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Oral and written transmission in Ethiopian Christian chant*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2008

Kay Kaufman Shelemay
Harvard University
Peter Jeffery
Princeton University
Ingrid Monson
University of Chicago


Of all the musical traditions in the world among which fruitful comparisons with medieval European chant might be made, the chant tradition of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church promises to be especially informative. In Ethiopia one can actually witness many of the same processes of oral and written transmission as were or may have been active in medieval Europe. Music and literacy are taught in a single curriculum in ecclesiastical schools. Future singers begin to acquire the repertory by memorising chants that serve both as models for whole melodies and as the sources of the melodic phrases linked to individual notational signs. At a later stage of training each one copies out a complete notated manuscript on parchment using medieval scribal techniques. But these manuscripts are used primarily for study purposes; during liturgical celebrations the chants are performed from memory without books, as seems originally to have been the case also with Gregorian and Byzantine chant. Finally, singers learn to improvise sung liturgical poetry according to a structured system of rules. If one desired to imitate the example of Parry and Lord, who investigated the modern South Slavic epic for possible clues to Homeric poetry, it would be difficult to find a modern culture more similar to the one that spawned Gregorian chant.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1993

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1 As late as the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in the West there were regulations obliging singers to perform without books ( Harrison, F. L., Music in Medieval Britain, 4th edn (Buren, 1980), pp. 102–3).Google Scholar In the seventeenth century, Jacques Goar observed that ‘while singing, the Greeks rarely look at, or even have, books written with musical notes’ ( Wellesz, E., A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography, 2nd edn (Oxford, 1961. repr. 1971), pp. 45).Google Scholar

2 Lord, A., The Singer of Tales (Cambridge, MA, 1960, repr. New York, 1965).Google Scholar

3 Harrison, F. L., ‘Music and Cult: the Functions of Music in Social and Religious Systems’, Perspectives in Musicology, ed. Brook, B. S. and others (New York, 1972), p. 315.Google Scholar

4 The principal study of Ethiopian church history is Tamrat, Taddesse, Church and State in Ethiopia (Oxford, 1972).Google Scholar For the considerable resources on Ethiopian literature, see Cerulli, E., Storia della letteratum etiopka (Milan, 1956); enlarged 3rd edn Google Scholar, La letteratura etiopica (Florence, 1968)Google Scholar; Haile, Getatchew, ‘Religious Controversies and the Growth of Ethiopic Literature in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries’, Oriens Christianus, 4th series, 65 (1981), pp. 102–36Google Scholar, and A New Look at Some Dates in Early Ethiopian History’, Le Muséon, 95/3–4 (1982), pp. 311–22.Google Scholar Ethiopian Christian liturgy is discussed in Hammerschmidt, E., Studies in the Ethiopic Anaphoras, 2nd rev. edn (Stuttgart, 1987)Google Scholar; Velat, B., Soma Deggua, antiphonaire du carême, quatre premières semaines: texte éthiopien et variantes, Patrologia Orientalis 32/1–2 (Paris, 1966)Google Scholar; idem, Études sur le Me῾rāf commun de l'office divin éthiopien: introduction, traduction française, commentaire liturgique et musical, Patrologia Orientalis 33 (Paris, 1966); idem, Me῾erāf, commun de l'office divin éthiopien pour toute l'année: texte éthiopien avec variantes, Patrologia Orientalis 34/1–2 (Paris, 1966); idem, Soma Deggua, antiphonaire du carême, quatre premières semaines: introduction, traduction française, transcriptions musicales, Patrologia Orientalis 32/3–4 (Turnhout, 1969); idem, ‘Musique liturgique d'Éthiopie’, Encyclopédie des musiques sacrées, ed. J. Porte, ii (Paris, 1969), pp. 234–8. For a general history of the Ethiopian Church, see Heyer, F., Die Kirche Äthiopiens (Berlin, 1971).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

