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A New Historical Introduction to Byzantine Chant

Alexander L. Lingas, City University London, United Kingdom/European Humanities Research Centre, University of Oxford, Summer Fellow 2010

While in residence, I worked on a new introduction to the history of Byzantine chant from late antiquity to the present day for the Yale University Press. This will be the first book-length survey of the field since A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography (1949, with 2nd edition in 1961) by Egon Wellesz, significant portions of which have been rendered obsolete. This is partially due to advances in liturgical scholarship that have shown how Byzantium throughout its long history fostered vigorous competition between regionally and functionally differentiated forms of worship, the most significant of which were the so-called cathedral and monastic traditions of Constantinople and Palestine. I was able to consolidate much of my previous research into a bibliographic database of over two thousand entries, a task greatly aided by the helpful staff, open stacks, and electronic resources of the superb library at Dumbarton Oaks. These same resources were invaluable, as I also worked to locate and absorb path-breaking new research on several areas that figure prominently in my narrative, such as the ancient liturgy of Jerusalem, the musical innovations of Stoudite monasticism, and the musical interchange between Byzantium and its Slavic and Latin neighbors. The other major task that I accomplished during the summer term was a seventy-seven-page draft of a study of the intellectual context for Byzantine liturgical singing. This study, the writing of which was nourished by informal conversations with other summer fellows, will serve both as a freestanding introduction to “Performing the Liturgy in Byzantium” and as the interpretive framework for the musical data presented in my book for the Yale University Press.

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