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Re: Degrees of Westernization

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  • Stan T
    ... Just to be clear, Apostolo, I was not trying to justify what Dr. Maragos did, but guessing as to why he did it. I do not agree with it, and I think it s
    Message 1 of 13 , Feb 11, 2009
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      --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "Apostolos Combitsis"
      <apostolos@...> wrote:

      > With all due respect to Dr. Maragos, he made a major error in putting
      > isokratima for Second Mode on D (that is, his transposed D). This
      > means that we hold NH as the ison for Second Mode. Of course, this is
      > incorrect. There is no excuse for this. You try to justify his
      > actions by stating, "I don't think that Maragos does this out of
      > ignorance. I think he chooses to do it this way as a further
      > Westernization of the music. It's easier for Western-trained singers
      > to picture Second Tone melodies in C, rather than the mode they were
      > written in." This, to me, is completely UNACCEPTABLE.

      Just to be clear, Apostolo, I was not trying to justify what Dr.
      Maragos did, but guessing as to why he did it. I do not agree with it,
      and I think it's too bad that the Guidebook Companion will be going
      out to all the parishes in the country with these glaring errors. I
      always try to put in the correct isons, even if I'm transcribing
      Sakellarides.

      Now if Dr. Maragos were harmonizing the Second Tone, the key of C is a
      logical choice, I suppose. But he was only arranging melody with ison.

      Stan
    • Apostolos Combitsis
      Stan, I understood you completely, and I know that you are not in agreement with it. Once I get my copy, I will analyze the music and I may send an e-mail to
      Message 2 of 13 , Feb 11, 2009
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        Stan,

        I understood you completely, and I know that you are not in agreement
        with it. Once I get my copy, I will analyze the music and I may send
        an e-mail to Vicky regarding this.

        To his defense, however, perhaps Dr. Maragos never intended for his
        compositions to be pure Byzantine Chant. But how can he claim this?
        The Second Mode melody lines of these "fimi's" (which everyone knows
        practically by heart) have become "standard", so to speak. Why NOT
        compose it as Byzantine chant and therefore do it RIGHT??

        You see, this is precisely what I and a whole lot of other trained
        chanters are screaming about: the National Forum has made the
        assumption that, just because they are the "official" musical
        organization of the Archdiocese, that qualifies them to dictate policy
        regarding Byzantine chant. These compositions by Dr. Nick (an
        official representative of the National Forum) have been published in
        the Guidebook (an official publication of the National Forum) and are
        now deemed "official renderings" (by some people, anyway) of how they
        should be sung/chanted.

        And the Archdiocese, which has NO official representation from the
        standpoint of the cantors and of Byzantine Music in general, sits back
        and does nothing.

        I will refrain from making any further comment on this, but suffice it
        to say, you KNOW how I feel about it.

        Apostolos


        --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "Stan T" <takistan@...> wrote:
        >
        > --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "Apostolos Combitsis"
        > <apostolos@> wrote:
        >
        > > With all due respect to Dr. Maragos, he made a major error in putting
        > > isokratima for Second Mode on D (that is, his transposed D). This
        > > means that we hold NH as the ison for Second Mode. Of course, this is
        > > incorrect. There is no excuse for this. You try to justify his
        > > actions by stating, "I don't think that Maragos does this out of
        > > ignorance. I think he chooses to do it this way as a further
        > > Westernization of the music. It's easier for Western-trained singers
        > > to picture Second Tone melodies in C, rather than the mode they were
        > > written in." This, to me, is completely UNACCEPTABLE.
        >
        > Just to be clear, Apostolo, I was not trying to justify what Dr.
        > Maragos did, but guessing as to why he did it. I do not agree with it,
        > and I think it's too bad that the Guidebook Companion will be going
        > out to all the parishes in the country with these glaring errors. I
        > always try to put in the correct isons, even if I'm transcribing
        > Sakellarides.
        >
        > Now if Dr. Maragos were harmonizing the Second Tone, the key of C is a
        > logical choice, I suppose. But he was only arranging melody with ison.
        >
        > Stan
        >
      • Stan T
        As a member of the National Forum, I think that it does not help our credibility if, when transcribing chant to staff notation, we don t at least try to
        Message 3 of 13 , Feb 11, 2009
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          As a member of the National Forum, I think that it does not help our
          credibility if, when transcribing chant to staff notation, we don't at
          least try to represent the mode correctly. Traditional Greek Orthodox
          ecclesiastical music will always outlive any auxiliary organizations
          such as ours, and we must recognize the fact that any attempt to alter
          the centuries-old rubrics of music in our Church will ultimately fail,
          and will just cause more lost years of confusion and errors.
          Harmonization is a completely different issue with its own set of
          debate topics, but we should be able to come to consensus on the most
          basic aspects of our ecclesiastical chant which can be represented by
          staff notation. I think Jessica Suchy-Pilalis' upcoming formula book
          or a transcription of Papa Ephraim's book will help this. When we do
          get these resources, they should become the standard for all staff
          notation adaptations of chant melodies.