5 A few Ethiopianists attempted to list the notational signs (m∂l∂dk∂dk∂t) they found within manuscripts, but did not investigate the melodies with which the signs were associated: Zotenberg, H., Catalogues des MSS. éthiopiens de la Bibliothèque nationale (Paris, 1877)Google Scholar; Dillmann, A., ‘Verzeichnis der abessinischen Handschriften’, Die Handschriftenverzeichnisse der Kgl. Bibliothek zu Berlin (Berlin, 1878), iii, pp. 31–2Google Scholar and Tafel iii; Cohen, M., ‘Sur la notation musicale éthiopienne’, Studi orientalistici in onore di Giorgio Levi della Vida, i (Rome, 1956), pp. 199ffGoogle Scholar; Tito, Lepisa, ‘The Three Modes and the Signs of the Songs in the Ethiopian Liturgy’, Proceedings of the Third International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, ii (Addis Ababa, 1970), pp. 162–87.Google Scholar An exception is Villoteau, M., ‘De la musique (1) des Abyssins ou Éthiopiens’, Description de I'Égypte, xxxi (Paris, 1809), pp. 741–54Google Scholar, who both described the melodies of a small group of m∂l∂kk∂t performed by Ethiopian church musicians he interviewed in Egypt and transcribed several complete liturgical portions in Western notation. B. Velat (see note 4) published musical transcriptions of approximately half of the 500 melodies he recorded from informants during the preparation of his valuable studies of the Ethiopian liturgy (Études sur le Me῾erāf and Soma Deggua, 1969 but he did not correlate each melody with its respective notational sign.

6 Fétis, Notably F.-J., Histoire (géenérale) de la musique, iv (Paris, 1874), pp. 101–16.Google Scholar

7 Wellesz, E., ‘Studien zur Äthiopischen Kirchenmusik’, Oriens Christianus, new series, 9 (1920), pp. 74ffGoogle Scholar; Mondon-Vidailhet, F. M. C., ‘La musique éthiopienne’, Encyclopédie de la musique et dictionnaire du Conservatoire, ed. Lavignac, A. and de La Laurencie, L., i/5 (Paris, 1922), pp. 3179ffGoogle Scholar; Powne, M., Ethiopian Music: an Introduction (London, 1968)Google Scholar; Kebede, Ashenafi, ‘La musique sacrée de l'Église Orthodoxe de l'Éthiopie’, Éthiopie:musique de l'Église Cople (Berlin, 1969), pp. 314.Google Scholar

8 Treitler, L., ‘Homer and Gregory: the Transmission of Epic Poetry and Plainchant’, Musical Quarterly, 60 (1974), pp. 333–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and “Centonate” Chant: übles Flickwerk or pluribus unus? ’, Journal of the American Musicological Society [hereafter JAMS], 28 (1975), pp. 123 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hucke, H., ‘Toward a New Historical View of Gregorian Chant’, JAMS, 33 (1980), pp. 437–67.Google Scholar

9 Malm, W., Japanese Music and Musical Instruments (Rutland, VT, and Tokyo, 1959)Google Scholar; Kaufmann, , Tibetan Buddhist Chant (Bloomington, IN, 1975)Google Scholar; Shelemay, K. K., ‘A New System of Musical Notation in Ethiopia’, Ethiopian Studies for Wolf Leslau, ed. Segert, S. and Bodrogligeti, A. J. E. (Wiesbaden, 1983), pp. 571–82Google Scholar; Ellingson, T., ‘Buddhist Musical Notations’, The Oral and the Literate in Music, ed. Yosihiko, Tokumaru and Osamu, Yamaguti (Tokyo, 1986), pp. 302–41.Google Scholar

10 Treitler, L., ‘The Early History of Music Sriting in the West’, JAMS, 35 (1982), pp. 237–79Google Scholar, and Reading and Singing: on the Genesis of Occidental Music Writing’, Early Music History, 4 (1984), pp. 135208 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hughes, D., ‘Evidence for the Traditional View of the Transmission of Gregorian Chant”, JAMS, 40 (1987), pp. 377404 Google Scholar; Levy, K.,‘Charlemagne's Archetype of Grergorian Chant’, JAMS, 40 (1987), pp. 130 Google Scholar, and On the Origin of Neumes’, Early Music History, 7 (1987), pp. 5990 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Planchart, A. E., ‘On the Nature of Transmission and Change in Trope Repertories’, JAMS, 41 (1988), pp.215–49Google Scholar; Robertson, A. W., ‘ Benedicamus Domino: the Unwritten Tradition’, JAMS, 41 1988), pp. 162.Google Scholar

