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Re: New article on Chant vs. Harmony

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  • Stan T
    Dana: I appreciate very much that you consistently take the time to offer a rich and detailed criticism. The article was addressed to members of the Greek
    Message 1 of 9 , Dec 5, 2008
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      Dana:

      I appreciate very much that you consistently take the time to offer a
      rich and detailed criticism.

      The article was addressed to members of the Greek Church, but I did
      say in the article, "Harmonized music has managed to establish itself
      in many Orthodox churches around the world over the last few centuries."

      Perhaps I shouldn't have used the word "huge" indescribing the
      investment of time for chanters, but look at it this way. If you live
      to be, say, 85, and you started chanting at 52, 5 years would be a
      considerable chunk of the 33 years you had left. At any rate, I did
      say "to learn and practice" and what I mean by "practice" was doing
      the job, not rehearsing for it.

      As far as construction goes, I think I made the same point you are
      making about the increased availability of self-learning materials. I
      just meant to say that there will be purists who object to this, and
      they may have a point, because you cannot count on the self-teaching
      abilities of all individuals. I say it's better than no instruction.

      I agree with your comments about English needing to be metered to the
      model melodies. This is what Nancy, despite being "in the world" does
      as well as Fr. Seraphim and HTM. (Actually, she's in her own world. I
      don't really think she knows what's happening outside of it.) Other
      translations are made by clerics or people who do not chant and do not
      take meter into consideration, as you point out, so when you try to
      chant them, you either cram them into the model melody, which, like
      Nancy says, is like trying to sing the words of "The Star-Spangled
      Banner" to the tune of "America the Beautiful," or you make up a new
      melody, which, I agree, is jarring and also defeats the system of
      having model melodies. Another problem with these translators is a lot
      of them are not very good writers, especially if English is not their
      native tongue.

      The extra point I made about that in the article is that translators
      not only have to worry about the rhythmic meter of the syllables, but
      they also have to make the language poetic and understandable from a
      standpoint of flow. If the poetry isn't there, the impact of the words
      lessens and doesn't stick with you. These texts are meant to have
      depth, so that they reveal more and more every time you hear them,
      lest without literary content, they become robotic repetitions. To me,
      the literary content of many English translations, even ones that are
      properly metered, is spotty. Some of the poetry comes out in the
      translations, but some has to be worked for, especially with irony.
      Some poetic devices, such as puns, might be impossible, but one has to
      try to do what one can do. Just the mere selection of words is
      important to the impact. If Shakespeare had written, "I wonder if I
      should kill myself?" instead of "To be or not to be, that is the
      question," then Hamlet would have been forgotten by the ages. If you
      call the Theotokos a "container," people are going to think of cans.
      Monks and monasteries are a wonderful gift to the Church and always
      have been. Now that we are faced with the task of re-writing the texts
      of our hymns into English, monasteries need to become hotbeds of
      English-language literature as well.

      Stan
    • kerxhalli@aol.com
      Dear Stan, As part of the Greek Orthodox Community, I have to say your article was really well written. I agree that the organ issue has our communities
      Message 2 of 9 , Dec 5, 2008
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        Dear Stan,
         
        As part of the Greek Orthodox Community, I have to say your article was really well written.  I agree that the organ issue has our communities divided, but each community should decide based on the talent of the parishioners within each parish.  If you do not have anyone who can play the organ, than the issue is automatically closed.  Most parishes cannot afford to hire a professional musician and few parishes will have someone among them with the capability.  Most of our parishes are then faced with the options of three/four-part harmony or classic Byzantine Chant.  Both are challenging!  Both are beautiful if executed well,  although three/four-part harmony in a Byzantine style is a skill that probably can be easier learned in the United States based on the fact that throughout our lives, traditional western music has been part of our secular culture.
         
        Our A Cappella choir is using Nancy's three-part harmony, New Byzantine Chant music for the Divine Liturgy and the congregation absolutely loves it!  Among our parishioners (we are an 800 family parish, and we have recent immigrants, 3rd generations Americans, and converts) all absolutely love the arrangement.  We do have a Psalti that was trained in Greece as a youth and he is fabulous, but his skill level has been gained over a lifetime and he is in his 80s. No one can learn and match his skill level in a few short weeks as you well point out in your writings.   We also have an organist who accompanies our regular choir, but she is retiring and there is no one with her skill level in the community either (short of hiring a professional musician that is not Orthodox).  So you see my point in saying that each community should look to the talents of their parishioners when making a decision.
        Blessings,
        Christine Kerxhalli
         
        In a message dated 12/5/2008 9:23:09 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, takistan@... writes:

        Dana:

        I appreciate very much that you consistently take the time to offer a
        rich and detailed criticism.

