ABOUT "NEW" BYZANTINE CHANT
Chant is a form of purely vocal music that serves a written text.
The words are intoned using a limited scale, and melodic
formulas are used to emphasize certain words and syllables. In
chant, the music is shaped by the text, as opposed to song, in
which the music takes a fixed melody and has equal or greater
artistic importance than the text.
The purest form of chant is monophonic, that is, there is a single
melodic line. Byzantine chant is often duophonic, having a
melodic line accompanied by a lower droned note which
enforces the base tonality of the mode. A melodic line could be
harmonized with chords and still be considered chant, provided
that the text remains dominant and the harmonies are
homophonic and do not distract from the flow of the words. This
would preclude the use of contrapuntal polyphony and
complicated chord structures.
There is a certain style (or yphos) associated with Byzantine
chant. This style has a unique vocal character and includes
much ornamentation, vocal inflections, and precise
micro-tunings of scales. The yphos is generally employed by
chanters trained in the art of Byzantine music.
The music of this web page is aimed primarily for the use of lay
choirs and congregations. We call it "New Byzantine Chant"
because, while it is based upon Byzantine music theory, it can
be chanted in a Western vocal style in English by lay choirs and
congregations using the modern even-tempered scale.
Congregational chanting is becoming a more important part of
Greek Orthodox worship, and represents a return to an ancient
Christian practice. However, this does not preclude its use with
the proper yphos and classical style. We also provide our
English translations in Byzantine notation.
We do not wish to discourage the study and practice of
traditional Byzantine chant. It is a great art with a great legacy in
the Greek Orthodox Church. However, in the absence of
classically trained chanters, some parishes have the need to use
Western-trained musicians as their chanters. This website is
partly intended to help such people to used their known skills to
chant in a more traditional way, and to provide them with
resources that will allow them to execute the role of chanter to
the fullest possible extent. It may also be the basis of continuing
one's education in traditional Byzantine music.