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Re: Western Musicians

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  • Stan Takis
    Dear Samuel: When you talk about proof vs. conjecture, it is certainly NOT conjecture. My proof is my experience and insight. I have about 20 years in dealing
    Message 1 of 9 , Jun 23, 2006
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      Dear Samuel:

      When you talk about proof vs. conjecture, it is certainly NOT
      conjecture. My proof is my experience and insight. I have about 20
      years in dealing with all of this, and the statements I make are based
      upon events and situation I have observed over that time. That may not
      be proof enough for many, but sometimes that's all we have to go on as
      we try to understand this life.

      You wrote:

      > So this would show they are willing and capable to take on
      > something more challenging and difficult than simplified, boring chant.
      > Now it is up to those educated in Byzantine Music to direct that energy
      > to learning correct Byzantine Music. Support from the hierarchs in this
      > direction would also be ideal, but that isn't going to happen any time
      > soon.

      I'm going to have to stop calling it simplified chant. I certainly
      don't want to imply that it's boring! Really, the only thing simple
      about it is that it has two parts instead of four, in regards to
      polyphonic music, and in regards to Byzantine music, it is not as
      ornamented, the yphos is different, and it doesn't have the
      micro-tunings.

      The latter two are the biggest problem for American choirs. I'm not
      saying that they could not learn the microtunings and yphos, but it
      would take a Herculean effort, much greater than learning polyphony.
      And it's more complicated than that. In my experience, many Americans
      are uncomfortable with the yphos and microtunings. They complain about
      it, not only in general but to the priest. It bothers them. I have to
      admit that this was the hardest thing I had to adjust to in listening
      to chant. It always sounded unmusical and out of tune to my
      Western-trained ears. Over the years, I have come to understand the
      flavor the tunings and vocal quality give to the different modes, and
      how something is lost when you use Western scales. But I have to
      admit, I still don't appreciate it the way an experienced psalti does.
      Most Westerners would not be motivated to take the time and effort to
      learn to understand it in this way. And that's not out of laziness,
      but out of a sense that they would not find it necessary.

      > If the people listen
      > and learn then eventually they will appreciate BM.

      Some will, but most won't, in my opinion.

      > They don't only look upon icons. They pray in front of them, ask
      > the Saint in the icon for intercession etc., etc. Just like the music,
      > the icons are more than to look pretty, as you know (I do not want this
      > to come across as me enlightening you on something you didn't know :)).

      Of course. When I said they only have to look upon icons, I meant they
      didn't have to paint them.

      > I also do want to say that I have visited many parishes and I do not
      > find active, loud, or joyous congregational singing where these
      > Polyphonic, Western choirs are. I guess I just don't see the singing
      > along argument as valid because I don't think congregational
      > participation is very widespread.

      I think the polyphonic music inhibits congregational chanting, which
      is why I favor chant for petitions, antiphons, apolytikia, and short
      hymns. Polyphonic music kind of begs to be listened to. Congregational
      singing is much easier with monophonic music or chant with ison.

      > I guess I just dont see how simplified chant speaks to Americans
      > better than BM done correctly in English. I guarantee the polyphonic
      > music used now doesn't speak to American culture any better than BM
      > because it is in Greek most of the time itself.

      When most of the American polyphic music was written, choral music was
      much more of a tradition in American culture. Even radio commercias
      and TV comedy theme songs ("I Married Joan" for example, Roger Wagner
      Chorale) were sung by polyphonic choirs. Today, Protestant and
      Catholic churches are moving away from it and going to guitars and
      rock bands. But what remains part of our culture are the Western
      scales and vocal styles (until hip hop totally kills that as well, I
      guess).

      I think Byzantine music done correctly in English DOES speak clearly
      to Americans, but its on different levels. More people would benefit
      from it if it sounded like the music that is culturally part of their
      thinking.

      (BTW, I obviously appreciate and agree with your comments about
      Nancy's adaptations.) We are looking forward to meeting you and
      hearing you chant in Nashville. It will be an interesting contrast
      against the modernistic Zervos liturgy setting.

