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Prosomia in the Russian Orthodox tradition

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#1 Nathaniel Woon

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 05:45 AM

I am just wondering about the automela and prosomia (samopodobny and podobny) in the Russian Orthodox tradition. I believe there about 70 plus of these in the Byzantine tradition and wonder how many there are in the Russian Orthodox tradition.

#2 Anthony Stokes

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 09:02 PM

That's a great question. I would say that the podobny are about the same in number, since they are based on a specific text that, and that designation is there in both traditions. Here is a chart that I have used before with some of the examples. Of course, the difference is that there are several versions of each melody depending on the Russian chant system used, as seen in the chart.


Sbdn. Anthony

#3 Stephen Reynolds

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Posted 26 January 2013 - 03:21 PM

The URL must now be http://webcache.goog...l-melodies.html

This is a good collection of examples. However, to answer the question properly more research has to be done. To begin with, the standard Russian repertory does not have much in two of the three categories of podobny, troparia and exapostilaria. There are Znamenny melodies for some of the troparia, but they are little known or used nowadays, and in normal Russian use the podobny are sung to the standard troparion melodies. There is a single melody, said to be proper to "Hearken, O women," in the Znamenny chant, used for all exapostilaria by the Old Believers; in the MP, all exapostilaria are usually sung as troparia of Tone 3.

That leaves the stichera, and outside of monasteries the podoben melodies are generally ignored here too, and the standard melodies for stichera are used instead. Two exceptions are widespread: the kontakia "Today the Virgin" and "Noble Joseph" are sung, but in a limited scope ("Noble Joseph" occurs weekly in the Octoechos, but in this context the special melody is ignored; similarly with "Today the Virgin": the melody is ignored if it is prescribed outside of the Forefeast, Feast, & Afterfeast of Nativity.

The three chant systems introduced into Russian use in the 17th century must be considered. The above-mentioned two podoben melodies belong to the "Bulgarian" Chant. A very small number of "Bulgarian" melodies were accepted into the Russian repertory, and for this reason it is thought of as a quite incomplete chant system. This is entirely wrong; it is a very rich system, and in SW Rus’, when it was still in the Patriarchate of Constantinople, some monasteries and some towns sang almost the entire annual round of services to it. The churches of that large area regular sang troparia podobnyia to the Bulgarian chant; in some cases there are long and short melodies for them. There are also some stichery podobnyia in this system. And there are two or three exapostilaria that should be assigned to it. So far there is no systematic study, and more melodies may survive than I have seen. In most of the area where these were sung, they were crushed by the Bakhmetev steamroller in the 19th century.

There are a few podoben melodies in the "Greek" chant, but they never won wide acceptance and AFAIK exist only in unpublished manuscripts, in "Kievan" notatiion.

Finally, the "Kievan" chant consists mostly of regional variants of the Znamenny tradition. It contains a number of podobny in the sticheron category. Russian chant books contain a version of this repertory that was adopted in Moscow. A different version, used in the Kiev Caves Lavra, is fairly widely available. But in those regions where the local tradition survived and was preserved in printed books, a number of provincial variants appear. Obviously the podobny were preserved in oral tradition, and subject to variation as a result.

Moreover, in this area, while the Znamenny melody for "Hear, O women" is unknown, there is a Znamenny melody in Tone 1 for "Our Saviour has appeared to us," quite unknown in Muscovite Russia, is sung.

Overall, there are roughly a hundred podobny. Not even the Greeks have melodies for all of them (some occur only once or twice a year). The place to hear podobny in the Russian tradition is monasteries, where the "standard repertory" of stichera prosomia (around 15 melodies) is sung. To study these it is necessary to look at the Synodal chant books, but also at the various monastic and diocesan chant books published in Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; and, since these include melodies of the "Kievan" chant, also the various collections from SW Rus’. Several years ago I looked at "Joy of the heavenly ranks" and found that there were three groups: Znamenny, including local variants; Kievan, including also many local variants from SW Rus’; and what I am at present calling "Central Russian," from the Optina and Seven Lakes monasteries. The last of these appears to be of somewhat later origin, and may have arisen in connection with the Velichkovskian revival in Russian monasticism. While the distribution of these three families varies from podoben to podoben, my initial impression is that all three will be found throughout the standard repertory. Melodies of the "peripheral repertory" may also be found in old manuscripts.

Finally, there is a gratifying renewal of interest to this "forgotten treasure" (as Gardner called it) of East-Slavic church singing, and some of them can once again be heard in some Russian-tradition parishes.

#4 John S.

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 03:39 PM



I notice that most of the PDFs for the podobny/Podoben that you posted are in Russian/Slavonic. Are there any online resources for podobny/Podoben in English? I have not been able to turn any up. It would be nice to learn at least a few of the more common special melodies.


Thank you,

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