©Ioannis Papathanasiou 1996

An "Abridged" analysis of Heirmologion and Sticherarion Melodies of the Fourth Authentic Mode.

                By Ioannis Papathanasiou

On the occasion of the 19th International Congress on Byzantine Studies that took place in Denmark (Copenhagen 18-24 August 1996), and within the framework of the application of new methodologies on musical analysis, this paper intents to deal with a new kind of analysis of the Byzantine melodies, that would simplify in the future the comparison between musical units. The results of this study were based upon the melodies of the Fourth authentic mode, as they appear in the heirmologion and the sticherarion. More specifically, the analysis of all melodies, as they are transmitted to us from a heirmologion of the year 1281, the Crypt. Epsilon.gamma.II (1), constituted the base for tracing the major characteristics of the fourth authentic mode. It is a codex with a notation of a fully developed middle Byzantine type which could constitute the base for the study of previous and later heirmologion manuscripts, since it is a representative manuscript of the group II/ v. Busch (2), and therefore its melodies are an expression of the stable melodic heirmological tradition. Further on, a large number of stichera of the fourth authentic mode was examined from the manuscript Ambrosianus A139 sup. (3), AD 1341, which along with the MS Sinai gr. 1230 (4), according to the latest studies of Jõrgen Raasted, it is placed in the second group of manuscripts that reflects the revision of the Sticherarion by Ioannis Koukouzeles (5).

    After a systematic examination of the melodic material of the fourth authentic mode, we may come to the same conclusions with those drawn by Prof. Alberto Doda, who refers that, as far as the third authentic mode is concerned, it is possible to identify the registers F-a, a-c, c-d(e), within which the melody develops. According to Doda's theory, the passage from one register to the immediately lower (always in relation with the stress of the poetic text), produces the cadences through which the melody is articulated in musical phrases (6). However, the fourth authentic mode develops within a greater range (7), and in general when a melody moves in high registers, then consequently the intervals that are used are smaller. As a result, and as this is illustrated in the following table, the registers that are used in the melodies of the fourth authentic mode, are articulated with intervals of second and in some cases with intervals of third.


f-g (a')

    In relation with the appearance of formulas and according to the wiewpoint expressed by Raasted (8) and Doda, we can unreservedly accept the aspect claiming that from the moment the melodies were composed until the date of the first written monuments which bear them, these same melodies were passed from one generation to the other, through the oral tradition. During this same period, the use of these formulas was becoming increasingly intense, and thus as the result of the tradition, already by the 10th century, the formulas began to make their appearance in the first manuscripts provided by palaeoByzantine type notation. More specifically Doda refers that:


            "Una formula, in altre parole, non è semplicemente «a string of signs which occurs several times in the material»: essa puú essere definita come un movimento melodico divenuto tradizionale nella prassi del canto, abitualmente ed automaticamente eseguito in determinati contesti anche oltre o in contrasto con ciú che sarrebbe sufficente sulla base della normale tecnica melodica... secondo questo modo di vedere, le formule non sono un dato preesistente alla composizione dei canti, la quale, a sua volta non consiste nella selezione e nel collegamento di formule: la formularità al contrario, è una conseguenza della tradizione del canto, ed è costituita da un insieme di automatismi che emergono spontaneamente nell'atto stesso della composizione" (9).

    In 1977 Prof. George Amargianakis, proposed an opposite but still highly significant theory for the promotion of the contemporary scientific research. According to Amargianakis the formula corresponds to a recurrent appearance of neumes that is presented many times in the material to be examined, while in his attempt for a thorough analysis of the melodies with the use of the formulas, Amargianakis extents the definition of the formulas over the cases in which the succession of the neumes appears only once within the framework of the material (10).

    On the contrary, according to Velimirovic, the Byzantine musical formula, appears as a melodic elastic material, the use of which is restricted to the vital segments of a musical composition, in the beginning and in the ending of the piece (11).

