Erevnidis, P., 2006. “'In the Name of the Mode': Intervallic Content, Nomenclature and Numbering of the Modes.” In L. Dobszay, ed. Papers read at the 12th Meeting of the IMS Study Group “Cantus Planus” Lillafüred/Hungary, 2004. Aug. 23–28. Budapest: Institute for Musicology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, pp. 93–114. CP 2004.


While the synthesis between harmonikai and Carolingian chant theory can be studied between Boethius as a Carolingian source (we have no earlier manuscripts) and Hucbald, there has not really survived an early source which testified about the synthesis between the Byzantine octoechos and the Ancient Greek tropes, I mean how the Dorian mode on E—e became that of D—d. Harold Powers (Grove article "mode") wrote:

From the 6th century to the early 9th, when the repertory of Western plainchant achieved its basic forms, there is no record of descriptive or theoretical sources, and of course no notated music. Towards the end of this period a system of eight modal categories, for which there was no genuine precedent in Hellenistic theory, came to be associated with the rapidly stabilizing repertory of Gregorian chant. This system was proximately of medieval Byzantine origin, as indicated by the non-Hellenistic Greek names of the modes in the earliest Western sources from about 800.

The origins of the Eastern Christian system of eight modes – usually called Oktōēchos – are not entirely clear; but it seems more than probable that it was not delimited purely or even primarily by musical criteria. In any case, the octenary property of the modal system of Latin chant in the West was of non-Latin origin

Then he abruptly switched back to the Western synthesis and the reception of the Hagiopolites in Carolingian tonaries. In my imagination, the synthesis can probably explained, that Dorian as the main trope was defined by the fixed degrees of the tone system, the frame of the tetrachords had been B—E—a—b—e—aa, and it must have changed somewhen to A—D—G—a—d—g—aa. But so far, no source had been found which could offer any evidence. Concerning Carolingian theory, this could simply have been a misreading of Boethius, but please read the very original opinion in Pavlos' article.

Please bear in mind some slight modifications suggested by the author. If Pavlos agrees, I can also upload a pdf with the modifications added as a commentary, or Pavlos might upload an updated version of the text as pdf.


The happy meeting between Epitrope and Aristoxenos

While Chrysanthos linear description of the tetrachord α'—δ' (12:11 x 88:81 x 9:8 = 4:3, 151’ + 143’ + 204' = 498’ cents) was based on corrupted arithmetics (108/96/88/81 = 12 + 8 + 7: 8 + 7 + 12 turned into 9 + 7 + 12, which count the fourth into 28 and therefore into 4 minor tones, but not 5 half tones of 6 units), a patriarchal synode in 1883 decided for an equal tempered representation which counted the fourth in 30 units (10 + 8 + 12,  166' + 133' + 200' = 500' cents). Aristoxenos divided the tetrachord into 60 parts. The exact method of division is still a controversial matter.

  • Ἡ Ἐπιτροπή: Στοιχεώδης Διδασκαλία τῆς Ἐκκλησιαστικῆς Μουσικῆς Ἐκπονηθεῖσα ἐπὶ τῇ βάσει τοῦ Ψαλτηρίου ὑπὸ τῆς Ἐπιτροπῆς τοῦ Οἱκουμενικοῦ Πατριαρχείου ἐν Ἔτει 1883, Istanbul 1888, Reprint: Athens 1978.


A 24 mode system mentioned in the Alchemy compilation

The reconstruction of the hardly readable paraechoi was easily done, because they are mentioned later:

Ὥσπερ δὲ τεσσάρων μουσικῶν γενικωτάτων στοιχείων, αον, βον, γον, δον, γίνονται παρ῾ αὐτῶν τῷ εἴδει διάφορα στοιχεῖα κδ῾, κέντροι καὶ ἶσοι καὶ πλάγιοι, καθαροί τε καὶ ἄηχοι [καὶ παράηχοι]· καὶ ἀδύνατον ἄλλως ὑφανθῦναι τὰς κατὰ μέρος ἀπείρους μελωδίας τῶν ὕμνων ἣ θεραπείων ἣ ἄποκαλύψεων ἣ ἄλλον σκέλους τῆς ἱερᾶς ἐπιστήμης, καὶ οἷον ῥεύσεως ἣ φθορᾶς ἄλλον μουσικῶν παθῶν ἐλευθέρας,

