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Chant is Not Music

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  • Stan T
    Dear List: I was at a workshop for church choirs Saturday, and the choir director who was leading it was putting everybody through some of the standard
    Message 1 of 18 , Apr 1, 2008
      Dear List:

      I was at a workshop for church choirs Saturday, and the choir director
      who was leading it was putting everybody through some of the standard
      stretches, warm ups, and vocalises that most performing choirs do, and
      the thought occurred to me that chanters probably never do these. I
      suppose an apichima could be considered a vocalise, but it's main
      purpose is to establish the mode, not to make one's voice more
      beautiful. It occurred to me then, as it has in the past, that
      chanting isn't really music at all.

      Chanting is the highest form of speech. It does incorporate musical
      elements, surely, such as pitch, rhythm, enunciation, and projection,
      but its fundamental purpose is not musical. It's purpose is to
      heighten speech, not to create music. Singing, on the other hand, is a
      musical endeavor. The solo or choral singer develops the beauty of
      voice and facility of execution so there can be musical expression and
      tone. The singer aims for a good interpretation of the music. The
      chanter, on the other hand, aims for a good interpretation of the words.

      Obviously it is true that a good singer tries to convey the meaning of
      the text well, and that a good chanter is on pitch and tries to make a
      beautiful sound, but I get back to the fundamental purpose of each.
      The music is the main point of singing and the words are the main
      point of chanting. Thus, in music, one finds the sound frequently
      takes precedence and sometimes obscures the text. In chanting, the
      text always takes precedence and the musical elements are merely tools
      to emphasize it.

      Just as chanting is not music, but a high form of speech, we can say
      that Church iconography is not painting, but rather a high form of
      literature. Icons are often said to be "written," not because they
      aren't painted, but because their main purpose is to tell a complete
      story. A series of icons, for example, that depict the life of Christ
      could be considered an ancient form of a graphic novel. A painting
      emphasizes the artistic and creative skill of the painter. An icon
      devalues the individual expression of the person who paints it and
      places more emphasis on the depiction of Christ, a saint, or an event.

      It is my opinion that most of the debates about music in the Orthodox
      Church occur because of a failure to understand the fundamental point
      that chanting is not music. Does this mean there is no place for music
      in the Divine Liturgy? Not in my opinion.

      In my opinion, there are places in the Liturgy, namely the Trisagion,
      the Cherubic Hymn, the Megalynarion, and the Communion Hymn, where
      music is very helpful to the prayers of the congregation. (One could
      possibly include the last congregational response of the Anaphora,
      "With hymns we praise You...," as over the centuries this has turned
      into a slow hymn of praise during the congregation's silent prayers at
      the Consecration.) In the Byzantine musical tradition, the texts of
      these hymns entirely take a back seat to florid melodic lines,
      ornamentation, and emotional expression. It is at this point where
      Byzantine chant turns into Byzantine music.

      Similarly, in the case of the American Church choirs, it is in these
      hymns where music suddenly takes precedence and creates a prayerful
      atmosphere for the sanctification of the praying congregation. I
      cannot overemphasize my belief that only in these parts of the liturgy
      should there be pure music, and all of the other parts of the liturgy
      should be chanted (heightened speech). The litanies are direct appeals
      to God, and must be clear and simply stated. The apolytikia and
      kontakia are stories and sermons that must be related as literature.
      The readings and bible verses are Scripture that must be rendered in
      the most understandable and forceful way. The responses to the priest,
      such as "and to your spirit," must be done in a way that shows we are
      speaking to him.

      I would like to know your opinions of this concept.

      Stan
    • Apostolos Combitsis
      Stan, A great posting, and I personally, do understand exactly what you re trying to say. However, I think I have to slightly disagree with you on a couple of
      Message 2 of 18 , Apr 2, 2008
        Stan,

        A great posting, and I personally, do understand exactly what you're
        trying to say. However, I think I have to slightly disagree with you
        on a couple of points. My disagreement, however, is not that you are
        wrong, but it's simply a matter of defining what is what, and how
        OTHERS perceive things to be.

        Your phrase "chanting isn't really music at all" bothers me just a
        little bit. I COMPLETELY agree with you that chanting is the highest
        form of speech.... that was VERY well-said and, in my opinion, is
        right on the money. But let us not forget that there's an entire
        theory manual on HOW this high form of communication is to be
        executed. We've got scales in place, we've got upper and lower
        tetrachords, we've got harmonically-conducive ison notes, we've got
        an entire system of unique symbols that tell us how to move our
        voices... I mean, all of this screams of an intact musical system
        which dictates the "rules" on properly executing the expression of
        the soul. In this respect, to say that chanting is not music is to
        completely throw all of that in the trash. Believe me, I completely
        understand what you are saying and, in a general sense, you are
        correct. I've been saying for years (and I have lectures on this,
        and I tell every choir I direct) that singing comes from HERE
        (pointing to my throat), while chanting comes from here (pointing to
        my heart, and implying the soul, which I do clarify). But, again,
        the music system that is in place to guide us in this expression
        should not be ignored. I just wouldn't want someone "from the
        outside" to get confused.

