Pitch Mutation:
Instances of the raised leading tone in Znamenny Chant

A preliminary study by Nikita Simmons, Dec. 18, 2004.

Note: I have used E. Grigorev's book "Posobie po izucheniiu tserkovnago peniia i chteniia" (Riga, 2001) as a point of reference in this study.

A. Small Znamenny Chant (Samoglasen Melodies)

Tone 1: [<1-2-3-4> Final] The penultimate pitch of phrase 2 is sharpened.

Tone 2: [<1-2-3> Final] no mutation

Tone 3: [<1-2> Final] This Tone is unusual because it changes modality altogether by consistently sharpening the highest pitch used in the melody. This practice seems to be universal among Old Believers of all regions and religious divisions. This sharpening occurs in phrase 1 and in the optional introductory pitch to the 2nd phrase.

Tone 4: [<1-2> Final] no mutation

Tone 5: [<1-2-3> Final] The penultimate pitch of phrase 2 is sharpened.

Tone 6: [<1-2-3> Final] Some communities sing this without mutation, but others have varying degrees of mutation. The penultimate pitch of the Refrain is sharpened in most communities. In some communities Phrase 1 has a more elaborate ending than Grigorev documents, where it adds two extra pitches, the penultimate pitch sometimes being sharpened. The third pitch from the end of both Phrase 2 and Phrase 3 is sharpened in some communities, although both these instances are less common. The penultimate pitch of the Final phrase is always sharpened, even in those communities which use none of the previously-mentioned mutations. -- Note that "O heavenly King" is frequently sung in many communities with a more stylized version of the Tone 6 melody which has become part of the oral tradition for each community. It tends to have a wide variety of mutation (depending on the community, from a little to a lot). The penultimate pitch of the Final phrase is always sharpened.

Tone 7: [<1-2> Final] usually no mutation, but the penultimate pitch of the Final phrase is sharpened if the community sings the phrase as Grigorev documents it. (I think he is documenting a regional or local practice which I have not heard.)

Tone 8: [Initial <1-2-3> Final, OR just: <1-2-3> Final] The penultimate pitch of the Refrain is usually sharpened (and some communities then add an extra pitch downward at the end of the Refrain). Although the sequence and melodic structure of phrases varies a bit in some communities, there is no mutation until the penultimate pitch of the Final phrase.

I feel that an analysis of the Podobny melodies will not reveal any significant findings, so I have passed over this genre of singing.

B. Great Znamenny Chant

1. General Litsa-Popevki (numbers refer to the table in Grigorev's book on pages 254-262)

10 - T8 - Kulisma (penultimate note sometimes sharpened)
11 - Various Tones - Kulisma repeating the introductory FA or HIGH FA
16 - T8 (penultimate note sometimes sharpened)
40 - (penultimate note sometimes sharpened, although this is more uncommon)
53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58 - fairly common (but not everywhere) on lowest note of this sequence
62 - (penultimate note sometimes sharpened, fairly common)
65, 66, 67, 68 - some people sing the lowest pitch of the 2nd neume sharpened (this is an unusual occurrence) - note that the same pitch is not sharpened in the 3rd neume
70, 71, 72 - a couple of possible instances (too difficult to explain here)

2. Popevki (numbers refer to the list in Grigorev's book on pages 292-309)

Tone 1 Popevki:

8 (and 10, 11) - 4th neume from end
16, 17 - lowest pitch sharpened
In 18, 19, 20 the third of the 4 alternate endings is sharpened in its final note.
23 - 2nd neume
27 - 3rd neume
36 - 1st neume

Tone 2 Popevki:

2 - lowest note (4th and 6th neumes)
4 - 4th neume
13 - 4th neume
14 - penultimate neume
17 - 3rd neume
18 - 4th neume
19 - 3rd neume
20 - 1st pitch of 3rd neume
21 - 1st neume
25, 26 - penultimate pitch

Tone 3 Popevki:

