Carsten Hoeg on Mount Athos

To prepare the MMB project, Carsten Hoeg traveled in 1932 to Mount Athos (and other locations with important libraries in the Eastern Mediterranean region) in order to identify and photograph manuscripts of Byzantine chant. His first acquaintance with Greek musical manuscripts was, however, made some fifteen years earlier, as he around 1916-1918 assisted Ada Adler (1878-1946), the later editor of the Suidae Lexicon, in cataloguing the few Byzantine musical manuscripts kept in the Royal Library at Copenhagen.

His interest in the living tradition of Byzantine chant was stimulated when he in 1922 and 1924 pioneered Danish ethnographic research through field work among the Sarakatzanes, a nomadic people of Northern Greece, studying their dialect, customs and folk poetry traditions.

Hoeg returned to the Holy Mountain a couple of times, always travelling with his portable camera to document musical sources, - and to grasp the spirit of a given place or moment.

On various occasions he also interviewed monks and priests about chant and made recordings of their performances. In this example, preserved on a 78 rpm shellac record in the MMB archive, Hoeg gently encourages the monk to sing 'With the text, please!', after the singer pedagogically had offered to perform an Alleluia-refrain for the Ainoi in first plagal mode with solmization syllables.

Listen to the Allelouiarion:
This article was updated on 21 september 2021