11 In addition to Lord, The Singer of Tales, see also Finnegan, R., Oral Poetry (Cambridge, 1977)Google Scholar, and Literacy and Orality (Oxford, 1988)Google ScholarPubMed; Ong, W., Orality and Literacy (London, 1982)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Goody, J., The Interface Between the Written and the Oral (Cambridge, 1977).Google Scholar

12 Although text and melody are effectively fused, this relationship arises from association within the context of a liturgical portion. No prosodic rules govern text-melody relations, nor does a particular segment of text serve in any way of which we are aware to generate its associated melody.

13 Berhanu Makonnen is a third-generation dεbtεra trained for thirty-one years in musical and liturgical studies, including twelve years at the Bethlehem monastery (see map, Figure 1). Following Ethiopian custom, we will often refer to him by his learned title, εlεqa, and his first name alone. To avoid bibliographic confusion, other Ethiopian scholars will be listed by their full names in first references.

14 Interview, 2 June 1975, and correspondence with the author, 15 December 1988. Berhanu Makonnen's SYT, including the list of notational signs, appears to rely at least in part on the source or sources also used to prepare an obscure Theological College publication entitled Yεq∂ddus Yared Tarik∂nna Yεzemaw M∂l∂kk∂toch (1959 E.C. [1967; hereafter YYTYM]). The complicated relationship between these two documents is discussed in detail in Shelemay, K. K. and Jeffery, P.:, Ethiopian Christian Liturgical Chant: an Anthology, i (Madison, WI, forthcoming)Google Scholar. Germane to the discussion here is the fact that both SYT and YYTYM appear to be only two of several attempts to list systematically the notational signs beginning in the 1960s, a development perhaps stimulated by pedagogical demands in the urban environment.

15 Levine, D., Wax and Gold (Chicago, 1965), pp. 75, 274.Google Scholar

16 Definitions are drawn from Leslau, W., Concise Amharic Dictionary (Wiesbaden, 1976), pp. 48, 179 Google Scholar. G∂῾∂z ceased to be a spoken language about the twelfth or thirteenth century; much of the terminology for Ethiopian music theory is therefore actually in Amharic, a related language that has become the official vernacular of modern Ethiopia.

17 During the research sessions, all chants were sung without accompaniment as qum zema (‘basic chant’). When performed in liturgical context during the offices that precede the Mass, certain chants are first sung unaccompanied and then repeated several times, accompanied in each subsequent rendition by the motion of the prayer staff (mεqwamiya), the rhythms of the sistrum (s′εnas′∂l) and drum (kεbεro), and liturgical dance (εqqwaqwam).

18 Although all dεbtεras acquire general knowledge of the G∂῾∂z language, the basic service books and zema, it is traditional for a singer to specialise later in at least one area. εlεqa Berhanu, although primarily a master of D∂ggwa and a leader of the musicians (marigeta), received additional diplomas in liturgical dance and several other service books, and was further ordained as a priest.

19 The many issues raised by the process of transcribing both the Ethiopian m∂l∂kk∂t and the eighteen sample portions into Western staff notation are too complex for treatment here and are discussed at length in Shelemay and Jeffery, Ethiopian Christian Litur gical Chant.

20 Addis Ababa (1950).

21 Notably those of Lepisa (‘The Three Modes’) and Velat, (Études sur le Me῾erāf, and ṣoma Deggua, 1969).Google Scholar

22 See facsimile in Figure 2 and transcription in Western notation in Example 1. Peter Jeffery discusses the liturgical classification of this portion and its notational history below.

23 Getatchew Haile has recently questioned the traditional sixth-century chronology for Emperor Gεbrε Mεsqεl, to whose reign Yared's musical activity is attributed, and has proposed instead a late ninth-century dating (‘A New Look’, pp. 318–19).

