Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Aim of Byzantine Music

The ecclesiastical music used by part of the Orthodox world (primarily by the Greeks, Romanians, Arabs and in the Balkan region – the Russians used this before, now they use more westernise music) is called Byzantine. This is because this music was developed and mastered during the Byzantine epoch, within the Byzantine Empire. What is this music’s aim, within worship?

‘The aim of this music is not to display the fine voices of the chanters, or to entertain the congregation, or to evoke aesthetic experience. Indeed, the chanters must be well executed and pleasant to hear. However, the good voices and the good execution are not things it seeks for their own sake; and the pleasure it evokes is not an end it deliberately seeks, but something incidental, and, further, is not mere aesthetic pleasure but something much richer and higher. The aim of Byzantine sacred music is spiritual. This music is, in the first place, a means of worship and veneration; and in the second place, a means of self-perfection, or eliciting and cultivating man’s higher thoughts and feelings and of opposing and eliminating his lower, undesirable ones.’[1] 

[1] Cavarnos, Constantine, Byzantine Sacred Music, (Massachusetts, Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1981), pp.9-10.  

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