        In the Cheroubic Hymn (just to use an example), you say that "music"
        takes precedence and the slow, melodic lines of such hymns cross over
        from chant to music. I'm not sure if I completely agree with that.
        Again, we still have the expression of the soul and we are
        still "melodizing" according to the text. (99.9% of the time, in the
        word "mystikos", we resolve down to a lower note... KE in Plagal of
        the First, DI in Plagal of the Fourth, PA in Second, and so on.
        In "Triadi", we use higher registers and tetrachords to emphasize the
        glory of the Trinity. In "pasan tin viotikin", we may do a complete
        mode change to emphasize to the people, "Hey! Listen up! Let us set
        aside our worldly cares! We must receive the King!" All of these
        are "general rules", but you see these patterns time and time again
        in the classical melodies.) All of this indicates to me that the
        lyrics are STILL in the "front seat" and that they still drive the
        melodies. It's just that these melodies are a tad longer, that's
        all. But again: when we say "melodies", we mean melodies that are
        still governed by a musical system that has been intact in its
        present form for hundreds of years.

        Finally, you make a statement in your last paragraph: "in the case of
        the American Church choirs, it is in these hymns where music suddenly
        takes precedence and creates a prayerful atmosphere for the
        sanctification of the praying congregation." Well, we have to be a
        little careful here. I guess it all depends on the American Church
        choir. To use my absolute favorite phrase, "screetching sopranos and
        booming organs" do NOT create a prayerful atmosphere. In my church
        in Toms River, NJ, we do not use the organ, we do not have voice
        parts, and I have completely transcribed the Liturgy music onto a
        five-line staff (just so I don't overwhelm the ladies with the Arabic-
        looking script of Byzantine Music) FROM THE CLASSICAL MELODIES. The
        Plagal Fourth Liturgy we use is taken right out of Volume III of
        Progakis' "Mousiki Syllogi" (Leitourgika by Kanellidou). Some of the
        festal hymns I pulled out of Pringos' Doxastarion. And yes, I've
        even transcribed some stuff from xeirografa I have of Stanitsas. In
        some very extreme cases where I know the choir can't do the
        required "larygismous" ("vocal acrobatics", if you will) to properly
        execute something, I will "soften" it and re-write it a little. But
        at least we are using traditional melodies.

        All in all, Stan, and despite my slight disagreements above, I think
        you're on the mark. Like I said, I know what you're trying to say,
        conceptually. I just think that some things needed to be clarified.
        I continually applaud you for your efforts and for your understanding
        and support of Byzantine Music. I have used your articles many times
        to explain things to non-Greeks or non-Orthodox. You have a way of
        saying things that are clear and concise, and your explanations do
        justice to the art beautifully. Your website has been a blessing to
        me at times when I want to look up something you've said, as it aids
        me in my own presentations.

        Regards to Nancy. Take care.

        Apostolos



        --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "Stan T" <takistan@...>
        wrote:
        >
        > Dear List:
        >
        > I was at a workshop for church choirs Saturday, and the choir
        director
        > who was leading it was putting everybody through some of the
        standard
        > stretches, warm ups, and vocalises that most performing choirs do,
        and
        > the thought occurred to me that chanters probably never do these. I
        > suppose an apichima could be considered a vocalise, but it's main
        > purpose is to establish the mode, not to make one's voice more
        > beautiful. It occurred to me then, as it has in the past, that
        > chanting isn't really music at all.
        >
        > Chanting is the highest form of speech. It does incorporate musical
        > elements, surely, such as pitch, rhythm, enunciation, and
        projection,
        > but its fundamental purpose is not musical. It's purpose is to
        > heighten speech, not to create music. Singing, on the other hand,
        is a
        > musical endeavor. The solo or choral singer develops the beauty of
        > voice and facility of execution so there can be musical expression
        and
        > tone. The singer aims for a good interpretation of the music. The
        > chanter, on the other hand, aims for a good interpretation of the
        words.
        >
        > Obviously it is true that a good singer tries to convey the meaning
        of
        > the text well, and that a good chanter is on pitch and tries to
        make a
        > beautiful sound, but I get back to the fundamental purpose of each.
        > The music is the main point of singing and the words are the main
        > point of chanting. Thus, in music, one finds the sound frequently
        > takes precedence and sometimes obscures the text. In chanting, the
        > text always takes precedence and the musical elements are merely
        tools
        > to emphasize it.
        >
        > Just as chanting is not music, but a high form of speech, we can say
        > that Church iconography is not painting, but rather a high form of
        > literature. Icons are often said to be "written," not because they
        > aren't painted, but because their main purpose is to tell a complete
        > story. A series of icons, for example, that depict the life of
        Christ
        > could be considered an ancient form of a graphic novel. A painting
        > emphasizes the artistic and creative skill of the painter. An icon
        > devalues the individual expression of the person who paints it and
        > places more emphasis on the depiction of Christ, a saint, or an
        event.
        >
        > It is my opinion that most of the debates about music in the
        Orthodox
        > Church occur because of a failure to understand the fundamental
        point
        > that chanting is not music. Does this mean there is no place for
        music
        > in the Divine Liturgy? Not in my opinion.
        >
        > In my opinion, there are places in the Liturgy, namely the
        Trisagion,
        > the Cherubic Hymn, the Megalynarion, and the Communion Hymn, where
        > music is very helpful to the prayers of the congregation. (One could
        > possibly include the last congregational response of the Anaphora,
        > "With hymns we praise You...," as over the centuries this has turned
        > into a slow hymn of praise during the congregation's silent prayers
        at
        > the Consecration.) In the Byzantine musical tradition, the texts of
        > these hymns entirely take a back seat to florid melodic lines,
        > ornamentation, and emotional expression. It is at this point where
        > Byzantine chant turns into Byzantine music.
        >
        > Similarly, in the case of the American Church choirs, it is in these
        > hymns where music suddenly takes precedence and creates a prayerful
        > atmosphere for the sanctification of the praying congregation. I
        > cannot overemphasize my belief that only in these parts of the
        liturgy
        > should there be pure music, and all of the other parts of the
        liturgy
        > should be chanted (heightened speech). The litanies are direct
        appeals
        > to God, and must be clear and simply stated. The apolytikia and
        > kontakia are stories and sermons that must be related as literature.
        > The readings and bible verses are Scripture that must be rendered in
        > the most understandable and forceful way. The responses to the
        priest,
        > such as "and to your spirit," must be done in a way that shows we
        are
        > speaking to him.
        >
        > I would like to know your opinions of this concept.
        >
        > Stan
        >
      • Stan T
        Dear Apostolos: Well, I wanted to wake people up, so I used a theme title that would provoke thought. Calling chant a musical system is perfectly fine with
        Message 3 of 18 , Apr 2, 2008
          Dear Apostolos:

