Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Other music notes.

These are my opinions at the moment, I'm noting them for future reference to see if my mind changes.

Four-part settings of Byzantine music just don't work. Especially when they add a lot of weird stuff in the non-melody parts. If you want Byzantine, just do Byzantine.

If you do have a Byzantine-ish setting, please have an ison or something marked. It makes things sound better.

Mixing "normal" Byzantine music and "normal" 4-part Russian music just doesn't - at least not generally - work. Pick one and roll with it. Maybe other polyphonic stuff can mix with Russian stuff, but the contrast of those two styles is just too great.

It would be really nice to have a tenor. And a guarantee of one extra person on every other part. At the moment, we generally have a soprano/melody, have a bass when I'm there, and usually have an alto. Things rapidly get complicated when people disappear. At least, I presume from seeing what it's like when other people aren't here. I don't know what it's like when I'm not here.

I appreciate the need for well-assembled music books. I prefer books assembled in "modular" fashion rather than with everything integrated. If done well, that makes it easier to switch things out if necessary.

It would be nice to be able to change some of the music occasionally - or permanently. But I do appreciate how the previous points make change difficult. The ideal, of course, is to do everything I know how to do already, especially the pieces I like, and maybe a few new things, and to do it all in the way in which I am familiar with doing them.

EDIT: Another note is that, generally, the singing has always been a problem for "other people" to me in the past. If I had known, I suppose, that I would have needed to do something with it in the future, I might have paid more attention to the music. A lot of these pieces I know, but had never even seen until last year. The exception is some vespers and matins music.

Tone 2 Stichera Notes

Tone 2 gets hairy sometimes at our parish because the typical Bakhmetev setting has the melody in the alto (see:, PDF of Lord I call...), but sometimes it's hard to sing things where the melody isn't in the highest voice. And things just sound bad if the soprano is singing the melody where the soprano line is supposed to be and the altos sing the appropriate alto line.

In our previous parish, I don't recall that we had this problem. It seems my recollection was right: we used a combination of two different settings: the Ledkovsky Kievan setting (see an example here in PDF: Lord I call...) and the the harmonization from the 1914 St Petersburg Court Chapel "Obikhod" (can be found Eastern Church Music Resources). The latter uses the same melodies as the Bakhmetev Obikhod, but what was the soprano line, essentially, gets shoved down an octave into the tenor, leaving what was formerly the alto as now the soprano by virtue of being the highest remaining notes. The alto and the bass get fiddled with a little bit, I haven't looked at it closely. But I think this is the source of much of our confusion - we're used to a "Common Chant" setting where it is indeed the case that the top line is the melody and it's pretty much the same. Of course, a tenor is absolutely required for this to work right.

There are other options around. St Tikhon's put out a two-part adaptation of the Ledkovsky Kievan setting on their vespers page. The Diocese of the West - OCA has a Ledkovsky-like setting, but they change the ending slightly. The ROCOR has a different Kievan setting which looks like it's based on what I thought was the troparion rather than the sticheron tone 2, see the St Romanos Society.

Lilychant has pattern files for the Ledkovsky-type tone 2 stichera melodies. I don't recognize the other settings labeled "Kievan" for tone 2 as corresponding to either the ROCOR melodies or to a slightly different setting of the Ledkovsky melodies - they're slightly different from the latter and I don't have any sheet music that corresponds. I made a few minor changes to the Ledkovsky pattern file that they have listed, if any readers want it. When setting music yourself, you may consider using quarter notes rather than a dotted quarter and an eighth note for the conclusion to save annoyance while typing out the files - the "two part" settings from STOTS do that. Or you may wish to consider the sort of ending the Diocese of the West uses.

Anyway, I had the Ledkovsky "Lord I call", but not all the aposticha verses, so I set that myself using Lilychant the other day to familiarize myself with how it works as well as all the tone 2 bits for the next couple weeks. The former probably needs some tweaking still, and the text is straight from the "Holy Myrrhbearers" text, which has some translation choices some people do not like (ie "You"), but I am not comfortable changing texts. I think it may be necessary to fiddle with the Lilypond output of Lilychant a little bit to get the best results, but the typesetting straight out of Lilychant is certainly "adequate" for variable pieces. For something that gets used every 8 weeks, however, some adjustment is probably needed - adding cues, things like that. I set the entire set of aposticha verses as one file.

Anyway, that has been enough terrible choral nonsense for the day. I only put up with this because the alternative - poor singing - is worse.

"Christ is risen" is archaic grammar, not a theological statement

Well, it's a theological statement, of course, but the use of "is" rather than "has" is historic rather than theological. It says more about what's happened to English grammar in the past few centuries than what happened to Christ in the past few millennia.