"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

By the Rivers of Byzantium We Sat and Wept as We Thought of....Greek Orthodox Hymns?

At long last we have, in the last decade, been seeing more scholarly works on Eastern Christian music. Set for release the first of next year is a promising new study that will further our understanding not just of Eastern Orthodox music and liturgics, but also of Orthodox-Muslim relations in the sunset of the Ottoman Empire: Merih Erol, Greek Orthodox Music in Ottoman Istanbul: Nation and Community in the Era of Reform (Indiana University Press, 2016), 278pp.

About this book we are told:
During the late Ottoman period (1856–1922), a time of contestation about imperial policy toward minority groups, music helped the Ottoman Greeks in Istanbul define themselves as a distinct cultural group. A part of the largest non-Muslim minority within a multi-ethnic and multi-religious empire, the Greek Orthodox educated elite engaged in heated discussions about their cultural identity, Byzantine heritage, and prospects for the future, at the heart of which were debates about the place of traditional liturgical music in a community that was confronting modernity and westernization. Merih Erol draws on archival evidence from ecclesiastical and lay sources dealing with understandings of Byzantine music and history, forms of religious chanting, the life stories of individual cantors, and other popular and scholarly sources of the period. Audio examples keyed to the text are available online.

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