          --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "Apostolos Combitsis"
          <apostolos@...> wrote:
          >
          > Stan,
          >
          > I understood you completely, and I know that you are not in agreement
          > with it. Once I get my copy, I will analyze the music and I may send
          > an e-mail to Vicky regarding this.
          >
          > To his defense, however, perhaps Dr. Maragos never intended for his
          > compositions to be pure Byzantine Chant. But how can he claim this?
          > The Second Mode melody lines of these "fimi's" (which everyone knows
          > practically by heart) have become "standard", so to speak. Why NOT
          > compose it as Byzantine chant and therefore do it RIGHT??
          >
          > You see, this is precisely what I and a whole lot of other trained
          > chanters are screaming about: the National Forum has made the
          > assumption that, just because they are the "official" musical
          > organization of the Archdiocese, that qualifies them to dictate policy
          > regarding Byzantine chant. These compositions by Dr. Nick (an
          > official representative of the National Forum) have been published in
          > the Guidebook (an official publication of the National Forum) and are
          > now deemed "official renderings" (by some people, anyway) of how they
          > should be sung/chanted.
          >
          > And the Archdiocese, which has NO official representation from the
          > standpoint of the cantors and of Byzantine Music in general, sits back
          > and does nothing.
          >
          > I will refrain from making any further comment on this, but suffice it
          > to say, you KNOW how I feel about it.
          >
          > Apostolos
        • Parsons Stephen
          So here I am a non-Greek convert, a chanter, completely familiar with Western notation from piano training. I ve learned Byzantine notation and the modal (for
          Message 4 of 13 , Feb 11, 2009
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            So here I am a non-Greek convert, a chanter, completely familiar with Western notation from piano training. I've learned Byzantine notation and the modal (for Stan) system well enough that I automatically adjust -- when I can and not feel out of place -- the western notes and structure of the melody to add a pestaste here, a half-flat there (trombone training helps there :). Keep teaching them Greek and Byzantine notation. It'll stick on some.

            Steve
          • Father Ephraim
            ... If contemporary Greek Orthodox composers in America depart from Byzantine music traditions primarily out of ignorance of those traditions, then having
            Message 5 of 13 , Feb 12, 2009
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              On Wed, Feb 11, 2009 at 9:55 AM, Stan T <takistan@...> wrote:
              ...we should be able to come to consensus on the most
              basic aspects of our ecclesiastical chant which can be represented by
              staff notation. I think Jessica Suchy-Pilalis' upcoming formula book
              or a transcription of Papa Ephraim's book will help this. When we do
              get these resources, they should become the standard for all staff
              notation adaptations of chant melodies.
               
