Khazer

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Armenian Musical Notation “Khaz”

in the Armenian religious & folk music

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Armenian_Hymnaire._1322_(Ierus._Arm._1644._P._245)

A page from medieval Armenian manuscript illustrating religious hymns denoted with khaz neumatic notation, Armenian Hymnary of 1332, Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem collection

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Armenian Khaz notation

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Khaz (in Armenian: խազ) is a set of neumes, a set of special signs of music notation constituting the traditional system of music notation that has been used to transcribe religious Armenian music since the 8th century. (in plural: khaz or khazer). By nature they adhere to neo-native scriptures, but are independent in their forms, names, and meanings.
According to the Armenian linguist Hrachya Acharyan (1876-1953), the word khaz itself was borrowed from the Caucasian languages, meaning: “line, script, recording mark, column or hand-drawn lines, arrow-end crack”. From the same word comes the verb “to stroke” in Armenian.
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The medieval khaz music notation

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Armenian khaz notation system, is a system of neumatic signs, placed over the liturgical texts, allowing free variation within a prescribed modal structure. It does not require the use of staves, and there not exist any musical lines. Actually, the khaz system does not specify exact pitches but only the shape of the melodies, by indicating, for example, when the musical line shall go up or down. Presumably, khaz neumes were intended as mnemonics for melodies which had been taught by rote. Every sign of the Khaz notation, denotes the rising and falling direction of the standard melodic motifs, as well as rhythmic and even expressive details of the manner of performance. Khaz neumes indicate the voice pitch, its duration, the strength of the voice, the hue, as well as the ornamentation of the melodic line.
Khaz notations are written above the line if there are one or two slits on a syllable. They are written straight on the line, if there exist more than one syllables. Widely included in the scrolls, are the Armenian accent and split marks, the alphabet formulas as well as the semicolon. These symbols are extensively used as additional notes in the music system. There also exist letter marks of the monodic musical syllables, the so-called “Key Cats”.  In general, the numbers, the forms, the names, and the attributes of the crops have changed over time. Some of the saws were later used in the new Armenian khaz notation system (see below).
Spelling in the Armenian khaz notation has three interconnected accents and three original musical systems. Symbols were used, sustained, and differentiated gradually. Every subsequent system has used the signs of the previous one in a new way as well. In interpreting the record, all systems have adopted some normative freedom. The chronology of the accent was deciphered (discovered in the oldest specimen in the 9th century) by Komitas in 1899, summarizing the data of his practical work on the basis of a source survey.
The primitive system of musical chiropractic (ancient design of 9th century) is largely similar to the Early Byzantine music notation. The number of different cuts is very limited, with only specific melodic breaks and knots being recorded (to facilitate the singer). The systems of the “Sharakan” (ancient example of 10th century) and the “Manrusman” (ancient example of 12th century) systems are in line with the development of middle and later Byzantine writing, but developed in a different way. These are more sophisticated than the original, with the number of different cuts in one and the other significantly increased. Many new combinations and sequences of hymns have been used in the “Mitrusman” system (developed after 13th century), which records Armenian liturgical chants, as well as traditional songs and melodies of Armenian folk music.
Khazoghbi is the art of medieval Armenian music writing, formed as early as in the 8th century. The origin and initial implementation of the idea are related mainly to Anania Narekatsi (10th century), Nerses Shnorhali (1102-1173), Khachatur Taronatsi (12th century), Stepanos Syunetsi (1250-1305), Grigor Grzik (Ayrivanetsi) (13th century), Gevorg Skevratsi (13th century), Grigor Khlatetsi (1346-1409), and Tovma Metsopetsi (1378-1446).
Khaz notation was used extensively in the liturgical life and music of the Armenian Church since the 8th century, especially in the monovocal, liturgical melodies “sharakans” of the Armenian Church. Khaz notation contains a great amount of different symbols, as well as a variety of conventional signs. Therefore, it is too complicated and difficult to use on a practical basis, in respect of putting down the melody, understanding and reading it.
From 16th to 18th century, the khaz notation became progressively more complicated and eventually incomprehensible to the Armenian Church musicians. As a result, at the end of 18th century, khaz notation was gradually put out of use, and as early as the beginning of 19th century it eventually became obsolete.
There are about 2000 books preserved today (more than 1000 are kept in Matenadaran collection) as well as many fragments containing numerous specialized works from the 8th century on. A number of European scholars (0 Schroeder, Sh. Willotto, H. Peterman, J. Fettis, 0. Fleischer, P. Wagner) have studied extensively the phonology of the Armenian khaz notation. Armenian scholars and composers such as Komitas, H. Limondjian, Y. Tonomyan, and G. Gapasakalyan have contributed with their great research on this topic.

