Musicologie Médiévale

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Constantin Floros' “Origin of Western Neume Notation” under open access conditions (with an appendix about the reception of "Universale Neumenkunde" by Neil Moran and Luca Ricossa)

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The other book:

The Origins of Russian Music : Introduction to the Kondakarian Notation (Revised and Translated by Neil Moran with a Chapter On Relationships between Latin, Byzantine and Slavonic Church Music)

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Titel The origins of Russian music : introduction to the Kondakarian notation / Constantin Floros. Rev., transl. by Neil K. Moran
With a chapter on relationships between Latin, Byzantine and Slavonic church music / by Neil K. Moran
Person(en) Floros, Constantin (Verfasser)
Moran, Neil K.
Verlag Frankfurt, M. ; Berlin ; Bern ; Bruxelles ; New York, NY ; Oxford ; Wien : Lang
Zeitliche Einordnung Erscheinungsdatum: 2009
Umfang/Format XIX, 311 S. : Ill., Noten ; 21 cm
ISBN/Einband/Preis 978-3-631-59553-4 Pp. : EUR 49.80
EAN 9783631595534
Sprache(n) Englisch (eng), Originalsprache(n): Einzelne andere Sprachen (und)
Anmerkungen Literaturverz. S. 288 - 299
Schlagwörter Kondakar
DDC-Notation 780.1480947 [DDC22ger]
Sachgruppe(n) 780 Musik
Weiterführende Informationen Inhaltsverzeichnis



Lingas, A., 2012. The origins of Russian music. Introduction to the Kondakarian Notation. Revised, translated, and with a chapter on relationships between Latin, Byzantine and Slavonic church music by Neil K. Moran. By Constantin Floros. Pp. xix+312 incl. 16 figs, 3 catalogues of neumes, 25 musical examples and 60 tables. Frankfurt-am-Main: Peter Lang, 2009. £41.90. 978 3 631 59553 4. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 63(01), 133–134. doi:10.1017/S0022046911001965.

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Tags: Byzantine Chant, Livres en-ligne

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Comment by Oliver Gerlach on June 16, 2018 at 13:35

I will just make a start with Neil Moran's brilliant article about the reception history, and his quotation of my words I used here within a discussion of the forum. I have to admit that they were mainly addressed to Dominque Gatté and Luca Ricossa who paid an exceptional respect and curiosity for Floros’ comparative study.

Nevertheless, our discussions here revealed quite clearly that the majority (also of the younger generation of scholars) has a lot of prejudices against the “Universale Neumenkunde” which they just grasped from their teachers, usually without questioning their opinion. Obviously, they die not so easily out... as Neil Moran said in his conclusion. And I also do not think that this is a personal problem of certain scholars, although some reviewers had been mentioned: Floros' reply to Michel Huglo is very enlightening and should not be misunderstood as a personal exchange, because he addresses a very wide-spread ignorance! The real problem is that there are nowadays musicologists who do believe that Latin palaeography is enough to understand European music history... This attitude might  be possible for someone who studies theology, but for musicologists such an attitude is a scandal! And by the way, it always was, since such a musicology was not possible during the time of Hugo Riemann, Johannes Wolf and Oskar Fleischer... We should be absolut clear here that we are talking about a very serious decline which concerns Western musicology as an outdated discipline, with the exception of my colleagues in Balkan countries who often do suffer from the same “monoculture” the other way round!

To be fair I would like mention that Michel Huglo had a strong interest in Greek palaeography (there is also a correspondence with Oliver Strunk and with Walter Berschin) and his biography is more complex that I would really call certain authorities which Floros might have missed to address “his friends” (in certain cases they were rather the opposite). The same is true for Charles Atkinson whom I know well enough to say that it was real modesty, when he said that he would not dare to do such a comparative study as was done by Constantin Floros. He simply meant he could not have done it, despite of his own interest he had for Greek music theory. Paula Higgins was right mentioning Max Haas within a certain mainstream, and I also do know Haas well enough to tell this quotation would be perceived by him as a very serious insult, but everyone who studied some semesters in Basel, also knows that the fight against this mainstream was often rather desperate! Constantin Floros was just lucky not to know about these problems...

Prejudices do also exist among those scholars who are familiar with Slavonic or Greek music palaeography, but the reason, why Floros' “Universale Neumenkunde” was perceived in a more positive light among scholars occupied with other fields than “Gregorian chant” (or better Western traditions of plainchant), were two:

  1. On the behalf of the Latin middle ages everything depends on Greek terminology and mentioning it just touches a deep feeling of inferiority which has become over a long history of 3000 years part of the Italian mentality (in at least 30% of the population, not only located in the South, but everywhere in the world, we arrive at the absurd point, where they inferior in comparison with their very own culture). The same sensation of inferiority does also exist among all those medievists who call themselves medievists, although they do only understand just one or two medieval languages (which even worse, because theologists usually do know some more)...
  2. Scholars of Orthodox chant do know that Constantin Floros did try something that none of them had tried before him, and they simply had no reason not to acknowledge it.

The most clear evidence of the second is the discussion, whether the Slavonic kondakarion notation is decipherable or not. Everyone who knows the thin volume of Floros' “Einführung in die Neumenkunde”, also does know that all the headings of subjects concerned with the Slavic reception of Greek hymnography are quite up-to-date, despite Floros' book was published 30 years ago! The scholarly discussion of these questions has grown enormously during the following decades, and a Russian colleague once said to me: “Oh it usually happens once per year that a scholar announces he or she did finally succeed to decipher it, while others rather avoid to transcribe, because they feel not competent enough as readers!” I think these scrupules concerning the own competences to read a past form of notation are something, where Latin palaeographers could learn... especially those who seem to know everything to the very detail!

But Constantin Floros was right to mention that there were first approaches since the 1960s and he just mentioned himself, while Alexander Lingas pointed in his review at Kenneth Levy's independent approach who published his own transcription of Russian kondakaria in the proceedings of a conference about “Anfänge der slavischen Musik” held in Bratislava during August 1964. From the way his famous contribution is quoted, we can easily deduce that only very few libraries worldwide do have this volume. I will offer you a scan of his contribution in the Byzantine group, because I could buy the book recently.

The advantage of Floros' comparatistic approach (in comparison with Max Haas rather intuitive one mentioned by Paula Higgins) is that he did never transcribe a notation, he did not understand (as I did for instance in my hypothetical reconstruction of the Western cherubikon, based on the formulas of a particular melos), but he compared several versions given in various books of various periods (sometimes in notation we might dare to decipher, sometimes we rather do not dare). Nevertheless, although it is more than unlikely that all these version do agree among each other in the very detail, it is somehow a written transmission of one and the same melody (even in such a tricky case like the cherubikon which was hardly never performed in an identical way, because it had to be celebrated to often).

Comment by Oliver Gerlach on June 14, 2018 at 8:32

I think this generous offer is also an opportunity to discuss the musicological reception of Floros' “Universale Neumenkunde”.


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