Tradition and innovation in Romanian Orthodox Chant – "Our Father"
It is well known that Romania has found herself over time at the confluence of several cultures (Latin, Greek, Slavic, Western). The Romanian people are Latin, speaking a Romance or new Latin language, but are also promoters of the Orthodox faith, with Byzantine roots and heritage. This situation explains why Romanian culture in general and church music in particular have combined, at certain points, Eastern (Byzantine) elements with those of Western or of another origin (e.g., Slavic).
If psaltic music, of the Byzantine tradition, has always been sung in Romania, harmonic-polyphonic music was introduced systematically during the second half of the 19th century (although it had been sung earlier in Transylvania, Banat and Bucovina), giving birth to much controversy, some of which has been maintained until today (in some circles, there is a belief that “only Byzantine music is Orthodox, redeeming”, and “harmonic-polyphonic music is heretical, hellish”).
This is why the presentation of the relationship between tradition and innovation in Romanian Orthodox chant is complicated, because, with these controversies, some aspects even assume an ambivalent character – the same reality for some has a traditional character, and for others, it is innovation.
But one might ask, does the term “traditional” has always a positive connotation, while “innovation” has a negative connotation, or vice versa – “innovation” a positive connotations, and “tradition” a negative? Must the ratio of tradition and innovation in Orthodox music be antagonistic, an expression of the struggle between good and evil, the promotion of one and the rejection of the other? Or we can militate for a different perspective, peaceful coexistence and even of joint elements of the old and the new, as an attempt to update the tradition through the integration of new elements (through their “christianization” or “spiritualisation”) or to anchor the “new” in traditional items lost or forgotten in the “scrolls” of the old times?
Copyright (c) 2018 Ionuț-Gabriel Nastasă
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