              If contemporary Greek Orthodox composers in America depart from Byzantine music traditions primarily out of ignorance of those traditions, then having those formulas in staff notation could make a tremendous difference, especially if those composers are willing to redo their previous works. But if their departure from tradition stems from a lack of appreciation of the value of Byzantine music traditions, then I'm afraid having those formulas in staff notation won't make much of a difference.
              +Papa Ephraim
               
            • byzmusic
              ... I just had a few more thoughts about this: In this day and age, when it is politically incorrect to claim to be right and to claim that someone else is
              Message 6 of 13 , Feb 13, 2009
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                > If contemporary Greek Orthodox composers in America depart from
                > Byzantine music traditions primarily out of ignorance of those
                > traditions, then having those formulas in staff notation could make
                > a tremendous difference, especially if those composers are willing
                > to redo their previous works. But if their departure from tradition
                > stems from a lack of appreciation of the value of Byzantine music
                > traditions, then I'm afraid having those formulas in staff notation
                > won't make much of a difference.
                > +Papa Ephraim

                I just had a few more thoughts about this:

                In this day and age, when it is politically incorrect to claim to be
                right and to claim that someone else is wrong, it is difficult to
                stand up for what is true and genuine without being labeled a "snob"
                or "closed-minded." This holds true not only for serious matters of
                Orthodox dogma but also for issues regarding Orthodox traditions, such
                as traditional chant. This way of thinking makes us almost afraid of
                confrontations, whether they be Orthodox vs. heterodox or traditional
                vs. modernistic. I'm not in favor of heated arguments, especially
                about subjective matters, but if we can discuss an issue objectively
                and factually, it is much easier to keep tempers from flaring and
                mutual bad feelings from arising.

                We can objectively and factually define many aspects of the
                traditional chant of our Greek Orthodox Church. Using these
                definitions, we can then objectively and factually state to what
                degree modern compositions deviate from our Church's musical
                traditions. We may then use that degree of deviation to declare
                objectively how "right" or "wrong" those compositions are, but only if
                we are in agreement that our Church's musical traditions should be
                preserved. But the reason why we can't reach that stage of objectively
                declaring degrees of right and wrong is because we can't agree in what
                way our Church's musical traditions should be preserved.

                Perhaps it would be helpful to bear in mind that the people of our
                Church whom we revere as saints were known for standing up for what is
                truly and genuinely Orthodox. They were also known for preserving
                Orthodox tradition and for contributing to it in ways that did not
                radically change it. It is difficult for me to comprehend how some
                contemporary Orthodox Christians can revere these saints with their
                lips, yet with their actions do the exact opposite of what those
                saints would have done in our situation (in regards to preserving
                tradition).

                Even though the formulaic rules allow us to define with great
                precision what traditional Byzantine melodies are, I'm afraid that
                having them won't make much of a difference to the composers in the
                Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America with modernizing tendencies. For
                if such composers do not attempt to preserve the "obvious"
                characteristics of Byzantine chant (such as monophony with ison and no
                instruments), why would they go to the trouble of preserving its less
                obvious characteristics (such as its formulaic rules)?

                +Papa Ephraim
              • Apostolos Combitsis
                Papa Ephraim, You have hit the nail on the head. With regards to your first response where you define ignorance and lack of appreciation as the two main
                Message 7 of 13 , Feb 13, 2009
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                  Papa Ephraim,

                  You have hit the nail on the head. With regards to your first
                  response where you define ignorance and lack of appreciation as the
                  two main reasons modern composers depart from Byzantine music
                  traditions, I fear that the latter is mostly the case than the former.
                  I believe most (if not all) of the modern composers are well aware of
                  what Byzantine Chant is. However, in their mind, it doesn't have the
                  "fanfare" that four-part harmony with a blaring organ has. Little do
                  they realize that it's not all about the fanfare. These guys simply
                  have it all wrong.

                  As for your "few more thoughts", again, you are quite precise in your
                  analysis. It's simply a shame that we have lost so much time and now
                  we (that is, "we" as in "those of who know a thing or two") are trying
                  to play "catch-up" in terms of educating the masses and integrating
                  Byzantine Music in our worship services. The situation has been
                  allowed to fester and, unfortunately, the blame (really, there HAS to
                  be a "blame" here because these things just don't happen by
                  themselves) lies primarily with the hierarchy, the clergy, and with
                  the Archdiocese (and now the Metropolises) as a whole. Individual
                  voices can only do so much. Policy has not been dictated and this
                  runaway train called "western music" has been allowed to gain speed
                  over the years with the attitude being, "rather than standing in front
                  of it and trying to stop it - which would surely get us killed - let's
                  just hop on board and enjoy the ride."

