Braille Byzantine Music Notation
Sticheraric melodies are melodies in which most syllables are held for two or more beats. These melodies are more elaborate than heirmologic melodies, in which most syllables are held for only one beat. Sticheraric melodies also tend to have a greater range and more fthoras. This will give us the opportunity to introduce all the most common fthoras. The most frequently used hymns set to sticheraric melodies are the idiomela and doxastica of feast days, as well as many hymns of the Octoechos for Saturday Vespers and Sunday Orthros. As we shall see, the scales of most modes is the same for both its sticheraric and its heirmologic melodies.
Because sticheraric melodies are chanted at a slower tempo than heirmologic melodies, adding embellishments to the melody is not simply more feasible, but it is expected. Furthermore, it would be a serious mistake to view those embellishments as "arbitrary deviations" from what the melody "really is" (in terms of what the solfege notes are). Chanting the solfege notes is called the "metrophonia" in Greek, and the adjective often accompanying the word "metrophonia" is the adjective "dry." As we mentioned in the chapter on qualitative symbols, Byzantine notation is merely an attempt to capture on paper the oral tradition of Byzantine chant. For the most part, the embellishments added by traditional chanters are very specific and not at all arbitrary. In other words, a particular melodic phrase has particular embellishments implied. The best way to learn these particular embellishments is to pay close attention to recordings of traditional chanters. A harder way to learn these embellishments is to study the "old notation," i.e., the way Byzantine music was written before the advent of the "New Method" (i.e., the Byzantine notation you are learning now) of the "Three Teachers" in the early 19th century. The old notation just prior to that reformation contained more qualitative symbols that were not included in the New Method that helped to remind chanters where in the melody an embellishment is expected.
Sticheraric first mode has the same scale and tonic as heirmologic first mode. But its dominant pitches are Pa and Ga rather than Pa and Di (which is what they are for heirmologic first mode). Vou has an attraction down towards Pa. So if you listen very carefully to the pitch used for Vou in these exercises in first mode, you will notice that it is chanted slightly lower when the melody is on its way to Pa.
In the first line of exercise 173 are three braille words. The first word is the Greek word "echos," which means "mode." The second braille word is the initial martyria for first mode. The third word is an alpha in parentheses. As mentioned already, the letters of the Greek alphabet are used as ordinal numbers. So the first letter of the Greek alphabet (alpha) means "first," and is used here as a reminder that the complicated braille word preceding it merely indicates first mode. The final braille word in the first line of exercise 173 is the word "Pa" preceded by the Greek braille symbol for underlining and followed by a period.
Near the end of exercise 173, in the music for the syllable nu-alpha-iota at the end of the word "kekragenai," there is an enharmonic fthora placed on this Zo. This fthora is written in braille as: -W This means that all notes from this point onwards in this hymn are chanted according to the enharmonic scale. As we pointed out earlier, the only difference between the diatonic scale and the enharmonic scale is that Zo is always flat in the enharmonic scale. Thus, this fthora tells us that not only is this Zo flat (for the syllable nu-alpha-iota) also all subsequent occurrences of Zo. Considering, though, that there are no subsequent occurrences of Zo in this hymn, one could justifiably wonder why a flat was not used instead. One could even claim that even writing a flat is superfluous, considering that the rules of diatonic modes state that Zo will automatically be flat unless the melody is ascending through it or pausing there. But since this note on Zo is held for two beats, someone sight-reading it could mistakenly assume that the melody is going to pause there and might therefore chant Zo natural instead of Zo flat. So placing this fthora eliminates any doubt that this Zo must indeed be flat.
Exercise 173 (Kyrie Ekekraxa)
.>HOS _9-! 7A7 _PA4KY-V RI-\ E-[ E-: KE-,O KRA-R XA-\5'H9 PROS-[H: SE-@VR _P5 %-[ SA-^U KU-*\#9 SON-R/E5\ MU-S1 _P5 %-E SA-:<,:" KU-MH' SON-*[>\9 MU-\\ KY-:#::>9 RI-R/E5\ E-S _P5 KY-^V RI-\ E-[ E-: KE-,:<# KRA-\\ XA-8R" PROS-M# SE-:>R _G7 %-$ SA-[ KU-[ SON-,Q/\H9 MU-:2+O _Z0 PRO-@T6 SHES-R T>-[ FJ-\ N>-:,:/\9 T>S-\H: DE-O >-:>\ SE-:#9 JS-R/E5\ MU-S _P5 EN-] TJ-[ KE-\ KRA-: GE-,T N<-R-W ME-R PROS-\5'H9 SE-]3+\:>R1 _G7 %S-H SA-:# KU-S SON-*\>\" MU-M' KY-:#,UH9 RI-S/E5\ E-! _P5
In the middle of exercise 174, in the music for the last syllable of the word "anastanti," there is a hard chromatic fthora of Di, which is written in braille as follows: -\ The effect of this fthora is that the intervals of all subsequent notes (until the next fthora, that is) above and below this note will be the intervals of notes above and below Di of the hard chromatic scale. Therefore, since this fthora is placed on Pa, the interval between it and the Nee below it will no longer be a whole step (as it is in the diatonic scale) but a half step (as is the interval between Di and Ga in the hard chromatic scale)--or to be precise, 33 cents less than a half step. Likewise, the interval between Pa and Zo will no longer be what it is in the diatonic scale, but it will be the interval between Di and Vou in the hard chromatic scale, which is exactly two whole steps. So, this means that all Nee's will be chanted sharp and all Zo's will be chanted flat until the next fthora. Since the intervals after this fthora correspond to the intervals relative to Di, when we sing the solfege, we use the new names of notes that correspond to the fthora. In other words, as soon as a fthora of Di is placed on Pa, we no longer call that Pa "Pa," but we call that Pa "Di." Likewise, we don't call the Nee "Nee" anymore, but we call it "Ga."
