Byzantine music
  • Heath
    Posts: 831
    I'm interested in learning more about the music traditions of our brethren in the East. Anyone care to share some resources, primers, testimonials, etc.?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,082
    Go to the website for the Metropolitan Cantor Institute for the Byzantine Catholic Church of America in Pittsburgh. That's one variant of Byzantine music. The Melkites, Ruthenians, Ukrainians, Russians, etc. all have different music.

    http://www.metropolitancantorinstitute.org/
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,848
    The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese Department of Religious Education publishes (or used to publish) a small "Divine Liturgy Hymnal" (125 pp.); many of melodies in it are the same as those used in Melkite churches.
  • A prime resource is Byzantine Music and Hymnography, by Egon Wellesz (Oxford, 1961). It is more than likely no longer in print, but if you could find a used copy it would be a valuable addition to your library. It is one of the outstanding works of the mid-late XX century on the subject. He has other works, such as Eastern Elements in Western Chant, which might be of interest also.

    Charles W has, doubtless, read these and could perhaps suggest others.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    What are the opinions here of the Cappella Romana?

    http://www.cappellaromana.org/

    They do a Divine Liturgy in English which sounds pretty darn good to me:

    http://www.cappellaromana.org/index.php?page=music

    There are various essays on their site for more information. Sounds like an interesting group.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    It depends if you want music that usable by most singers - or music for specialists.

    For the latter, I suggest the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) website that has lots of standard Obihod 4-part settings as well as Orthodox Two-part Music which will give you a nice introduction to Znammeny with practical and singable examples.

    Serious fun with an online "learn Byzantine chant" site from Holy Cross.

    And of course, you can just Google your little heart out.
  • Heath
    Posts: 831
    I'm going to link a couple other things here, mostly so I can keep all the resources together:

    Previous thread on Byzantine Chant in English:

    http://musicasacra.com/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=1350

    Byzantine music at Wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byzantine_Chant
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    Another good resource for you would be Orthodox Radio. If you click on the "Byzantine chant" link it tells you all about the history, the modes, even has lessons in how to read the notation and various articles on the subject. There's also live radio which'll have lots of liturgical music on it (but a lot of other Orthodoxy-related stuff, like talk radio etc.).

    But the best thing to start with is just listening to it--and to the best of it.

    I would recommend starting with The Glory of Byzantium, which is half traditional Greek chant and half traditional Slavonic chant. You can preview the music on amazon and even buy only the mp3s of the songs that sound like what you want.

    If you're interested in the connections between Byzantine chant and Gregorian chant, there is group called Ensemble Organum which you must check out: their singing is amazing, and their scholarship stellar. For their Chants de L'Eglise de Rome: Période byzantine CD they dug through old archives in the Vatican--stuff in the oldest of notation forms, way before Gregorian chant started going--figured out how to sing it, and made a CD of it. The songs have a very Greek feel to them, and three of the eight songs are actually in Greek (the rest are in Latin). You can't preview the music, but I could send you a track or two to listen to (as a kind of advertisement for this awesome group).

    Another awesome Byzantine/Latin crossover CD from Ensemble Organum is Chant Des Templiers. This is my favorite Ensemble Organum CD by far, and it's basically straight Byzantine chant, but in Latin. The idea behind this CD is that it's from the Knights Templar (before they got their bad rep), who were Western, Latin-rite Christians living in Byzantium way before the schism. This music is the kind of stuff they sang liturgically.

    And another good CD I would recommend is Sparks among the Stubble by St. Innocent's Academy, an Orthodox school for troubled youth in Kodiak, Alaska. It's harder to get a hold of because the school is not really a business, so you have to mail a check and request them to send you a CD. The price isn't on the website, but I think it's $20. The CD is great because it contains a whole spectrum of modern-day Orthodox music: four-part stuff in English and Slavonic, Znamenny chant, Byzantine chant in English and Greek, even the Paschal troparion in Arabic. The CD has 27 tracks, with previews of six songs available on the website. And I don't think they even picked the best of the tracks to preview. I spent two weeks at that Academy in May, and all that you hear on the CD is the same stuff you hear in liturgy every week; same quality, too. Singing and dancing is a large part of the curriculum there, and they just take all kinds of teenagers/young adults from all different backgrounds and turn them into singers like that. It's awesome. (If you have a hard time getting in touch with them, I know people there, and could get in touch with them for you. Sometimes in the summer they go on long road trips down to the lower 48 states and pretty much vacate the school.)

    So, yeah. I don't know if you're interested more in what the East used to do, or what the East does now, or both, but I tried to cover all the bases.
  • I second the recommendation of Marcel Perez and the Ensemble Organum. Their chant is a probably more than fairly accurate interpretation of what our chant sounded like before it was ancient, before it became stylistcally modified, slowed down and denuded of improvisatory elements by later generations. (Haven't we all learned from the early music revival that the Last way 'properly' to perform something is exactly as it is written?)
  • Heath
    Posts: 831
    Thanks to all for the resources; I'm about to dig into them right now.

