20 April 2011

In the finale of George Pal's 1953 motion picture adaptation of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, the Martians set their heat ray on Los Angeles. Landmarks erupt in flames, panicked crowds stampede everywhere, and in the churches huddled masses pray against the inevitable disintegration.

Now transport yourself to Constantinople, "Tsargrad", capital of the Byzantine Empire, spring 1453. The armies of the Ottoman sultan are set to "liberate" the city, having laid siege for 50 days. A massive artillery barrage breaches the city walls, and the Greek defenders are outnumbered and overrun.

When the Turks batter down the doors of Hagia Sophia, they find thousands of terrified civilians crammed together in the gloom, in clouds of sickly, billowing incense, beseeching God for deliverance from their enemies.

Little wonder that modern reconstructions of ancient Byzantine music sound melancholy. Tune into the Komodo Dragon Show this Wednesday from 8-11am CT for works by the last great Byzantine composer, lampadarios (chorus master), and teacher, Manuel Chrysaphes, eyewitness to the sacking of Constantinople (the aforementioned 1453 sacking, not the "friendly fire" 1204 one).

The frequency is 101.5 in Winnipeg; http://www.umfm.com/ in the Bosphorus.

Set #1 - 8:00am - 11:00am

1. Manuel Chrysaphes: Lament for the Fall of Constantinople
Alexander Lingas - artistic director & tenor soloist, John M. Boyer - baritone soloist, Cappella Romana
The Fall of Constantinople
Capella Romana, CR402-CD
("O God, the heathen has come into your inheritance... How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?... Do not remember our old sins, but quickly help us, and have mercy on us." Shades of Psalms 13 and 78!! What would Sam Harris say?)

2. Byzantine Maïstores: Manouil Doukas Chrysafis Vol.1
Christodoulos Halaris - researcher, orchestrator & conductor, OP & PO Orchestra et al.
Orata, BMCRYS 001
(Speaking of continuing with annoying steadfastness until the end, this is the complete 3-CD set of reconstituted secular tunes by Manuel Chrysaphes, played in sequence from shortest to longest.

But why 160 unbroken minutes of music in the same plodding style? A big FU to the audience? (Which I've been accused of.) No no, the antithesis of soundbite culture.

This is monophony, meaning a single, unaccompanied line of melody, best appreciated by listening to its orchestration unfold. Good arrangers know to spread the melody around: a little here, a little there, a bit to the winds, a bit to the strings. Besides, for many listeners, the ones who font leur toilette and drive kids to school, the Komodo Dragon is not a foreground show.)

Where to buy CDs featured on today's show:
The Fall of Constantinople - CD Universe
Chrysafis Vol.1 - CDBaby

No comments:

Post a Comment