    By studying the heirmoi and the stichera of the fourth authentic mode, we notice that it is possible for the melodies to breakdown in complete musical phrases, within which one can identify the use of the same composition "technique" detected by Doda in connection with the melodies of the third mode (12). This breakdown offers us the possibility to formulate a new suggestion in relevance with the formulas, according to which the formula appears not as a steady recurrence of neumes, but as an elastic material, described as such by Velimirovic, although, in my opinion, this can not be restricted in some particular segment, either in the beginning or at the end of a musical unit. The formula appears with the form of the musical phrase itself, thus consisting a composition manner. On the contrary, according to Doda, the formula "figura come una linea melodica cristallizzata, tradizionalmente impiegata per indicare la fine del canto o di una sua porzione pi% o meno estesa; essa è un segnale convenzionale, non una frase a sé stante..." (13). The fact that we follow up to a certain extent Doda's thought, denoting that the formula is a melodic movement which obtained its steady conventional character "through practice", does not prevents us from sustaining that the musical formula corresponds to a complete musical phrase and that the musical phrases- through their ability, which they provided, to improvise- occurred and dressed the poetic text at the very moment of its creation. The musical phrase or "formulaic" phrase as it will be referred from now on, is the result of combining different features: the specific length of the melodic movement, the articulation mechanism of the musical registers as well as the particular modal characteristics. A completed musical phrase comprises of the beginning, the middle and the end, although the beginning (intonatio) is often omitted. Within the phrases, it is the highest notes of each register that bear musical stress (in relation with the stress of the poetic text). One or more phrases construct the musical kola which in most of the cases coincide with the kola of the poetic text. The composer and consequently the singer correlates the text with the musical phrases which depending on their position, make quite distinct the energy of the middle or the final cadence. The singer then, been aware of the specific technique, had the possibility, according to the case and in compliance with the poetic text, to intervene and within the permissible limit to modify the length of the melody. Moreover, it is known to us that depending on the character or the importance of the feast, there was the possibility to expand the length of the chants, therefore of the liturgy itself (14). In this manner, the diversification of the written from the oral tradition can be justified to a certain extent, a fact that becomes more distinct already since the 12th century, when the musical notation, far from been stenographic, became apt to express the melodic movement in details (16).

    As far as the fourth authentic mode is concerned, the melodic line develops within specific areas that demarcate the four "formulaic" phrases, whose characteristics I will attempt to referfurther on, although I hold my reserves.

    For the demonstration of the musical examples, some characteristics phrases were isolated from the selected following melodies. The numbering of the heirmoi is done according to the system of J. Raasted, based on the Eustratiades' edition of the "Heirmologion" (18).


            1160    Eparthenta se idousa hê Ekklêsia

            1187    Ouk estin soi homoios

            1190    Ho ktêsamenos hêmas

            1191    En kêtei Christe triêmereusas

            1226    Lytêrion katharsin

            1227    Hilasmos hêmin Christe

            1291    Megalynomen pantes


            1    Asma asmatön (23/4)

            2    Deute philomartyres (23/4)

            3    Baptizetai Christos (6/1)

            4    Panta ta ethnê (23/4)

            5    Anapesön en tö sthêthei (26/9)

            6    Kyrie hê ek patros sou gennêsis(anatolikon)

            7    Kyrie anelthön en tö staurö (apostichon)

            8    Ek brephous egenou (22/9)

            9    Choreias egeirate philomartyres (24/9)

            10    Hypodêsamenos Sergios (7/10)


Kalophonic Stichera: (from MS Sinai gr. 1566)

            a    Ths Partheneias ton naon (Nov. 9) (19)

    The first "formulaic" phrase (Table 1), develops between c and f. The inside melody moves within three different registers: c-d/ d-e/ e-f and the cadences are formulated with the passage from the register e-f to the register e-d. This cadence is used either as a middle or final and it is one of the most common of the fourth authentic mode. The occurrence of the melodic movement b-c, that appears more often in the sticherarion melodies, is justified as a re-intonatio, that leads the melody to the register c-d.

Ambitus Registers in use Cadence
c-f c-d/d-e/e-f e-f > e-d

    The second "formulaic" phrase (Table 2) develops between G and c(d). The melody moves within three different registers: G-b/ b-c/ c-d. The cadence is formulated with the passage from the register c-d or b-c to the register b-G. Also this cadence is used as middle or final for the fourth authentic mode.