24 Budge, E. A. W., The Book of the Saints of the Ethiopian Church (Cambridge, 1928).Google Scholar

25 Rossini, C. Conti, Acta Yāred et Pantalewon: scriplores aeihiopici, ix–x, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium 26–7 (Louvain, 1955).Google Scholar

26 Interview with Berhanu Makonnen (Addis Ababa, 1 September 1975).

27 Dillmann, A., Lexicon linguae aethiopicae (1865, repr. Osnabrück, 1970), p. 1130; Ministry of Information, Patterns of Progress: Music, Dance, Drama in Ethiopia (Addis Ababa, 1968), p. 25.Google Scholar

28 Basset, R., ‘Études sur l'histoire d'Éthiopie’, Journal Asiatique, 7th series, 17 (1881), p. 336.Google Scholar

29 EMML 2045 is described in Haile, G. and Macomber, W., A Catalogue of Ethiopian Manuscripts Microfilmed for the Ethiopian Manuscript Microfilm Library, Addis Ababa, and for the Hill Monastic Music Library (Collegeville), VI (Collegeville, MN, 1982), p. 42.Google Scholar Other manuscripts provide similarly conflicting information. A chronicle cited in Velat, , Soma Deggua (1966, p. 98 Google Scholar, dates the two clerics to the reign of Gεladewos (1540–1959), while the rule of Sεrs'b.epsi; D∂ng∂1 is given in a St Petersburg MS described in Rossini, C. Conti, “Aethiopica (IIa Series)’, Rivista degli Studi Orientali, 10 (1925), pp. 515–16Google Scholar, after Turaev, B.,Ethiopskiya rukopisi v S.-Peterburge [Ethiopian Manuscripts in St Petersburg; in Russian], Zapiski Vostochnago Otdeleniya Imperatorskago Russkago Arkheologicheskago Obshchestva [Memoirs of the Oriental Section of the Imperial Russian Archaeological Society] 17 (1906), pp. 179–82.Google Scholar

30 Berhanu Makonnen transmits a genealogy of Yared's successors and credits a dεbtεra named L∂ssane ∃phrat, a student dated by oral tradition to the eighth generation after Yared, with having notated a D∂ggwa during the reign of Emperor Zεr'a Y'∂qob (1434–1468). According to this tradition, only L∂ssane ∃grphrat's notated D∂ggwa survived the Islamic invasion in a place near the Bethlehem monastery. As a result, the emperor decreed that Bethlehem should be the place where D∂ggwa training would be centred ( interview, 3 09 1975, and SYT, p. 4).Google Scholar Others have gathered similar traditions, including one concerning a search for surviving liturgical books during the reign of Emperor Sεrs'ε D∂ng∂1 (1563–1597) which discovered a D∂ggwa and other service books at the Bethlehem monastery ( Velat, B., ‘Chantres, poètes, professeurs: les dabtara éthiopiens’, Cahiers Copies, no. 5 (Cairo, 1954), p.27).Google Scholar

31 For information on this very important microfilming project, see Haile, and Macomber, , A Catalogue of Ethiopian Manuscripts (Collegeville, MN, 1975–)Google Scholar; also Macomber, W., ‘The Present State of the Microfilm Collection of the Ethiopian Manuscript Microfilm Library’, Ethiopian Studies: Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference, Tel Aviv, 14–17 April 1980, ed. Goldenberg, G. (Rotterdam and Boston, 1986).Google Scholar

32 One MS that was not included is a D∂ggwa of the sixteenth or seventeenth century, listed as MS 24 in Flemming, J., ‘Die neue Sammlung abessinischer Handschriften auf der Königlichen Bibliothek zu Berlin’, Zentralblatt für Bibliothekswesen, 23 (1906), p. 13.Google Scholar Another, Uppsala, Universitetsbiblioteket MS O Ethiop. 37 is a S'omε D∂ggwa copied some time between the mid sixteenth and the late seventeenth century. See Löfgren, O., Katalog über die äthiopischen Handschriften in der Universitätsbibliothek Uppsala (Stockholm, 1974), pp. 75–9Google Scholar; Uhlig, S., Äthiopische Paläographie, Äthiopistische Forschungen 22 (Stuttgart, 1988), pp. 445, 539–40.Google Scholar

