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The Old Belief is the keeper and continuator of unique traditions of the Old Russian’s music art – znamenny chant.



Znamenny chant (kryukovoe chant) - is the singing tradition used in church singing. In its basis is melismatic (unison) singing.


Znamenny chant has been the oldest type of the Russian liturgical singing since the XI  century.  This notion is received from the general naming used for its signs writing  - “Znamena” and its synonym “Kryuki” (hence kryukovoe chant). Znamenny system of notation takes its beginning from the early Byzantine non-linear notation. Also was borrowed from the Byzantine liturgical practice the principle of the music material organization – the system of “osmoglasie”.

The liturgical znamenny chant was transferred into the linear notation with significant reduction by the order of the New Believer’s Synod in 1772.

Kryuki or znamena are signs of the non-linear znamenny notation. One kryuk may describe combination of one or several sounds of different pitch levels and time-value.

In contrast to the five-linear notation kryuki do not denote scale degrees (sol, la) but melodic motions (sol=>la).

Researchers of znamenny semiography count about 500 znamen, but note that their major part is out of use at the present time.

The osmoglasie (literally – the vosmiglasie) is the modal-melodic system of the Byzantine hymnography and the Old Russian singing art. It represents the unity of interrelated in a certain manner chants (texts and melodies) of eight glases to each other.

Glas is the basic structural unit of the Byzantine modal-melodic system and the Old Russian liturgical music – the osmoglasie.  Poetic texts of chants were sang in accordance with modal-melodic regularities of one of the eight glases (some texts are in all eight glases).

“Lestvitsa” or “gorka” is used in the primary education as the form of manual. It clearly demonstrates the voice motion bottom-up and back on levels of tone series.

There are two traditions of znamenny chants in the Old Belief – naonnoe or homovoe and naretsnoe chants. 

Naonnoe chant or homonia, homovoe chant are types of the znamenny chant when semivowels, obscured sounds (yer) of the Church Slavonic language are denoted by letters ъ and ь and sang as sounds o and e. 

Naretsnoe chant or istinnoretsie – is the type of the znamenny chant appeared in XVI century but received its spreading later in 1640th.  In contrast to the naonnoe chant it is more understandable, without pronunciation of final and middle obscured sounds.

The Old Believers of Estonia use the tradition of the naonnoe chant.

Znamenny chant is old and complicated art, that is why “napevka” is the main way of its transfer in Estonia.

The Old Believers singing “according to napevka” means performance of liturgical chants by napevy that represent own local traditions. Usually napevy are slightly different from the ones written in chant-books, but these declensions are transferred orally.

Spiritual poems are the non-liturgical the Old Believers singing. Spiritual poems were also written by kryuki and were sung according to the osmoglasie as in worship services.

Spiritual poems had been known in Russia since the XV century. From the XVII century begins the wide-spread of spiritual poems within the Old Believers. In practice the Old Believers refused from any singing creativity except spiritual poems in strive to preserve their own «drevlee blagotsestie».  

Orthodox literature is in the basis of the Old Believers’ spiritual poems: “The Holy Scriptures” – the New Testament and the Bible, Lives of Saints and Apocrypha.  There are poems on historical plot, moral stories and philosophical arguments. Spiritual poems about ostracism, oppression and sufferings for the Christ Belief take the special place.

There is children’s choir in Kolki’s school in the present time. The choir sings spiritual poems of the Old Believers.



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