K. A. Psachos Digital Music Library now online!

7 05 2008

K. A. Psachos was an important Byzantine Musicologist of last century. Together with people like Simon Karas, their scholarship and field-work serve as the link for all of us today that kept alive the true interpretation and understanding of the history and development of Byzantine chant notation. The K. A. Psachos Music Library Collection has recently been posted on the Web.

His personal library was bought by the Music Department of the University of Athens under the supervision of Prof. Gregorios Th. Stathis, who knew Psachos’ widow personally. When I was doing research for my dissertation I had to go to her home to view the MSS I needed for my work. Today, however, we can study these important manuscripts and historical music publications at the University Music Department Library. It also looks like (hopefully) we’ll be able to study them online very soon.

This site, Peramos is part of the project to digitize all of the University of Athens libraries: Historical Archive, Folklore Collection, Theatrical Collection and the K. A. Psachos Music Library Collection. So far, I only see the first few folios of each manuscript; I hope they’re not going to stop there. It would be a shame to this great legacy.

Except for the important Protopsaltes Konstantinos Byzantios Semeiomatarion and unpublished third edition Typikon, the manuscripts of Byzantine Chant house in the collection range from the ninth to nineteenth centuries. Of special interest for anyone interested in the exegesis of the chants from the old to New Method of chant notation is the Gregorios Protopsaltes Archive, containing manuscripts from the fourteenth to nineteenth centuries. There are 203 objects in that archive alone.

Finally, and for the first time in print, we can have a complete list of the contents of the K. A. Psachos library. The catalog listing alone speaks volumes as a chronicle of the history of Byzantine Chant. Anthologia, Papadikai, Sticheraria, Heirmologia, Theories, Anastasimataria, Doxastaria, and Akolouthiai, but even Greek folk and Turkish songs. You can also see examples of the Lesbian and Bucharest chant notation systems.

The collection is divided into five units:

  1. Gregorios protopsaltes Archive
  2. Collection of parchment manuscripts [Fragments]
  3. K. A. Psachos Collection of Musical Manuscripts
  4. Books
  5. Recordings

The Recordings sections seems mute to me, though. They’re not historical recordings, but modern recordings. I’m not sure why they are even there. Have to ask questions about that.

For all the excitement of actually seeing the fruit of a project we’ve been hearing about for a number of year now, there are some serious issues that raise questions about the quality of the project in terms of its purpose, especially when taking into consideration the fact that is a national university.

With regards to the quality of the digital photography, I would also mention another important lacuna; there are neither standard metrics, nor color profiles embedded into the images.

With regards to the presentation of the manuscripts, there are fields for the item number, century, composer and notation. Also, when you have a fragment of a composition the initia are given. We’re fine up to here, but what about the scribe? The search mechanism could use some developments, also.

The big let-down, however, is not just that there are thumbnails for only the first few folios (anywhere from 4-10 from what I can tell), but once you get past the second folio and you try to get a magnified view of the folio, you see the message, “Access to the resource adheres to copyright restrictions.” Each image also has a sprawling watermark, copyright image on it. OK, please tell me, what that means. Whose copyright? Gregorios protopsaltes’? Here we are again with the burning question of copyright of works of authors who have died well over 100 years ago. Or, is it the digital photograph that is copyright? More questions would include, digitization is indeed necessary for conservation purposes, but why would a university ignore the scholarly implications?

In any event, my mind is boggled, even though I’m excited looking at these historical MSS of Byzantine Chant I would leaf through back in 1980s and 90s. These treasures of our Byzantine Psaltic heritage should be available for close scholarly research and should be presented and preserved utilizing the latest in technology and best practices. Anyway, also quite tempered, it’s exciting to see manuscripts of Byzantine Chant online, always. God bless it!





Byzantine Musicologist Milos Velimirovic falls asleep in the Lord

19 04 2008

19 April 2008: Bridgewater, Virginia, USA. The eminent Byzantine Musicologist Milos Velimirovic fell asleep in the Lord unexpectedly, as relayed by Mish’s step-daughter’s husband, Carl Bowman.

Born on 10 December 1922 in Belgrade, Serbia, he graduated from the University of Belgrade, as well as the music academy. In 1957 he received his PhD from Harvard University, studying with Gombosi and Piston, and working with another well-known Byzantine Musicologist, Egon Wellesz. Before retiring in 1993, he taught at Yale (1957-69), was appointed professor of music at the University of Wisconsin (1969-73) and the University of Virginia in 1973. In 1985 he received a Fulbright fellowship to teach in Yugoslavia. On 18 October 2004 he received an honorary doctorate from the National and Capodistrian University of Athens, Greece, with Kenneth Levy.

His research in the Byzantine and Slavic area concentrated on the Slavonic chant and he was editor of Collegium musicum and Studies in Eastern Chant. His monograph, Byzantine Elements in Early Slavic Chant, was published in the Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae (Vol. IV: Pars Principalis, 1960).

Condolences and memories can be sent here.

His warmness and dedicated, research was exemplary and will be sorely missed. May his memory be eternal.

