Spectral examination of Byzantine Chant archetype


  • Livia Teodorescu-Ciocănea
  • Joel Crotty


holistic listening, analytic listening, tonalness, inharmonicity, heterophony


In this article, a particular hypostasis of Byzantine chant was chosen to be spectrally examined, from the multitude of possible variants: a melodic structure accompanied by a simple bass drone called Ison, placed bellow the melody and sung by male choir. This model is referred to in this paper as Byzantine chant archetype and is further approached from the spectral listening perspective. Psychoacoustic analysis criteria were used, such as: holistic/analytic listening, sound fusion/fissioning, sensory consonance/dissonance, harmonic entropy, etc. The research is an attempt to demonstrate that Byzantine chant with Ison presents an ideal situation for sound fusion perception and holistic listening. The persistence of the fundamental pitch (Ison) over the melodic structure acts in favor of partials fusion of the two layers into one perceptual entity. Starting with Western medieval organum, polyphonic practice broke with the monolithic perceptual entity provided by the Ison by simply moving the bass line and later filling it in with chords resulting from the multipart structure. The perception mode shifted from sound fusion to sound fissioning. The way we hear the polyphonic texture is of an analytic nature (analytic listening mode). It appears that Western music culture developed a more analytic model of hearing while the Eastern one relied more on a holistic listening type.

Peer-reviewed Articles



How to Cite

Teodorescu-Ciocănea, Livia, and Joel Crotty. 2019. “Spectral Examination of Byzantine Chant Archetype”. Journal of the International Society for Orthodox Music 1 (November):1-19. https://journal.fi/jisocm/article/view/87616.