Ambitus Registers in use Cadence
G-c(d) G-b/ b-c/ (c-d) b-c> b-G
c-d > b-G

    The third "formulaic" phrase (Table 3), develops between c and g(a'). The melody moves within three different registers: c-d / d-f / f-g(a') and the cadences are formulated with the passage from the register f-g to the register f-d. This cadence is used as a middle for the fourth authentic mode. The occurrence of the melodic movement b-c-d, that appears more often in the sticherarion melodies, is justified as a re-intonatio, that leads the melody to the register c-d.

Ambitus Registers in use Cadence
c-g(a') c-d/ d-f/ f-g (a') f-g (a') > f-d

    The fourth "formulaic" phrase (Table 4), a more composite one since it includes more cases, develops between a-e or between a-d. Melodic movements are observed in the registers a-c/ b-d/ c-d/ d-e. The cadence is formulated with the passage from the register e-d to the register b-d and from the registers e-d or d-c to the register c-a. Often this cadence leads the melody to an upward movement with a character of cadence, middle or final.

Ambitus Registers in use Cadence
a-e a-c/b-d/d-e e-d > d-b
e-d > c-a >
a-d a-c/c-d c-d > c-a >

    These are the characteristics of the four "formulaic" phrases which can be restricted not only in th syllabic or semi-syllabic type melodies, but also within kalophonic stichera, giving thus the possibility to make a rather easy comparison between the musical units of the same or even of different historical periods.


1) L. TARDO, Hirmologium Cryptense, (Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae, Serie principale III), Roma 1951.

2) R. v. BUSCH, Untersuchungen zum Byzantinischen Heirmologion der Echos Deuteros, Hamburg 1971, p. 99, I. PAPATHANASSIOU, Il quarto modo autentico nella tradizione medievale Irmologica, Voll. 1, 2a, 2b, Ph.D.-thesis, University of Copenhagen 1994, esp. Vol. 1, pp. 20-21, 27, 92, 97.

3) L. PERRIA-J. RAASTED, Sticherarium Ambrosianum, (Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae, Pars principalis et pars suppletoria, XI), Copenhaque 1992.

4) G. AMARGIANAKIS, An analysis of stichera in the Deuteros Modes. The Stichera Idiomela for the Month of September in the Modes Deuteros, Plagal Deuteros, and Nenano Transcribed from the Manuscript Sinai 1230 (A.D. 1365), in Cahiers de l'Institut du Moyen-age Grec et Latin, 22-23 (1977).

5) see O. STRUNK, Melody Construction in Byzantine Chant, in Actes du XIIe congres international d' etudes Byzantines, Belgrade 1993, pp. 365-373, reprinted in Essays on Music in the Byzantine World, ed. Kenneth Levy, New York 1977, pp. 191-201, IDEM, P. Lorenzo Tardo and his Ottoeco nei MSS. melurgici. Some Observations on the Stichera Dogmatika, in Bollettino della Badia Greca di Grottaferrata, 21 (1967), pp. 21-34, reprinted in Essays on Music in the Byzantine World, ed. Kenneth Levy, New York 1977, pp. 255-267.

6) A. DODA, Considerazioni sulla 'meccanica' delle melodie irmologiche, in Studi di musica bizantina in onore di Giovanni Marzi, ed. Alberto Doda, Cremona 1996, pp. 45-69, esp. pp. 49-51.

7) Indeed, the melodic ambitus is quite extensive (which in some sticheraric melodies seldom reaches even b'. hence on no occasion it is justified at the transcriptions, as proposed by Tillyard and Wellesz, to transpose the melodies a fifth lower in relation with the initial martyria

8) " ... there is nothing in this written tradition which suggests that the formulaism was created together with the oldest musical manuscripts. On the contrary we must assume that formulaism came first - otherwise we would not, for instance, be able to explain why singers could use even the most imprecise and sketchy types of palaeoByzantine musical notation.", J. RAASTED, Formulaism and Orality in Byzantine Chant, in Cantus Planus, (Papers Read at the Fourth Meeting Pecs, Hungary 3-8 September 1990), Budapest 1992, pp. 231-240, esp. p. 231.

