Traditional Eastern Orthodox Chant Documentation Project
General Principals of Orthodox Chant
Regional Chant Systems
Hymnography (Melodic Genres)
Musical Notation Systems
Introduction: Traditional Melodic Genres
1. Psalmodic or Stichologic Genre
4. Canonarchal/Responsorial Genre
7. Anomalistic Chants
Sources for Chant Melodies
2. Sticheraric Genre
5. Papadic Genre
8. Ecphonesis
3. Hiermologic Genre
6. Common Chants
9. Paraliturgical Singing

Introduction: Traditional Melodic Genres

Compiled by Nikita Simmons

While most theorists usually think of traditional Byzantine Chant as divided into three genres of melodies (heirmologic, sticheraric and papadic), this categorization does not account for every aspect of Orthodox worship. Based on my own research (particularly in the traditional Russian neumatic or "Znamenny" repertoire), I propose that traditional Orthodox chant may be broken down into the following nine genres. It should be kept in mind that some regional traditions tend to blur the lines between such distinctions, and sometimes even cross such lines, not understanding the importance of maintaining seperate repertoires for individual types of hymns, readings, vocal performance, etc. Most regional systems have fully developed into a nine-fold classification system, but the manner and degree of their development is sometimes quite different, making it difficult to apply this system of categorization uniformly to all singing traditions. Furthermore, the introduction of choral polyphony in recent centuries has done much to erode the understanding of the various hymnographic principles and vocal genres which older traditional chanting systems embodied.

EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: Although I am a musicologist specializing in traditional Russian Znamenny Chant, I will endeavour to represent Orthodox hymnography in more general terms. Howevever, it is nearly impossible to be all-inclusive of the various ethnic and regional styles of church singing, each with their own music theory, traditions and interpretations. It is also unrealistic for the reader to expect me to be completely uninfluenced by my field of specialty, and for this human failing I must apologize.

In brief, the system of nine melodic genres is a follows (see the links above for in-depth information):

1) Psalmodic or Stichologic Genre

a) Vespers: the opening Psalm 142
b) Vespers: the First Kathisma
c) Vespers: the 4 Psalms "Lord, I have cried" (Psalms 140, 141, 129 and 116)
d) Matins: the sung Kathismata at Festal Matins (only in the Russian Old Rite)
e) Matins: the Polieleos Psalms (134 and 135, including Ps. 136 on the pre-Lenten Sundays)
f) Matins: the Praises (Psalms 148, 149 and 150)

2) Sticheraric Genre

The 3 Classes of Melodic Forms for Stichera: Idiomela (Samoglasny) - Automela (Samopodobny) - Prosomoia (Podobny)

a) The melodies for "Lord, I have cried"
b) The Refrains between the stichera
c) Idiomela Stichera: Full Melodies
d) Idiomela Stichera: Formula Melodies (commonly called "Samoglasen")
e) Automela/Samopodobny and Prosomia/Podobny melodies for Stichera

3) Heirmologic Genre

a) Heirmoi (Idiomela)
b) Festal Katavasii composed in the Sticheraric genre (Byzantine Chant)
c) Festal Refrains on the 9th Ode
d) Simplified Heirmoi and Katavasia melodies ("na raspev", Russian Old Rite)
e) Festal "Zadostoiniki" composed in the Sticheraric genre, etc. (Russian Old Rite)
f) Generic formula melodies (Russian New Rite)

4) Canonarchal (or Responsorial) Genre

A) Responsorial Refrains:

a) Prokeimena,
b) "Alleluia" (instead of "God is the Lord", and before the Epistle reading),
c) "Let every breath parise the Lord" (at Matins),
d) [in the Znamenny Chant system:] the final phrases of Troparia, Sessional Hymns (Kathisma), Kontakia and Oikoi,
e) "Holy is the Lord our God" on Sundays,
f) various other short phrases that use the "prokeimena" melodies

B) Complete Melodies:

g) "God is the Lord",
h) [in the Southwestern and modern Muscovite systems:] a number of complete melodic repertoirs (generic formulas for each Tone) for Troparia, Kathisma (Sedalny) and Kontakia,
j) [in the Southwestern Russian systems:] Automela/Samopodobny and Prosomia/Podobny melodies for Troparia, Sessional Hymns and Kontakia,
k) [in the Byzantine and Znamenny Chant systems:] Hypakoe,
l) Exaposteilaria (Idiomela, Automela and Prosomoia melodies)

5) Papadic Genre

[information coming]

6) Common Chants (Non-Byzantine chant traditions)

a) Liturgical Dialogue (litanies, the dialogues during the Divine Liturgy, and whenever the priest gives blessings or wishes peace to the people),
b) settings of hymns for the Doxology at Matins,
c) "O only-begotten Son" and the Creed at the Divine Liturgy,
d) etc.

7) Anomalistic Chants (Non-Byzantine chant traditions)

For the Russian Znamenny tradition:
In addition to some of the Common Chants, this genre includes:
a) all the rest of the music for the Divine Liturgy (such as the Anaphora),
b) the entire body of Put' Chant melodies (used for Magnifications and various solemn liturgical moments during the vigil),
c) and the entire body of Demestvenny Chant (used for heirarchical liturgies and other festal occasions).

8) Ecphonesis

a) the basic declamatory reading of the prayers and psalms,
b) reading the Old Testament lessons and liturgical homilies,
c) reading the Epistles and Gospels, and
d) the style of reciting litanies and liturgical dialogue (in both simple and ornate styles)

9) Paraliturgical Singing

a. Greek Kalenda
b. Romanian Kolinde/Colinde
c. Southwestern Russian Pisni
d. Carpatho-Rusyn and Ukrainian Koljadki
e. Russian (Old Believer) Spiritual Verses (Духовные стихи)