Musicologie Médiévale

Resources for medieval musicology and liturgy

The Use of Microtones in Plainchant since Pythagoras in Italy, Boethius in Rome and Justinian in Constantinople

Neil Moran wrote:

"Byzantine liturgical music is based on the principles of Pythagoras, classical Greek music theorists and Boethius, the contemporary of Justinian, who established a corps of 25 singers (including eunuchs) in the Hagia Sophia (consecration date: Dec. 27, 537).

The nasal qualities and microtones of the Late Byzantine repertoire can be attributed to the influence of Turkish music.  In fact the complete structure of the Hagia Sophia and even the date of the consecration are based on Pythagorean mathematical principles.

The inhabitants of Constantinople referred to their state as 'Romaneia’ since it was a continuation of the Roman Empire. The general use of the term ‘Byzantine’ dates from the 18th century."

The relationship between the liberal art ("science") music, part of the "Pythagorean" Quadrivium, and chant theory has been very different in Greek and Latin treatises.

On the level of performance practice, the vocal technique based on the local pronounciation of the sung language has an impact on the habit and cognitive patterns of intonation and the use of musical intervals.

A principal discussion has been opened by Neil Moran.

You are welcome to join it!


Some recommendations:
1) Ancient Greek Music and Music Theory:

Husmann, H., 1961. Grundlagen der antiken und orientalischen Musikkultur, Berlin: De Gruyter.
Vogel, M., 1963. Die Enharmonik der Griechen Tl. 1.: Tonsystem und Notation. Tl. 2.: Der Ursprung der Enharmonik, Düsseldorf: Verlag der Gesellschaft zur Förderung der systematischen Musikwissenschaft.
Chalmers, J., 1992. Divisions of the Tetrachord, ed. Larry Polansky and Carter Scholz. Lebanon: Frog Peak Music.
Brand, H., 2000. Griechische Musikanten im Kult : Von der Frühzeit bis zum Beginn der Spätklassik, Dettelbach (Germany): J.H. Röll.
Hagel, S., 2000. Modulation in altgriechischer Musik : Antike Melodien im Licht antiker Musiktheorie, Frankfurt am Main, New York: Lang.


2) Pythagoras and the Mathematikoi:

Schneeberger, H., 1862. Die goldenen Sprüche des Pythagoras, Würzburg: Thein.
Bragg, M., 2009. "Our time: Pythagoras" (discussion with Serafina Cuomo, John O'Connor and Ian Stewart), London: BBC.
Burkert, W., 1972. Lore and Science in Ancient Pythagoreanism. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass.).
Burnyeat, M. F, 2007. "The Truth about Pythagoras". London Review of Books, 29, pp. 3-6.
Huffman, C., 2005. "Pythagoras". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Zhmud, L., 1997. Wissenschaft, Philosophie und Religion im frühen Pythagoreismus. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.


3) Boethius and the Quadrivium:

Bernhard, M., & Bower, C.M., 1993. Glossa maior in Institutionem musicam Boethii. Veröffentlichungen der Musikhistorischen Kommission. Munich: Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften.
Bernhard, W., 1997. "Zur Begründung der mathematischen Wissenschaften bei Boethius". Antike und Abendland, 43, pp. 63–89.
Cohen, D.E., 1993. Boethius and the Enchiriadis theory: The metaphysics of consonance and the concept of organum, Ann Arbor, Mich: UMI.
Heilmann, A., 2007. Boethius’ Musiktheorie und das Quadrivium: Eine Einführung in den neuplatonischen Hintergrund von „De institutione musica“, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Available at:
Humphrey, I. ed., 2007. Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius: De institutione arithmetica, Ottawa: Inst. of Mediæval Music.
Meyer, C. T. ed., 2004. Boèce: Traité de la musique, Turnhout, Belgique: Brepols.


4) Boethius and his epitaph:

Detailed record for Harley 3095 with some reproduction of selected folios. Available at: [retrieved November 3, 2012].
Chadwick, Henry. 1981. Boethius – The Consolations of Music, Logic,Theology, and Philosophy. Oxford: Clarendon P.
Huglo, M., 1991. 'Remarques sur un manuscrit de la Consolatio Philosophiae (Londres, British Library, Harleian 3095)', Scriptorium: Revue internationale des études relatives aux manuscrits, 45, pp. 288-94.
Maarten J.F.M. & Hoenen, L. N. (ed.) 1997. Boethius in the Middle Ages. Latin and vernacular traditions of the Consolatio philosophiae. Brill, Leiden.