My translation as an alternative to Gombosi's one (1940, 40):

As there are 4 basic elements, there are also four musical ways, the πρῶτος, the δεύτερος, the τρίτος, and the τέταρτος, and by their formulas the same generate 24 different elements: the [4] κέντροι (central), [4] ἶσοι (basic), and [4] πλάγιοι (plagal), the [4] καθαροί (kathartic), [4] ἄηχοι (aphonic), and [4 παράηχοι (paraphonic)]. Hence, it is impossible to create something outside those infinite melodies of hymns, treatments, revelations, and of other parts of the Holy Wisdom, which is free from the irregularities and spoilages of other musical passions (πάθη).

The text according to Marcellin Berthelot's edition (1888, ii:219):

Ὥσπερ δὲ δ´ ὄντων τῶν μουσικῶν γενικωτάτων στοχῶν, α´, β´, γ´, δ´, γίνονται παρ῾ αὐτοῖς τῷ εἴδει διάφοροι στοχοὶ κδ´, κέντροι καὶ ἶσοι καὶ πλάγιοι καθαροί τε καὶ ἄηχοι · καὶ ἀδύνατον ἄλλως ὑφανθῦναι τὰς κατὰ μέρος ἀπείρους μελῳδίας τῶν ὕμνων, ἣ θεραπειῶν ἣ ἄποκαλύψεων, ἣ ἄλλου σκέλους τῆς ἱερᾶς ἐπιστήμης, καὶ οἷον ῥεύσεως, ἣ φθορᾶς, ἢ ἄλλων μουσικῶν παθῶν ἐλευθέρας ·

Here another version clearly in the context of the book ceremonies which is closer to Gombosi's quotation (1888, iii:434):

Ὥσπερ δὲ τεσσάρων ὄντων μουσικῶν γενικωτάτων στοχῶν, Α Β Γ Δ, γίνονται παρ῾ αὐτῶν τῷ εἴδει διάφοροι στοχοὶ κδ´, κέντροι καὶ ἶσοι καὶ πλάγιοι, καθαροί τε καὶ ἄηχοι <καὶ παράηχοι> · καὶ ἀδύνατον ἄλλως ὑφανθῆναι τὰς κατὰ μέρος ἀπείρους μελῳδίας τῶν ὕμνων ἣ θεραπειῶν, ἤ ἄποκαλύψεων, ἤ ἄλλου σκέλους τῆς ἱερᾶς ἐπιστήμης, καὶ οἷον ῥεύσεως ἤ φθορᾶς ἤ ἄλλων μουσικῶν παθῶν ἐλευθέρας, τοῦτο κἀνταῦθα ἔστιν εύρεῖν τὸν δυνατὸν ἐπὶ τῆς μιᾶς καὶ ἀληθοῦς κυριωτάτης ὕλης, τῆς ὀρνιθογονίας.

translated as follows (1888, ii:212):

De même que les lignes musicales les plus générales étant au nombre de quatre, Α, Β, Γ, Δ, on forme avec elles 24 lignes d'espèces diverses ; et qu'il y a aussi des centres et des lignes obliques, selon qu'il a été dit à propos des sons, et attendu qu'il est impossible de composer autrement les mélodies innombrables des hymnes, pour le service (du culte ?), la révélation, ou quelque autre partie de la science sacré... (Phrase inintelligible.)


Alia musica compilations

Some of the sources have been already published online, see my list of tonaries. There you will also find links to two corresponding editions. There is a third edition by Karl-Werner Gümpel of the "Nova expositio" part as he found it in a manuscript of the Catalonian monastery Ripoll.



