Orthodox Chant in English
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,392

    I found this completely randomly.... It was so beautiful to me that it literally made my heart hurt.
    So- I thought I would share.

    And ask- where does one find music such as this to sing?
    How does one learn how to write music in this style?
  • St. Anthony's Monastery has a fantastic website. http://www.stanthonysmonastery.org/music/IndexB.html

    The blue links on the left lead to a series of articles about the difficulties of adapting chant from Greek and Arabic to English, about notation, about composing new melodies in the Byzantine style, etc. The articles are extensively footnoted. Their "links" section is fantastic, and will lead you much more information.

    The orange boxes in the center panel lead to music proper to almost every Orthodox liturgical service. You can download each piece in "western" (5 note staff) or Byzantine notation, and in Elizabethan English, modern English, and Greek. There are often audio files as well. For example, have a listen to this one, a favorite of mine, often sung in some form at weddings.

    They even have a tutorial on learning braille byzantine music notation.

    Holy Cross Seminary has a tutorial for learning (non-Braille :-)) Byzantine notation: http://chant.hchc.edu, if you are at all interested in that.

    And if you are interested in listening to more authentic Byzantine chant in English, please allow me to plug "The Voice of the Lord", by the Friends of the Theophany School, an excellent new recording that also happens to be raising money for a good cause. There are sample tracks on the site.

    Email me, if you like. I can put you in touch with people who are currently writing new music in the Byzantine style, though I'll warn you, they tend to promote years of diligent study before suggesting someone give it a try :-)
  • You might also enjoy the website of Basil Crow, who has posted many of his recent compositions. The Arabic Byzantine chant tab showcases several hymns in multiple versions, allowing you to hear differing styles of execution.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    Learning how to write the music is a matter of living it for a while, and finding the right people to teach you. It is also helpful to learn the Orthodox tonal system... er, systemS, as the Greeks have one, the Russians several others, and so forth... A lot of the texts we sing, propers that is, are assigned specific tones, and so compositions for those propers are designed around the tones.

    Rebecca C has put me, one of the token Orthodox members here, to shame! Those are all great resources. A very basic repertoire can be found here as well. Also, if you just want to listen to great Orthodox music sometimes, there is always Ancient Faith Radio.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,392
    Thanks for all of these!
    None of these seem to have instructional material- where is the orthodox version of FNJ's Basic Guide to Gregorian Chant or Oost-Zinner and Tucker's Idiot's Guide?
    The modern notation transcriptions seem to leave out the non-western ornaments, drones, and microtones- and the rhythm is clearly nothing like the stemmed quarter notes seem to be indicating.... nothing I've seen in western notation looks like it 's going to sound like what I hear.

    Plus- all the websites are kinda, well... cheap-looking and hard to navigate. There just doesn't seem to be anything like CCWatershed's or CMAA web presence in the Orthodox music world. Which is a shame....
  • I rather take exception to that, Adam.

    Other than the small font size, I don't see anything to criticize about St. Anthony's site. The sheer quantity of new music available (not to mention that each piece is provided in two to six language/notation combinations), dwarfs anything we currently have on the Roman Catholic side of things, though of course our resources are becoming more numerous daily. I won't get into describing any of the other resources available, but rest assured, they exist, including discussion forums like this one, in SEVERAL different languages.

    In St. Anthony's (and most other) western-notation scores, the ison (the drone) is indicated by writing the correct note above the staff, where you'd look for guitar chords in popular music. You'll find it typeset it red.

    I'd suggest you have another look at the rhythms. I've read through dozens of their scores, and never remember encountering a major discrepancy with the recordings. They know what they're doing. If there's a particular piece you are indicating, I'll have a look, and see if I can help tease out the reason for any differences.