          Well, I wanted to wake people up, so I used a theme title that would
          provoke thought. Calling chant a "musical system" is perfectly fine
          with me, as I did say it uses the elements of music. But, again, I
          refer to its main purpose, which is to put forth speech in the highest
          form possible.

          In the hymns where I said chant becomes music, I agree with you that
          the music is still driven by the text, but this time, it is the music
          that speaks the message. Just as, for example, in Mozart's Requiem,
          Lachrymosa, the music itself invokes the tears, rather than the
          poetry. In most late Western masses, this is the case, the words
          inspire music that can put the point across all by itself, if done
          well, of course.

          In this same way, Scripture as literature can tell a story, and so can
          art as literature through iconography. (Incidentally, this analogy
          about iconography as a high form of literature, just as chant is a
          high form of speech comes from my son, John.)

          Also, I completely agree with you about some American choirs not doing
          their jobs with screeching sopranos, flat singing, and overpowering
          organs. However, with my Western choir, we do the heirmological
          Byzantine chant for most of the Liturgy, but the sections I identified
          as needing music, we do various kinds of Orthodox music. For, say, the
          Cherubic, I might use a Russian polyphonic Cherubic hymn with the
          organ playing very softly to support the voices, which I try to keep
          balanced and blended. I think it fits right in and does not jar, and
          it makes people who have grown up on Western choral music happy, and
          it creates the proper prayerful atmosphere.

          I also found your theoretical analysis of the Cherubic Hymn very
          interesting and informative. I have noticed these same modulations
          even in the originally composed Cherubic hymns of Sakellarides, which
          we use sans 4-part harmony (except for Third Tone, for which we use
          the harmonized version from Anastassiou; but the First Tone, Plagal
          Second, and Plagal Fourth Cherubics we use just melody and ison).
          Although his melodic lines aren't particularly Byzantine, if you just
          put the melody with ison, you can see the same type of modulations you
          described--and for Western-style singers, they work very well.

          I'm glad our website is useful to you. I'm just trying to do something
          with my time here on earth that might be of some help to someone.

          Stan

          ________________
          www.newbyz.org
        • Stan T
          Dear List: In keeping with this theme, Nancy made a comment to me this morning that I thought I would share. While the choir director emphasizes deep,
          Message 4 of 18 , Apr 2, 2008
            Dear List:

            In keeping with this theme, Nancy made a comment to me this morning
            that I thought I would share. While the choir director emphasizes
            deep, diaphragmatic breathing, Nancy says she cannot do that at the
            analogion because of the incense smoke. If she takes a deep breath,
            she immediately begins to cough. So she has developed a system of
            frequent, short, shallow breaths through the nose (nature's smoke
            filter) in order to be able to chant. This may break the rules of good
            singing, but it doesn't seem to hurt her chanting at all.

            I suppose if you're up in a distant choir loft, this is not as much of
            a problem.

            Stan
          • Samuel Herron
            I never used to have this problem until recently when apparently we switched incense and now I use the same or similar method as to your wife, and it also
            Message 5 of 18 , Apr 2, 2008
              I never used to have this problem until recently when apparently we
              switched incense and now I use the same or similar method as to your
              wife, and it also doesn't seem to affect me.

              Sam


              On 4/2/08, Stan T <takistan@...> wrote:
              > Dear List:
              >
              > In keeping with this theme, Nancy made a comment to me this morning
              > that I thought I would share. While the choir director emphasizes
              > deep, diaphragmatic breathing, Nancy says she cannot do that at the
              > analogion because of the incense smoke. If she takes a deep breath,
              > she immediately begins to cough. So she has developed a system of
              > frequent, short, shallow breaths through the nose (nature's smoke
              > filter) in order to be able to chant. This may break the rules of good
              > singing, but it doesn't seem to hurt her chanting at all.
              >
              > I suppose if you're up in a distant choir loft, this is not as much of
              > a problem.
              >
              > Stan
              >
              >
            • Apostolos Combitsis
              The only problem with this technique is that a) (most important) it is quite taxing on the vocal folds, b) it re-trains the body s breathing system to
              Message 6 of 18 , Apr 3, 2008
                The only problem with this "technique" is that a) (most important) it
                is quite taxing on the vocal folds, b) it "re-trains" the body's
                breathing system to support the breathing from elsewhere except for
                the diaphragm, c) it does not have as much power behind the voice
                when not properly breathing from the diaphragm, and d) it can result
                in a short, choppy chanting style which can become quite audible to
                the congregation.