5) Byzantine History of Art, Science and Theology:

Anastos, M.V., 2001. "Justinian Ι and his relations with Rome", Aspects of the Mind of Byzantium (Political Theory, Theology, and Ecclesiastical Relations with the See of Rome), Ashgate Publications, Variorum Collected Studies Series, ISBN: 0860788407.
Constantelos, D., 1998. "The Formation of the Hellenic Christian Mind", in: Christian Hellenism. Essays and Studies in Continuity and Change, New Rochelle, New York & Athens: Caratzas.
Hannan, J., 2008. quoted in: Historical Revisionism: Emperor Justinian’s Closure of the School of Athens (famous anti-Christian legend). Available at:
Koder, J., 2008. Imperial Propaganda in the Kontakia of Romanos the Melode. Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 62, pp.275–291. JSTOR.
Moran, N.K., 1979. The Musical “Gestaltung” of the Great Entrance Ceremony in the 12th century in accordance with the Rite of Hagia Sophia. Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinistik, 28, pp.167–193.
———, 2005. The Choir of the Hagia Sophia. Oriens Christianus, 89, pp.1–7.
Strunk, W. O., 1942. “The Tonal System of Byzantine Music.” The Musical Quarterly 28: 190–204. doi:10.1093/mq/XXVIII.2.190.
Wolfram, G., 1993. "Erneuernde Tendenzen in der byzantinischen Kirchenmusik des 13.-14. Jahrhunderts". Actas del XV Congreso de la Sociedad Internacional de Musicología: Culturas musicales del Mediterráneo y sus ramificaciones, Madrid/3-10/IV/1992, 16(2), pp. 763–768. JSTOR.
————, 2001. "Fragen der Kontinuität zwischen antiker und byzantinischer Musiktheorie". In Cantus Planus: Papers read at the ninth meeting. Budapest: Magyar Tudomanyos Akademia, pp. 575–584. Available at: CP.


6) History of Arabic-Islamic Science:

Badawī, ʿAbd al-R., 1968. La transmission de la philosophie grecque au monde arabe : cours professé à la Sorbonne en 1967, Paris: J. Vrin.
Farmer, H.G., 1978 (reprint edition: London 1930). Historical facts for the Arabian musical influence, New York: Ayer Publishing. Available at:
Manik, L., 1969. Das arabische Tonsystem im Mittelalter, Leiden: Brill.
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.
————, 1998. Arabische Musiktheorie von den Anfängen bis zum 6./12. Jahrhundert : Studien, Übersetzungen und Texte in Faksimile, Frankfurt am Main: Inst. for the History of Arab.-Islamic Science.


