The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(in Russian, osmoglasie), a system used in composing music for the Orthodox liturgy. It originated in the Byzantine Empire after the fourth century in connection with certain hymn texts. Eight modes, or echoi (glasy), formed a table that was repeated several times in the course of a year. Subsequently there arose national variants, each having its own particular features.

Russian oktoechos is of greatest significance for the znamennyi chant. Each of the znamennyi chant’s eight modes is characterized by its own set of popevki (short motifs). The modes do not represent unified harmonic systems; in one mode there may be popevki with endings on different notes of the scale. The number of popevki in a mode ranges from 150 to 300, and some popevki are common to several modes. Ordinarily, liturgical music is composed in one mode. Occasionally, however, transitions are found from one mode to another. Even in the 20th century the Russian church retains oktoechos, although it also makes use of other, unrelated, forms of liturgical music.


Metallov, V. Osmoglasie znamennogo rospeva. Moscow, 1900.
Uspenskii, N. Drevnerusskoe pevcheskoe iskusstvo, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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These quotations are taken from the Oktoechos ("Book of the Eight Tones").