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Dimitri Conomos

[apēchēma, enēchēma, epēchēma]

A melodic intonation formula in Byzantine chant, sung to nonsense words. It is intoned by the domestikos (precentor) in order to introduce the ēchos (mode) of the hymn (see Ēchos §2). The formulae for the modes of the Oktōēchos are: ananeanes (ēchos protos), neanes (ēchos deuteros), aneanes (ēchos tritos), hagia (ēchos tetartos), aneanes (ēchos plagios protos), neanes (ēchos plagios deuteros), anes (ēchos barys) and nehagie (ēchos plagios tetartos).

The earliest record of the Greek meaningless syllables with their modally arranged melodies comes from the West. Aurelian of Réôme, in his Musica disciplina (?c840–50), identified the eight Byzantine ēchēmata, and they subsequently appeared in almost all tonaries until the 12th century. Although clearly imported from the Byzantine East, the Western formulae are different from the Eastern in two distinct ways – textual and functional: in the Carolingian tradition there are two words only for the authentic modes, ...



Miloš Velimirović

(Gk.: ‘sound’)

A technical term in Byzantine chant, usually translated ‘mode’ or ‘modality’.

There is considerable difference between the Eastern and Western European understanding of modality. In the West, the term ‘mode’ most often means a scale or ‘octave species’; but an ēchos depends rather on a ‘mood’, which is in turn dependent on the types of melody found in that ēchos. When systematized by theorists, these melody-types do produce different ‘octave species’ or scales; this is of secondary significance, however, compared to the melodies themselves. An ēchos in fact consists primarily of a repertory of melodic formulae together with some melodic motifs and even melody-types.

These categories overlap at times: a melody-type may be a melodic formula, but a melodic formula may be only part of a melody-type. The motif is the smallest of these units and occurs as a subdivision of the larger structural elements, the formula and the melody-type, the latter being the largest of the three. Some of these elements may appear exclusively in a single ...


revised by W.H. Frere, Owen Jander, and Peter Cooke


A deviation from a pitch or pitches regarded in some way as standard.

(1) In Gregorian and other chant, the term ‘inflection’ is generally reserved for simple customary deviations from a monotone reciting note (tenor, tuba) dictated by considerations of punctuation during the singing of prose texts: the simplest method of singing a religious service, or part of one, may be described as ‘monotone with inflections’. It is often said that the inflected recitative originated for practical reasons: that it made the text more intelligible, that it helped readers by providing simple melodies that would serve for many texts, and that it made words and voice more audible in large gatherings. Though partly true, such explanations are probably too narrow. The formulaic solo chants especially are examples of sacral song-speech found in many religions and cultures, the explanation of which lies largely in the psychology of the religious mind. The regulation and codification of lesson formulae, psalm tones and related matters imposed in the Middle Ages on the old oral traditions of this song-speech gave it the trappings of practicality but obscured its origins....



André Barbera

[leimma] (Gk.: ‘remainder’)

In ancient Greek music theory the interval that remains when two whole-tone intervals are subtracted from a perfect 4th. The whole tone is the difference between a perfect 5th and a perfect 4th. The limma is also the difference between three octaves and five perfect 5ths, in other words, the diatonic semitone. Several ancient writers defined the limma, among them Ptolemy (Harmonics, i.10), Theon of Smyrna (On Mathematics Useful for the Understanding of Plato, ed. E. Hiller, Leipzig, 1878/R, 66–70), who relied on Adrastus, Gaudentius (Harmonic Introduction, ed. C. von Jan, Musici scriptores graeci, Leipzig, 1895/R, 342.7ff) and Boethius (De institutione musica, ii.28). Another, generic name for the limma in ancient Greek music was diesis (‘passing through’), although it was used to refer to a variety of smaller intervals as well (see Diesis).

