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Echoes of Constantinople : oral and written tradition of the psaltes of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople

  • Author(s): Khalil, Alexander Konrad
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation explores the significance of a concept known as yphos among the last remaining psaltes (chanters) of the millennium-old tradition at the Patriarchal church of Constantinople, in Istanbul, Turkey. Collaborating with Stilianos Floikos, the youngest--and possibly the last--of these psaltes, I take as my point of departure his beliefs and practices regarding yphos, which he conceives as manifest through complex processes of melodic interpretation as he chants from contemporary traditional neumatic scores. These interpretations, through which Stilianos manifests yphos, directly contradict the melody explicitly written on the scores from which he chants. While this may appear to reflect a break with tradition I demonstrate, by conducting comparative analyses between contemporary and older neumes, that Stilianos' processes of melodic interpretation are rooted in oral practices associated with these older neumes. Informed by this historical background, I identify elements of yphos in Stilianos' processes of interpretation by comparing seven of his performances of a single score. My melographic and formal analyses, combined with Stilianos' explanations, demonstrate that his interpretations involved a process of reconstruction based on underlying implicit musical structures. Having explicated this process, I am able to address directly the central focus of this dissertation: the phenomenology of yphos. From Stilianos' description of his experience, it becomes clear that when chanting a written line he perceives multiple layers of remembered melody, together with people and events associated with them. By chanting with and against these melodies he creates resonances. These resonances create for him an environment of constant recontextualization, imbuing his every act with multiple meanings while bringing him into dialogue with psaltes of the past. Borrowing the term from literary theorist Sarah Dillon, I describe this experience of interaction with multiple layers, paradoxically discrete yet inseparable, as "palimpsestuous." From this, I develop a palimpsest theory, which not only provides a framework that renders transparent Stilianos' experience of yphos, but also can inform studies of musical style and affect, oral and written transmission, and processes of human memory. Like a space resounding with echoes, Stilianos' community continues to reflect, transmit, and reshape the echoing resonances of its past

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