33 The number of genres is said to be 22 in the Amharic treatise in Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Cod. Aeth. 244, fols. 9–12; see Grebaut, S. and Tisserant, E., Codices aethiopici naticani et Borgiani, Barberinianus Orientalis 2, Rossianus 865, 2 vols. (Vatican City, 19351936), p. 754.Google Scholar Velat, (Ṣoma Deggua, 1969, pp. xv–xvm) also gives this number, but shows that some genres have more than one name, or fall into subgroups with different names.Google Scholar

34 Shelemay, and Jeffery, , Ethiopian Christian Liturgical Chant.Google Scholar

35 First half edited in Velat, Ṣoma Deggua (1966), translated in idem, Ṣoma Deggua (1969).

36 The earliest written mεwas∂῾t collections (14th–15th centuries) are in fact supplements to MSS of the Ethiopic Psalter, for instance: Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, eth. 10; Vatican Aeth. 4; Vatican Aeth. 10; Vatican Aeth. 15. See Uhlig, , 1988, pp. 241, 309.Google Scholar

37 Complete text edited in Velat, Me῾erāf, translated with extensive commentary in Velat, études sur le Me 'erāf.

38 Sergew Hable Selassie, Bookmaking in Ethiopia (Leiden, 1981), p. 28.Google Scholar On p. 33 is an interesting list showing the amount of time taken to copy the various liturgical and chant books; a D∂ggwa takes eighteen months. Curzon, R., who visited an Ethiopian monastery in Egypt in 1833, described traditional copying practices and published a sketch of the monastery library: Visits to Monasteries in the Levant, 5th edn (London, 1865 Google Scholar, repr. with an introduction by J. J. Norwich, London, 1983), pp. 134–42. He reported, probably with some exaggeration, that ‘One page is a good day's work’ (p. 140). See also Velat, ‘Chantres, poètes, professeurs’.

39 Unless otherwise specified, dates in these articles are given according to the Gregorian calendar as used in North America and western Europe. The calendar followed in Ethiopia, which derives ultimately from the calendar of Pharaonic Egypt, is seven years behind the Gregorian from 11 September to 31 December, and eight years behind for the remainder of the year ( Ullendorff, E., The Ethiopians: an Introduction to Country and People, 3rd edn (London, 1973), p. 177).Google Scholar

40 Études sur le Me῾erāf, pp. 232ff.Google Scholar

41 Berlin, Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz, MS orient, oct. 1268 (= Hs. 40 in the catalogue of Hammerschmidt, E. and Six, V., Äthiopische Handschriften, I: Die Handschriften der Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Verzeichnis der orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland, xx/4 (Wiesbaden, 1983)), is a MS dating 1563–1597 that includes a M∂eraf, but Hammerschmidt and Six do not say whether the contents include the melodic models.Google Scholar On the palaeography see Uhlig, , Äthiopische Paläographie, p. 462.Google Scholar

42 These texts are edited without notation in Velat, , Me῾erāf, pp. 3468 Google Scholar, and are translated and discussed in Velat, , Éludes sur le Me῾erāf, pp. 218–66.Google Scholar

43 See our sources 20C, which includes a collection of mεzmur, and 20G, which includes collections of mεzmur and ∂sme lε-῾alεm. The nineteenth-century source Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS d'Abbadie 87 contains collections of: mεzmur (fols. la-68b), sεlam and wazema (69a-92b), though the rubric on 69a speaks of sεlam and mεzmur), wazema (92b-106b), ῾∂zl (106b-120b), zε-emlakiyε and εrba't (120b-128b), fεlεst (128b-140a), εryam (140a-148b), z∂mmare (149a-173b), m∂'raf (175a-195b) and mεwafd't (195b-209a). This description is more accurate than the ones in Rossini, C. Conti, ‘Notice sur les manuscrits éthiopiens de la collection d'Abbadie’, Journal Asiatique (11–12 1912), pp. 469–70Google Scholar, or Chaîne, M., Bibliothèque nationale: catalogue des manuscrits éthiopiens de la collection Anloine d'Abbadie (Paris, 1912).Google Scholar