    It's true that the western-notation scores do not indicate the microtonal variations (though they do include almost all of the ornaments, contrary to what you said), but frankly, if you're working at that level of execution, you'd probably be using the Byzantine notation anyway. Consider all the conversations on this forum about the nuances of Gregorian interpretation that require use of the Triplex, not simply square neumes, and definitely not modern notation alone. There are some things that are only indicated with great difficulty or awkwardness in modern western notation, and it's commonly decided that attempting to notate every nuance of Byzantine chant so clutters the score that it becomes unusable for most folk. That's the case here, though they do remain quite detailed.

    You won't find the equivalent of an "Idiot's Guide", because honestly, it's just much easier to jump into the reading of square notes than into Byzantine notation. The chant is scored with no staff, using a sophisticated vocabulary of dozens of neumes, each of which is a different symbol indicating a pattern of rhythms and pitches. You need something text-book length to get you started, and such a book is available in Greek on St. Anthony's site, and there are accompanying audio files. You can find it here. An English version is in preparation. However, you'll probably enjoy reading the western scores more at first. If you're looking for an introduction to the modes, one is available here. Sure it's complicated, but that's Byzantine chant for ya :-) If you want a very basic introduction to the concepts, try plumbing Wikipedia or OrthoWiki (http://orthodoxwiki.org/Byzantine_Chant).

    I'm sure you meant no offense, but I'd hope that you'd take more consideration before so publicly writing here that the site is cheap, has inaccurate and incomplete scores, and lacks instructional materials. That's simply not true. It's fine if you didn't have time to look around, or spend time with the material. But I need to say for the record that that's just not right. The project is very well-respected, and monumental amounts of work are being put into it.

    Again, I'm most happy to help you get started if this is something you're interested in.

    Yours in Christ,
  • "You won't find the equivalent of an "Idiot's Guide", because honestly, it's just much easier to jump into the reading of square notes than into Byzantine notation."

  • Don't worry Noel, I'm not in any way belittling the work that goes into learning to sing Gregorian chant. I'm a Roman Catholic doing my darndest to study the classic Solemes and other schools of interpretation of Gregorian chant, both here, and at the Colloquium, and from local experts, and I know it's a skill that must be courted over years.

    The difference I'm pointing out is purely practical. If you sit a Western musician down at a piano and put a Gregorian square note score in from of them, they'll at least be able to plunk out a rhythmless melody once they know where "Do" is, and when they should read the top note of a series first vs. when they should read the bottom note first. They won't get anything about rhythm, nuance, or the art, really, but they'll be able to do something, with just those three things.

    Byzantine notation is really different. There are dozens of symbols. There's a symbol that means "stay on the same note." There's a symbol that means "stay on the same note, but, say, throb it a little at the end." There's a symbol that means "stay on the same note, but do a little descending trill, and then return to the main pitch, all in the duration of one pulse." There's a symbol that means "go up two notes on the scale from where you are." Etc. Different symbols for all the intervals, and for combinations therein, and rhythmic variations, and differing ornamentation. The notation doesn't indicate where the pitch you're looking for is in relation to "Do", but only to the note immediately preceding it in the melody. But you still need to know where in the scale you are. There might be a mark that represents a series of multiple notes, both their pitch and rhythm. And the neumes aren't really shaped like what they want you to do, necessarily.

    So to be able to sing from Byzantine notation, you have to memorize a vocabulary of symbols that are combined like letters in a word. Unless you have them memorized, you won't even be able to tell if the melody goes up or down, or sometimes even how many notes are involved. And even simple chants employ LOTS of different symbols. (I'm calling their neumes "symbols", just for clarity's sake)

    I'm not saying it's worse, or better, but just to get started with, Byzantine notation is going to be less intuitive. It's like an American trying to sound out a word in a foreign script: It'd be harder for an English-speaking beginner to sound out a word in Arabic than in Latin, which at least shares our alphabet.

    That's all I meant :-)
  • I doubt that a western musician could do that. There are simple neume groupings that are definitely not intuitive.

    And Gregorian Chant evolved from a form of notation into an advanced form, byzantine never made that leap, which means that there was little interest in formalizing a logical system for writing it so anyone but an elitist group could sing it.