In the Pythagorean theory of ratios and proportions the limma is represented by 256:243, the difference between a perfect 4th (4:3) and two whole tones (9:8 + 9:8 = 81:64). By referring to the excess of a 4th over two whole tones as a remainder and not as a semitone, the term ‘limma’ reveals its Pythagorean as opposed to its Aristoxenian nature. Aristoxenian music theory divides the octave into exactly six whole tones, the 5th equalling three and a half whole tones and the 4th two and a half. ‘Limma’ may also indicate the Greek musico-theoretical procedure of continuous subtraction (...



Richard L. Crocker

(Gk.: ‘song’)

A group of more than five or six notes sung to a single syllable. The term may be applied universally, but has been most used in reference to medieval European music, particularly chant. ‘Melismatic’ indicates one end of a spectrum; the other is ‘syllabic’, or one note to each syllable. An intermediate category, with several notes to a syllable, is sometimes termed ‘neumatic’.

The word ‘melisma’ existed in ancient Greek but was not much used; it meant, vaguely, ‘song’, and conveyed none of the sense given above. (Liddell and Scott’s Greek–English Lexicon cites one instance in which it meant ‘lyric poetry’.) The current technical meaning seems to have been superimposed upon the word by German scholars in an effort to create a term for what was a puzzling feature of Gregorian chant. In the latter context the term has been used in two ways that are distinct but closely related through a characteristic train of thought. The meaning that is logically first is abstract and generic, easier to grasp in German than in English: ...



David Hiley

[neupma, pneuma] (Lat.)

A term used in the Middle Ages with several distinct, but related meanings, fundamentally connected with the notion of a musical phrase. Two Greek-Latin terms, neuma (‘gesture’) and pneuma (‘breath’, also used in the sense of ‘Holy Spirit’) were often confused and amalgamated. In a transferred sense the word came to signify the notational sign representing a melodic gesture ( see Notation, §III, 1 ). It was also used in medieval service books to denote a number of special melismas or textless melodies: those added to the model antiphons found in tonaries; the melisma or jubilus at the end of responsories, graduals, alleluias etc.; and the vocalized repeat of a verse of a sequence after performance of that verse with text.

Model antiphons, one for each mode, are found in tonaries from the 10th century onwards (but not in the famous Dijon tonary F-MOf H 159, a special tonal arrangement of chants for the Mass). They are not liturgical chants, but preface a group of liturgical chants of the same mode. It was customary to conclude them with a ...


Peter Jeffery

(Gk.: ‘eightfold sound’)

The system of the eight ‘church modes’ (the ‘musical’ oktōēchos) in the medieval Latin, Byzantine, Slavonic, Syrian, Armenian and Georgian repertories of Christian liturgical chant. Also, by association, the practice of grouping chants by mode (the ‘calendric’ oktōēchos) so that they can be sung in numerical order over a period of time, usually one mode per week, proceeding to the next higher number each Sunday and beginning with the 1st mode again when the 8th is completed. And a book (the ‘liturgical’ oktōēchos) in which the chant texts are grouped by mode in numerical order to facilitate performance according to the calendric oktōēchos (see Liturgy and liturgical books, §IV, 3, (viii)); books also exist in which chants are arranged according to mode but without regard to a calendar, notably the Western Tonary and the Byzantine Heirmologion).

Although many theories regarding the origins of the eight-mode system have been proposed, the earliest genuine evidence of the musical ...


Richard Sherr

(Lat., from Gk.: ‘sounding beside’). A term used in the writings of a number of Greek theorists (notably Thrasyllus, Pseudo-Longinus and Bryennius) to designate the intervals of the 4th and 5th. In 1928, Peter Wagner called attention to the appearance of a similar term in the Ordines romani I–III (7th–8th centuries). Of the seven members of the Schola Cantorum listed in the Ordines, the fourth is called archiparaphonista and the last three paraphonistae. Wagner also found references to paraphonistae in French sources and in a sequence text. He concluded that the designation paraphonista described a singer who sang in paraphonic intervals, that is, in parallel 4ths and 5ths. He thus suggested that organum-like polyphony existed in the Church well before it was first described, and that, owing to the word's Greek origin, the practice came from Byzantine music.