        The article was addressed to members of the Greek Church, but I did
        say in the article, "Harmonized music has managed to establish itself
        in many Orthodox churches around the world over the last few centuries."

        Perhaps I shouldn't have used the word "huge" indescribing the
        investment of time for chanters, but look at it this way. If you live
        to be, say, 85, and you started chanting at 52, 5 years would be a
        considerable chunk of the 33 years you had left. At any rate, I did
        say "to learn and practice" and what I mean by "practice" was doing
        the job, not rehearsing for it.

        As far as construction goes, I think I made the same point you are
        making about the increased availability of self-learning materials. I
        just meant to say that there will be purists who object to this, and
        they may have a point, because you cannot count on the self-teaching
        abilities of all individuals. I say it's better than no instruction.

        I agree with your comments about English needing to be metered to the
        model melodies. This is what Nancy, despite being "in the world" does
        as well as Fr. Seraphim and HTM. (Actually, she's in her own world. I
        don't really think she knows what's happening outside of it.) Other
        translations are made by clerics or people who do not chant and do not
        take meter into consideration, as you point out, so when you try to
        chant them, you either cram them into the model melody, which, like
        Nancy says, is like trying to sing the words of "The Star-Spangled
        Banner" to the tune of "America the Beautiful," or you make up a new
        melody, which, I agree, is jarring and also defeats the system of
        having model melodies. Another problem with these translators is a lot
        of them are not very good writers, especially if English is not their
        native tongue.

        The extra point I made about that in the article is that translators
        not only have to worry about the rhythmic meter of the syllables, but
        they also have to make the language poetic and understandable from a
        standpoint of flow. If the poetry isn't there, the impact of the words
        lessens and doesn't stick with you. These texts are meant to have
        depth, so that they reveal more and more every time you hear them,
        lest without literary content, they become robotic repetitions. To me,
        the literary content of many English translations, even ones that are
        properly metered, is spotty. Some of the poetry comes out in the
        translations, but some has to be worked for, especially with irony.
        Some poetic devices, such as puns, might be impossible, but one has to
        try to do what one can do. Just the mere selection of words is
        important to the impact. If Shakespeare had written, "I wonder if I
        should kill myself?" instead of "To be or not to be, that is the
        question," then Hamlet would have been forgotten by the ages. If you
        call the Theotokos a "container," people are going to think of cans.
        Monks and monasteries are a wonderful gift to the Church and always
        have been. Now that we are faced with the task of re-writing the texts
        of our hymns into English, monasteries need to become hotbeds of
        English-language literature as well.

        Stan

      • Stan T
        Dear Christine: Yes. Nancy and I have spent most of our lives in small GOA communities in Michigan. Nancy splits her chanting time between Flint, Lansing, and
        Message 3 of 9 , Dec 5, 2008
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          Dear Christine:

          Yes. Nancy and I have spent most of our lives in small GOA communities
          in Michigan. Nancy splits her chanting time between Flint, Lansing,
          and Muskegon. All of these parishes have small choirs with varying
          levels of talent. None of them have trained chanters, which is why
          Nancy serves them. In Lansing and Muskegon, there have been some local
          women who want to learn to chant, and the self-help materials have
          been useful, but of course, they do not yet result in a complete
          education. It's kind of hit and miss. But the musical traditions of
          most parishes are pretty well ingrained and perpetuated by very loyal
          parishioners who do what they can to apply the knowledge and talents
          that they have.

          Stan

          --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, kerxhalli@... wrote:
          >
          > Dear Stan,
          >
          > As part of the Greek Orthodox Community, I have to say your article
          was
          > really well written. I agree that the organ issue has our
          communities divided,
          > but each community should decide based on the talent of the
          parishioners
          > within each parish. If you do not have anyone who can play the
          organ, than the
          > issue is automatically closed. Most parishes cannot afford to hire a
          > professional musician and few parishes will have someone among them
          with the
          > capability. Most of our parishes are then faced with the options
          of three/four-part
          > harmony or classic Byzantine Chant. Both are challenging! Both
          are beautiful
          > if executed well, although three/four-part harmony in a Byzantine
          style is a
          > skill that probably can be easier learned in the United States
          based on the
          > fact that throughout our lives, traditional western music has been
          part of
          > our secular culture.
          >
          > Our A Cappella choir is using Nancy's three-part harmony, New
          Byzantine
          > Chant music for the Divine Liturgy and the congregation absolutely
          loves it!
          > Among our parishioners (we are an 800 family parish, and we have
          recent
          > immigrants, 3rd generations Americans, and converts) all absolutely
          love the
          > arrangement. We do have a Psalti that was trained in Greece as a
          youth and he is
          > fabulous, but his skill level has been gained over a lifetime and
          he is in his
          > 80s. No one can learn and match his skill level in a few short
          weeks as you
          > well point out in your writings. We also have an organist who
          accompanies our
          > regular choir, but she is retiring and there is no one with her
          skill level
          > in the community either (short of hiring a professional musician
          that is not
          > Orthodox). So you see my point in saying that each community
          should look to
          > the talents of their parishioners when making a decision.
          >
          > Blessings,
          > Christine Kerxhalli
        • Dana
          ... In the sense of critique or constructive responses , rather than complaints , I hope! :-) ... Maybe another way to approach the matter could be like
          Message 4 of 9 , Dec 12, 2008
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            --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "Stan T" <takistan@...> wrote:
            >
            > Dana:
            >
            > I appreciate very much that you consistently take the time to offer
            > a rich and detailed criticism.