      Stan
    • Samuel Herron
      Please forgive me for referring to it as boring, that was a sincere mistake of typing fast and trying to finish the email before going to work. Extremely bad
      Message 2 of 9 , Jun 23, 2006
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        Please forgive me for referring to it as boring, that was a sincere mistake of typing fast and trying to finish the email before going to work. Extremely bad word choice and truly wasn't meant.

        Stan Takis wrote:

        Dear Samuel:

        When you talk about proof vs. conjecture, it is certainly NOT
        conjecture. My proof is my experience and insight. I have about 20
        years in dealing with all of this, and the statements I make are based
        upon events and situation I have observed over that time. That may not
        be proof enough for many, but sometimes that's all we have to go on as
        we try to understand this life.

        **** That is true, unfortunately I have not had your experience nor heard the simplified chant system you have in mind and have heard Byzantine music, so forgive me for saying it is conjecture. Once again, bad choice of words.


        You wrote:

        > So this would show they are willing and capable to take on
        > something more challenging and difficult than simplified, boring chant.
        > Now it is up to those educated in Byzantine Music to direct that energy
        > to learning correct Byzantine Music. Support from the hierarchs in this
        > direction would also be ideal, but that isn't going to happen any time
        > soon.

        I'm going to have to stop calling it simplified chant. I certainly
        don't want to imply that it's boring! Really, the only thing simple
        about it is that it has two parts instead of four, in regards to
        polyphonic music, and in regards to Byzantine music, it is not as
        ornamented, the yphos is different, and it doesn't have the
        micro-tunings.

        The latter two are the biggest problem for American choirs. I'm not
        saying that they could not learn the microtunings and yphos, but it
        would take a Herculean effort, much greater than learning polyphony.
        And it's more complicated than that. In my experience, many Americans
        are uncomfortable with the yphos and microtunings. They complain about
        it, not only in general but to the priest. It bothers them. I have to
        admit that this was the hardest thing I had to adjust to in listening
        to chant. It always sounded unmusical and out of tune to my
        Western-trained ears. Over the years, I have come to understand the
        flavor the tunings and vocal quality give to the different modes, and
        how something is lost when you use Western scales. But I have to
        admit, I still don't appreciate it the way an experienced psalti does.
        Most Westerners would not be motivated to take the time and effort to
        learn to understand it in this way. And that's not out of laziness,
        but out of a sense that they would not find it necessary.

        > If the people listen
        > and learn then eventually they will appreciate BM.

        Some will, but most won't, in my opinion.

        I think I have had a more positive and admittedly less experience in this area than you, so i believe that would explain why we disagree on this.


        > They don't only look upon icons. They pray in front of them, ask
        > the Saint in the icon for intercession etc., etc. Just like the music,
        > the icons are more than to look pretty, as you know (I do not want this
        > to come across as me enlightening you on something you didn't know :)).

        Of course. When I said they only have to look upon icons, I meant they
        didn't have to paint them.

        **** Understood.


        > I also do want to say that I have visited many parishes and I do not
        > find active, loud, or joyous congregational singing where these
        > Polyphonic, Western choirs are. I guess I just don't see the singing
        > along argument as valid because I don't think congregational
        > participation is very widespread.

        I think the polyphonic music inhibits congregational chanting, which
        is why I favor chant for petitions, antiphons, apolytikia, and short
        hymns. Polyphonic music kind of begs to be listened to. Congregational
        singing is much easier with monophonic music or chant with ison.

        **** Well here we agree 100% then.


        > I guess I just dont see how simplified chant speaks to Americans
        > better than BM done correctly in English. I guarantee the polyphonic
        > music used now doesn't speak to American culture any better than BM
        > because it is in Greek most of the time itself.

        When most of the American polyphic music was written, choral music was
        much more of a tradition in American culture. Even radio commercias
        and TV comedy theme songs ("I Married Joan" for example, Roger Wagner
        Chorale) were sung by polyphonic choirs. Today, Protestant and
        Catholic churches are moving away from it and going to guitars and
        rock bands. But what remains part of our culture are the Western
        scales and vocal styles (until hip hop totally kills that as well, I
        guess).

        **** I, of course, was not alive during this time nor have a studied it and nor have a studied when and where and why the polyphonic music in use was written so I will defer to you and thank you for the information. The American culture music I grew up with and hear now would find the polyphonic choirs just as foreign as chant.