2 - 3rd neume
3 - penultimate pitch
4 - 3rd neume from end
6- 4th neume
10 - lowest note of 3rd neume
11 - 2nd neume
13 - 4th neume from end
14 - penultimate pitch

Tone 4 Popevki:

1, 2 - 1st neume
3 - penultimate pitch of 3nd and 4th variations
4, 8 - 4th neume from end
10 - 5th and 8th neumes
13 - 2nd and 6th neumes
15 - 3rd neume

Tone 5 Popevki (does not have a lot of mutation):

11 - 2nd pitch (an added pitch in the popular way of singing this popevka)
12 - 4th neume
20 - 4th neume (not a Fotiza)

Tone 6 Popevki (does not have a lot of mutation):

1 - 3rd neume from end
8 - 2nd neume from end

Tone 7 Popevki (does not have a lot of mutation):

5 - 4th neume from end

Tone 8 Popevki (does not have a lot of mutation):

1 - 3rd neume
3, 4, 9 - 3rd neume from end
11, 16 - alternate endingIn addition: any occurrence of the Fotiza (neume 125 on page 247) may be sung with the lowest note sharpened.


1) In the Great Znamenny Chant, the majority of pitch mutation seems to occur in the Byzantine Authentic Modes (Tones 1-4), while the Plagal Modes (Tones 5-8) seem to have considerably less mutation. Although I have yet to study the matter, I suspect that it is might be related to the fundamental pitches of the Modes (i.e. the primary pitch of the phrase or of the Mode). -- Musicologists claim that Znamenny Chant is based purely on collections of stereotypical motifs and has no connection to the ancient Modes based on fixed starting pitches, but I have long wondered if we should re-examine this statement based on more modern analytical methods. This observation of more mutation in Tones 1-4 and less in Tones 5-8 initiates the question once again. Perhaps it is mere coincidence, but perhaps it suggests that there is some vestige of modality remaining in the Znamenny Chant Octoechos. (Certainly the fact that Tones 1 and 5, 2 and 6, 3 and 7, 4 and 8 share most of their musical motifs between the Authentic and Plagal modes opens up some significant suggestions. Furthermore, there are also parallels in the structure of some of the Small Chant melodies, with Tones 1 and 5 being similar, as well as Tones 4 and 8.) I feel this question deserves another serious look.

2) In many occurrences of the neume called "Stopitsa s ochkom" where the following pitch is upward, the interval is frequently sung as only a half step. This creates a sharpened note, which is a type of raised leading tone.

3) The raised leading tone tends to occur most frequently in penultimate positions of a cadential phrase. In this case, two instances of the same pitch may be in close proximity, but the first will not be sharpened while the second one will be (such as in the sequence c-d-e-d-c#-d).

4) Raised leading tones occur in western European music on the 7th note of the octave, but in the Znamenny Gamut, which is based on a "scale theory" of tetrads, the raised leading tone can occur in different positions of the Gamut. It can occur on the pitches "low UT", "UT", "FA" and high FA" (the first pitch of each tetrad) when the reciting pitch or cadential pitch (i.e. the primary pitch of the phrase or of the Mode) is on the second pitch of the tetrad (low RE, RE, SOL, high SOL).

5) From all that I can perceive in my investigations, the entire principle of raising the lead tone is not a result of folk harmonization or due to the direct influence of any form of polyphony. It is especially important to realize that Old Ritualists who live with this type of singing do not generally hear the monophonic music with their brains filling in any type of subconscious harmonization as they sing. People raised in modern western cultures have a difficult time with monophonic chant because they frequently cannot change the way their mind perceives the music. This has led to modern interpretations of Znamenny Chant being sung with an ison, as an artificial method of satisfying their inability to adapt to monophony and to accept it as esthetically pleasing to their minds. -- Furthermore, if one were to harmonize Znamenny Chant, the instances of raised leading tones which I have observed would occasionally clash with the process of adding harmony using chord progressions that are familiar to western European civilization. I suggest that although there are some similarities to the medieval European "musica ficta" (raised leading tones), one should also look to Byzantine Chant for some possible influence.