                As someone who has studied vocal techniques, having TAUGHT voice (on
                an informal basis... not in any official capacity, nor do I have a
                degree for this), and having undergone vocal surgery to remove a
                polyp from my vocal fold, I can assure you that proper breathing is
                important in preserving the voice. I understand completely that the
                incense can affect the voice and we must be careful.

                Personally, it doesn't bother me UNLESS the priest comes right up to
                us and censes smoke right at the Analogion. (However, I can't recall
                any time where this occurs, in any service.) Is this what is
                happening to you? Is it just the general smell of the stuff "in the
                air" of the church that is bothering you? I strongly suggest
                consulting a qualified voice teacher to discuss alternatives in
                singing technique to compensate for this. You wouldn't want to
                develop bad habits which can cut your chanting career short by a few
                years.

                Apostolos


                --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "Samuel Herron"
                <herron.samuel@...> wrote:
                >
                > I never used to have this problem until recently when apparently we
                > switched incense and now I use the same or similar method as to your
                > wife, and it also doesn't seem to affect me.
                >
                > Sam
                >
                >
                > On 4/2/08, Stan T <takistan@...> wrote:
                > > Dear List:
                > >
                > > In keeping with this theme, Nancy made a comment to me this
                morning
                > > that I thought I would share. While the choir director emphasizes
                > > deep, diaphragmatic breathing, Nancy says she cannot do that at
                the
                > > analogion because of the incense smoke. If she takes a deep
                breath,
                > > she immediately begins to cough. So she has developed a system of
                > > frequent, short, shallow breaths through the nose (nature's smoke
                > > filter) in order to be able to chant. This may break the rules of
                good
                > > singing, but it doesn't seem to hurt her chanting at all.
                > >
                > > I suppose if you're up in a distant choir loft, this is not as
                much of
                > > a problem.
                > >
                > > Stan
                > >
                > >
                >
              • Parsons Stephen
                As both a chanter and the church organist, a convert from a very active musical Protestant Evangelicalism, my persective might be different than that of most.
                Message 7 of 18 , Apr 3, 2008
                  As both a chanter and the church organist, a convert
                  from a very active musical Protestant Evangelicalism,
                  my persective might be different than that of most.

                  I vocalize on the way to church to warm up my vocal
                  chords for the impending 2-1/2+ hours of chanting
                  Orthros and Divine Liturgy. It only makes sense to do
                  so, rather than beginning cold.

                  I don't agree that chanting is not music. It has a
                  different emphasis, maybe, than choral singing, as has
                  been discussed in previous posts. Musical training
                  and good musical techniques can make a big difference
                  in the presentation of the text.

                  Listening to poorly spoken text is no fun at all; the
                  better the technique, the less the mind is distracted
                  from the words by the sound of the voice.

                  The method of intoning textual readings is a middle
                  path. It's on a higher plane than simple reading, but
                  it comes with its own good and bad techniques.
                  Delivery of the message of the text is the important
                  part; whether to move the voice up or down in the
                  phrase can make all the difference in whether the text
                  was delivered accurately or not.

                  I think the same goes for chant: the better it is,
                  the less intrusive it is upon the text. ("Better"
                  does not necessarily mean louder, slower, or "all over
                  the scale".) There is clearly a more pronounced
                  musical component of chant over intoning. And as
                  Apostolos said, there is a complete musical system of
                  chant -- and Byzantine not the only one. To say that
                  it's not music at all misrepresents it greatly.

                  Breathing technique -- our church layout makes it
                  interesting: the kliros is directly in front of the
                  huge air return duct for the air conditioning system.
                  When the system is running, all the incense smoke goes
                  right past our heads, regardless of where the censer
                  is. (To change that is on our wish list.) Even when
                  I'm up in the loft in the back of the nave, trying my
                  best to drown out the choir with the boomiest organ
                  sounds I can muster ;) during our second liturgy, we
                  have to worry about the candles in the narthex; the
                  staircase to the loft is the natural chimney for
                  poorly burning candles (blown by the wind through the
                  church door) -- and especially for the gagging smell
                  of hair burned in the candle flames, which also drifts
                  right up to us. (Another wish list item.) Short
                  breaths seem to help.

                  Now for the Prot Evang angle. One of my favorite
                  solo pieces from that time has as a chorus, "He could
                  have called ten thousand angels, to destroy the world
                  and set Him free; He could have called ten thousand
                  angels: but He died alone, for you and me." That is a
                  song that can be delivered from the heart and
                  musically at the same time. Sung poorly, it's a
                  distraction. Bad diction, it's also not effective.

                  Music that comes from the heart need not be
                  denigrated just because delivery of text is the
                  overarching desire; when it's done both musically and
                  from the heart, then the text is amplified, and the
                  Lord is worshiped. We chanters must try to do all of
                  these. (So should the choir, but somehow it seems
                  harder.)

                  Stephen


                  ____________________________________________________________________________________
                  You rock. That's why Blockbuster's offering you one month of Blockbuster Total Access, No Cost.
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                • Stan T
                  ... I find it interesting that people can read denigration into my comments, as if music is BETTER than speech. Steve, tell me, is chant more music than speech
                  Message 8 of 18 , Apr 3, 2008
                    --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, Parsons Stephen
                    <stephenparsons@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > Music that comes from the heart need not be
                    > denigrated just because delivery of text is the
                    > overarching desire; when it's done both musically and
                    > from the heart, then the text is amplified, and the
                    > Lord is worshiped. We chanters must try to do all of
                    > these. (So should the choir, but somehow it seems
                    > harder.)

