Prostopinije (meaning Plain Chant in Rusyn) is a type of monodic church chant, closely related to Znamenny Chant. Prostopinije is used in the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church, Slovak Greek Catholic Church and among the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox.
The tradition of Prostopinije chant is used in the lands of Galicia, Volhyn and Ruthenia. The Prostopinije traces its roots to the Slavic traditions of Old Kievan chant and Bulgarian chant, both stemming from the ancient Byzantine chant tradition; however, it was also affected by the local folk Carpathian music. The Prostopinije chant is purely monodic, lacking ison or any other support, as well as folk choral polyphony. Melodically, Prostopinije resembles Znamenny Chant, and is closely related to it historically, but is considerably richer with chromatic movements, reflecting its relative closeness to the Bulgarian branch of the Byzantine tradition.
By the end of the 18th century, the first attempt to systematize and write down the body of Prostopinije melodies was undertaken by the cantor John Juhasevich (1741-1814). In 1793, a Preparatory School for Cantors and Teachers was established in Uzhorod by Bishop Andrew Bachinskyj.
In the 19th century and earlier, in liturgical practice, the chanting was performed by the trained cantor soloist; however, by the end of the 19th century, through the efforts of Father Andrew Popovich (1809-1898,Velika Kopanya, Ugocha district), the tradition was changed drastically, and the whole congregation present in the church started to participate in the singing. This strong participation of lay people in the church singing was and still remains a relatively unique phenomenon among the similar chanting traditions.
In the beginning of the 20th century, some efforts to unify the Subcarpathian chanting traditions were also undertaken under supervision of Bishop Julius Firczak of Muka?evo by father John Bok?ai (or Bokshai, 1874-1940) and cantor Joseph Malini?, resulting in a publication of first manual for the Carpathian Plain Chant, which was published in U?horod in 1906.
In many Orthodox parishes both in Eastern Europe and in the United States, the Prostopinije tradition was replaced by the polyphonic Russian Orthodox Church style of singing. Following the union of some of the Rusin parishes with the Orthodox Church in America, inspired by father Alexis Toth, the Prostopinije was discriminated against, and was in some cases replaced by the Obikhod. A gradual return to this traditional singing is happening now, however, quite similar to processes of re-introduction of ancient chants in other churches and denominations.
Unlike with some other chanting traditions, Prostopinije remained a primarily aural, unwritten tradition for the major part of its history. There were ongoing attempts to notate this chant, however, primarily as a means to systematize and unify it: first in Znamenny chant neumes, then (as of about year 1600) in "square and diamond" notation. Neither of these systems became really widespread, however. In the contemporary practice the chant is written in standard Western staff notation.
Due to the predominantly oral nature of the Prostopinije tradition, the majority of melodies do exist in various local variants, sometimes being different even in villages located nearby. Two biggest branches of the tradition may be named, however: those originating from the cathedral towns of Muka?evo and Pre?ov. Due to the geography of the region, the former of these 2 traditions become the main tradition of the Byzantine Rite Catholic Churches (through the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh), while the latter is relatively more used in the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese.
The Prostopinije chant was traditionally performed either in Church Slavonic, or in Hungarian (with the Hungarian-language parishes adhering musically to the tradition of Muka?evo). In the modern practice in the United States this chant is performed in English as well.