44 Bet 23 in our list, εls'iqo, is normally abbreviated qo, but there is no in this word. The G∂῾∂z word qomε (‘stop’), written exactly as shown in Figure 5, can be found in the margins of biblical manuscripts, where it signals the end of a pericope or liturgical reading ( Zuurmond, R., Research into the Text of the Synoptic Gospels in Ge῾ez, II (Delft and Faringdon, Oxon., 1987), p. 48 Google Scholar; Uhlig, , Äthiopische Paläographie, pp. 91–2.Google Scholar

45 Huglo, M., Les tonaires: inventaire, analyse, comparaison (Paris, 1971), pp. 72, 399412.Google Scholar

46 Uppsala, Universitetsbiblioteket, MS O Ethiop. 36, described in Löfgren, , Katalog, pp. 6775. EMML 3890, which also contains an εnqεs'ε Halleta, is of about the same date as our 17C, 1693–1716.Google Scholar

47 In our source 20D, it is located on p. 249, col. 1, line 16.

48 20D, p. 86, col. 1, line 23.

49 20D, p. 196, col. 1, line 25.

50 20D, p. 249, col. 1, line 1.

51 The word zema, however, can also be used as the general term for the chant of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. See Shelemay, K. K., Music, Ritual, and Falasha History (East Lansing, MI, 1986), pp. 99101.Google Scholar

52 On the other hand, an alternative interpretation is suggested by the sεlam and wazema collection in Paris MS d'Abbadie 87 (19th century). It is organised into g∂'∂z (fol. 69a), bεkal∂ zema (77a), εraray (80a) and '∂zl (89b), suggesting that the ‘second zema' is here regarded as a subdivision within g∂'∂z.

53 Dillmann, Cf., Lexicon linguae aethiopicae, p. 1189.Google Scholar For more on the terminology, see Shelemay, ,Music, Ritual, and Falasha History, pp. 168–73.Google Scholar

54 See the treatise in Vatican MS Aeth. 245, fol. 10a; the opening is translated into Latinin Grébaut, and Tisserant, , Codices aethiopici, p. 755.Google Scholar For some other theoretical literature on the modes see Cerulli, E., I manoscritti etiopici della Chester Beatty Library in Dublino, Atti della Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Classe di Scienze Morali, Storiche e Filologiche, 8th series, xi (1965), p. 300 (a MS of the seventeenth or eighteenth century), EMML 3434, fol. 114a (eighteenth century), our source 19D (EMML 2936).Google Scholar

55 Leslau, W., Comparative Dictionary of G∂῾∂dz (Classical Ethiopic) (Wiesbaden, 1987), p. 39.Google Scholar

56 Cerulli, , La letteratura etiopica, p. 163, asserts that a late seventeenth-century revision of the D∂ggwa, prepared by Qalε Ewadi at Debre Libanos, was especially concerned with the modes of the chant; but he cites no sources and we have no further information.Google Scholar

57 See discussion in note 29.

58 Because most of the m∂l∂kk∂t are characters from the syllabary, they can be dated by the same palaeographical techniques used for dating Ethiopian texts; see Uhlig, , Äthiopische Paläographie, pp. 539–40. However, the dating of scripts from before the seventeenth century is still difficult because dated landmarks are so rare.Google Scholar

59 The complete chart will be published in Shelemay and Jeffery, Ethiopian Christian Liturgical Chant. Here we reproduce the chart for only the first two phrases of portion 1.

60 For the text, see Velat, , Me῾erāf, p. 49 Google Scholar no. 15. For a translation see Velat, , Études sur le Me῾erāf, p. 246 no. 15. For its liturgical assignment (the Sunday after St John's day) see 20D 8, 2, 18. For the m∂l∂kk∂t, which have not been published, see EMML 1347, fol. 37b, col. 1, line 5.Google Scholar