                    I find it interesting that people can read denigration into my
                    comments, as if music is BETTER than speech. Steve, tell me, is chant
                    more music than speech or more speech than music? Alternatively, if
                    you had to pick one or the other to describe chant, would you say
                    heightened speech or vocal music?

                    Personally, I think chant is a system of speech that employs musical
                    elements, rather than a system of music that uses speech.
                  • Apostolos Combitsis
                    Stan, I d like to respond to this, although I would ultimately want to hear Stephen s response, as well, as he made some excellent points. I can agree with you
                    Message 9 of 18 , Apr 4, 2008
                      Stan,

                      I'd like to respond to this, although I would ultimately want to hear
                      Stephen's response, as well, as he made some excellent points.

                      I can agree with you that chant is a system of speech that employs
                      musical elements, but I would make sure to qualify that these musical
                      elements are very sophisticated; so much so, that I argue that they
                      are as sophisticated as the system of music that employs speech. You
                      may ask, "So, if the musical systems are technically the same, on
                      what argument do you base your opinion that chant is a system of
                      speech that employs musical elements rather than the reverse?" My
                      answer to that is this: on the basis of the fact that the TEXT is
                      what drives the melody, not the other way around. It's a fine line,
                      I know, but we must always remember that in western music, 99% of
                      everything pretty much "fits" into a 4/4 or 2/4 metre. Even if it's
                      3/4 or 7/8, my point is that it's FIXED. Whereas in the Byzantine
                      system, we may have a "tetrasimos rhythmos" or a "disimos rhythmos",
                      yet we all know that there will be are some trisimos, some
                      pentasimos, etc. sprinkled liberally throughout, depending on the
                      syllabization of the text. Chanting has built-in accentuation
                      properties, in that we typically accentulate on an ascension,
                      unaccented syllables are typically chanted in "downward strokes",
                      etc. This is the reason there are no accent marks in the Greek
                      text: we don't need them! The music does the accenting for us.

                      Okay, so here's my money wrench: having said all of that, I would
                      argue that, although in a technical sense the text is what drives the
                      melodies, ACOUSTICALLY, chant is more music than text. Why? Because
                      to the congregation, the sounds of the melodic phrases are the first
                      things that hit the eardrums. The troparia, the hymns, the
                      Doxologies, etc. all have simple yet elegant melodies which are the
                      first thing one hears when entering a church. Once your ears "focus"
                      to the music, it is then that one begins to think, "Okay... where are
                      we in the service? Oh, yeah.... I just heard 'Tim timiotera'... 9th
                      Ode..." You see, the brain needs those precious few nanoseconds to
                      actually PROCESS the text... but the music is what is initially
                      audible and processed by the brain. I hope I'm making sense.

                      We have to also understand one final thing, that we actually have two
                      forms of chanting: the regular melodic chanting that we use to chant
                      hymns, and the "emmelos apangelia" ("melodic recitation") form of
                      chant which we use for Epistle readings, the "Aspile", the beginning
                      of the "Epi soi xairei", etc. To use your labels, the former is what
                      I would refer to as "vocal music", whereas the latter is what I would
                      refer to as "heightened speech".

                      Apostolos



                      --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "Stan T" <takistan@...>
                      wrote:
                      >
                      > --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, Parsons Stephen
                      > <stephenparsons@> wrote:
                      > >
                      > > Music that comes from the heart need not be
                      > > denigrated just because delivery of text is the
                      > > overarching desire; when it's done both musically and
                      > > from the heart, then the text is amplified, and the
                      > > Lord is worshiped. We chanters must try to do all of
                      > > these. (So should the choir, but somehow it seems
                      > > harder.)
                      >
                      > I find it interesting that people can read denigration into my
                      > comments, as if music is BETTER than speech. Steve, tell me, is
                      chant
                      > more music than speech or more speech than music? Alternatively, if
                      > you had to pick one or the other to describe chant, would you say
                      > heightened speech or vocal music?
                      >
                      > Personally, I think chant is a system of speech that employs musical
                      > elements, rather than a system of music that uses speech.
                      >
                    • Stephen Parsons
                      Chant is on a continuum between simple speech and full-on singing. I rather think that it s generally closer to singing that speech. Every note has a defined
                      Message 10 of 18 , Apr 4, 2008
                        Chant is on a continuum between simple speech and full-on singing. I
                        rather think that it's generally closer to singing that speech. Every
                        note has a defined pitch, where you've either done it correctly or not
                        -- like singing -- and _not_ like speech, where the pitch is not
                        defined much more than relatively higher or lower than some other
                        pitch. But you'll never get "you missed a note during your speaking"
                        from anyone. When one intones a reading, it's clearly different from
                        merely reading, even with emotion. So it is with chanting of the
                        hymns: it's clearly yet again a higher form.

                        The term "denigration" was aimed at saying that chanting is not music.
                        The Church has clearly set chanting in a position above mere speech,
                        and even above intoning. There are those who merely talk, there are
                        readers (who might be expected to intone), and there are chanters.
                        Separate laying on of hands/ordination comes with the latter two.

                        What were the "singers in the house of the LORD" in the Old Testament?
                        Chanters? Unison choirs? Wailers in 8-part harmony? What was it that
                        made them singers and not speakers? Music, at least.