                  There is strength in numbers, however, and I believe that in this day
                  and age, we have more people with a working knowledge of Byzantine
                  Music than we had in the days of growth of our Archdiocese. We simply
                  didn't have the talent in this country to perpetuate the art. And of
                  course, the other MAJOR reason is something called "assimilation". In
                  our "embarassment" of being Greeks, we didn't want to stand out and
                  have this "turkish-sounding" music define us to our new country. So,
                  let's just try to blend in and do what "they" do.

                  How's THAT for a dose of reality? It's just the way it has been.
                  Stan Takis knows it, Papa Ephraim knows it, and a number of others
                  know it. But, again, as individuals, there's only so much Stan or
                  PapaEphraim or Apostolos can do when our efforts are not 100%
                  supported by the hierarchy.

                  Apostolos


                  --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "byzmusic" <frephraim@...>
                  wrote:
                  >
                  > > If contemporary Greek Orthodox composers in America depart from
                  > > Byzantine music traditions primarily out of ignorance of those
                  > > traditions, then having those formulas in staff notation could make
                  > > a tremendous difference, especially if those composers are willing
                  > > to redo their previous works. But if their departure from tradition
                  > > stems from a lack of appreciation of the value of Byzantine music
                  > > traditions, then I'm afraid having those formulas in staff notation
                  > > won't make much of a difference.
                  > > +Papa Ephraim
                  >
                  > I just had a few more thoughts about this:
                  >
                  > In this day and age, when it is politically incorrect to claim to be
                  > right and to claim that someone else is wrong, it is difficult to
                  > stand up for what is true and genuine without being labeled a "snob"
                  > or "closed-minded." This holds true not only for serious matters of
                  > Orthodox dogma but also for issues regarding Orthodox traditions, such
                  > as traditional chant. This way of thinking makes us almost afraid of
                  > confrontations, whether they be Orthodox vs. heterodox or traditional
                  > vs. modernistic. I'm not in favor of heated arguments, especially
                  > about subjective matters, but if we can discuss an issue objectively
                  > and factually, it is much easier to keep tempers from flaring and
                  > mutual bad feelings from arising.
                  >
                  > We can objectively and factually define many aspects of the
                  > traditional chant of our Greek Orthodox Church. Using these
                  > definitions, we can then objectively and factually state to what
                  > degree modern compositions deviate from our Church's musical
                  > traditions. We may then use that degree of deviation to declare
                  > objectively how "right" or "wrong" those compositions are, but only if
                  > we are in agreement that our Church's musical traditions should be
                  > preserved. But the reason why we can't reach that stage of objectively
                  > declaring degrees of right and wrong is because we can't agree in what
                  > way our Church's musical traditions should be preserved.
                  >
                  > Perhaps it would be helpful to bear in mind that the people of our
                  > Church whom we revere as saints were known for standing up for what is
                  > truly and genuinely Orthodox. They were also known for preserving
                  > Orthodox tradition and for contributing to it in ways that did not
                  > radically change it. It is difficult for me to comprehend how some
                  > contemporary Orthodox Christians can revere these saints with their
                  > lips, yet with their actions do the exact opposite of what those
                  > saints would have done in our situation (in regards to preserving
                  > tradition).
                  >
                  > Even though the formulaic rules allow us to define with great
                  > precision what traditional Byzantine melodies are, I'm afraid that
                  > having them won't make much of a difference to the composers in the
                  > Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America with modernizing tendencies. For
                  > if such composers do not attempt to preserve the "obvious"
                  > characteristics of Byzantine chant (such as monophony with ison and no
                  > instruments), why would they go to the trouble of preserving its less
                  > obvious characteristics (such as its formulaic rules)?
                  >
                  > +Papa Ephraim
                  >
                • Stan T
                  ... Another thing we all know is that Westernization of the music has occurred and will continue. This is why I brought up the topic of to what degree of
                  Message 8 of 13 , Feb 13, 2009
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                    --- In greekorthodoxmusic@yahoogroups.com, "Apostolos Combitsis"
                    <apostolos@...> wrote:

                    > Stan Takis knows it, Papa Ephraim knows it, and a number of others
                    > know it. But, again, as individuals, there's only so much Stan or
                    > PapaEphraim or Apostolos can do when our efforts are not 100%
                    > supported by the hierarchy.

