodies, sees in their disappearance the complete latinization of the plain chant."
Isn't the modern day Gregorian chant a romanticist 19th century reconstruction anyway, since plainchant fell almost completely out of use with the baroque age orchestra masses?
 
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Isn't the modern day Gregorian chant a romanticist 19th century reconstruction anyway, since plainchant fell almost completely out of use with the baroque age orchestra masses?
Yeah, the solemnes monks led the reconstruction and their interpretation of gregorian chant having no real rhythm (which is why it seems bland) to it is quite debatable.
 

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Wasn't there a time when nobody could read sheet music because it simply wasn't invented yet? What's with the neumatic chant used back in the days? I think we shouldn't necessarily hold the heights of secular classical music as the standard as a lot of 19th century composers did, with the problems accompanying such a view. I am not sure how justified the alarmism expressed in this thread is.
Staff notation was invented by an Italian in the late Middle Ages, a development from earlier primitive analog notation. Byzantine φθόγγοι are a digital notation system with a logic similar to MIDI note change messages. Staff notation shows actual pitches and phthongoi (neumes) indicate changes in pitch from the previous note. anyone can read music with some training and there is no alternative.

American public primary schools quit teaching musical notation basics a few decades ago. The result is near universal illiteracy. It’s a question of social values. Americans are fat, unhealthy, lazy slobs who expect other people to play their music for them.
 

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Yeah, the solemnes monks led the reconstruction and their interpretation of gregorian chant having no real rhythm (which is why it seems bland) to it is quite debatable.
I am under the impression that it is because they use neither an ison nor more than one voice. I can't really imagine that that was the 'original practice' in any way, and people like Marcel Peres seem to confirm me in this.
 
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I am under the impression that it is because they use neither an ison nor more than one voice. I can't really imagine that that was the 'original practice' in any way, and people like Marcel Peres seem to confirm me in this.
The Musica Enchiriadis (9th century) describes harmonic improvisation and both line and parallel organum (line organum is almost identical to an ison and parallel is 4th and 5ths with a few variations on ocassion). It probably wasn't describing something new but drew on some already existing practices.

So, the ison or something similar to it was in the West as part of the development of organum where one would sing a plain song melody (cantus firmus) very slowly and add ornamentation on top of it. Very similar to the kalophonic style of Byzantine chant that developed in the 14th century. I've heard Byzantine chant borrowed the ison from Italy, but I'm not sure.
 

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The Musica Enchiriadis (9th century) describes harmonic improvisation and both line and parallel organum (line organum is almost identical to an ison and parallel is 4th and 5ths with a few variations on ocassion). It probably wasn't describing something new but drew on some already existing practices.

So, the ison or something similar to it was in the West as part of the development of organum where one would sing a plain song melody (cantus firmus) very slowly and add ornamentation on top of it. Very similar to the kalophonic style of Byzantine chant that developed in the 14th century. I've heard Byzantine chant borrowed the ison from Italy, but I'm not sure.
Discussing European music ought to entail at least two major vectors. The native one is old European polyphony which is extant in isolation in places like Corsica and the Caucasus (esp. Georgia). The intuition toward medieval polyphony and its descendants has its roots in village music that was less hierarchical and more ‘democratic’ in privileging voices. Independence of voices in polyphony comes out of this sensibility, which is lacking in the other tradition, the ecclesiastical music coming from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern sources at a higher level of social organization, that is the Imperial, that privileges the melody line exclusively. Ecclesiastical music is anything but a ‘jam session’ (the genesis of informal village music).

Gregorian chant replaced the traditional Roman and Ambrosian chants in the post-schism era of the Latin Church’s self-invention. The German popes came at much of Ecclesiastic Tradition with an a priori assumtion of decadence and a desire to remake the Church in their own image. The music they invented, named for Pope Gregory Hilderbrand, is entirely synthetic and has no roots in traditional melodies that fit within the musical system of eight tones but invents a new system of diatonic relationships on other principles.
The octoechos system still extant in much of the Orthodox world centered on the Mediterranean is part of a larger family of musical languages, all of which are basically monophonic, such as maqam common to the Islamic world, the Iranian radif and the HindustanI-Karnatik raga. This world of music ties music-making to calendrical, hourly and seasonal cycles and expresses an unifying cosmic conception of the place of music in human life.
This cosmic unifying conception of music fits perfectly with ecclesiastical notions of the sacred realm that interpenetrates creation endowing it with life amd meaning. I think arguments for Byzantine music ought to include this dimension, which might be said to be lacking in some kinds of church singing.
This is an esoteric concept of music that requires high levels of pedagogy to convey and which has largely broken down in the modern, Western-conceived world. It may be said that Russia turned toward the West and the modern world in the era of Peter the Great when the Latin-inspired reforms of Peter Mogyla were instituted. The sacred performance of choral music in Russian cathedrals in imitation of Italian, German and Polish Catholic sacred music shows a clear preference for the idea of individual creativity in musical art and positivistic elaboration of the means of music-making which cannot be obtained in traditional church music.
This is not a dismissal of the genius of Russian or other choral traditions, but an effort to describe an aesthetic basis for work in the realm of church music. Without very strong support for deep pedagogy in Byzantine music the art will be lost to the churches. It’s not something you just pick up by ear. Neither will good choral singing survive if we do not invest in its support. That leaves us with village music, which is where most of our parishes subsist. It begs the question, how can we go forward, how can we transmit the Tradition within the Church, if we continue to stumble along in division and mutual denigration of each other’s efforts at worship in the various jurisdictions of Orthodoxy? This could potentially be an argument for a role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate but I do not see the current generation even owning the tradition in which they subsist, much less leading a revival of knowledge of the esoteric principles of our musical worship.
 

FULK NERA

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Wasn't there a time when nobody could read sheet music because it simply wasn't invented yet? What's with the neumatic chant used back in the days? I think we shouldn't necessarily hold the heights of secular classical music as the standard as a lot of 19th century composers did, with the problems accompanying such a view. I am not sure how justified the alarmism expressed in this thread is.
There are musical notation systems dating back to Akkad. Singing of epics, Psalms, etc. was a sacred art from earliest civilization and maybe before civilization.
 

Katechon

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Gregorian chant replaced the traditional Roman and Ambrosian chants in the post-schism era of the Latin Church’s self-invention. The German popes came at much of Ecclesiastic Tradition with an a priori assumtion of decadence and a desire to remake the Church in their own image. The music they invented, named for Pope Gregory Hilderbrand, is entirely synthetic and has no roots in traditional melodies that fit within the musical system of eight tones but invents a new system of diatonic relationships on other principles.
The octoechos system still extant in much of the Orthodox world centered on the Mediterranean is part of a larger family of musical languages, all of which are basically monophonic, such as maqam common to the Islamic world, the Iranian radif and the HindustanI-Karnatik raga. This world of music ties music-making to calendrical, hourly and seasonal cycles and expresses an unifying cosmic conception of the place of music in human life.
Interesting! Do you have a source on this?
 
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