Listening to Byzantine Chant (Tone 2)

After a long break, I finally have some time to dedicate to my blogging. I started a while back a thread on listening to byzantine chant and put together the first piece on the 1st tone. Today I hope to shed some light on the different forms of the 2nd tone and the different emotion it evokes, at least inside me.

Since the 2nd tone has no equivalent in Western music, it is possibly more difficult for listeners who grew up listening and appreciating Western music.

As I was considering the emotional impact of the 2nd tone on the listener I realized that no matter what the tone is, our byzantine music tone, are tones of resurrection. So, no matter how we use the different tones of byzantine music, the most essential troparion (chant) for each tone is the resurrection troparion of the tone. For that reason each tone, beside any other use, is used to reflect the glory and joy of the Rising Christ.

The following chants reflects how 2nd tone is used to reflect both the death and resurrection of Christ:

The noble Joseph, when he had taken down Thy most pure body from the Tree, wrapped it in fine linen and anointed it with spices, and placed it in a new tomb

When You descended to death, O Immortal Life, You put Hades to death by the splendor of Your Divinity. And when You raised the dead from below the earth, all the Heavenly Powers cried out to You, “O Giver of Life, Christ our God, glory to You!

The angel stood by the tomb and cried out to the Myrrh-bearing Women:
“Myrrh is for the dead, but Christ has proved Himself free from corruption.” Cry out, then, “The Lord is risen and has bestowed great mercy upon the world!”

There are a number of forms for the 2nd tone with different starting key and even with different scales. Some chants of the 2nd tone use the scale of the 6th tone. Here is an example of the rhythmic 2nd tone using 6th tone scale:

We notice that although that the chants are rhythmic and fast paced, they still reflect a sad feeling as they talk about Christ starting his Passion journey.

As for the the slower form of the 2nd tone it is possibly one of the most difficult to chant in terms of the tonality as any small mistake can totally get you off tune. Here is a sample:

In this sample the atmosphere is more cheerful and glorifying of the Lord’s gifts.

Finally, I hope that this entry has shed some light on the 2nd tone and opened the door to those who like to dive into the mysteries of byzantine chanting. Please send me your comments!

— Jack Rabah



2 thoughts on “Listening to Byzantine Chant (Tone 2)

  1. Reblogged this on Curmudgeon In Training and commented:
    Here’s the second installment of that Byzantine Tone series I requested. I recommend it to everyone who feels a need to become better acquainted with that form of music that has been the emotive crucible of Orthodox sentiment for a very long time.

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