                    Another thing we all know is that Westernization of the music has
                    occurred and will continue. This is why I brought up the topic of to
                    what degree of Westernization is acceptable. Maybe, for some people,
                    it boils down to a preference, such as, for example, you sign your
                    name on these forums as Apostolos instead of Paul, whereas I sign Stan
                    instead of Stylianos. We both have good reasons for our preference,
                    I'm sure, but in the big picture, it's a trivial thing. How we mess
                    with Church music is not trivial, however, and it should not be just a
                    preference.

                    To my priest, Father Michael Varlamos, the selection of music is not
                    just about preferences or taste or even respect for tradition. It's
                    about salvation itself to him, and he makes no bones about it. As a
                    Christian believer (not to mention being his choir director), this is
                    a sobering thought for me, and this is why I keep this forum and ask
                    questions on it. I know we are going to Westernize in America, because
                    we do not have a standing army of trained psaltis, and most parishes
                    rely on the laity for their music. This makes staff notation
                    inevitable, so the question of the degree of Westernization becomes an
                    important one.

                    One other thing we all know is that if there were a hierarchical
                    decree abolishing all Westernization of our music, it would cause
                    utter chaos. It's better we talk about it and decide what kind of
                    compromises we are willing to accept, or at least live with, and then
                    let the respect for our tradition creep back into the Church. My
                    feeling is that using chant that has been Westernized a little bit, or
                    as Papa Ephraim would call it, "watered down," is a way to gradually
                    restore this respect.

                    I also want to say here publicly that I'm sorry if I made it sound as
                    if I were personally criticizing Dr. Maragos, a very knowledgeable and
                    caring servant of the Church. He is carrying on a tradition and point
                    of view of Sakellarides, Vryonides, Roubanis, and many others before
                    him, who were fully aware of what real Byzantine chant is, and who
                    Westernized the music for deliberate and thought-out reasons. Whether
                    or not I agree or disagree with the degree to which they have done
                    this, they are still to be respected for their hard work,
                    thoughtfulness, and concern about our ecclesiastical music, and I
                    tried to be respectful to Nick in my comments, because I do respect
                    him a great deal.

                    Stan
                  • Stan T
                    Dr. Nick Maragos recently responded to this discussion, saying that the fimi s were not intended to be Byzantine and were for the many lay people who volunteer
                    Message 9 of 13 , Feb 18, 2009
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                      Dr. Nick Maragos recently responded to this discussion, saying that
                      the fimi's were not intended to be Byzantine and were for the many lay
                      people who volunteer as chanters and are not trained in Byzantine
                      music. He also added these important words:

                      "If we are to have, as the recent catch-phrase says, 'real change' in
                      our Church and its practices, then those of us with 'knowledge' need
                      to be unified in our practices (musically and otherwise), committed to
                      outreach teaching of musical chant and Byzantine musical history in
                      every community in this country, prepared to distribute practical and
                      useable materials and techniques for rendering Byzantine melodies in
                      chant style (and, yes, for choirs also), and dedicated to seeing that
                      'no church is left behind,' no matter how large or small. This should
                      be an ongoing effort with every church visited every year if it is to
                      work. We've tried many other ways in the past, but it obviously has
                      not been enough so far because the follow-up is lacking. This will not
                      be an easy task, not because the individual churches won't accept us
                      coming to them, but because, right or wrong, we all have different
                      ideas of what is musically 'correct' and what is not, and how far we
                      are willing to go when we necessarily change something from Byzantine
                      to Western notation. ... When we can get to a place where even a
                      little bit of combined effort happens, and when we refuse to condone
                      our present separative behavior so that our students can see something
                      to which they are willing to commit, then we will have a fighting
                      chance to improve our Church in the West."
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