61 Lepisa, , ‘The Three Modes’, pp. 163–6.Google Scholar

62 The expression ‘series of thirds’ is a modification of Curt Sachs's notion of ‘chain of thirds’ ( Sachs, , ‘Primitive and Medieval Music: a Parallel’, JAMS, 13 (1960), pp. 42–9Google Scholar; The Wellsprings of Music, ed. Kunst, J., repr. of 1962 edn (New York, 1977)).Google Scholar It is intended to describe the pitches which serve as points of melodic resolution in the g∂῾∂z mode, in the absence of an indigenous term. Sachs defines ‘chain’ as follows: ‘the melody has a formative kernel, usually a third or fourth; when the singer expands the range of his melody beyond this kernel, he often feels compelled to add a similar interval above or below, thus creating a double third or a double fourth and, onward,… [includes possibility of chain of 3–6 like intervals]’ (‘Primitive and Medieval Music’, p. 45). Sachs's exposition requires revision for two reasons: (1) it does not include a notion of octave duplication (which occurs frequently in Ethiopian chant), and (2) it is used toarticulate a theory for the historical development of melody cross-culturally on the speculative and evolutionary assumption that melodies expanded outward from small intervals and are filled in from larger ones ( The Wellsprings of Musk, pp. 143–58, 72, 51–2).Google Scholar Werf, H. van der, The Emergence of Gregorian Chant (Rochester, NY, 1983), pp. 109–20, has apparently borrowed this term from Sachs along with aspects of Sachs's ideas concerning historical priority as applied to Gregorian chant. Sachs, however, includes the notion of points of melodic repose connected by ‘passage’ notes (‘Primitive and Medieval Music’, p. 45), which is useful in the Ethiopian case and is not included in the idea of ‘octave species’. I thank Peter Jeflery for citations and for assistance in clarifying this point.Google Scholar

63 In Ethiopian secular music, the term tnelash means ‘returning tone’ ( Kebede, A., ‘The Bowl-Lyre of Northeast Africa - Krar: the Devil's Instrument’, Ethnomusicology, 21 (1977), pp. 389–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

64 We thank Dr Kathryn Vaughn, who carried out this work at the University of California, Los Angeles.

65 This cadential gesture is observable at the end of each m∂l∂kk∂t in Example 7.

66 Lepisa, , ‘The Three Modes’, p. 166.Google Scholar

67 Leslau, , Concise Amharic Dictionary, p. 209.Google Scholar

68 Addis Ababa, 1962 E.C., 20F in our MS sample.

69 This bet corresponds to one that Berhanu Makonnen did not sing (B97.3, ri), possibly because he regarded it as duplicating B91 (quri) to which the portion's opening melody corresponds exactly.

70 Shelemay, K. K., unpublished fieldnotes and recordings: interviews with Berhanu Makonnen, 2 06–10 10 1975 (Addis Ababa), 7 06 1979 and n.d., p. 7.Google Scholar

71 Shelemay, , unpublished fieldnotes and recordings: interviews with Berhanu Makonnen, Berhan Abiye and Tekle Mesheshe, 8 09 1975 (Addis Ababa).Google Scholar

72 Velat, , Études sur le Me῾erāf, and Soma Deggua (1969).Google Scholar

73 Powers, H., ‘Language Models and Musical Analysis’, Ethnomusicology, 24 (1980), pp. 42–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

74 Merid, Wolde Aregay, ‘Southern Ethiopia and the Christian Kingdom 1508–1708, with Special Reference to the Galla Migrations and their Consequences’ (Ph.D. dissertation, University of London, 1971), pp. 534–6, 542–8.Google Scholar

75 Leroy, J., Ethiopian Painting (London, 1967), pp. 2830.Google Scholar

76 A recent analysis of the Am∂mta Commentary corpus, a body of vernacular commentaries on G∂῾∂z biblical and patristic texts, suggest that these commentaries were initially orally transmitted but reached their definitive written form during the Gondar era. Cowley, R., The Traditional Interpretation of the Apocalypse of St. John in the Ethiopian Church (Cambridge, 1983), pp. 23, 31.Google Scholar

77 Levine, , Wax and Gold, pp. 46–7.Google Scholar

78 For a detailed discussion of the Ethiopian revolution, including its impact upon the church, see Harbeson, J., The Ethiopian Transformation: the Quest for the Post-Imperial State (Boulder, CO, and London, 1988).Google Scholar

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Oral and written transmission in Ethiopian Christian chant*
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