            In the sense of "critique" or "constructive responses", rather than
            "complaints", I hope! :-)

            > Perhaps I shouldn't have used the word "huge" in describing the
            > investment of time for chanters, but look at it this way. If you
            > live to be, say, 85, and you started chanting at 52, 5 years would
            > be a considerable chunk of the 33 years you had left. At any rate,
            > I did say "to learn and practice" and what I mean by "practice" was
            > doing the job, not rehearsing for it.

            Maybe another way to approach the matter could be like this:

            "It is relatively easy to join and sing in the mixed choirs that sing
            at the Sunday Divine Liturgies of so many GOA parishes. For many
            members of our congregations, the music is already very familiar. In
            addition, the music sounds much like the music we hear all around us,
            in America. Many who already sing well find that they can join a
            choir and begin singing along without even reading the music.

            "The music of Byzantine Chant is much less familiar to our
            congregations, of course. There are also few (well, really no)
            examples of this kind of music in America, outside our churches.
            Therefore, people who would sing it must learn it. To learn it, they
            must find teachers or teaching materials, and they must find time."

            This might acknowledge that the choir's space is easier than the
            psalterion, when it comes to just walking in and singing along ...
            while not making Byz Chant sound like it's an impossible obstacle that
            can be surmounted only by a superhuman effort. :-)

            Constructive, I hope?

            And btw I'm sorry that I wrote some passages in my earlier remarks in
            ways that could be "heard" as criticisms/complaints about Nancy's
            work. I have a lot of respect for her and for her work ... and for
            your Metropolitan, who has clearly authorized her and encouraged her
            to help your Metropolis so richly. And for you, Stan, and your
            constructive efforts to enrich the Archdiocese by making her
            materials, and other materials, widely available through your web site
            and through this Group. Respect not just for the great deal of time
            that you and Nancy each devote to your work, but for the care you each
            take to see that the quality of your results is high.

            Because of the sloppy way I wrote, I may have offended you. I did not
            intend to, I do not wish to, and I apologize. I intended those
            remarks as a discussion of matters of taste, so to speak. Having
            "gotten on a roll" on the topic, I rolled on, alas.

            De gustibus non disputandum.

            "This music isn't mine." (Sometimes I just have to keep reminding
            myself ... ) "This music isn't mine. :-)

            -- Dana
          • Stan T
            ... No, Dana. I didn t take it that way. Nancy s mission is more about the words than the music. Her comments on music are exactly the same as Fr. Seraphim and
            Message 5 of 9 , Dec 15, 2008
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              --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "Dana" <dana@...> wrote:
              >
              > And btw I'm sorry that I wrote some passages in my earlier remarks in
              > ways that could be "heard" as criticisms/complaints about Nancy's
              > work. I have a lot of respect for her and for her work ... and for
              > your Metropolitan, who has clearly authorized her and encouraged her
              > to help your Metropolis so richly. And for you, Stan, and your
              > constructive efforts to enrich the Archdiocese by making her
              > materials, and other materials, widely available through your web site
              > and through this Group. Respect not just for the great deal of time
              > that you and Nancy each devote to your work, but for the care you each
              > take to see that the quality of your results is high.

              No, Dana. I didn't take it that way. Nancy's mission is more about the
              words than the music. Her comments on music are exactly the same as
              Fr. Seraphim and Fr. Ephraim. She's more than excellent at using the
              English language to do what she wants it to do, and she can make a
              metered translation that flows logically and understandably and still
              capture its deep poetic imagery. That's not easy to do, but that's
              what has to be done, and not many are doing it.
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