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A New Historical Introduction to Byzantine Chant

Alexander L. Lingas, City University of London, United Kingdom / European Humanities Research Centre, University of Oxford, Summer Fellow 2010/11

I came to Dumbarton Oaks to continue work on a new introduction to the history of Byzantine chant from Late Antiquity to the present for the Yale University Press. This will be the first book-length survey of the field since Egon Wellesz, A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography (Oxford: 1949; 2nd ed. 1961), significant portions of which have been rendered obsolete. This is in part 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.

At Dumbarton Oaks I was able to consolidate much of my previous research into a bibliographic computer database of over 2000 entries, a task greatly aided by the helpful staff, open stacks and electronic resources of its superb library. These same resources were invaluable as I also worked to locate and absorb path-breaking new research that has appeared in the last decade on several areas that figure prominently in my narrative: the ancient liturgy of Jerusalem, the musical innovations of Stoudite monasticism, and musical interchange between Byzantium and its Slavic and Latin neighbors. The other major task that I accomplished during my eight weeks at Dumbarton Oaks was a 77-page draft of a study of the intellectual context for Byzantine liturgical singing synthesizing material that I have been collecting over the last twenty years. 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 Yale Press. In conclusion, I would like to offer my profound gratitude to the administration, fellows and staff of Dumbarton Oaks for eight weeks that were not only very productive, but also most enjoyable.

 

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Byzantine Studies Fellows, 2010/11