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John Koukouzeles

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Title: John Koukouzeles  
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Subject: Byzantine music, Octoechos, Sticheron, Communion (chant), Cantor (church)
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John Koukouzeles

Saint John Kukuzelis or Kukuzel (Albanian: Jan Kukuzeli; Bulgarian: Свети Йоан Кукузел, Sveti Yoan Kukuzel; Greek: Άγιος Ιωάννης Κουκουζέλης, Hagios Ioannis Koukouzelis, Macedonian: Свети Јован Кукузел) (c. 1280 – 1360) was a medieval Orthodox Christian composer, singer and reformer of Orthodox Church music.

Early life

Regarding his life and work, we have only accidental evidence.[1] Kukuzelis was born in Durazzo in the Angevin Kingdom of Albania[2] in the late 13th century to a Bulgarian mother,[3][4][5][6] his father dying at an early age.[7] Most scholars including David Marshall Lang state simply that he was of Bulgarian origin,[5][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15] while Robert Elsie generalizes him as being of Macedonian Slav descent.[16]

Choir chanter

Kukuzelis received his education at the Constantinople court vocal school and established himself as one of the leading authorities in his field during the time. A favourite of the Byzantine emperor and a principal choir chanter, he moved to Mount Athos and led a monastic way of life in the Great Lavra. Because of his singing abilities, he was called Angel-voiced.[9]

Kukuzelis introduced the melodious (callophone) style and repertoire and created the Late Byzantine system of notation named after him. About 90 of his works in all church styles have survived until today, possibly the most famous one being the Polieleion of the Bulgarian Woman dedicated to his mother that, according to some researchers, contains elements of traditional Bulgarian mourning songs.[4][9] He was also the author of a new type of vocal collections and of the Hyronomic vocal exercise that offered 60 designations of vocal signs that marked melodic formulae key to the composing.

Sainthood and legacy

Kukuzelis is regarded as the most influential figure in the music of his period. He was later recognized as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church, his feast day being on 1 October.[17]

A musical school in his native Durrës bears his name.[18] Kukuzelis' last name is allegedly derived from the Greek word for broad beans (κουκιά, koukia) and a Slavic word for cabbage (зеле, zele).[5][7]

Kukuzel Cove in Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named after St. Yoan Kukuzel.


External links

  • "Milost Mira Tebe Poem" by Kukuzelis on YouTube
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