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Re: Chant is Not Music

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7 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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