Session Gestures of Sacred Chant: Exploring the Performance of Latin and Byzantine Chant, of the Qur’an and Jewish Sacred Texts from the Middle Ages Onwards at 52nd International MedRen Conference

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Various cultural, historical, and religious factors shaped the evolution of the performance practice of sacred chant traditions in Eastern and Western Christendom, Islam, and Judaism. Some of these techniques have been carefully preserved, while others have evolved further. Therefore, the present session will include the following topics:
• The role of the hand in the performance of Latin and Byzantine chant
• The inner attitude when reciting the Qur’an
• Recitation practices for sacred texts other than the Torah
For the Christian West, hand gestures were used during the Middle Ages for conducting and teaching since late Antiquity. Singers and musical leaders of religious communities used their hand all the time for preparing and performing the daily liturgy. In Byzantium, the performance practice was determined by the precentors and usually conveyed to the choir with the help of specific hand gestures. Thus, a sophisticated system was developed to indicate a melodic line and sometimes even intervals with cheironomy.
The melodic recitation of the Qurʾān asks for an inner attitude of grief (huzn) in order to perform from a humble disposition, but also for an emotional response (weeping). There were recitation practices for sacred texts other than the Torah in East European Jewish communities, which were studied by Judit Frigyesi Niran in an ethnographic way.
Period24 Jul 2023
Event typeConference
LocationMunich, GermanyShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Performance Practise
  • medieval music
  • dominican chant
  • music theory
  • Iconography