Alekseeva, G. & Gordeev, D., 2012. Механизмы адаптации византийской культуры в России: пение, церковная служба. Българско музикознание, 2012(3-4), pp.170–179.
Bernhard, M., 2003. „Die Rezeption der ‚Institutione musica‘ des Boethius im frühen Mittelalter“. In Boèce ou la chaîne des savoirs: Actes du colloque international de la Fondation Singer-Polignac, présidée par Edouard Bonnefous, Paris, 8-12 Juin 1999, ed. Alain Galonnier, 601–12. Leuven: Peeters Publishers. Google.
Berthelot, P.E.M. & Ruelle, Ch.-É. eds., 1887-1888. Collection des anciens alchimistes grecs. 4 vol (vol. 1, 1887; vol. 2, 1888; vol. 3, 1888; vol. 4, 1888). Paris: G. Steinheil (reprinted London: Holland 1963; Osnabrück: Zeller 1967).
Chailley, J., 1956. Le mythe des modes grecs. Acta Musicologica, 28(4), pp.137–163. doi:10.2307/932142.
Chrysanthos, 1832. Θεωρητικὸν μεγὰ τῆς Μουσικῆς. P. G. Pelopidēs, ed. Triest: Michele Weis.
Romanou, K.G., 2010. Great Theory of Music by Chrysanthos of Madytos translated by Katy Romanou. New Rochelle, New York: Axion Estin Foundation.
Gombosi, O., 1938. Studien zur Tonartenlehre des frühen Mittelalters. I. Acta Musicologica, 10(4), pp.149–174. JSTOR.
Gombosi, O., 1939a. Studien zur Tonartenlehre des frühen Mittelalters II. Acta Musicologica, 11(1/2), pp.28–39. JSTOR.
Gombosi, O., 1939b. Studien zur Tonartenlehre des frühen Mittelalters II. (Fortsetzung). Acta Musicologica, 11(4), pp.128–135. JSTOR.
Gombosi, O., 1940a. Studien zur Tonartenlehre des frühen Mittelalters. II. (Schluss). Acta Musicologica, 12(1/4), pp.21–29. JSTOR.
Gombosi, O., 1940b. Studien zur Tonartenlehre des frühen Mittelalters. III. Acta Musicologica, 12(1/4), pp.29–52. JSTOR.
Kujumdzieva, S., 2012. The Тropologion: Sources and Identifications of a Hymnographic Book. Българско музикознание, 2012(3-4), pp.9–22.
Lagercrantz, O., 1911. Elementum: eine lexikologische Studie, I., Uppsala: Akademiska Bokhandeln. Leipzig: Otto Harassowitz. Archive.
Lagercrantz, O., 1913. Papyrus graecus holmiensis (P. holm.); Recepte für Silber, Steine und Purpur, bearb. von Otto Lagercrantz. Hrsg. mit Unterstützung des Vilh. Ekman’schen Universitätsfonds, Uppsala: Akademiska bokhandeln. Archive.
Lawergreen, B. 2009. Music History i (Pre-Islamic Iran). Encyclopædia Iranica.
Lewis, F., 2002. Hafez ix. Hafez and Music. Encyclopædia Iranica 11 (5), pp.491-498.
Lingas, A., 1999. Performance Practice and the Politics of Transcribing Byzantine Chant. Acta Musicae Byzantinae: Revista Centrului De Studii Bizantine Iaşi, 6, pp.56–76.
Maguire, H. ed., 1995. Byzantine Magic, Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.
Neubauer, E., 1990. Arabische Anleitungen zur Musiktherapie. Zeitschrift für Geschichte der arabisch-islamischen Wissenschaften, 6, pp.227–272.
Neubauer, E., 1994. Die acht “Wege” der arabischen Musiklehre und der Oktoechos – Ibn Misğah, al-Kindī und der syrisch-byzantinische oktōēchos. Zeitschrift für Geschichte der arabisch-islamischen Wissenschaften, 9, pp.373–414.
Neubauer, E., 2009. Music History ii (ca. 650 to 1370 CE). Encyclopædia Iranica.
Nuvoloni, L., 2007. Medieval Medical and Alchemy Manuscripts in the Harleian Collection. London: British Library.
Raasted, J., 1966. Intonation formulas and modal signatures in Byzantine musical manuscripts, MMB, Subsidia, 7. Copenhagen: E. Munksgaard.
Raasted, J. ed., 1983. The Hagiopolites —A Byzantine Treatise on Musical Theory, Cahiers de l'Institut du Moyen-âge Grec et Latin, 45, pp. 1-99.
Sahas, D.J., 1972. John of Damascus on Islam: The “Heresy of the Ishmaelites”. Leiden etc.: Brill. Google.
Školnik, I. & Školnik, M., 1994. Echos in the Byzantine-Russian Heirmologion. An Experience of Comparative Research. Cahiers de l’Institut du Moyen-Âge grec et latin, 64, pp.3–17.
Strunk, W.O., 1942. The Tonal System of Byzantine Music. The Musical Quarterly, 28, pp.190–204.
Terzioğlu, A., 1990. Über die Architektur der seldschukischen Krankenhäuser in Iran, im Irak, in Syrien und in der Türkei und ihre weltweite Bedeutung. Zeitschrift für Geschichte der arabisch-islamischen Wissenschaften, 6, pp.195–226.
Wright, O., 2004. The Sight of Sound. Muqarnas, 21 (Essays in Honor of J. M. Rogers), pp.359–371.
Wright, O., 2006. Al-Kindi’s braid. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 69, pp.1–32.