                        Steve
                        [Where does rap "music" style fall? I have always told my kids that
                        rap is music for people who can't sing. So sue me.]

                        -
                        -- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "Stan T" <takistan@...> wrote:
                        >
                        > --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, Parsons Stephen
                        > <stephenparsons@> wrote:
                        > >
                        > > Music that comes from the heart need not be
                        > > denigrated just because delivery of text is the
                        > > overarching desire; when it's done both musically and
                        > > from the heart, then the text is amplified, and the
                        > > Lord is worshiped. We chanters must try to do all of
                        > > these. (So should the choir, but somehow it seems
                        > > harder.)
                        >
                        > I find it interesting that people can read denigration into my
                        > comments, as if music is BETTER than speech. Steve, tell me, is chant
                        > more music than speech or more speech than music? Alternatively, if
                        > you had to pick one or the other to describe chant, would you say
                        > heightened speech or vocal music?
                        >
                        > Personally, I think chant is a system of speech that employs musical
                        > elements, rather than a system of music that uses speech.
                        >
                      • Stan T
                        ... Paul, Be that as it may, when I transcribe Byzantine chant to staff notation, I use barlines and time signatures to make these patterns visually obvious to
                        Message 11 of 18 , Apr 5, 2008
                          --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "Apostolos Combitsis"
                          <apostolos@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > I know, but we must always remember that in western music, 99% of
                          > everything pretty much "fits" into a 4/4 or 2/4 metre. Even if it's
                          > 3/4 or 7/8, my point is that it's FIXED. Whereas in the Byzantine
                          > system, we may have a "tetrasimos rhythmos" or a "disimos rhythmos",
                          > yet we all know that there will be are some trisimos, some
                          > pentasimos, etc. sprinkled liberally throughout, depending on the
                          > syllabization of the text. Chanting has built-in accentuation
                          > properties, in that we typically accentulate on an ascension,
                          > unaccented syllables are typically chanted in "downward strokes",
                          > etc.

                          Paul,

                          Be that as it may, when I transcribe Byzantine chant to staff
                          notation, I use barlines and time signatures to make these patterns
                          visually obvious to emphasize the syllabic patterns. I think it helps
                          the flow for sightreading.

                          > The troparia, the hymns, the
                          > Doxologies, etc. all have simple yet elegant melodies which are the
                          > first thing one hears when entering a church. Once your ears "focus"
                          > to the music, it is then that one begins to think, "Okay... where are
                          > we in the service? Oh, yeah.... I just heard 'Tim timiotera'... 9th
                          > Ode..." You see, the brain needs those precious few nanoseconds to
                          > actually PROCESS the text... but the music is what is initially
                          > audible and processed by the brain. I hope I'm making sense.

                          This would be the biggest argument for considering chant to be music
                          first, because identifiable melodies usually carry lyrical
                          associations. One need not hear the words acoustically of Ti Ipermacho
                          or Yankee Doodle, for that matter, to hear the words inaudibly in your
                          head. So then the music BECOMES the text. However, in the Byzantine
                          system of automela and prosomia, these melodic associations become
                          blurred and it is only the idiomela that can claim to represent a
                          single text.

                          However, I'd like people to think of chant as not being music for a
                          practical reason--that they will appreciate its purpose better and not
                          take license to TREAT it as pure music and forget about declaiming the
                          meaning of the text..

                          > We have to also understand one final thing, that we actually have two
                          > forms of chanting: the regular melodic chanting that we use to chant
                          > hymns, and the "emmelos apangelia" ("melodic recitation") form of
                          > chant which we use for Epistle readings, the "Aspile", the beginning
                          > of the "Epi soi xairei", etc. To use your labels, the former is what
                          > I would refer to as "vocal music", whereas the latter is what I would
                          > refer to as "heightened speech".

                          I agree this is a good answer, but again, if we go by what the
                          fundamental purpose of chant is, then melody just becomes another
                          musical tool to heighten speech. So one kind of chant uses melody, the
                          other doesn't.

                          Stan
                        • Stan T
                          ... I agree with this continuum idea. However, whether or not it s closer to speech or singing depends on the individual who is chanting and what s in his or
                          Message 12 of 18 , Apr 5, 2008
                            --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "Stephen Parsons"
                            <stephenparsons@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > Chant is on a continuum between simple speech and full-on singing. I
                            > rather think that it's generally closer to singing that speech. Every
                            > note has a defined pitch, where you've either done it correctly or not
                            > -- like singing -- and _not_ like speech, where the pitch is not
                            > defined much more than relatively higher or lower than some other
                            > pitch. But you'll never get "you missed a note during your speaking"
                            > from anyone. When one intones a reading, it's clearly different from
                            > merely reading, even with emotion. So it is with chanting of the
                            > hymns: it's clearly yet again a higher form.

                            I agree with this continuum idea. However, whether or not it's closer
                            to speech or singing depends on the individual who is chanting and
                            what's in his or her head. I'd rather the chanter think he or she is
                            speaking so there will be an emphasis on literary clarity.

                            Stan
                          • Parsons Stephen
                            I think we ve been snookered for days. Stan s post was on April 1. I didn t notice until a bit ago. However... If one thinks he s speaking while trying to
                            Message 13 of 18 , Apr 6, 2008
                              I think we've been snookered for days. Stan's post
                              was on April 1. I didn't notice until a bit ago.

