Well, that didn’t take long. I got a fairly lengthy response to the previous post via private e-mail. I present it here in full, save for the respondent’s name, which I leave out because it seems to me the issues are already personal enough for some people, and while this individual’s thoughts are worth airing, they did not express them publicly.
In response to your thoughts, perhaps there is something that the proponents of the Karas Theory refuse to address. That the Theory is based on false premises, that it is largely not in line with any historical or musicological facts, that manuscript and oral tradition debunk it and the fact that its founder, Simon Karas never had any measurable or documented training as a chanter.
The musicological arguments against the Karas Method can be summarised as follows:
1) Are the tonal intervals proposed for the genera in line with the intervals of oral tradition?
2) Simon Karas introduced (rather, re-introduced at his discretion and quite arbitrarily) Old Paleographic symbols to denote (in a stenographic manner) oral ornamentation. How faithful are those ornamentations to anything in oral tradition at the times of Karas and anytime between the 1940s-1970s?
3) Simon Karas proposes that the Patriarchal oral interpretations of music (and indeed the reformation of the musicall notation) are not in line with what, in his mind, were the interpretations of the old psaltae. Yet, given that he had no formal teachers and given that at least a century had passed between the reformation and the time he engaged in his studies, just how credible is this assertion?
4) The two chantors/scholars widely accepted by the Constantinopolitan musical circles as the most learned regarding the old paleography in the late 1800s were Nileas Kamarados and Konstantinos Psachos. In none of their works does one find the arbitrary and quite incredible proposals of Karas.
5) Angelopoulos took the Karas interpretations and further embellished them. Others have gone even further to vocal acrobatics that are short of ridiculous in the context of the history of Byzantine musical interpretation.
This is a very simplified summary of a subject that was discussed and considered by three conferences at the request of the Church of Greece on the matter. The Karas proponents were well-represented. Their arguments (historical/musical/musicological) were detailed, comprehensive and with lots of data. At the end, and in consideration of the overwhelming volume of contrary evidence along with the oral tradition, their arguments were unconvincing. The Church of Greece thus issued two edicts sensitising the musical community that there is no reason to consider anything else than the accepted tradition (Chrysanthine notation, consensus interpretations).
The debate should have ended there and then. However, the Karas proponents maintained their militancy. They continued, in very provocative terms, largely through positions in Greek academia and music conservatories some of them had obtained in the meantime, to question quite disingeniously the obvious. One can speculate that since the money was being thrown around liberally in Greece in the 90s, and many academic experts found easy sources of funding, the Karas “legacy” became a source of government money. Evidence for this comes from sizable sums of grants allotted to the choir of Angelopoulos, as well as block grants to various scholars. So, there was also a financial and professional incentive to carry on with the Karas “legacy”.
I could go on, but you may consider this wordy response as militancy. Mr. Barrett, people like myself have been on the DEFENSIVE for years facing an onslaught of a musically-untenable fabrication and every time we rebut with SCIENCE, HISTORY and FACTS, the Karas “proponents” resort to avoidance of directly addressing our points. If they are scholars, then they should be respectful and answer scholarly comments.
The Patriarchate’s role is to protect its legacy from arbitrary and unauthoritative alterations. The Patriarchate has followed this debate for years and indeed has also requested and received scholarly considerations. You may not know, but Mr. Angelopoulos was called to Istanbul recently and over a period of many hours he was asked to explain the entire matter.
The Holy Synod took his views into consideration, but in light of the overwhelming facts against the Karas “Theory and Method”, the Patriarchate ultimately did not agree with his reasoning.
It also sensitised Mr. Angelopoulos to work in Greece and abroad to find a way that would return peace among the family of chantors.
That Mr. Angelopoulos, continued his provocations after this, left the Patriarchate with no choice but to protect its legacy in the most direct manner possible short of something more serious reserved for ecclesiastic heresy.
The argument that the Patriarchate is clueless on musicology, has no “experts” at its disposal and thus does not understand the Karas “legacy” is completely bunk. It is being disingeniously thrown around currently by those who have a lot to lose by the Patriarchal decision. The fact is, as I noted above, that the Patriarchate for over a period of years, consulted with renowned musicologists, including those of the Karas camp.
In the end, the pro-Karas arguments were unconvincing.
Until the time the Karas movement accepts that the Theory has (at the very least) some serious flaws, or accepts (as do the overwhelming majority of chantors and musicologists) that it is largely an arbitrary fabrication of a person who had no serious background in Byzantine music, questions like those you raise in your thoughts will remain.
The Patriarchate has issued, through this decision, a very clear direction to church musicians. Whether one chooses to follow them or not is largely a personal matter which reflects one’s real character in terms of “respecting the church”.
As for enforcement, I cannot know. In the past, the Patriarchate has been known to be lenient or to be very strict in enforcement. Time will tell, as regards this matter.
Let me ask you this question Mr. Barrett:
Is it formally possible that what you hold so dear may be factually and historically incorrect?
Thank you for your consideration.
I would like to express my gratitude to the person who sent this to me; it is quite detailed and informative, and I expect that there will be those who will have things to say in response. I ask that any comments veer as far away from personal attacks as might be humanly possible; I don’t need my blog to become a boxing ring.
My main comment is this. If Patriarchal Style is such a clear-cut entity that is what anybody who learns Byzantine chant needs to know, then I would expect no end of easily-accessible learning resources to be made available to any and all Orthodox communities where the EP has jurisdiction, including America. Such would seem to me to be the necessity of ensuring proper training in Patriarchal Style. If conservative mimicry is how one needs to learn this stuff, then there needs to be real-time in-person access to somebody whom one can mimic.
This is, I’m afraid, not the case. From Bloomington, Indiana, I had to go to Greece to have any access at all to a teacher, and Ioannis Arvanitis was the one who was willing to teach me. That was ultimately far easier to do than travel to New York or Pittsburgh or wherever that which is considered Patriarchal Style is taught.
If this matter is as black and white as the commenter would suggest, than it seems to me that the burden is on him and those like him to see that it’s actually possible to have realistic access to the right teachers, and with all due respect to those who produced them, the YouTube videos that certain entities have put out are not adequate substitutes. It strikes me that there are productive and constructive solutions that are not happening; what there has been, rather, is a lot of sword-sharpening and saber-rattling while people Iike me are left to their own devices.