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  • Dear Pavlos

    Concerning the regimes of musicography, please do not hesitate to specify whatever you wrote (and thank you for this interesting lecture by François Hartog). I am glad that my discussion of a kind of mainstream interpretation of the Hagiopolites was a useful example for you. But we have to think further on, a certain régime of understanding theoretical terms has consequences for the transcription of old notation, and the imagination of the past (Byzantine or Gregorian chant) always tells more about the present. Therefore I also quoted literature about a synodal decision which concerned the current practice of Orthodox chant. Of course, a living tradition will always teach us something, which goes far beyond the limited imagination of theorists (fieldwork is a very important aspect here), while a theoretical discussion can encourage experiments and question bad habits of former reconstructions.

    Nevertheless, allow me to understand your words also in the wider context of other recent publications like Alexander Lingas' discussion of policies of transcription, which was basically about the fact that no Byzantinist today is ready to continue Tillyard's project of the Transcripta series (MMB) since many decades, despite Christian Troelsgård's effort to encourage it by the recent publication of a new neume introduction. I also thought of Goudesenne's new book, where he was so patient to study the problematic way of conventional transcription of Gregorian chant (I often used this image of dwarfs on the shoulders of dwarfs). One might further mention Merıh Erol's study of the ideological terms used by Greek theorists or authors of chant manuals, and other relevant publications concerning the Phanariotes' integration of makam music within the notation of the New Method as "exoteric method".

    Concerning your essay my (basically positive) opinion about your courageous approach has not changed, it was simply a resumé of our exchange, since you were so kind to answer some of my questions. You are right, probably not every edition I quoted here, was useful, since the alchemy corpus treat many subjects, and there are only a few paragraphs which attracted the attention of musicologists who simply imagine that these subjects are relevant for their discussion of church tones.

    Since I knew Michel personally, I am not surprised at all. When I made for him my transcription of the cherouvikon based on French sources, my copy of the neumes was enough for him. For me it was not, because I needed the transcription for the work with my ensemble. Here I agree with Geert Maessen, it has nothing to do with positivism, we just should be honest about the fact that we might be wrong. Let us also say, you need a lot of courage to quote Otto Gombosi, but I love his essay cycle about the so-called "Tonartenlehre", because he was ready to write so frankly about his personal confusion about the topic he was so passionate. Some colleagues might have a problem with it, but I think it is very natural that we do not simply progress in one direction. Sometimes we need to follow a certain direction, before we find out that it was wrong. It happens quite often.

    Talking from my experience, I can only tell you that you need the experience of a musician in every tradition, otherwise there is no way to understand profoundly music theory. My experience with Orthodox chant enabled me to recognise translations from Greek terms, otherwise I would not understand a word. I do not need to be a good philologist, the latter help us to discover a treatise behind the patchwork of a late copy (like the Parisian copy of the Hagiopolites). Sometimes we need to understand the particular interpretation of a certain scribe, so that a good reproduction of a certain manuscript is far more useful than a critical edition of as many copies as possible…

    At the end I would like to calm you down concerning an exchange in a social network. Only together we can really achieve something (otherwise it is nothing more than a hint which might sometimes even become the missing piece in a puzzle), and sometimes, when we are cut off from this exchange, this possibility can be very useful. But you need the courage to admit, that linear progress does not really exist. Thus, you do not need to censor older posts and not to be upset, because somebody dares to have a different view on the same subject than yours. Otherwise an exchange could hardly be interesting.

