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A chant (from French chanter,[1] from Latin cantare, "to sing")[2] is the iterative speaking or singing of words or sounds, often primarily on one or two main pitches called reciting tones. Chants may range from a simple melody involving a limited set of notes to highly complex musical structures, often including a great deal of repetition of musical subphrases, such as Great Responsories and Offertories of Gregorian chant. Chant may be considered speech, music, or a heightened or stylized form of speech. In the later Middle Ages some religious chant evolved into song (forming one of the roots of later Western music).[3]

Chant as a spiritual practice

Chanting (e.g., mantra, sacred text, the name of God/Spirit, etc.) is a commonly used spiritual practice. Like prayer, chanting may be a component of either personal or group practice. Diverse spiritual traditions consider chant a route to spiritual development.

Monks chanting, Drepung monastery, Tibet, 2013

Some examples include chant in African, Hawaiian, Native American, Assyrian and Australian Aboriginal cultures, Gregorian chant, Vedic chant, Quran reading, Islamic Dhikr, Baháʼí chants, various Buddhist chants, various mantras, Jewish cantillation, Epicurean repetition of the Kyriai Doxai, and the chanting of psalms and prayers especially in Roman Catholic (see Gregorian chant or Taizé Community), Eastern Orthodox (see Byzantine chant or Znamenny chant, for examples), Lutheran, and Anglican churches (see Anglican Chant).

Historical or mythological examples include chant in Germanic paganism.

Chant practices vary. In the Theravada tradition, chanting is usually done in Pali, and mainly from Pāli Canon. Tibetan Buddhist chant involves throat singing, where multiple pitches are produced by each performer. The concept of chanting mantras is of particular significance in many Hindu traditions and other closely related Indian religions. India's bhakti devotional tradition centers on kirtan, which has a following in many countries and traditions such as Ananda Marga. The Hare Krishna movement is based especially on the chanting of Sanskrit Names of God in the Vaishnava tradition and is sung from the Dan tien (or lower abdomen)—the locus of power in Eastern traditions.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Harper, Douglas (November 2001). "Chant". In McCormack, Dan (ed.). Online Etymology Dictionary. MaoningTech. Archived from the original on 26 October 2004. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
  2. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Chant" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 5 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 846.
  3. ^ Stolba, K. Marie (1994). The Development of Western Music: A History (2nd ed.). McGraw Hill. p. 734. ISBN 9780697293794.
  4. ^ ReShel, Azriel (23 February 2018). "Neuroscience and the 'Sanskrit Effect'". Uplift. Retrieved 13 January 2020.