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Jamagirk-miniature

A page from medieval Armenian illuminated manuscript denoted with khaz neumatic notation, Armenian liturgical Book of Hours (Ժամագիրք: zhamakirk) of 14th century, Matenadaran collection

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Komitas (1869-1935)

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Komitas vardapet (Կոմիտաս), the great Armenian composer, ethnologist and musicologist, spent most of his prolific years by studying the Armenian khaz notation system. Komitas, on his journeys of studies, research and recording of Armenian religious and folk music, became an “expert” of the Armenian khaz notation. He devoted most of his life and work on the study and preservation of the Armenian religious chant and traditional folk music. Most of these preserved works are denoted on the khaz notation system. Thousands of “sharakans”, liturgical chants, folk songs and melodies, as well as the Holy Mass of the Armenian Apostolic Church were denoted in the form of the khaz musical notation, and thus preserved in our days.
According to Komitas, each sign of the system when reading (or dipping) the evangelical text has received several meanings enclosed in an upward pattern, which are often broad and self-referential expressions (reminiscent of national antique epic songs). There are also special beginnings and endings.
Taking into account the advanced stage of lithography, in 1910 Komitas summarized the “elements of lithology”, originated from the 9th-10th centuries. His research on musical chords has been a historical study of the information found in ancient manuscripts. Komitas focused on the discovery of their original chronology, the restoration of the evolution of essential elements of national monodic music, always in combination with the preserved Armenian spiritual music and the other systems of medieval music writing. Komitas conducted the research on the original time of their creation, the stages of development and the reasons of decline of these works. The clarification of signs, and particularly the clarification of songs written in bands (mainly hymns) were defined in late 19th century by oral performance.
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Hymnal,_1679,_Hymn_with_the_khaz_(neume)

A page from Armenian Hymnary 1679 denoted with khaz neumatic notation

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The ”new” khaz music notation

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Starting from the beginning of the first quarter of 19th century, a new, simpler, and easier to use system was introduced in Armenian religious and folk music. The new system was compiled and developed by the musician and reformer of the Armenian notation, teacher Hampartsoum Limondjian (1768-1839). After thorough and careful study of the Armenian spiritual music, he created, in the years 1813-15, the so-called “Armenian new notation”. The reasons for creating this new system were: a) the need to make the notation system easier to learn and use, b) the need to compile a system which would use some elements of the medieval khaz notation.
The “new” khaz system is also neumatic, it does not require the use of music staves, and melody can be notated in the space between the lines of the text. Thus, the vocal performance of the texts is facilitated. Pitch is indicated by one of forty-five different symbols and conventional signs. There are fourteen notes per octave, over a range of three octaves and a minor second. A tilde is used in place of a sharp. It is also used to raise or lower a note on an octave.
All twelve notes of the Western chromatic scale are represented. But, in the case of F-sharp and B-natural (si), two enharmonic symbols are used for each, because Middle Eastern music uses microtonal intervals called commas. Above each note, is written another symbol, marking its duration. Other special symbols are used for rests, repeats and phrases.
There is a vast bibliography related to the “new” khaz notation system. There are many books published in relation to this system, the most famous of which are those by Nikoghayos Tashjian {Vagharshapat, 1874}, Arshak Broutian {Vagharshapat, 1890}, and Robert Atayan {Yerevan, 1950}. The khaz “new” notation has been in use till our days. It is taught in several schools and institutions, such as the Yerevan State Conservatory, the Gevorgian Seminary, as well as in many other establishments in Armenia and thorough the world.
Komitas vardapet (1869-1935), the great Armenian composer and musicologist, learned the khaz notation system by studying on the research developed earlier in 19th century by Hampartsoum Limondjian and his students. Komitas, on his study, research and recording of Armenian religious and folk music, he mostly made use of this “new” khaz notation system.
Nikoghos Tahmizian (1926-2011) Armenian musicologist, theorist and historian, is an expect whose accomplishments include the study and the research on the khaz neumes of the Armenian Church music. He analyzed the musical theory of medieval Armenia by studying the works of Armenian composers from medieval times to modern era. His discoveries related to the Armenian notational system of “khaz”, opened a door to the interpretation and understanding of the Armenian liturgical chants “sharakans”. His book Modern Neumology (2003) summarizes forty years of research in this field. Several dozen neumatic symbols have now been revealed, defined, categorized and interpreted as a result of his scientific work.
There are many books published, from the 19th century until our days , teaching this “new” khaz notation system. The most prominent are the books published by Nikoghayos Tashjian {Vagharshapat, 1874}, Arshak Broutian {Vagharshapat, 1890}, and Robert Atayan {Yerevan, 1950}.

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Armenian_xazer_2

Sample of Armenian khaz music notation

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armnotes 1

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duration notes 1

Duration in Armenian khaz notation

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Compare khaz & modern staff 1

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“խորհրդավոր մեծ եւ սգանչելի” the very beginning of a religious hymn sang in the Armenian churches on Christmas Eve, denoted both in khaz notation and in modern European staff notation.

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Source:  books.google.be/books?id=28IeAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA64&lpg=PA64&dq=Old+Armenian+Notation&source=bl&c
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