    I will continue here with a discussion of Eckhard Neubauer's and Owen Wright's contribution, but for now I wish you all a merry Christmas!

  • Καλά Χριστούγεννα σε όλους

  • One last remark about the alchemy corpus. Lukas Richter discussed the passage very in detail in his article "Zosimus of Panopolis" of the New Grove Dictionary, although he dates it to the 8th or 9th centuries:

    It survives complete in I-Vnm 299 [siglum for the Venetian Biblioteca marciana] and uses a rare technical term, stochos, which in two other manuscripts is replaced by stoichos and in a later one by ēchos. Ruelle emended stochos to stoichos and translated it ‘ligne musicale’ (‘church mode’), which prompted Høeg, Gastoué and Auda to form questionable hypotheses about the modal system of early Christian music. Wachsmann, however, suggested that stochos was a synonym for stoicheion (‘element’), which Lagercrantz confirmed.

    "Church mode" is definitely a very misleading and unprecise term concerning the French translation. Στοῖχος translated as melodic line while στόχος would be mainly defined by its end, which comes very close to Hucbald's definition of tonus by their finales (his translation of the harmonic term τόνος defined as church tone).

    It seems that Gombosi's modification was not so wrong after all and it makes perfectly sense in the allegoric language of this literary genre, the addition of paraēchoi can be explained by the number of 24 ēchoi and was added by Berthelot. Of course, one might doubt Richter's interpretation (inspired by Gombosi), that 3 tetrachords ascend and descend in chain, making up an ambitus of 6 tetrachords. A mesos tetrachord, for instance, would start in between. I built the labyrinth based on the Koukouzelian wheel with four floors, because it is pretty enough, even for those compositions with the widest ambitus.

  • So, instead of the edition of the texts on the dyeing of stones etc. is better to provide in the bibliography the following link to another book of Lagercrantz (in German) for further support to the ideas you just referred:

    Elementum; eine lexikologische Studie
  • Unless if you incorporated this book as an indirect comment on the musicography of the medieval times. To explain it even better for the people who feel no intimacy with the subject: the “alchemical” texts about the dyeing of the stones and metals were - among others - texts useful for the ancient (and medieval) counterfeiters and manufacturers of forged coins.

  • ... and please do not misinterpret me once more, I mean "the musicography of  the medieval theorists," of course. 

  • Dear Pavlos

    Thank you very much for all the interesting links.

    Quite frankly I do not understand you, when you write that "I misinterpret you once more".

    Do you believe that the 24 echoi mentioned in the quoted paragraph belong to the cathedral rite or do you have doubts?

    Concerning the oriental context of the social reputation of medieval musicians, we might say that musicians as humour makers (mutriban) had a bad reputation like thieves, magicians or forgers, at least among legal authorities like the ulamat. But it was a matter of your social status, whether you were kept in an asylum (sometimes separated, sometimes as part of a mosque complex) because of a mental illness (like 'ishq "love madness") or the same illness was understood as a talent which you had to cultivate as a dervish. In Ottoman times becoming a Mevlevi dervish was also offered to converted muslims within the devşirme system, despite the fact that this practice of conversion was against Islamic law. It was simply a strategy to turn enemies into loyal allies and very important to establish the Ottoman empire within its heterogenous population and their different confessions.

    The medical treatises described by Neubauer were associated to these asylums as hospitals, the Latin reception usually translated them but omitted those parts concerning the treatment of mental illness. Since Arabic was used as a language of science also by Hebrew authors like Maimonides who even described neurochirurgical procedures, the real problem appeared during the period of Inquisition, because their intolerance caused a loss of money, knowledge and technology. But this was already the Renaissance period... We can say that Sufis as gifted tarab makers were the most successful missionaries.

  • Dear Pavlos

    It seems that you are not aware of the gaps in Western European musicology.

    First of all, many of my colleagues believe that they can study a medieval period, because they have many sources, but the conditions are very poor to understand these sources, since no medieval tradition has survived until today. The ignorance concerning this illusion has to be compensated either with extravagant phantasies or with participating ethnomusicological fieldwork. I admit that musicians working in this field are very creative and often belong to a rather intellectual type. I can tell you about myself that I had a very fine school of Latin palaeography during my first semesters, but much later, when I learnt Greek palaeography as an autodidact, I really discovered that there is no reflection about history, as long as we are not aware about the present. We always have to start like archaeologists with the present and than might go to the past as far as we can get, layer by layer. For an experienced scholar it is a completely banal conclusion, that most of our knowledge is entirely based on guess-work, and hardly perceived as criticism, but it clearly shows, how many illusions do still exist about the limited horizon of historical knowledge.

