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Introduction to Kalophony, the Byzantine «Ars Nova»

The «Anagrammatismoi» and «Mathēmata» of Byzantine Chant


Gregorios Th. Stathis and Konstantinos Terzopoulos

The anagrams, or more generally, the mathēmata and morphologically related kalophonic forms of Byzantine melopoeïa, constitute the artistic creations by which Psaltic Art is known in all its splendour and becomes an object of admiration. Kalophony as ars nova was born following the recovery of the city of Constantinople after the Latin occupation of Byzantium (AD 1204–1261) during the long reign of Andronicus II (1282–1328) and reached its final form in the first half of the fourteenth century. During the years 1300–1350, four key composers and teachers of the Psaltic Art imposed a new attitude of melic composition on the preexisting forms and designated new compositional techniques dominated by the beautifying kallopistic element. They created new compositions in the new spirit of kallōpismos and musical verbosity. This new musical creation was christened with the term kalophony and this period is the golden age of Byzantine Chant.
Originally published under the title Hoi anagrammatismoi kai ta mathemata tes byzantines melopoiïas (1979 plus seven reprints), this publication thoroughly investigates and reveals for the first time the entire magnitude of Byzantine kalophony with its individual forms, serving as a systematic introduction to the Greek Byzantine music culture and that of the Byzantine Psaltic Art at the height of its expression.
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Chapter 1: A synoptic review of Byzantine ecclesiastical melopϕa



A synoptic review of Byzantine ecclesiastical melopϕa


Melopϕa1 [melic composition] and melourgia are terms that designate the art of the composition of melodies based on particular rules for the correct use of poetic and musical elements primarily destined for ecclesiastical use. This is indicated by the use of the word melos in both terms.

Melos2 is every musically enunciated utterance, that is, anything sung by the human voice. This utterance, the words of the verses in a sung text, can have meaning, but they can also be without meaning, as is the case ← 3 | 4 → with the ēchēmata or kratēmata3 — te-ri-rem, te-ne-na, ti-ti-ti, to-ro-ron and so on. In any case, the presupposition for melos is that the syllables be pronounced by the human voice. Melos, then, literally and properly speaking belongs to the musical category termed ‘vocal’ and only by exception is it applied to instrumental music.4 This is the organic, essential reason that the term melos is preferred over the other terms generally used in art music. These other terms would include the following: melōdia, psalmōdia, psalmos, psalma, and music composition. From these terms, the first four, even by their etymology, signify a sung poetic text vocally uttered and clad in a musical garb. These terms, however, simultaneously signify a particular poetic text that submits to the musical expression, regardless of the fact that they later attained a generalized meaning and...

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