Wagner’s theories were disputed by Gastoué on philological grounds. Gastoué argued that ...



Thomas J. Mathiesen

(from Gk. purrichios, purrichē)

One of several ancient Greek rhythmic patterns, by extension also applied to a war dance. In metric theory (e.g. Hephaestion, Handbook, 3; Aristides Quintilianus, On Music, i.22; etc.), the pyrrhic foot consists of two short syllables () and is employed in such meters as iambic and ionic (Aristides Quintilianus, On Music, i.25, 27). The pyrrhic dance is commonly associated with the hyporcheme (huporchēma), but the distinction may depend on whether the dance is accompanied by song. Proclus (Useful Knowledge) regarded the pyrrhic and the hyporcheme as synonymous, while Athenaeus (Sophists at Dinner, xiv, 630d) distinguished among three types of dance: pyrrhic, hyporchematic and gymnopaidic. Athenaeus observed that a principal feature of the pyrrhic dance is speed, which certainly accords with the rhythmic pattern of the pyrrhic foot. On the authority of Aristoxenus, he stated that the pyrrhic (named for the Spartan Pyrrhicus) is a dance practised from the age of five by boys under arms as a preparation for war; other Greeks associated the dance with Dionysus, replacing spears with the ...


Richard Sherr

(Lat.: ‘to be repeated’)

In Western chant, a section to be repeated, such as the refrain in hymns or the last part of the respond of a responsory, which is repeated after the psalm verse. In Ordo romanus I (second half of the 8th century) and later, the term ‘versus ad repetendum’ designated extra psalm verses added as needed to the Mass introit and communion. According to Husmann, the words ‘ad repetendum’ were also used in the Middle Ages for additional tropes to the introit antiphon....




Thomas J. Mathiesen

(Gk., pl tonoi; Lat. tonus)

A term with various meanings in the tradition of ancient Greek music theory. It could refer to a pitch (tasis), a note (phthongos), the size of an interval (diastēma), or a ‘scalar mode’ (tropos sustēmatikos). The last two definitions came to be synonymous as referring to a particular overall pitching of the musical system.

The tonoi derived their names from the traditional harmoniai (Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian etc.), and the distinction between tonos and harmonia was eventually obscured in the theoretical tradition. In the time of Aristoxenus , agreement on the precise identification of the tonoi was lacking, but the later theoretical tradition attributed to him the identification of 13 tonoi, with the Hypodorian positioned at the lowest pitch and each of the others rising across 12 sequential semitones to the Hypermixolydian an octave above the Hypodorian ( see Greece, §I, Table ). According to the tradition, ‘younger theorists’ subsequently added two further ...


(Lat.: ‘wandering tone’, ‘frolicsome tone’)

The late medieval name for one of the ‘irregular’ psalm tones, that is, one whose tenor, or recitation tone, changes in pitch after the mediation (in this case from a to g). It takes its name either from this characteristic or from its association with Psalm cxiii, In exitu Israel de Aegypto...



Warren Anderson

revised by Thomas J. Mathiesen


A triple kithara said by the historian Artemon of Cassandrea (fl 2nd century bce), probably following Aristotle’s pupil Dicaearchus (fl c326–296 bce), to have been invented in the 5th century bce by the music theorist Pythagoras of Zacynthus (Athenaeus, xiv, 637b–f). It had a revolving base, and a touch of the performer’s foot made the Dorian, Phrygian or Lydian mode instantly available. Whether or not the instrument (or indeed its inventor) actually existed, Artemon’s account of it has importance for modal theory and organology. Sachs pointed out the most obvious inference: the idea of such a multiple instrument can be based only on the assumption that even at this early period modes differed radically from one another. Light is also thrown on the disputed question of the function of the left hand in lyre playing: the placing of the left hand somehow within the upper part of the tripod remains inexplicable, unless it is seen in relation to a standard technique whereby the fingers of this hand damped strings rather than plucked them....