    Job security.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    Orthodoxy is a lifestyle, and in America--in English-speaking nations, for that matter--it is very, very small. Like I said, it is much easier to learn how to read the notation, and to learn the tones, from living the liturgy day to day and week to week in church choirs and with cantors than by reading some books. For example, the Greek church downtown here has a Byzantine chant class in the fall, where the priest goes over the basics with interested people. Becoming a reader or subdeacon means lots of informal sessions with other readers and clergy who know what they're doing. Orthodoxy in America is a very word-of-mouth kind of faith, informal and spread out over many different cultures and languages. It is not centralized and consolidated in the same way that the Catholic church is. But, like Miss Rebecca said, the online resources we do have are expansive and impressive.

    The only "cheap" site that was posted here was that angelfire link I gave, and I only posted that because it has PDFs of the stuff "everyone knows." Akin to the simplest Latin ordinaries in the Catholic church, for example.

    Noel, the Byzantine notation currently in use was actually developed as late as the 19th century. It was reformed at that time because over the centuries it had gotten overly-complicated and confusing, so a sleek and reformed version was created and that is what is used today. I wouldn't exactly call those who can read Byzantine chant notation elitist, but they are somewhat elite in America, anyway, since so many American Orthodox are either culturally Orthodox and usually don't sing unless they're clergy, or converts who only know Western musical notation.
  • There is no difference between what you are describing as modern byzantine notation and what Gregorian Chant was prior to the establishment of the four line staff.

    Roman Catholicism is also a lifestyle. So is the Amish way of life. So? Even the Amish have adopted a lined staff for the chanting they do.

    I have to admit, and this is very uncharitable of me, but the promotion of the non-Roman Catholic Orthodox groups on this group here hits me like the Jehovah Witnesses knocking on my door. The fact that Adam loved the sound of a chant immediately evolves into a promo session.

    This is a group with varied interests in Sacred music BUT a common goal of improving the Roman Catholic Liturgy. The Orthodox church would seem to have nothing to do with that, since adopting anything the Orthodox does is not what the Roman Church is interested in.

    Ecumenism is a foe to church unity. Where did the Protestant hymns come from?

    Musics Sacra is a rocket into the heavens that is bringing about major change in the Roman Catholic church. Major renewal.
  • Noel, we were explicitly asked for help finding music, and for information on how to compose music in the style of the recording.

    I offer my limited knowledge here as an act of service, to give in response to what I have been given, to share appreciation for beauty, to spread news of others who are working hard to give glory to God. Nobody said anything about importing this music to a Roman Catholic Mass. I was under the impression that we were talking about.... something beautiful. Beautiful, sacred chant. Beautiful, ancient Christian texts praising God, written by saints recognized in both the East and the West. What could possibly offend you in that we dare to marvel at the beauty of other chant? Especially the chant of a church whose sacraments have been declared valid by Rome, though our communion is not full?

    I understand that reading about Eastern Christian practice is not edifying for you. But you must believe that the intent of everyone here is to edify, to build up, to serve Him with all our hearts. We share what it is we've been given.

    If your point is to argue that a lined staff, used by the Amish et al., is superior, fine. It might be. If your point is to say that at all times, all Eastern practice is less legitimate than Roman, fine. If you think that any mention of Eastern Christianity is inappropriate on MusicaSacra, a site which ought to be exclusively devoted to music central to the Roman Rite during the past millennium or so, fine. We can poll the CMAA about thread topics, and come to some conclusion, by which I'm sure we would all abide.

    But I won't be antagonized. There's no need. I love God, and I love the Church and her teachings, and I love how hard we are all trying to praise Him fittingly. If you find that my piety interferes with yours, I can only puzzle. Can you not see that this has nothing to do with denigrating the Roman Church and Roman Liturgy, but is intended to showcase.... something wonderful? Be strengthened, not threatened.
  • I bow to the superiority of the orthodox.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,000
    My particular Byzantine Church moved to the 5-line staff and modern notation some time ago. The cantors study the older notation so they can fill in the nuances between the notes in the modern staff. The congregational parts are simpler than the chant the cantors sing.

