Byzantine music

After the fall of Constantinople and the transfer of the intellectual movement to Crete, music schools were founded on Crete, teaching Byzantine music in particular. The effects remain visible even to this day in our folk songs. Until 1821, Greece was home to secular Western music, urban popular music, traditional pastoral music and Byzantine music. The presence of Byzantine music is intense throughout the archive.

At this point, it is important to briefly explain what we mean by “Byzantine music”. Byzantine music is the music created and developed during the era of the Byzantine Empire. It is divided into secular music, for which we do not have much information due to the fact that it was not recorded, and ecclesiastical music, about which we know more. Byzantine ecclesiastical music is modal and based on the system of sounds which, in turn, are based on the Ancient Greek modes. Its notation was invented as an aid to the oral tradition. In contrast to the notation found in Western European music, Byzantine notation is based on ekphonetic symbols for readings and neumes for chants, which do not symbolize specific tonal heights but intervals, as well as rhythms or modes of performance.

Byzantine Choir of Heraklion

The establishment of the Heraklion Byzantine Choir in 1986 by G. Amargianakis was a milestone, as the Choir was remarkably active in Greece and abroad. The activities of the Choir resulted in the compilation named ‘Byzantine Church Music 1: Works by Cretan Composers, Georgios Kris (d. 1815) – Nikolaos Daskalakis (1897–1988)’, Crete University Press, Heraklion, 1988, with recordings in the archive serving as material to prepare the compilation.


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