A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography

By Egon Wellesz | Go to book overview

FROM THE
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION

THE idea of this book goes back to a course of lectures which I delivered thirty years ago in the University of Vienna. At that time studies in Byzantine music were only beginning and very few melodies had been transcribed. The subject, however, seemed to me so absorbing that I decided to continue my investigations and to study the whole complex of Eastern Christian music in order to get the right approach to its most important branch, the music, in ceremonies and liturgy, of the Byzantine Empire. In the introductory chapter the reader will find a detailed report of these studies and their connexion with those of other scholars.

There is a great difference between the scheme of this book as it was originally planned and its present form. A great deal of what I had to say was worked out in books and articles published since 1917, to which reference is made in the bibliography. The most important decision was to deal with the origins of Christian music in a separate work, in which it was shown that both Byzantine and Western Chant ultimately derived from a common source, the music of the Synagogue, and that a close relationship existed between a number of Western melodies and the parallel Eastern versions. This relationship between East and West, well known to liturgiologists, had to be made clear to students of the history of music by an analysis of the melodies of Latin hymns with Greek prototypes. I must therefore refer readers interested in these problems to this book, Eastern Elements in Western Chant, published in 1947 as the first volume of the American Series of the Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae.

This separate treatment of the origins made it possible to write a history of the development of Byzantine music and hymnography, and it is hoped that this may be of service not only to musicologists but also to students of Eastern theology and Byzantine civilization. I also found it necessary to outline the background, Greek and Hebrew, from which Byzantine hymnography developed. I came to the conclusion that while both words and music were of Oriental origin they were judged by Patristic and Byzantine writers in the light of Platonic and Neoplatonic

-vii-

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