Kyivan chant

Kyivan chant ( Kyivskyi naspiv or Kyivskyi rozspiv). A repertoire of melodies used in the liturgy in Kyivan Rus’. It developed out of the earlier Byzantine and Bulgarian chants, and by the 11th century was characterized by a distinctive style. The Kyivan chant was a homophonic diatonic melody based, like the Byzantine chant, on eight main modes, but its modes differed in structure from the Byzantine ones. The melodic motif could be employed in more than one mode, but some modes could be used only at the beginning, middle, or end of a chant. The Kyivan chant was cultivated at the Kyivan Cave Monastery and from there spread to other parts of Ukraine. The names of some of its adepts—the monks Stepan in Kyiv, Dmytro in Peremyshl, and Luka in Volodymyr-Volynskyi—have been preserved in the historical record. Transmitted at first orally, the chant was written down, eventually, in neumatic notation, which conveyed only the general melody, leaving the pitch and length of sounds undetermined. The Kyivan repertoire was subdivided into three distinct categories: the great chant (velykyi rozspiv), which was the original form and was used only on the most solemn feasts; the abbreviated chant (skorochenyi rozspiv), which was used on minor holidays; and the little chant (malyi rozspiv), which was used on Sundays. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Kyivan chant gave rise to several variations such as the Kyivan Cave Monastery chant, the Volhynian (Pochaiv) chant, the Galician (Peremyshl and Lviv) chant, and the Subcarpathian (Basilian) chant. Minor variations in the Kyivan chant led to the development of the Kharkiv, Poltava, and Horodyshche chants. The most developed variation was the Kyivan Cave Monastery chant, which absorbed elements of western-European music and attained its full and final form in the 16th century. By this time the melody had evolved into a chromatic one. The leading voice was the second tenor, supported by the first tenor, alto, and two bass voices. Lacking a soprano voice, this choir produced music of a distinctive quality. The Kyivan chant and the chants that evolved from it had a significant influence on the development of Ukrainian music. (See also Church music.)

Marko Robert Stech

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1988).]

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