    It's all highly interesting, because I suspect chant in the east and west, had common origins in ancient times.

    As for elitists, my own observation is that it's often difficult musicians who do more to turn congregations against chant, than does the actual music.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,392
    I didn't mean to cause anyone offense- my issue was:
    Clearly (as with Gregorian chant) there is no way to accurately represent the Orthodox chant in modern western notation. That hardly seems like an arguable point.
    But I can't find anything that explains anything about how it is actually sung. You pointed out that the drone is written in red in the corner of the page- very helpful to know, but how was I supposed to know that until someone explained it?

    I wasn't trying to criticize anyone's work- I was looking for a starting point- where does one begin? There doesn't seem to be basic instruction anywhere. The sites that exist seem completely created for people who already know what's going on. That's fine- it's not anyone's job to make sure I, Adam Wood, know how to read and sing Orthodox chant- I was just hoping that someone knew where I could find that kind of material.

    (As to "cheap"... sorry, that was rude of me... but I'm a professional web designer with a focus on web-standards and usability, so my bar is set pretty high).
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,000
    One of the best ways to learn the varieties of Orthodox chant (no, they are not all the same) is to meet some of the cantors. Most are only too happy to share.

    No offense taken. This is an interesting topic.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,392
    I've spent more time at the St. Anthony's site. I do wish it was better organized- but I have found my way to some introductory material there that seems helpful.

    I have to say, I do find the midi-recordings of western-notated chants to be particularly unhelpful. I wish I could find more "follow the real singer along with the notes" (western or traditional). That's one of the things that makes CCWatershed's work so incredibly useful.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    "where does one begin?"

    the best place? your local Orthodox church or seminary. Some things you just have to learn from the horse's mouth.

    Was it internet instruction sites in nineteenth century Russia? No it was not! /jk

    Have you tried this program yet?
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,392
    Yes I saw that program. Very helpful.
    I wish I had the time to visit the "local" (hour away) Orthodox churches here in the metroplex.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,392
    The piece of music that started this thread:

    Is apparently the Evlogitaria from the Mnimosino service- a funeral hymn.

    Does anyone know where I can find a (western-notation, English-language) copy of it?
    I have found other settings of the same text, and I have also found some settings of a related chant (same antiphon, same title, same mode, different text) from Holy Week.
    But I cannot find a transcription of this particular piece of music.
  • I'm totally with you on the MIDI files. If I try to learn a new chant using them, I think -I- end up sounding like a MIDI recording.

    This gentleman blogged about the recording you found on YouTube, which is from a cd by Fr. Apostolos Hill. In the post, he says he doesn't think Father Apostolos ever published the music, so, he made a transcription of the entire CD, and posted it here. The one you're looking for starts on page 13, the "Evlogetaria for the Dead - I" and continues from there. Google suggests that Father is on Facebook, so you might consider contacting him directly :-)

    I asked a friend about beginners' materials in English for you. He says they're working on it, and suggests this book, which is regrettably rather pricey. It was "recently published by Basilios Psilacos of Sydney, a student of the late Dimitrios Sourlantzis (+2006), who was one of the most well known psaltai and teachers in Greece during the late 20th century. It contains detailed explanations of Byzantine music theory as well as many exercises."

    The same friend has also been preparing a book of 200 melodic exercises in Byzantine notation, with explanations in English, based on a similar book in Greek by Ioannis Margaziotis. I'm given to understand that it will also be available in a web format, with recordings. (The web version, I imagine, will be free.) I'll update this thread when there is more info available.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,392
    thank you thank you thank you!
    I'm super excited about an English edition of the Margaziotis book. I kept finding it referenced all over, but, alas, it's all Greek to me.