9) DODA, Melodie irmologiche, cit., p. 61, IDEM, Coislin Notation. Problems and Working Hypotheses, in

PalaeoByzantine Notations, A Reconsideration of the Source Material, ( ed. by Jõrgen Raasted and Christian Troelsgård), Hernen 1995, pp. 63-79, esp. p. 69.

10) " ... I use the term "formula" to denote a recurrent sequence of neumes, i. e. a string of signs which occurs several times in the material", G. AMARGIANAKIS, An analysisof stichera in the Deuteros Modes. The Stichera Idiomela for the Month of September in the Modes Deuteros, Plagal Deuteros, and Nenano Transcribed from the Manuscript Sinai 1230 (A.D. 1365), in Cahiers de l'Institut du Moyen-age Grec et Latin, 22-23 (1977), p. 10, p. 10 note 1.

11) "The Byzantine concept of a "melodic formula" does not represent an ossification of melodic outline but on the contrary offers with its multifarious appearances the possibility for infinite variations. The Byzantine "melodic formula" is a highly elastic melodic skeleton. It is in fact a ~framework within which there are elements of fixation, yet still subject to transformation... the position of the formulae is usually restricted to the truly vital segments of a musical composition: a) the ending....and b) in the beginning of the piece...", M. VELIMIROVIC, The Byzantine Heirmos and Heirmologion, in Gattungen der Musik in Einzeldarstellungen, Gedenkschrift Leo Schrade, Mùnchen 1973, pp. 192-244, esp. p. 235.

12) DODA, melodie irmologiche, cit.

13) DODA, melodie irmologiche, cit., p. 53, see also L. TREITLER, Homer and Gregory: The Transmission of Epic Poetry and Plainchant, in Musical Quarterly, LX (1974), pp. 333-72, esp. p. 352.

14) G. STATHIS, The "abridgements" of Byzantine and Post Byzantine Compositions, in Cahiers de l'Institut du Noyenfige Grec et Latin, 44 (1983), pp. 16-38, J. RAASTED, Length and Festivity. On some prolongation techniques in Byzantine Chant, in Liturgy ant the Arts in the Middle Ages, (Papers in Honour of Clifford C. Flanigan), Museum Tusculanum Press, Copenhagen 1996. For a similar view concerning the 'argê' and 'syntomê' interpretation of the western Church music see HIERONIMUS DE MORAVIA, Tractatus de musica. ( French translation by Esther Lachapelle, Guy Lobrichon and Marcel Peres). Edition of the Latin text by Christian Mejer, Paris 1996.

15) An example of middle-Byzantine notation is found in the manuscript Athos Iviron 470, middle of the 12th century, while the first dated manuscripts, appeared in the last quarter of the same century. However, according to the features provided by some manuscripts of provincial origin, we could assume that the middle-Byzantine type notation made its appearance in the central regions of the empire, already since the first half of the 12t century, I. PAPATHANASSIOU, The musical notation of the Sticherarion MS Vat. Barb. gr. 483, in Proceedings of the Danish Institut at Athens, Supplementary Series, II, (Forthcoming).

16) According to this point of view, the medieval melodies could be performed following the melodic line provided by manuscripts themselves, hence this does not minimise the possibility to prolong the melodies according with the unwritten laws of the oral tradition, RAASTED, Length and Festivity, cit.

17) The initial pitch when it corresponds to the base of the fourth mode (G) is not included in the extent of some phrases.

18) J. RAASTED, Observations on the Manuscript Tradition of Byzantine Music. I: A list of Heirmos Call-Numbers, Based on Eustratiades' Edition of the Heirmologion, in C&hiers del'Institut du Moyen-fige Grec et Latin, 1 (1969), pp. 112, IDEM, Observations on the Manuscript Tradition of Byzantine Music.II: The Contents of Some Early Heirmologia, in Cahiers de l'Institut du Noyen-age Grec et Latin, 8 (l972), pp. 35-47, S. Eustratiades, Heirmologion, Chennevieres-sur-Marne 1932.

19) The transcription of the entire sticheron is found in M. ALEXANDRU-B. SCHARTAU, A note on the late Byzantine Ecclesiastical Composer Angelos Gregorios, in Cahiers de l'Institut du Moyen-age Grec et Latin, 64 (1994), pp. 18-32, esp. pp. 25-30.