I received a decent amount of positive feedback for my review of Byzantine Secular Classical Music Vol. I that I wrote back in May 2009. So here are Vol. II and Vol. III for your enjoyment. I prefer writing posts about LPs or CDs that are actually in my collection instead of music that I find in cyberspace and download, but every now and then even this blogger changes his modus operandi. I came across these two titles on a web page from a sort of music blog-forum hybrid and am now passing them on to you dear readers. Originally, each CD was ripped as one file, but I dissected each track into a separate MP3 so that the performances can be listened to on an individual basis. Unfortunately, the booklet notes for Vol. II are incomplete, while those for Vol. III were not included in the files that I downloaded. Still, something is better than nothing, right?
Much of what I wrote in my essay on the first set of this series is also applicable here since the music is very much in the same vein. Previously, I described it as otherworldly. This time, I'll call it mystical and rapturous. Whatever words that one chooses to use, these performances really don't resemble anything else to which I can compare them. Just imagine yourself walking the streets of Constantinople circa 1000 A.D., and this is possibly what you might hear coming out of concert halls or being played in outdoor amphitheaters. This is definitely music that sounds ancient.
During the time between this post and the post for Vol. I, I've done a bit of reading on Christodoulos Halaris, the man who researched and organized the recording of this material during the 1990s. It seems that he has a mathematical background and utilized this knowledge to assist him in deciphering the musical notation system employed by Byzantine composers. One reader who had left a comment on the first volume described these performances as a type of "numerically-influenced music founded by the Pythagoreans," which now makes a lot more sense to me. As glorious as this material is, Halaris is not without his detractors as some people have apparently criticized his interpretative methods. However, until a scientist invents an audio time machine that allows us to hear what music from ancient civilizations really sounded like, this is probably as close as we'll ever get. I really like the manner in which a reviewer on Amazon named Bruce Tutcher summarized his feelings about these recordings:
To listen to (Halaris') albums is to read Robert Graves' White Goddess. It's probably mostly wrong, but the ideas are so fertile and extensive as to be like the thrill of viewing newer photographs by the Hubble (telescope) of the young universe. Do the photographs have any real physical verisimilitude, or do they evoke something we feel? This is how I listen to this music.Me too, Bruce.
Byzantine Secular Classical Music Vol. II
5. Very Beautiful
1. Tataric Kratima
2. Pleasant Musical Work
1. Nightingale Kratima
2. Polychronism to Ioannis Petros Voevodas
3. Secular Kratima
4. Persian Kratima
Byzantine Secular Classical Music Vol. III
1. The Orphan
2. The Nightingale
3. O Pany Oraios
1. The Wheel
4. O Pani Kalon