        I think Byzantine music done correctly in English DOES speak clearly
        to Americans, but its on different levels. More people would benefit
        from it if it sounded like the music that is culturally part of their
        thinking.

        **** I would agree with this but for me the cultural part that I want to reach would be English. I, as I stated earlier, have found that current American music doesn't have any elements that could then be used in Orthodoxy and BM really appeals to people who are searching because of its penitent and prayerful nature. If done in English with proper diction BM is the tool to really capture the people in America truly searching for the truth, IMHO. I advocate English constantly to the annoyance of my chanting teacher and priest and others because I find Greek to be useless in American parishes. That, I believe, more than any other issue is the key to bringing Orthodoxy to America and I also truly believe that the lack of good chanting materials in English AND (just as importantly) lack of psalti willing to do English has contributed much to the situation today. As a non Greek American born Orthodox Christian who was born in the Church I believe I have a unique perspective on it. I have no loyalty to the old country or to my ancestors or to the Greek language. I cannot stress enough how important and edifying it feels to hear properly done BM in ones own language. It truly is a unique spiritual experience that truly speaks to ones soul and this is what i have experienced and is why I advocate keeping the Byzantine Musical system but develop English chanting to it and with it.


        (BTW, I obviously appreciate and agree with your comments about
        Nancy's adaptations. ) We are looking forward to meeting you and
        hearing you chant in Nashville. It will be an interesting contrast
        against the modernistic Zervos liturgy setting.


        **** It will be nice to meet you also and I look forward to speaking with you in person. I meant every word about your wifes work. I have been working on learning staff notation and have used her work to help me (since it is simpler) and I really do admire it. God bless.

        ~Sam

        Stan

      • Stan Takis
        ... any ... truly ... (just as ... Sam: I agree with you on the English. The problem is that the GOA had always been a church of immigrants for whom Greek was
        Message 3 of 9 , Jun 23, 2006
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          --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, Samuel Herron
          <herron.samuel@...> wrote:

          > I, as I stated earlier, have found that current
          > American music doesn't have any elements that could then be used in
          > Orthodoxy and BM really appeals to people who are searching because of
          > its penitent and prayerful nature. If done in English with proper
          > diction BM is the tool to really capture the people in America truly
          > searching for the truth, IMHO. I advocate English constantly to the
          > annoyance of my chanting teacher and priest and others because I find
          > Greek to be useless in American parishes. That, I believe, more than
          any
          > other issue is the key to bringing Orthodoxy to America and I also
          truly
          > believe that the lack of good chanting materials in English AND
          (just as
          > importantly) lack of psalti willing to do English has contributed much
          > to the situation today. As a non Greek American born Orthodox Christian
          > who was born in the Church I believe I have a unique perspective on it.
          > I have no loyalty to the old country or to my ancestors or to the Greek
          > language. I cannot stress enough how important and edifying it feels to
          > hear properly done BM in ones own language. It truly is a unique
          > spiritual experience that truly speaks to ones soul and this is what i
          > have experienced and is why I advocate keeping the Byzantine Musical
          > system but develop English chanting to it and with it.

          Sam:

          I agree with you on the English. The problem is that the GOA had
          always been a church of immigrants for whom Greek was native until the
          last 30 years or so. Since then they've been exercising a juggling act
          between the two languages. Bilingual liturgies never made sense to me,
          since the liturgy is an entire work and if you only know one language,
          you're only getting disconnected bits and pieces. What we do in St.
          Clair Shores is alternate Greek and English every other week. Some of
          the other language creeps in, but only at about 5-10% and mostly in
          repetitive parts, so you do experience the entire liturgy in a single
          language.

          One nice thing about Nancy's music. If you know the Byzantine tunings
          and formulas and employ them along with the yphos, it sounds just like
          real Byzantine music. The Western notated score becomes like a jazz
          chart, and you're not singing it exactly as written. If you don't
          employ the Byzantine "sound factors," it's the chant I'm talking
          about, which I like to call "New Byzantine." Sort of like New England
          as opposed to England. It beats calling it simplified chant.

          Stan
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