Abstracts of issue 1/1986 (4)

Michalis Adamis

An Example of Polyphony in Byzantine Music of the Late Middle Ages

The Communion Aineite by Lambadarios Manuel Gazis in the manuscript No 2401 of the 15th century in the Athens National Library (folio 328r) is the oldest example of Byzantine polyphony as yet discovered. The transcription of the two parallel melodies of this Koinonikon made it clear that they fit to each other harmonically and polyphonically. The research on problems like the frequency of polyphonic music in the Eastern Church, as well as on other unusual elements in the Byzantine hymns and their notation, leads to the question of influences of the western tradition to the Byzantine. It also raises a question as to the nature of the isocratima and its actual usage in the Orthodox Church of the 14th and 15th centuries.
However, the polyphonic compositions prove Manuel Gazis, the composer of the Aineite, to be a composer with an extensive practice and experience in his style. This style, based on a harmonic consonance of two melodies (totally unusual in Byzantine music) presents the following characteristics:
  1. Chords of fifths and diminished fifths are used extensively as well as fourths and augmented fourths, major and minor thirds, octaves and one major sixth.
  2. The harmonic progression is mostly by parallel fifths and, in a lesser degree, by parallel fourths and octaves and unison.
  3. Contrary motion combined with crossing of parts often starts from the voices in unison on B.
  4. Cadences occur mostly on the tonics of the modes, i.e. on G and D, and more rarely on d in unison or an octave apart and on G in unison.
  5. The contrapuntal writing allows each voice to maintain the characteristics of the mode it belongs to.