Sofia, Bulgaria - Nearly twelve-hundred scholars gathered here for the 22nd International Congress of Byzantine Studies held 22-27 August 2011. Among those who participated in the event were a number of ISOCM members, and Yulia Artamonova, a member of the ISOCM board.
The event, which was established in 1934 and is held every five years, presented the theme: Byzantium without Borders. Historians, archeologists, philologists, musicians, musicologists, and art historians from around the world gathered to explore the unique richness and variety of Byzantine civilization and its impact on world cultures.
The patron for this year's Congress was the President of Bulgaria, Georgi Parvanov, who greeted the participants at an official reception held at the Historical Museum of Sofia. The Congress consisted of seven plenary sessions, 39 round-table meetings and 38 sessions for free communications. All sessions were held at the University of Sofia.
The sessions which focused on Byzantine chant featured papers on musical culture, the aesthetics of music, and Byzantine hymnography.
During the first music session, Maria Alexandru (Greece) presented a survey on the most significant academic publications on the field of Byzantine musical studies from the past decade. She also gave an introduction to the latest publications, including the three Proceedings published by ISOCM.
Among the topics presented were round-table meetings which brought together specialists from very different fields of Byzantine Studies, including paleography and numismatics, sigillography, and philology. Galina Alekseeva (Russia), a frequent participant of ISOCM conferences, moderated a session on Art, Aesthetics, and Music which explored the different aspects of Byzantine musical culture.
Alekseeva said, "The session Art, Aesthetics and Music included presentations associated with new methodological approaches to the analysis of different topics of Byzantine culture. Anna Arevshatyan, from Armenia, presented a paper which shed light on the aesthetic foundations of Armenian Orthodox music on the basis of works by St Gregory of Nyssa, while Oscar Pietro Dominguez of Italy presented a paper reviewing the poetic style of Photios, the head of the Church and the leader of the 9th-century Byzantine literary movement."
In her paper "Mechanisms of Byzantine cultural adaptation in Russia: chant, miniatures, liturgical service," Alekseeva suggested a new approach to the study of adaptation processes, featuring an analysis of correspondences between the melodic core of chant terminology and the etymology of the terms, both Greek and Russian. Participants of this session also included Karsten Fledelius, the head of the Copenhagen group, and Christian Hannick, a prominent Byzantine scholar and philologist.
Another round-table meeting, no. 26 Hymnography and Music in the Byzantine World, was dedicated entirely to music, bringing together researchers from Bulgaria, Russia, Italy, Canada, and Denmark. Two other ISOCM members moderated the session: Svetlana Kujumdzieva and Christian Troelsgaard.
During this session, a special dedication was given to the memory of Elena Toncheva who fell asleep in the Lord in April 2011. The summary of her paper turned out to be her last publication.
ISOCM members from Bulgaria, Stefan Harkov and Svetlana Kujumdzieva, also participated in this particular session. Harkov introduced musical manuscripts which belonged to the library of Georgios Petrinis in Sozopolis, while Kujumdzieva shared information about new sources from the Sinaitic collection which significantly enrich the knowledge about Tropologion, the oldest hymnographical book.
Several other papers presented in this session dealt with hymnographical manuscripts, including information about notated manuscripts from Tirana and Ochrid by Asen Atanasov (Bulgaria), and a 14th-century source, MS Kastoria 8 by Gregory Myers (Canada).
ISOCM board member Yulia Artamonova (Russia) presented her findings regarding notation in the oldest Slavonic hymnographic source, the Iliya's Book, while ISOCM member Nina Zakharina (Russia) presented a hypothesis concerning the patterns in the redaction of the corpus of Old Russian hymnographical books.
In addition to presenting a paper which outlined the development of Middle Byzantine notation, Christian Troelsgaard presented his monograph: Byzantine Neumes: A New Introduction to the Middle Byzantine Notation. The monograph was published in the series Monumenta Musicae Byzantinae. Silvia Tessari (Italy), a doctoral student of Sandra Martani, dedicated her paper to the compositional technique "na podoben" on the basis of the Canon by Photios. The paper of Stefka Venkova (Bulgaria) attracted considerable interest among the delegates. She discussed the creations of a Bulgarian church composer, Apostol Nikolaev-Strumsky.
It is expected the papers presented in the round-table meeting on music will be published in a special issue of the journal Bulgarian Musicology under the title Byzantium without Borders: Byzantine Music and Hymnography.
Additional information about the Congress, its proceedings, and future events will be posted on www.isocm.com as received.