"Psalm Composition in Middle- and Late Byzantium"

Psalm composition is among the least explored topics of Byzantine chant, although psalmody constitutes the basic structure and outline of the daily offices and the liturgy. So far, psalm-compositions have either been examined cursorily in the context of other genres or in separate studies that dealt with one psalm/psalm-complex at a time. Moreover, the focus has hitherto been on the florid, melismatic Late- Byzantine compositions and not on the early (10th/11th c.) syllabic settings that have come to be known as "simple psalmody". 

Simple psalmody is of such vital importance for the study of Byzantine chant because it is said to hold the key to the understanding of the composition of psalms: It is assumed that simple psalmody provides a kind of basic structure that would eventually constitute the backbone of the more elaborate melismatic 14th/15th c. psalms. Moreover, these early settings seem to have been model-verses, which were written according to the eight modes. Thus, there probably existed a system of psalm-tones from the earliest times on, although no explicit reference to them can be found in medieval Byzantine theoretical treatises. The project will concentrate on still unresolved fundamental questions such as e.g. how the psalm-settings match the modal system(s) of Byzantine chant, if it is possible to identify co-existing, multiple psalmodic styles, do the Late-Byzantine melismatic psalms become more developed over time and in which ways psalm-settings and -formulas provide models for other chants. 

The project will break new ground scientifically via the investigation of simple psalmody and its manifestations in the Late-Byzantine melismatic psalms. By analysing a hitherto largely under-researched genre, the project will significantly contribute to the understanding of an essential part of Byzantine chant composition and to the redrawing of the map of Byzantine musical studies. Furthermore, it will constitute the first representative survey of the vast area of Byzantine psalmody, taking into account 100 of the most important Byzantine manuscripts from the 10th to the 15th c.  

The project will thus aim to establish a melodic "corpus" of the Byzantine psalmodic tradition and a body of the simple psalm-settings in the form of a large-scale monograph consisting of transcriptions, musical and historical in-depth analyses, and comparisons of the psalms among themselves, as well as with other connected chant-genres.