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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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The examination of the anagrams and mathēmata of Byzantine and post-Byzantine melic composition made necessary the general review regarding kalophony as a phenomenon and independent art form. As was natural, this research spread to all themes connected to kalophony; firstly, the related terminology and periods or stations of notational development and melopœïa parallel to the first creators and perpetuators of the forms, and then the text and morphological types of these compositions. Having journeyed the greater portion of the ocean of Byzantine and post-Byzantine melic compositional output, we have reached the final harbour, a termination of the present difficult research that is also the beginning of only a first attempt at coming to terms with the themes related to kalophony.

The mathēmata of Byzantine melic composition, namely, the kalophonic stichēra idiomela with their anagrams, feet and anapodismoi, mainly, but also all the rest of the kalophonic forms, are the artistic creation through which art, and here Psaltikē, is appreciated in all its grandeur and becomes an object of awe. Regarding this, in these arrangements the Chant reaches a point of artistic autonomy and becomes confident in its tradition of succession, passed down to the many-member choir of its initiates and tutors — domestikoi, lampadarioi, protopsaltai. They are the ones who raised the magnificent monument of monophonic vocal music that accompanied and continues to accompany the offered prayers and petitions, doxologies and praises of the people named after Christ, the Greek Orthodox, during the...

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