7) Transcription and Performance Practice

Alexandru, M., 2000. Studie über die „großen Zeichen“ der byzantinischen musikalischen Notation unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Periode vom Ende des 12. bis Anfang des 19. Jahrhunderts. Dissertation. Universität Kopenhagen.
Alexandru, M., 1998. Zur Analyse byzantinischer Musik. Eine historische Sichtung des Formelbegriffs. Studia Musicologica, 39, pp.155–185. JSTOR.
Antonopoulos, Sp., 2013. "Manuel Chrysaphes and his Treatise: Reception History, a Work in Pr...." In E. Nikita-Sampson et al., eds. Crossroads | Greece as an Intercultural Pole of Musical Thought and Creativity. Proceedings of the International Musicological Conference (Thessaloniki, June 6-10 2011). Thessaloniki: School of Music Studies, Aristotle University, pp. 153-171. @
Brandl, R., 2008. "New Considerations of Diaphony in Southeast Europe: Summary of the State Research", in: Multipart Singing in the Balkans and in the Mediterranean, ed. Ardian Ahmedaja and Gerlinde Haid, transl. Barbara Haid, 281–297. Vienna: Böhlau. Available at: [retrieved November 3, 2012].
Chaldaiakis, Ach. G., 2013. "The Story of a Composition: Or 'Adventures' of Written Melodies during the Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Era." In G. Wolfram & Chr. Troelsgård, eds. Tradition and Innovation in Late- and Postbyzantine Liturgical Chant II : Proceedings of the Congress held at Hernen Castle, the Netherlands, 30 October - 3 November 2008. Leuven, Paris, Walpole: Peeters, pp. 261–289. @
Chrysanthos of Madytos, 1832. Θεωρητικὸν μεγὰ τῆς Μουσικῆς, Triest: Michele Weis.
Georgiades, Thr. G., 1939. "Bemerkungen zur Erforschung der byzantinischen Kirchenmusik." Byzantinische Zeitschrift, 39:67–88. Repr.: ————, 1977. Kleine Schriften, ed. Th. Göllner (Münchner Veröffentlichungen zur Musikwissenschaft, 26). Tutzing: Schneider, pp. 193–214.
Gerlach, O., 2009. "Einführung in die drei Stufen der Gesangskunst," PhD thesis Humboldt-University Berlin, pp. xix-xlix.
Leech-Wilkinson, D., 1999. "Translating Medieval Music."
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.
Stathis, Gr., 1979. «An Analysis of the Sticheron Τὸν ἥλιον κρύψαντα by Germanos, Bishop of New Patras – The Old ‘Synoptic’ and the New ‘Analytical’ Method of Byzantine Notation», Studies in Eastern Chant, 4:177-225.
Tillyard, H. J. W., 1935. Handbook of the middle Byzantine musical notation, in: Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae, Subsidia, 1. Copenhagen: Levin & Munksgaard.
Troelsgård, Chr., 2011. Byzantine Neumes : A New Introduction to the Middle Byzantine Musical Notation, Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press.
Wellesz, E., 1961. A history of Byzantine Music and Hymnography, 2. rev. and enl. ed., Oxford: Clarendon Press.


Printed Sticheraria:

Example Doxastikon oktaechon Θεαρχίω νεύματι.
Petros Peloponnesios Lampadarios, 1820. Σύντομον δοξαστάριον του αοιδίμου Πέτρου Λαμπαδαρίου του Πελοποννησίουν: Μεταφρασθέν κατά την νέαν μέθοδον της Μουσικής των Μουσικολογιωτάτων Διδασκάλων του νέου Συστήματος, Bucarest: Nikolau S. Alexandru. Available at: Anemi.
Iakovos the Protopsaltes, Chourmouzios Chartophylakos (ed.), 1836. Δοξαστάριον περιέχον τα δοξαστικά όλων των δεσποτικών, και θεομητορικών εορτών, των τε εορταζομένων αγίων του όλου ενιαυτού, του τε Τριωδίου και Πεντηκοσταρίου, μελοποιηθέν παρά Ιακώβου Πρωτοψάλτου της του Χριστού Μεγάλης Εκκλησίας. Εξηγηθέν απαραλλάκτως εις την Νέαν της Μουσικής Μέθοδον παρά Χουρμουσίου Χαρτοφυλακός, Istanbul: Isak De Castro.
Konstantinos the Protopsaltes, Stephanos the Domestikos (ed.), 1841. Δοξαστάριον περιέχον τα δοξαστικά όλων των δεσποτικών και θεομητορικών εορτών των τε εορταζομένων αγίων του όλου ενιαυτού του τε Τριωδίου και Πεντηκοσταρίου μελοποιηθέν παρά Κωνσταντίνου Πρωτοψάλτου της του Χριστού Μεγάλης Εκκλησίας. Εξηγηθέν απαραλλάκτως εις την Νέαν της Μουσικής Μέθοδον παρά πρώτου Δομεστίχου Στεφάνου, Istanbul: Patriarchate. Available at: Anemi.

Tags: Al-Farabi, Al-Kindi, Archimedes, Boethius, Byzantine, Cassiodorus, Chrysanthos, Constantinople, HagiaSophia, IsidoreMiletus, More…Justinian, Lingas, MMB, ManuelChrysaphes, Pythagoras, Rome, Tillyard, Wellesz

Views: 1157

Replies to This Discussion

Je ne parlais pas de la Nouvelle Méthode, malgré que c'est bien probable que quelqu'un comme Petros Péloponnèse pouvait penser à une chromatisation totale, ça dépend du repertoire. Dans le cas d'un heirmos calophone le devteros diatonique existait encore, grace à la référence du vieux heirmologhion. Mais une changement temporaire est bien possible (malgré de la diverse intonation du πλ β'), ça dépend de l'usage des grands signes...

Si vous me voudriez communiquer le folio et le manuscrit, je pourrais mieux répondre dans le contexte.



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