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Old Byzantine and Russian Liturgical Chant

Author(s): Alfred J. Swan

Source: Bulletin of the American Musicological Society, No. 8 (Oct., 1945), pp. 22-23
Published by: University of California Press on behalf of the American Musicological Society
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Accessed: 12/02/2011 13:11

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Restoration expressive style recalls the old techniques of "madrigal-

ism", but the emphasis is less pictorial and more dramatic. A guide to
the contemporary esthetic on this subject is found in a passage in
Christopher Simpson's Compendium of Musick (first edition, 1667),
enjoining the apt expression of the "sense and humour" of the words.
Blow's practice coincides with Simpson's theory in his appropriate treat-
ment of "grave" and "light" words and in his use of chromatics and
suspensions for passions of "love, sorrow, and anguish", of "strenuous"
movements for "anger, courage, and revenge", of dissonances for "cruel,
bitter, and harsh" sentiments, of rising or falling lines for words imply-
ing "high" or "low", and of rests for "sighs and sobbs". Simpson was a
poor prophet, however, in stating that the use of many notes to a syllable
was going out of fashion. Both Blow's and Purcell's songs became in-
creasingly melismatic and paved the way for the luxuriant coloratura
display affected by Italian prima donnas in the i8th-century English
In the declamatory style Blow and his pupils, following Lawes' sound
principles of "just note and accent", set down punctiliously the exact
note-values desired; but they broke away from his more mechanical
declamation by avoiding regular periods, rests at the beginning of suc-
cessive lines, and regular line-endings, and added not only the expres-
sive melismas already mentioned, but numerous verbal repetitions. More
generally, they departed from the balance and literary nicety of the
transition period to a display of florid asymmetry, verging on distortion
and virtuosity, which brought them into step with similar tendencies
throughout Western Europe and throughout all the arts.
[Illustrations of the various styles employed in Blow's songs were sung by
Miss Amelia Tataronis.]

(All the meetingsof this chapterwere held in Merion,Pa.)

Old Byzantine and Russian Liturgical Chant

Alfred J. Swan

THE LINEconnecting the Byzantine Chant with the Russian is clearly

evident. The so-called Paleobyzantine Chant, in use from the 9th cen-
tury to the 12th, was introduced into Russia at the end of the ioth
century, and the earliest Russian monumenta are noted down in what is,

to all intents and purposes, the Paleobyzantine notation. But while in

Byzantium this notation was replaced by the Neobyzantine towards
the end of the 12th century, in Russia it was altered by slow degrees
to suit the Russian need. With the notation, the Chant itself also under-
went profound changes on Russian soil. It remained in general use in
Russia until the end of the i 7th century, and was transcribed onto the
staff in 1772. The transcriptions are easily verified through the practice
of the Old Believers, who have steadily clung to the tradition that pre-
vailed before the adoption of the staff notation.
The problem now before musicologists is to trace this tradition back
to the earliest times (this has already been attempted by the Russian
scholar, Smoliensky) and thus discover the true nature of both Paleo-
byzantine notation and Chant. On the Byzantine side this has been only
superficially attempted in the recent book of Dom Lorenzo Tardo
(1938). A further most important problem is to try to establish the
method of performance of these chants. On the Russian side a close
connection with folk-song has already been established (see A. J. Swan,
The Musical Quarterly, XXVI [1940], No. 3). On the
Byzantine side
a similar attempt is being made by A. Papadopoulou, an assistant of
Wellesz in the transcription of Byzantine melodies; and Tardo uncovers
a clue in the folk-songs of the Greco-Albanian colonies in
Sicily (estab-
lished before the conquest of Constantinople). If a closer relation is
traced between the Chant and the folk-song, we may establish that
unison and harmonized performances are equally justified; this would
leave the way open to wider use of harmonizations and
heighten the
chances that the old melodies might have of appealing to
audiences. No unison performance is likely to
satisfy them. But if the
chants are harmonized, as the folk-songs have been, modern audiences,
in church or concert hall, will discover in them a
vastly important and
beautiful body of music.

Viennese Dance Music in the Baroque Period

Paul Nettl

(FEBRUARY 15TH, 1942)

[THE LECTURER based his talk on his book, "Die Wiener Tanz-
komposition in der zweiten Hilfte des 17. Jahrhunderts", published as
Vol. VIII of Adler's Studien zur Musikwissenschaft, as well as on
recently completed research.]
In the early part of the century, opera remained in the hands of
Venetian composers living at the Viennese court; the dances that