Tuesday, February 5, 2008

127. Music of the Great Tradition -- 27:Old Europe -- Plekhovo

One of the most remarkable of all "Old European" polyphonic survivals is presented -- and analyzed -- in an excellent essay I've referenced a few times already in this blog, The Role of Movement in Russian Panpipe Playing, by Olga Velitchkina, as published in the Internet journal, Ethnomusicology Online. In the introductory section, she presents a brief video clip of three Russian women from the village of Plekhovo singing and playing together with unbound panpipes. (You may need to click on this QuickTime video twice before it starts.)

video

Velitchkina presents a transcription of a "duet" from this repertoire, clearly demonstrating how intricately the vocal and instrumental parts interweave:Here is her recording of the first performer's part, as shown on staves a (vocal) and b (pipe): Veltichkina-Audio9. As Velitchkina notes, the transcription is a bit misleading, as the performers never sing and play at exactly the same time. A more detailed transcription would make the basis in hocketing even more evident. Note also the delicate balance between polyphony and heterophony, especially evident in measure two. Another remarkable point of similarity between this tradition and the African models I've been pointing to, is the cyclic organization of these pieces into distinct periods. Moreover, as Velitchina's analysis makes clear, variation from one period to the next is an important element in this style, as it is in P/B. Many other points of similarity with P/B, as already enumerated below, in posts 103 and 104, are evident from both the recordings and her analysis.

Velitchkina herself makes the point that "[o]n first listening, this music seems closer to African forms (for example, to the Ba-Benzele pygmy music) than to any European folk instrument traditions." Here is an example of Ba-Benzele hocketed vocalizing with pipes, for comparison: Song After Returning from a Hunt. Here's an even closer example, from the Ouldeme people of the Mandara Mountain region of Cameroon (another typical "refuge" area): Ouldeme Pipes. To me, the resemblance with the Russian pipers is uncanny.

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