A Select Bibliography

  • Byzantine Elements in Early Slavic Chant (diss., Harvard U., 1957; enlarged, MMB, Subsidia, iv, 1960) ‘Russian Autographs at Harvard’, Notes, xvii (1959–60), 539–58
  • ‘Liturgical Drama in Byzantium and Russia’, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, xvi (1962), 351–85
  • ‘Recent Soviet Articles on Music Theory’, JMT, vi (1962), 283–93
  • ‘Joakeim Monk of the Harsianites Monastery and Domestikos of Serbia’, Zbornik radova Vizantološkog Instituta recueil de travaux de l’Institut d’études byzantines, viii (1963–4), 451–8
  • ‘Study of Byzantine Music in the West’, Balkan Studies, v (1964), 63–76
  • ‘The Influence of the Byzantine Chant on the Music of the Slavic Countries’, Byzantine Studies XIII: Oxford 1966, 119–40
  • ‘Two Composers of Byzantine Music: John Vatatzes and John Laskaris’, Aspects of Medieval and Renaissance Music: a Birthday Offering to Gustav Reese, ed. J. LaRue and others (New York, 1966/R), 818–31
  • ‘Unknown Stichera for the Feast of St. Athanasios of Mount Athos’, Studies in Eastern Chant, i (London, 1966), 108–29
  • with D. Stefanović, ‘Peter Lampadarios and Metropolitan Serafim’, ibid., 67–88
  • ‘Cristoforo Ivanovich from Budva: the first Historian of the Venetian Opera’, Zvuk, nos.77–8 (1967), 135–45
  • ‘Musique byzantine’, Encyclopédie des musiques sacrées, ed. J. Porte, ii (Paris, 1969), 145–64
  • ‘The Musical Works of Theoleptos, Metropolitan of Philadelphia’, Studies in Eastern Chant, ii (London, 1971), 155–65
  • ‘Present Status of Research in Byzantine Music’, AcM, xliii (1971), 1–20
  • ‘The “Bulgarian” Musical Pieces in Byzantine Musical Manuscripts’, IMSCR XI: Copenhagen 1972, 790–96
  • ‘The Present Status of Research in Slavic Chant’, AcM, xliv (1972), 235–65
  • ‘The Byzantine Heirmos and Heirmologion’, Gattungen der Musik in Einzeldarstellungen: Gedenkschrift Leo Schrade, ed. W. Arlt and others (Berne, 1973), 192–244
  • ‘Egon Wellesz and the Study of Byzantine Chant’, MQ, lxii (1976), 265–77
  • ‘Belgrade as Subject of Musical Compositions’, MZ, xvii (1981), 147–64
  • ‘Beginnings of National Music Cultures Among the Southern Slavs’, Serbian Studies, ii (1982–3), 61–70
  • ‘Stevan Mokranjac’, Landmarks in Serbian Culture and History, ed. V.D. Mihailovich (Pittsburgh, 1983), 208–21
  • ‘The Melodies of the Ninth-Century Kanon for St. Demetrius’, Russian and Soviet Music: Essays for Borsi Schwarz, ed. M.H. Brown (Ann Arbor, 1984), 9–34
  • ‘A Papadike in the Hilandar Ms. 703/ii’, Dzielo Muzyczne: Teoria, Historia, Interpretacja, ed. I. Poniatowska (Kraków, 1984), 31–8
  • ‘Some Letters of Pavel Chesnokov in the United States’, Slavonic and Western Music: Essays for Gerald Abraham, ed. M.H. Brown and R.J. Wiley (Oxford, 1985), 254–69
  • ‘Russian Musicians Outside Russia in the Twentieth Century’, MMA, xii (1987), 234–43
  • ‘Christian Chant in Syria, Armenia, Egypt, and Ethiopa’, ‘Byzantine Chant’, NOHM, ii (2/1990), 3–22, 26–48
  • ‘Byzantine Musical Traditions Among the Slavs’, The Byzantine Tradition After the Fall of Constantinople, ed. J.J. Yiannis (Charlottesville, VA, 1991), 95–105
  • ed., with W. Brumfield, Christianity and the Arts in Russia (Cambridge, 1991)
  • ‘Warsaw, Moscow and St. Petersburg’, The Late Baroque Era: from the 1680s to 1740, ed. G. Buelow (Basingstoke, 1993), 436–65
  • ‘History of Art Music in Serbia’, Serbian Studies, ix (1995), 80–87; x (1996), 42–58




Byzantine music in contemporary Jazz

5 03 2008

Pianist Jason Lindner has a bassist from Greece, Panagiotis Andreou, who does a Byzantine chant-scat in their song “Pretty Three”. The ending of the song includes a clear Byzantine katalyxis, vocalized on his bass guitar. It is interesting. Take a listen if you’re so inclined.

NPR Music: Jason Lindner: The Sound of ‘Now’





AMS RSS feeds in musicology

4 03 2008

The AMS now provides four separate RSS feeds in musicology. They include:





FYI: AMS travel awards

19 02 2008

American Musicological Society travel awards

  • the M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet fund for travel and research in France
  • the Harold Powers world travel fund
  • the Eugene K. Wolf travel fund for research in Europe

The deadline for applications is 3 March 2008; details at the AMS web site.