Byzantine Music Culture

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ByZantine Music culture
What is known today as Byzantine music has been developed and refined for over two millennia. With its earliest roots going back to Pythagoras' philosophy on the division of chords, its latest and final revision took place in 1881 in the city of Istanbul; the city still referred to by the practitioners of this complex art by its more ancient name of Constantinople. For the purposes of this essay, the name Constantinople will refer to the city up to and including the present day. To provide for a clearer understanding of the theory of Byzantine music, the process of the development of Byzantine music as it is known today will be divided into two eras. We will call these two eras pre-Byzantine, and Byzantine periods of musical development. The pre-Byzantine part of the essay will cover developments made before the foundation of Constantinople. This period includes everything before c. 330 C.E. The Byzantine period will include all of the advancements made after the founding of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire. Every refinement made up to the present day, the most important dates being the simplification of the notation in 1821 by John Koukouzeles and the great council of 1881, will be included in this period, but not, unfortunately in the essay.

Although there is a very significant part played by notational theory on the development of Byzantine music theory and Hymnography, the scope of this essay does not allow for us to delve into this connection too deeply. It is therefore necessary to attempt to separate these two arts as much as we can and focus on the strict Hymnographical and theoretical part of the development.

The date of 330 is an important date to end this period because the adoption of a practice of toleration of Christianity by the Roman Empire, under Constantine the Great,…...

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