Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Khalil, Alexander K
Society for Ethnomusicology 53rd Annual Meeting
Echoes: continuity and change amongst the psaltes of the Patriarchal church of Constantinople
Middletown, Connecticut USA
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
The word “echo” may seem less than evocative. One might imagine that a study of “echoes” would involve a musicological effort to re-imagine past tradition through the detection of musical fragments accidentally preserved in oral tradition. Rather than that, I would describe echoes as resonances that accumulate within a particular space, thus creating an environment of constant recontextualization. Community can be one such space, similarly reflecting, transmitting, and shaping echoes. In this paper, I explore the significance of such resonances among the last remaining handful of psaltes (chanters) of the Patriarchal church of Constantinople, in Istanbul, Turkey. The starting point of my study is an investigation into their realizations of neumatic scores. I demonstrate that the seemingly oblique relationship between the written melody and its aural realization as chant is caused by the fact that, along with the written neumes, the psaltes are engaged in a complex interaction with a host of remembered realizations. I theorize that they experience the musical score as a palimpsest as they perceive multiple layers of remembered melodies clustered around the written line. I then develop this theory to include the concept of historical time in which their community is the anchor of the palimpsest. Thus, the psaltes of the Patriarchal church do not feel historical time as a linear continuum but rather experience it as imminent in layers of resonances that they negotiate throughout their lives. This study provides a rare glimpse into the source of affect and meaning in formulaic musical traditions.