12/14/2019, 16.20
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UNESCO adds Byzantine chant to the ‘intangible heritage of humanity’

By “Highlighting and musically enhancing the liturgical texts of the Greek Orthodox Church,” Byzantine chant “is inextricably linked with spiritual life and religious worship,” writes the UN agency. Thanks to oral transmission and use in churches and monasteries, this musical genre withstood the fall of Byzantium and the rise of the Ottoman Empire, influencing eastern popular music.

Bogotá (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Byzantine chant (see video below) is an ancient tradition of liturgical music, and now one of the 42 cultural traditions and practices, 15 from Asia, added to the “intangible heritage of humanity"

The United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO) include Byzantine chant to its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity at the 14th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which ended today in Bogotá (Colombia).

“As a living art that has existed for more than 2000 years,’ writes the UN agency, “the Byzantine chant is a significant cultural tradition and comprehensive music system forming part of the common musical traditions that developed in the Byzantine Empire. Highlighting and musically enhancing the liturgical texts of the Greek Orthodox Church, it is inextricably linked with spiritual life and religious worship.”

Byzantine chant is a unique musical genre. It is a vocal monody without instrumental accompaniment, organised in an eight-mode system (Oktōēchos), sung primarily in Greek (Arabic in some regions). It is accompanied vocally by a drone or slow-moving note called ison or isocrátima. Gregorian chant originated in this music genre as well.

The Byzantine chant developed to extol Biblical texts after the 3rd century in the Byzantine Empire, reaching its peak between the 13th and 15th centuries.

Thanks to oral transmission and regular use in churches and monasteries, the music withstood the fall of Byzantium and the rise of the Ottoman empire, influencing eastern popular music (Balkan, Hebrew, Arab, Armenian and Syriac).

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