Strange Beautiful Music of the Wild...East?

As I listened to and explore the various styles of chant, I find the Byzantine chant the most interesting. In my opinion, an argument can be made that Rome never truly fell. You might say that it just moved a bit east. 

Burkholder, Grout, and Palisca state in their text, “The most characteristic Byzantine chants were hymns, which became more prominent in the liturgy and more highly developed in Eastern churches than in the west”(28) This is fascinating to me. The chromatic melodic selections of this particular style of chant depict not only a religious expression but a regional culture as well. With the rise of Islam throughout the middle ages, one can’t help but consider that these two faiths share extraordinary commonalities in the essence of their music. 

What draws me to this style is an excitement about the Eastern frontier and what it was like for these people at the time. Upon listening to this particular style, one might hear parallels to the sultry sounds of Dick Dale, the great 60’s surf guitarist, which is often characterized by his use of the Hungarian minor scale. This connection is even made further when you consider the path this music travelled. Burkholder, Grout, and Palisca also state, “Byzantine missionaries took their rite north to the Slavs starting in the 9th century.”(28) North of Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul, is modern-day Romania and Hungary. 

To demonstrate this, I submit: Αλληλουάριον, Ήχος α' (Alleluarion in 1st Mode) 

While taking all of this under consideration, I believe that Gregorian, or Plainchant, is the most popular of the chants currently because of its geographic sphere juxtaposed with some of the major players of the time. Burkholder, Grout, and Palisca state in their text, “The alliance between Pope and King strengthened both, and in seeking to impose a common liturgy and body of music Pippin sought to consolidate his diverse kingdom serving goals that were as much political as religious.”(28) The Pope was Pope Stephen II and the King was Pippen, the father of Charlemagne. The Gregorian style of chant would become the popular style with the Roman Catholic Church, one of the most powerful institutions in the world to this day. And it would also be the particular style of choice for a very large geographic region in Western Europe, an area that would soon prove to be a cultural hub for the world in centuries to come. Put simply, I think Gregorian stuck because it had powerful friends in high places. There were multiple interests at work in the perpetuation of this dialect. Whereas other styles like Byzantine and Mozarabic, in my opinion, would mix and mingle with the border cultures of North Africa, Spain and the Middle East. 

Gregorian Chant was a common currency. 

Burkholder, J.Peter, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca.  A History of Western Music. Ninth Edition New York.: W.W. Norton and Company, inc., 2014, Print.

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