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I belive that politic is for politicians, people are more important!
In this blog was written lots of bad things about russian politic - all that was true and it is sad, but now I want to start writing few words about Russians, their culture and traditions

8 Mar 2009

Orthodox church Music

Orthodox hymnody is a part of Russian musical culture. It is a specific world, the aim of which is the appeal to God and the service of Him; contrary to secular music, which satisfies the aesthetic needs of people.

Church singing, as a variety of sacred music, has its own rhythm and order and differs greatly from any other kind of music.

From ancient times till now all world cultures have used sound as a means of fascination and intoxication. Sound was always considered to have heavenly supernatural power. But speaking about the influence of music upon men, we must take into consideration that in ancient times the influence was much stronger, because of the absence of that acoustic sphere of "sound pollution" that today causes acoustic shock and diminishes the sensibility of modern men, distracts their attention, and therefore undermines their perceptive abilities.

In ancient times sounds, and sounds of music in particular, made people tremble with holy awe. We can assume that sound in general is connected with different spiritual worlds.

To leap from their own internal world to that of the spiritual level special music is often used because it is impossible for ordinary people in their usual state of mind to communicate directly with the higher spiritual world. Thus music becomes a kind of the bridge between earthly and spiritual worlds. Sound, in the language of people appealing to God, and harmony, can be the language of the Spirit in communication with people. That is the reason why every world religion makes use of music. This type of music supposes a collective perception of it. Actually, it is not only listened to, people plunge into it, taking part in a sacred service.

So music helps people to communicate with spiritual worlds. But the nature of spiritual world is not homogeneous. Fathers of Eastern church believe that the spiritual world can be heavenly and demonic. The lowest spiritual world is inhabited by demons - fallen angels with Satan at the head; the highest spiritual world is the world of the Holy Spirit. But the aim of Orthodox church music is to elevate the human soul to the heights of the world of the Holy Spirit. There is no instrumental music in the Orthodox church, though as Fr. Alexander Men wrote: "The use of musical instruments in church does not contradict Orthodox Christianity". The Bible says: " Praise Him with stringed instruments and organs " (Ps. 150: 4). In the times when Russian Orthodox Christendom was at its initial stage, the fathers of the Church connected the use of musical instruments with the service of demonic force, because instruments were widely used in pagan ceremonies. In attempts to draw a line between Christianity and heathenism the Russian Orthodox Church did not allow the use of any musical instruments at a divine service.

Psalm 150 says: "Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord". The Russian Orthodox Church considers that the praise of God has to be connected with breathing, it has to be vivid and inspired. A person that praises God plays the role of a musical instrument with a soul, contrary to ordinary instruments, that can not possess a soul. We often meet the comparison of a saint with a musical instrument, for example, an organ in Orthodox literature. The Church calls such a saint "the organ of the Holy Spirit". No musical instrument can surpass the human voice in the influence it produces upon men. That is the reason for the huge impression produced by this "angelic singing" upon our ancestors - the ambassadors of Great Prince Vladimir. They heard it during the divine service in the church of St.Sophia in Constantinople a thousand years ago. They told Prince Vladimir after that they did not know where they had been: either upon the Earth or in Heaven. Soon "angelic singing" could be heard all over Russia in numerous churches that began to appear after the Baptism of Russia.

Thousands of years passed. The singing that we can hear in churches nowadays is quite different from that "angelic singing" that came to Russia from Byzantium in the X-th century. But it still preserves that special reserve and solemnity, which elevates the human soul.

A lot of factors influenced Russian church singing during its thousand year existence. We can name the influence of secular music (including instrumental music as well), Russian folk singing traditions, and the interaction with Western culture as just a few of such influences. The centuries has formed Russian hymnody, melting the factors hostile to it in the flame passage of the Church. This long period of development resulted in three styles of hymnody, which we can distinguish today: cathedral hymnody (singing in cathedrals), parish hymnody (singing in provincial churches of parish significance), and cloister hymnody (singing in monasteries and convents).

Cathedral hymnody was formed in the great cathedrals of big cities, where the service was often conducted by bishops, and a lot of people were present at them. This kind of hymnody is distinguished by its solemnity and the brilliance of its sounding. Mixed four part choirs sing usually in such cathedrals. There is always a group of soloists, and large groups of men and women choristers present. Specially composed sacred music, of concert character, is performed there. All choral parts are usually doubled, and vertical lines of chords of such choirs cover a range of four octaves (or five octaves, in case the choir includes a basso profondo). The arrangement of chords in ektenes and tones is usually wide. It is the hymnody of Orthodox holiday splendour.

You can hear parish hymnody in small churches of provincial towns and villages, with their homely unpretentious atmosphere. There are not many parisheners present at week days there. But they attend their church regularly and know each other. The service is conducted by one and the same priest both on week days and on holidays. The sound of the choir is calm and of chamber quality. Small choirs or ensembles consisting mostly of women - choristers sing there. Men's voices are not numerous, and you can only hear them on feast days. The singing is melodious and harmonious. It corresponds to the interior of the church, and its decorations. It is characterized by special warmth, prayerfullness and sincerity. Worshippers often sing together with the choir. It is a plain sincere prayer, which is very close to the traditions of folk singing in spirit.

Cloister hymnody can be heard in convents and monasteries. This kind of singing has preserved its ancient basics to a greater degree. You will not hear ancient monophonic Znamenny chant there, but cloister hymnody still preserves the atmosphere of reservedness, contemplativeness and loftiness. Its sounding illustrates the words of the Cherubic song: "Let us now lay aside all earthly care: that we may receive the King of all ". This hymnody is like the quiet burning of a candle, or a flicker of an icon-lamp. It captivates the soul and leads it from earthly matters to the world of spiritual joy and prayerful contemplativeness. The choristers are only men or only women. This hymnody can be triphonic or quadrophonic, but it is usually unsophisticated, and presents cloister chants of diurnal cycle. It is an old tradition of big monasteries and convents to have two choirs, that stand on both sides of the altar and sing in turn. Small cloisters have only one choir usually. Cloister hymnody differs from any other kind of church singing. It is the singing of incomparable spiritual delight, the singing of Christ''s love and intelligent prayer. Cloister hymnody cannot be imitated by any secular, cathedral, or parish choir. To sing like monks one has to live a monastic life.

Therefore Russian Orthodox church singing at its present stage touches upon every possible spiritual state of a worshipper: from the tender and chaste joy of Announcement, warmth and brightness of Christmas, anguish and sorrow of Calvary, to the boundless triumph of Easter. Three styles of Russian hymnody fully express the whole range of feelings and states of the human soul.

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