                              However...
                              If one thinks he's speaking while trying to sing, the
                              result may not be consistent. Singing takes a
                              different kind of concentration than speaking. A
                              chanter needs to mind both P's and Q's, not just one
                              or the other.

                              Ste{ve|phen} (in California -- there's another Stephen
                              Parsons in North Carolina roaming the Orthodox lists.)



                              ____________________________________________________________________________________
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                            • Stan T
                              ... Stephen: I guess that explains why your last name is plural. To tell the truth, I didn t know I posted it on April 1, but I did know I was making a title
                              Message 14 of 18 , Apr 6, 2008
                                --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, Parsons Stephen
                                <stephenparsons@...> wrote:
                                >
                                > I think we've been snookered for days. Stan's post
                                > was on April 1. I didn't notice until a bit ago.
                                >
                                > However...
                                > If one thinks he's speaking while trying to sing, the
                                > result may not be consistent. Singing takes a
                                > different kind of concentration than speaking. A
                                > chanter needs to mind both P's and Q's, not just one
                                > or the other.
                                >
                                > Ste{ve|phen} (in California -- there's another Stephen
                                > Parsons in North Carolina roaming the Orthodox lists.)

                                Stephen:

                                I guess that explains why your last name is plural.

                                To tell the truth, I didn't know I posted it on April 1, but I did
                                know I was making a title some would find strange, if not outrageous.
                                I agree, both chanters AND singers have to think of both the music and
                                text as they perform, but I'm really not talking about what the
                                chanter thinks when he's chanting. I'm talking about what the choir
                                members should understand about why the chanter doesn't sound like
                                they do.

                                By they way, is hip-hop chant?

                                Stan
                              • Dana
                                ... So music is singing that requires vocalises? Interesting definition! I think a more pertinent reason why I myself have not encountered a compelling need
                                Message 15 of 18 , Apr 7, 2008
                                  --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "Stan T" <takistan@...> wrote:
                                  >
                                  > Dear List:
                                  >
                                  > I was at a workshop for church choirs Saturday, and the choir
                                  > director who was leading it was putting everybody through some of
                                  > the standard stretches, warm ups, and vocalises that most performing
                                  > choirs do, and the thought occurred to me that chanters probably
                                  > never do these. I suppose an apichima could be considered a '
                                  > vocalise, but it's main purpose is to establish the mode, not to
                                  > make one's voice more beautiful. It occurred to me then, as it has
                                  > in the past, that chanting isn't really music at all.

                                  So "music" is singing that requires vocalises? Interesting definition!

                                  I think a more pertinent reason why I myself have not encountered a
                                  compelling need for vocalises etc, before chanting, is that I find
                                  chanting to be much less demanding on my throat than modern
                                  Western-style choral singing. Here's an example, for illustration not
                                  proof.

                                  During the communion of the faithful, on most Sundays, my parish's
                                  choir sings the usual communion hymn (Aneite) in Greek, from the
                                  Anastassiou choir hymnal. Per my priest's request, I then sing it in
                                  English, using the translation in the "Green Book," since the music is
                                  basically the same (so that the congregation will recognize that I'm
                                  singing the same hymn, not some different hymn altogether).

                                  The setting in the Greek (choral) version is in the key of F.

                                  The setting in the (congregation-friendly) Green Book is in the key of
                                  C. So, in order to sound like I'm singing "with" the choir, I must
                                  sing the hymn a fourth-interval higher than it's written in the Green
                                  Book.

                                  And I find myself repeatedly straining to get up to that high F above
                                  middle C. I'm a high baritone, and back when I routinely sang that
                                  stuff (in my various Episcopal Church choirs), that F wasn't terribly
                                  hard for me. But I don't routinely sing it now. In fact in chant, it's
                                  rare that I get to the E above middle C.

                                  (Since our lead psaltis has a deep voice, we often re-pitch the music
                                  one or two whole steps downward from the notes as-written. So even if
                                  I'm singing the Vou above high Ni, the actual pitch might be no higher
                                  than middle C or D.)

                                  I encountered this for the first time early in my Orthodox singing
                                  experience, when I joined our area's other GOC parish that was hosting
                                  the Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers service that year. (We and they trade
                                  it back and forth, in alternate years; we two are the largest Orthodox
                                  parishes in my area, so the Orthodox of the other jurisdictions come
                                  to that year's GOC host parish.) The other GOC parish has had a strong
                                  choir tradition, and their choir was going to provide most of the
                                  music for the Vespers service. Their choir used (and still uses)
                                  Western-style choral music. We had several rehearsals before the
                                  service itself.

                                  Boy, was my throat sore, after singing that stuff! From the very
                                  first rehearsal, I could be heard muttering, "This stuff is *not*
                                  designed for the human voice!" That was an exaggeration, of course;
                                  but it was quite clear to me that my voice was no longer used to
                                  singing so many notes that high and that sustained.

                                  Now, I believe that I understand what's going on here. I've sung the
                                  "unison male line" in the Anastassiou book, when we've gone flat, and
                                  flatter and flatter still. Once we're more than 3 half-steps flat, and
                                  that low A becomes a low F, I must either drop out or take it up an
                                  octave. All of the choir's men, except for one or two super-basses,
                                  are also dragging in the mud. So if we pitched the melodies down to a
                                  "human" range, we run the risk of finding that the *other* parts in
                                  our 3- and 4-part harmony might find themselves pitched out of *their*
                                  ranges. It's neither sadism nor negligence -- it's a necessary
                                  consequence of singing that kind of music.

