Znamennyi Chant

Znamennyi Chant


the basic heritage of Russian church melodies. The name is derived from the Old Church Slavonic znamia (sign related to neume). The symbols used in notating the melodies were called znamena (signs) or kriuki (hooks). These symbols were not written down in staff notation.

Initially, the designation znamennyi chant referred to notated melodies, as opposed to melodies that exist only in oral tradition. The znamennyi chant originated in the 12th century. It borrowed popevki (short motifs) that were divided into eight echoi (melodic formulas) from folk songs. The number of popevki gradually increased. By the 16th century, the znamennyi chant reached the high point of its development. Simple melodies of psalmody were transformed into rich chants with ornamental melodic contours and complex rhythms.

During the 17th century, in connection with the general tendency to simplify melodies to produce a better feeling for the mode and greater clarity of the texts, the znamennyi chant was shortened. The shortened version was known as the lesser znamennyi chant; the uncut version was called the greater znamennyi chant.

In 1772 several melodies of the chant (for example, Obikhod, Irmologii, Oktoikh, and Prazdniki) were published in square notation. Harmony for many of the chant’s melodies were written by P. I. Turchaninov, A. F. L’vov, P. I. Tchaikovsky, A. D. Kastal’skii, and S. V. Rachmaninoff.


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