    Second, I believe it is useless to deny your references to Chrysanthos, probably because his Theoretikon mega is so well-known in Greece. The problem is that most musicologists do not know this very fine and remarkable book at all which is still one of the main sources with plenty of insider information about Greek musicians and Phanariotes of the Ottoman Empire, for the simple reason that it was written in Greek. Therefore I left Katy Romanou's second (or revised) English translation in the bibliography, because she did a great job for those colleagues who do not understand Greek.

  • The third gap is that only the Byzantine reception of ancient harmonics was profound and innovative enough to abandon the Latin and the Arabic fixation to the Greater Perfect System. If you like, we can say the only tradition which had the potential to corrupt the other receptions of ancient Greek harmonics was that of the Byzantines, and we can study their impact on the Musica and Scolica enchiriadis.

    When the Austrian musicologist August Wilhelm Ambros understood this potential, he panicked and denounced the Byzantine reception as "Chinese Hellenism". It was the discovery, when Western musicologists understood that they know nothing, a clear preception of their inferiority in confrontation with the musical knowledge of the Phanariotes. We should not forget that Chrysanthos who easily adapted the Papadic tradition to the GPS, was one of them.

  • I beleive, that Octoechos system has the strong connection between the names od the tropes and the echos name in Byzantine and Old Russian music. I have published several researches about this theme:

    1. Алексеева Галина. Византийско-русская певческая палеография. Исследование. – СПб.: «Дмитрий Буланин», 2007. – 368 с., ил. 23 п.л. ISBN 5-86007-540-5. Тираж 500 экз.
    2. Комплексное исследование механизмов адаптации византийского искусства в Древней Руси: монография /Г.В. Алексеева [и др.] ДВФУ. – Владивосток, изд-во ДВФУ, 2013. – 242 с., ил., ISBN 978-5-7444-3234-8 Тираж 500 экз. Ссылка на библиотеку ДВФУ: several articles:
    1.  Galina Alekseeva. Der Anspassungsschlussel der byzantinischen Gesangtradition in der russischen Tradition durch Isomorphismus der Gestaltungsmittel // Theorie und geschichte der monodie. Bericht der International Tagung Wien 2012. Brno, 2014. ISBN 987-80-263-0760-0. Band 1.  S.13-25.
    2. Г. В. Алексеева. Комплексное восприятие механизмов адаптации византийского искусства в Древней Руси: современные методологические подходы. Вестник Академии русского балета им. А.Я. Вагановой. № 4 (33) 2014, с. 81-94:Вестник АРБ № 4(33)2014.pdf
    3. Г.В. Алексеева. Изоморфизм средств выразительности: ядро синтеза и ключ адаптации византийской певческой традиции на русской почве //Гибридные формы в славянских культурах: Сб. статей по материалам международной научной конференции «Проблема гибрида в славянских культурах» /Отв. редактор Н. В. Злыднева. – М.: Институт славяноведения РАН, 2014. – 456 с.: ил. – (Категории и механизмы славянской культуры).ISBN 978-5-7576-0311-7, с. 306-319. You can see in Academia edu
    4.   Galina Alekseeva. Die Anklänge byzantinischer Deutungen in der Theorie der russischen Monodie (Anhand der Azbuken aus der Bibliothek der Akademie der Wissenschaften 32.16.18) //Theorie und geschichte der monodie. Bericht der International Tagung Wien 2010. Brno, 2012. ISBN 987-80-263-0226-1. S.11-33.
    5. Galina Alexeeva (Russia): New methodological approaches to the analysis of the processes of adaptation of Byzantine art in ancient Russia: singing tradition and liturgical action //THE 5th INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ORTHODOX CHURCH MUSIC "CHURCH MUSIC AND ICONS: WINDOWS TO HEAVEN". University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland / 3–9 June 2013.The International Society for Orthodox Church Music. 2015, p. 219-224. ISSN 1796-9581.  
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