Three syllables later is the following martryia: _8P Since at this point the melody is in a chromatic scale, the third rather than the second braille character of the martyria indicates the "absolute pitch" at that point (i.e., the pitch of that point in the melody relative to the hymn's initial martyria) which is Pa (indicated by the braille letter "P"). The second braille character indicates that the "relative pitch"(i.e., what the pitches of notes relative to it will be) at that point is three steps above the tonic in a hard chromatic scale.
Immediately after that martyria are the braille characters: -Z which constitute the diatonic fthora of Pa. (As you may have noticed all fthoras are preceded by a hyphen and are written immediately after a note or a martyria.) Since it is a diatonic fthora, this means that we are no longer in the hard chromatic scale, and since it is a fthora of Pa, we will henceforth use the name "Pa" for this pitch when chanting the solfege.
Six syllables after that fthora is another fthora! This fthora -! is the diatonic fthora of Ke, and it is placed on Pa. Therefore, the interval between this note and the note above it will be the interval between Ke and Zo. And as we know, Zo is always flat in diatonic modes (unless the melody passes up through it to Nee or pauses on Zo). Therefore, when the melody ascends one step up from there (which in an absolute sense is Vou but in a relative sense is Zo), that note will be flat. Likewise, when the melody descends two steps down from that fthora (which will be Zo in an absolute sense but Ga in a relative sense), that note will be chanted at a pitch that is two whole steps lower than Pa, since Pa becomes Ke, and Ga (which is two steps below Ke) is two whole steps lower than Ke).
Notice that the martyria at the end of that phrase is: ^D5 The first braille character of this martyria is dots 45 to indicate that we are in the lower octave. The second braille character is "D" to indicate that we are on the absolute pitch of Di. And the third braille character indicates that we are at the relative pitch of a diatonic Pa (since we are four steps lower than that diatonic martyria of Ke).
On the note immediately after that martyria for Low Di is the following fthora: -= which is the diatonic fthora for Ga. Since it is placed on Ga, it brings everything back to the original scale of the hymn. It is extremely rare for a hymn not to end up in the same scale it started with.
Exercise 174 (Kyklosate Laoi)
_P5 KY-: KLJ-,O SA-R TE-R LA-\/ [-O SI-:>\ JN-O _P5 K<-] PE-[ RI-\ LA-@U BE-@P TE-:#,UH9 *-S/E5\ T>N-S _P5 K<-: DO-V TE-\ DO-: XAN-[ EN-\ *-\ T>-V TJ-\ A-[ NA-[ STAN-,*[# TI-\-RD\ EK-R NE-:>\H KRJN-Q _8P-Z O-V TI-\ *-[ TOS-,Q E-R STIN-RG5\\-! O-*[>\ ?E-R OS-,:#\\ >-,*\#\\9 MJN-[\' ^D5 O-^W-= LY-[ TRJ-\ SA-:#9 ME-\\9 NOS-\\ >-:# MAS-:>R _G7 EK-$ TJN-[ A-[ NO-[ MI-[ JN-:#:5'H9 >-S/E5\ MJN-S _P5
Exercise 175 is the first eothinon doxasticon chanted in Sunday Orthros. As you will notice in this mode and in other modes, these eothina doxastica tend to have melodic phrases that are more elaborate than regular sticheraric melodies. These melodic phrases or "fomulae" are taken from what is known as the "old sticheraric melodies." The briefer sticheraric formulae (such as those found in the previous exercise) were invented in the 18th century as abbreviations of those old sticheraric melodies.
A relatively frequent characteristic of old sticheraric melodies is the use of the "meaningless n." An ancient tradition in Byzantine chant is to insert meaningless consonants (usually an "n" or the letter "chi") when a vowel is held for a long time. This was done merely for the aesthetics, i.e., to erase the unpleasantness of a sustained vowel. In order to differentiate an "n" that was inserted for this reason from an "n" that is part of the lyrics, composers used two different symbols (even though one different symbol would have been sufficient). In particular, in Byzantine music for the sighted they used a symbol shaped like the Greek letter "eta" after it has been rotated 180 degrees to indicate a meaningless "n" before an epsilon; whereas to indicate a meaningless "n" before all other vowels, they used a symbol that looks like an English question mark that is missing its dot. In Braille Byzantine notation, the former is written as the letter "n" preceded by dots 236: 8N and the latter as the letter "n" preceded by dots 2356: 7N You will encounter the former "meaningless n" near the beginning of the following hymn in the syllable: 8NE And a little past the middle of the following hymn, you will encounter the latter "meaningless n" in the syllable: 7Ni Some versions of this hymn also place another meaningless "n" a few syllables before this, where this version in braille has the syllable "sta." Evidently, the chanter who recorded exercise 175 had that version, so don't be surprised when you hear him say "na" where the braille version says "sta."
Exercise 175 (First Eothinon Doxasticon)
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
Excellent! I know how satisfying it must feel for you to be able to chant these beautiful compositions now. You are now ready to continue with ecclesiastical hymns with melodies in sticheraric second mode.