Sonic and Auditory Cognition in the Byzantine Chant: Historical and Ontological Perceptions of an Intercivilizational “Language of Worship”

Aaron Tyler


The sonic and auditory cognitions associated with the sounds and language of the Byzantine Chant are a consequence of the Eastern Orthodox Church’s world construction (externalization and objectivation) created through a complex filter of time, place, and identity.  Considering varied influences from the European continent, Russia, and the Near East, this paper will explore how geography, culture, cosmogony, and empire conditioned the sonic and auditory developments and perceptions of this sacred chant. 

Using a cross-disciplinary platform of geo-historical analysis, musical theory, and linguistic philosophy, this paper will consider the following questions: Why does the Eastern Church perceive the monophonic character of this eight-tone (octoechos) chant as the most authentic modus operandi for expressing the language or liturgy of worship?  Where does it come from?  How was it created? What are its metaphysical, historical, and linguistic roots? How is one called to listen to its sounds?  In what ways are the melodic formula, rhythms, and tonality of this chant inextricably linked to specific liturgical texts, human geography, and metaphysical context?

The Byzantine Chant illustrates well the connections of sound, tone, and language to Eastern Orthodoxy's inter-civilizational conceptualization and cognition of worship and identity.


multicultural music, language and liturgy of worship, Orthodox Church history, theology and music, sonic cognition

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ISSN: 1792-2518
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