                                  But chant *isn't* "that kind of music." In the music I've encountered
                                  so far, the vocal range rarely gets below low Zi-flat (or B-flat), on
                                  the bass clef; it rarely gets above high Vou (E above middle C).
                                  That's barely an octave-and-a-half, much smaller than the two octaves
                                  I was routinely required to handle in my Episc Church choirs.

                                  Indeed, in general the hymns that go low rarely go very high; and
                                  those that go high rarely go very low.

                                  Now, does that make those hymns "not music"? Well, if the need for
                                  vocal calesthenics defines "music", then I guess they're not!

                                  But I'm gonna hafta admit that I kinda question that definition. :-D

                                  BTW for the sake of any bystanders who may have gotten the impression
                                  from this that I think Byz Chant is not vocally demanding, I'd like to
                                  add something. Byz Chant can certainly be sung in a "virtuoso" style
                                  that may, perhaps, require special warm-ups to safeguard the chanter's
                                  vocal chords etc. Here at the parish level, I have not encountered
                                  that; nor have I encountered advice on psaltic warm-ups.

                                  Even at the parish level though, if I have not been practicing between
                                  Sundays, some parts of the psaltic technique may grow rusty. For
                                  example, the trill sometimes signified by characters such as the
                                  petasti, the klasma, the omalon, or the eteron requires the larynx to
                                  be more agile than other forms of music I'm aware of. If I'm out of
                                  practice, I can find it hard to pull that out of the tool box. Byz
                                  Chant is not always something where you can just walk up to the plate
                                  and nail it immediately.

                                  But being "out of practice" is different from "not having warmed up
                                  before the performance," wouldn't you agree?

                                  So -- it's possible that the big-gun "virtuosi" in Byz Chant might
                                  indeed need warm-ups. But I haven't encountered that at the parish
                                  level.

                                  Whereas I have encountered the need for warm-ups when singing
                                  western-style choral music, even at the (western) parish level.

                                  -- Dana Netherton
                                • Stan T
                                  ... No, that s just what got me to thinkin . This is all about thinkin and not doin . Not that doin isn t important. When it comes to doin , after reading
                                  Message 16 of 18 , Apr 7, 2008
                                    --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "Dana" <dana@...> wrote:
                                    >
                                    > So "music" is singing that requires vocalises? Interesting definition!
                                    >

                                    No, that's just what got me to thinkin'. This is all about thinkin'
                                    and not doin'.

                                    Not that doin' isn't important.

                                    When it comes to doin', after reading your story, Dana, I think I'm
                                    looking more and more, as I age, for simplicity. When it comes to
                                    Church music, what is the reason for its existence? Prayer, and as the
                                    Salty Psalti reminded me today, teaching. Prayer and teaching. For
                                    these, simple is best. Complicated music, whether it be melodic or
                                    harmonic, makes the performance of the music more difficult, and so we
                                    start the vocal calisthenics and the endless rehearsals, and this
                                    tends to move us away from prayer and teaching, and into the realm of
                                    being entertainers, which most of us amateur singers are not cut out for.

                                    Chant is praying and teaching. Music is entertainment. Chant is not music.

                                    I think.

                                    Stan
                                  • Stephen Parsons
                                    ... I often tell people We are plural when they say or write Parson . I get quizzical and askance looks, as if they re realizing for the first time I have
                                    Message 17 of 18 , Apr 7, 2008
                                      --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "Stan T" <takistan@...> wrote:
                                      >
                                      > Stephen:
                                      >
                                      > I guess that explains why your last name is plural.

                                      I often tell people "We are plural" when they say or write "Parson".
                                      I get quizzical and askance looks, as if they're realizing for the
                                      first time I have multiple personalities ;).

                                      > I'm talking about what the choir
                                      > members should understand about why the chanter doesn't sound like
                                      > they do.

                                      Clearly it's because the *music is different.

                                      I'm not sure this has direct bearing on your argument, but in our
                                      parish, our Greek-speaking chanters (I ain't one) are better at saying
                                      the words (especially tongue-twisty Greek -- there are some doozies in
                                      the Evlogitaria) than the average choir member, regardless of native
                                      language. When it comes to English --- our chanters are all US-born
                                      English speakers, more so than many the members of the choir, who
                                      can't say a short "i". So we get "Chrieest ees reesen", for example.
                                      But it's not that they're not paying attention to the words; it's
                                      that they can't say them!

                                      So the chanters are better at the words in both Greek and English --
                                      but that might just be an accident of language, not of emphasis or
                                      training or something endemic in chant vs choir.

                                      >
                                      > By they way, is hip-hop chant?

                                      Prolly as much as rap is.

                                      >
                                      > Stan
                                      >

                                      Stephen, of the sons of Par. (I made that up.)
                                    • Stan T
                                      ... Yeah, but that begs the question of which music is better? in the mind of the choir singer. If we think of chant as speech, then we don t make that kind
                                      Message 18 of 18 , Apr 7, 2008
                                        --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "Stephen Parsons"
                                        <stephenparsons@...> wrote:

                                        > > I'm talking about what the choir
                                        > > members should understand about why the chanter doesn't sound like
                                        > > they do.
                                        >
                                        > Clearly it's because the *music is different.

                                        Yeah, but that begs the question of "which music is better?" in the
                                        mind of the choir singer. If we think of chant as speech, then we
                                        don't make that kind of value statement.

                                        Stan
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