Tuesday, March 21, 2023

rare word #24: teretismata

Orthodoxy is not too fond of silence. Some priests I have known look visibly alarmed when there is a lull in a service. As such, we even have a formalized way of "vamping" or stretching out musical pieces as the occasion arises when something is taking longer than expected or the set music has been repeated many times already. I warn you, though, once you catch te-ri-rem in your ear, it is hard to get out of there.

Teretismata - (τερετίσματα, lit. “chirruping”), musical vocalizations set to the meaningless syllables te te te, to to to, ri ri ri, etc., which first appear appended to or inserted in 14th-C. chant settings. On a larger scale, they are found as independent melodic units known as kratemata and used to prolong a hymn. Some are given descriptive titles; epithets such as “bell,” “viola,” “trumpet,” and “nightingale” are used in the Kratematarion, a collection of kratemata arranged according to the eight modes. Teretismata constitute the chief element of an ornate species of musical composition called kalophonic (“beautified”) chant. Hymns written in this style are either freely constructed original works or elaborate embellishments of traditional music.


  1. My son the priest claims that the entrance with the Gifts at the Presanctified liturgy is the *only* place where silence is specified in our services.

  2. I see references to people needing to rediscover the depths of silence after becoming over-stimulated by constant entertainment (on the phone, radio, TV, etc). Which leads to the question: Is the Byzantine Rite the first victim of over-stimulation? ;-) (And what happened to silence and stillness in the mainstream of the churches in the East?)