International Musicological Conference: Musical and Cultural Osmoses in the Balkans

Συμμετείχα με ανακοίνωση υπό τον τίτλο: John Laskaris’ Modality Scheme

[διαβάστηκε εν απουσία μου]

Of particular interest is John Laskaris’ short Theoretical Treatise on Music Theory titled as follows: “This is another modulation of the musical art, more wisely devised and more exact in every detail, worked out and drawn up by John Laskaris the Kalomisides and Maestor. It is both contrary to the first one and not contrary. It is appearing contrary to the first one for those readers who did not understand it as it was written; but for those who possess full artistic and exact knowledge of it, it is rather a verification and a supplement, as it revealed itself as a great delight by virtue of a command of its skill, having clearly indicated its peculiarities by showing the whole essence and movements of the four Main Modes and of their four Plagal Modes, both in ascent and descent”.

Indeed, John Laskaris’ aforementioned Theoretical Treatise describes both the descending movements of Main Modes and the ascending movements of Plagal ones; and therefore the creation of some peculiar versions of the same Modes; such as, on the one hand, the Mediant, Para-Mediant and Plagal Modes; and, on the other hand, the di-phonic, tri-phonic and tetra-phonic ones: “In the ascent of a Mode from the Plagal ones, one obtains the di-phonic, tri-phonic and tetra-phonic ones [‘which we call Para-Kyrioi’] and these terminate again into their Plagal ones (being like Main Mode’s ‘sons’). In descent from the Main Modes, these result in Mediant and Para-Mediant Modes, Plagal and Para-Plagal ones and these terminate on their own fundamentals”.

The said John Laskaris’ Theoretical Treatise is accompanied by a very interesting Diagram, that actually is a kind of Modality Scheme. This Scheme is a very typical example of educational and tutorial schemes of teaching of the Theory of the Byzantine Music, a Scheme that (in this case) is a Parallelogram of all eight Modes of the Byzantine Music (along with their idioms), described in Greek terms as Kanonion (means “theoretical norm). As I am currently working on a new Critical Edition of Laskaris’ aforementioned Theoretical Treatise (an effort that has never been undertaken till now), I would like (through the present paper) to point out some very interesting musicological remarks coming out from mentioned Modality Scheme, remarks through which one could not only understand some misunderstood points of the Treatise, but also, and more significantly, comprehend the entire (theoretical and practical) musical philosophy of its writer.