Traces of 'Simple Psalmody' in late- and post-Byzantine musical manuscripts. Melodic, modal and textual analysis of the Kekragarion tradition

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  • Giuseppe Sanfratello
The study of the Kekragarion chant tradition has over time become an important aspect of Byzantine musicology, especially regarding the development of “simple psalmody”. Simple psalmody describes the functional side of Byzantine “psalm tones”, pointing out a set of recurrent behaviours in the adaptation of psalm verses to simple melodic lines, producing a sort of “skeleton” that eventually would form the background for more developed, “ornate” or “embellished”, psalm settings. Specifically regarding the Kekragaria, the present paper expands on a diachronic study published by Svetlana Kujumdzieva, primarily dealing with the rubrics reported in late Byzantine written musical manuscripts, and a contribution by Annette Jung, presenting a synchronic analysis of the fifteenth-century manuscript Sinai gr. 1255 – with focus on the modal intonations. The possibility of using the melodic profiles of such simple chant tradition to trace the development of the Kekragarion up to the latest settings composed in the nineteenth century has not been pursued until now. This paper presents the results of a diachronic, comparative analysis through the eight modes. Fourteen manuscripts have been studied, but for the actual analysis two manuscripts representing the Kekragaria versions contained in the whole group of manuscripts were selected for transcription. My survey shows how the melodic tradition of the late medieval Kekragarion has been partly maintained and partly developed over four centuries, and it also demonstrates how specific melodic features relate to the arrangement of the text.
Original languageEnglish
JournalUniversite de Copenhague. Institut du Moyen-Age Grec et Latin. Cahiers
Issue number86
Pages (from-to)1-63
Number of pages64
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2017

    Research areas

  • Faculty of Humanities - Byzantine chant, Musicology, Byzantine Liturgy, Psalms studies, Music philology

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