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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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Translator’s note


Although Byzantium has been the subject of much study in recent decades for inspiring religious splendour through its artistic, especially iconographic and architectural artefacts of the Middle Byzantine period (AD 843–1204) and the so-called Palaeologan Renaissance (1261–1325), including the areas of literature, learning, theological controversy and liturgy, the opposite is mostly true of Byzantine musical culture. Clearly, the main reason for this is that the analysis of the preserved artefacts of Byzantium’s musical life, namely, the Medieval manuscripts containing Byzantine chant notation, have been the specialized domain of musicologists, whose observations have been largely unavailable to an English-reading audience.

Even in optimal circumstances, no single scholar could ever be expected to sift through the thousands of extant Byzantine music manuscripts, presupposing the necessary permissions, time and resources to travel to remote locations for the painstaking and tedious task of manual inspection. This is exactly why this important, seminal study by Grēgorios Stathēs, an internationally renowned Byzantine musicologist, professor emeritus of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and my doctoral professor, is such a significant contribution to the discussion of Byzantium’s musical legacy. He possesses an intimate knowledge of the vast caches of Medieval manuscripts containing Byzantine chant notation in the numerous libraries on the Monastic Republic of Mount Athos in northern Greece and beyond — and his monumental cataloguing is now in its fifth volume.

Within the great multiplicity of styles and forms utilized in the Byzantine chant repertoire, there...

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