    Though one of the links may answer this, do any of the Eastern rites have the equivalent of the Graduale Romanum?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,848
    The Melkite publisher Sophia Press publishes at least some of the books with seasonal propers, though I don't know whether these are text-only (with an indication of the mode number), or full melodies as used in that Eastern Catholic Church.
  • Blaise
    Posts: 423
    Here is some youtube for the Ensemble Organum for those of us who aren't quite familiar with organum:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmkhk9Z8Lu4
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    The only thing I can think of which is like the Graduale--some kind of comprehensive liturgical book--would be the Typikon, but the Typikon is a book of rubrics and calendars and doesn't actually contain the prayers or antiphons or anything.

    As for music, there is the Octoechos... Which has the weekly variable texts (i.e. propers) in the different tones. I've never seen one, but as far as I know, they don't have music, just text with the tone indicated. And I don't think it includes special seasons, just the eight-day Sunday cycle in what the West would call "ordinary time."

    There are different kinds of tones, too--Russian tones, Byzantine tones... and so many different Orthodox jurisdictions; such liturgical uniformity is simply impossible with Orthodoxy.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,082
    I saw a bumper sticker that read, "Orthodoxy. The best of disorganized religion." :-) Funny, but true. The Byzantine Catholic Church of America actually has a published pew book for Divine Liturgy that contains both music and hymns. Like the Horologion (Liturgy of the Hours) which is "complete," there is often a priest's book that has the changeable parts that are not in the Horologion.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    Different jurisdictions sometimes have hymn books. I was in a Carpatho-Russian church which had something like that, a hardcover book of the Divine Liturgy with music in. I don't know how "official" such things are, of course, and it didn't have propers in it.

    (Another bumper sticker I like: "Honk 40 times if you're Orthodox." XD)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,082
    The "pew" (some churches don't have pews) book I mentioned for the BCA is both official and mandated.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,082
    Jam, do you read theoniondome.com? It hilariously parodies some of the foibles of eastern Christianity.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Is outrage!!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,082
    Hah. LOL. A fellow Fr. Vasiliy reader. If it wasn't done in 19th-century Russia, it is an outrage. :-)
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    had to search high and low for this. Worth a read by anyone: http://web.archive.org/web/20030401234643/http://www.theoniondome.com/2003/od20030228.html

    ""Is God wanting us to use all of our fingers to make sign of cross? No, God was happy when we used two. We were happy when we used two. Then you Greeks were insisting we use three. Like fools we listened to you. Then, after you gave us finger, we had big schism. So we are NOT adding new tone." "
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    Orthodox (and Byzantine Catholic) music can be the best of all possible worlds or an ear-splitting nightmare.

    Thanks for the reminder of The Onion Dome . I'd lost the link and I needed a laugh this morning.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,082
    I particularly like the choir leader tools.

    http://www.theoniondome.com/2009/03/guest/

    I could have used some of these many times.
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,083
    Did not know about the oniondome. Great stuff.
  • Heath
    Posts: 831
    www.newbyz.org

    The couple that put this site together came to my church to sing for a wedding recently, as fate would have it. Excellent site . . .
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    I've used a number of her Nancy Talkis' arrangements quite effectively with my schola. Teach your choir her two-part O Virgin Pure (scroll way down on the site) - and you will entrance both your singers and listeners. And you'll enjoy singing it yourself - especially on this Feast of the Dormition/Assumption.
  • Heath
    Posts: 831
    MJ,

    Yes, such lovely simplicity in this piece. What tempo do you take for it? These pieces sound lovely at nearly any tempo, but what would the "purists" use?

    Any other rep recommendations in particular, MJ (or others, of course)? I'd like to do a few pieces this semester with my choir.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    The Slavs seem to sing O Virgin Pure slower than the Greeks. Greeks are very "up tempo" in a lot of their liturgical music. The tune here is actually a "folk type" melody. And I take this at a medium speed (slow Irish waltz?) to keep the ensemble from getting draggy. However, watch out for the folks who'll want to speed up the refrain.

    I'll check my bookmarks for some good pieces for you, Heath.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    As promised:

    The Orthodox Church in America (OCA) has downloads on their web site Downloads People scoff at the "common chant" and Kievan arrangements - "oh they're just so simple" - piffle! Sung well, they are a delight to hear and a rewarding experience for singers because their simplicity lets your singers think about what they're saying. You might look at the communion hymns for the various feasts, etc.

    Here's another treasure trove for using Russian chant with English St. Raphael.

    One of my other favs has disappeared. Aukkk!

    In short, save all PDFs and print out copies of anything you like when you see it.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    Oops, forgot to close off the text!
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,574
    mjb, your second ("disappeared") URL is identical to your third ("In short") URL.

    Did you try the Way Back Machine at:
    http://www.archive.org

    In your post, across from your name, at the right corner, is the small button "edit".
    Click "edit" to fix your typos formats etc.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    eft - thanks! (Of course, I feel like a not very bright 3-year old.)

    And I will try the Way Back Machine. I watched too many cartoons in college.
    Just looked at this site - and found yet another timesink.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    Aha - I found the Monastery of St. John. Their music page has a wide selection of materials.

    For Catholic purposes, you'll probably find more useful items further down. There's a lot of Znammeny here - part of that is a reaction to the hegemony of the chordal style. As a devotee of SSM (same-sex music), I've been able to use many of the men's arrangements with little transposition with my female singers. And of course, this gives a challenge to men. Znammeny looks very easy - and it's very hard to do well. I've pulled out lots of this music with singers - and then put it away.