Saturday, February 9, 2008

128. Music of the Great Tradition -- 28:Old Europe -- Lithuania

An especially interesting type of Old European polyphony, the sutartine, can be found in the Aukštaitija (literally, "highlands") region of Lithuania. An informative discussion of the various forms of sutartine, with some very useful audio clips and transcriptions, can be found on a website devoted to Lithuanian folklore, compiled by Skirmantė Valiulytė.

Most sutartines take the form of canons or rounds, usually in two contrapuntal parts, though they can be sung, or played, by two, three or four performers. Here's a transcription, from Valiulytė's website, of a particularly interesting three voice example, Turėja liepa, lioj taduvėla:

Here's an excerpt from the audio clip on the same web page: Tureja liepa. As with the examples from Russia (see previous post), there are many striking similarities with aspects of P/B style, as enumerated in posts 103 and 104, below. In this instance: interlocking or interweaving parts, producing a "contrapuntal" effect; cyclic structure -- most vocalizing in both traditions is based on an underlying, regularly repeating, rhythmic cycle of anywhere from 4 to 16 "beats"; conflation of polyphony and heterophony; temporal displacement -- notes, motives or phrases can be displaced in time, to produce an echo or canonic effect; repetition; unification of musical space -- melodic lines and harmonies are tonally unified in that both employ intervals of the second -- dissonances produced by simultaneous seconds are a distinctive feature of the sutartine style; continuous flow -- though the underlying cyclic structure is based on what could be called a melody or phrase, the polyphonic foreground lacks any clear melodic sense of direction, nor are phrases articulated by cadences, as in most other types of music, either tribal, folk or otherwise. Instead there is usually a continuous flow of unarticulated, interwoven motives, to produce the musical equivalent of a "run on sentence."

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