EOL 2: Russian panpipe playing (Velitchkina)

Notes and references


1. Such as distinction between deep and surface structures and the use of generative grammar approach to the analysis of music. In general the advantages and disadvantages of linguistic models in musical analysis are discussed by Steven Feld (1974) and Harold Powers (1980). Back

2. Apart from a controversial and questionable description of Ukrainian (or Russian) panpipes in a book by Matthew Guthrie (1795), the first published observation of their existence in South Kursk province belongs to Aleksandre Dmitriukov (1831:266), while the information about this tradition in Briansk province appeared in print for the first time in 1873 (Filaret [Gumilevskii] 1873:152). Back

3. Panpipes in Russia were first seriously studied and recorded on phonograph before WWII by Kliment Kvitka (1937) and Lev Kulakovskii (1940). Unfortunately, for different reasons (including the war), their works were published much later, Kulakovskii's book in 1959 and only a fragment of Kvitka's unfinished manuscript on panpipes in 1986 (most of it was lost during the war). Some of their phonograph recordings were preserved in Moscow Conservatory archives. Later, Kursk pan- flutes were painstakingly described by Kvitka's pupil, Anna Rudneva, whose doctoral dissertation on South Kursk khorovod songs and dances was published in 1975, and still remains the main source on musical ethnography for this region (Rudneva 1975). These materials are all in Russian and thus not readily available to non-Russian speaking specialists. A more detailed review of sources and description of Russian panpipe ethnography will be given in my forthcoming dissertation. Back

4. More information on the above-mentioned European panpipe traditions can be found in Devic 1974 (Serbia), Chistalev 1974 (Komi-Permiak), Hertea 1988 (Romania), Vizhintas 1988 (Lithuania). Mentioning the Romanian panpipe tradition immediately evokes the image of the nai -- one of the most popular versions of the panpipe in today's world music. However, we are referring to another, much less sophisticated instrument called the fifa, which also exists in Romania. Strictly speaking,though, fifa is not a panpipe, since it only consists of one pipe. It is nevertheless important to bring it to the discussion here, since its playing, with rapid vocal-instrumental alternation, is strikingly similar in technique to that of the Russian tradition (Hertea 1988:217). Back

5. The dancers usually accompany themselves by singing short, partly improvized rhymes, which are known in other parts of Russia as chastushki (fast songs). In South Kursk they are not considered to be "sung", but rather "told", or "recited" (in local dialect - prikazyvat') together with the instrumental piece. They occur in performance mostly spontaneously, with each dancer having a "stock" of favorite verses, although there are some standard commonly-used variants. These standard verses are most likely to be used as a name referring to a particular instrumental tune. The connection between the verse and the tune is flexible, and it is not uncommon for the tune to be referred to by different names even within the same village. Back

6. It is hard to render an adequate translation of these local terms, since their meaning is not absolutely obvious and the players themselves for the most part do not attempt to explain them. For example, although the word para's literary meaning is 'two' or a 'couple', this set always consists of five pipes. This term transcends the boundary of one local tradition: in another Russian panpipe locality, Briansk province, one of the two sets is also called para, and it consists of three pipes (Kulakovskii 1959:48). The names of the two other sets -- priduval'nye and gukal'nye -- are derived from the dialect verbs, priduvat' ('to blow along') and gukat' ('to produce a loud sound, to cry'), meaning the actions that the players of these parts are said to be doing. The last term, gukat', has also a special use in the singing traditions of the contiguous territories of West Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, where it means a fast glissando upward to a sound approximately one octave higher than the final tone of a song. This technique is used mainly in women's ritual songs (wedding and seasonal) and is considered to be one of the archaic features of these traditions. Similar vocal gestures are found in most archaic layers
of traditional muic of other Slavic ethnic groups, in Slovenia, Bulgaria,
Serbia and Macedonia (see, for example, Zemtsovskii 1974:153). However, this technique is absent from traditional singing in both of the areas where panpipes are found. Back

7. A similar situation was described by Rudneva (1975:155). During one of her field-trips she had an occasion to participate in playing in what she calls an "improvized pan- flute ensemble" which formed spontaneously. One woman was playing five pipes (standard for para part), while the accompanist team included players with two, four and one pipe. Back

8. Unlike the 'Are'are panpipe players who developed refined music theory based on panpipe measurements and whose tuning has been proven to be consistently and consciously equidistant (Zemp 1979, Zemp and Schwartz 1973), the Russian performers neither have terms for the intervals, nor do they use equidistance consistently in their tuning. However, observation of the process of tuning demonstrated that the makers were consciously trying to obtain the "frame interval" between the outer pipes of the para set which would be close to the fifth. They checked it by playing some of the standard tunes, and, if the interval was larger than a fifth, they would make another fifth pipe to substitute the old one, since the only way for lowering the pitch is making a new pipe. A slightly flat fifth was often considered acceptable. Back

9.For a description of the "vocabulary" of foot patterns of dancers see Rudneva 1975: 132-137. Back

10. Unlike Blacking's conclusion about the deep structure for certain Venda instrumental tunes being 'physical', rather than musical (1961:29), we assume at this stage of the research that the deep structure of panpipe music is a musical phenomena, although it is undoubtedly supported by the cyclic rhythms of players' body movements. Back

11. Although the performers themselves sometimes refer to this structure by the term koleno (a 'knee'), for the following discussion I prefer not to use this term, because it has many other connotations in Russian folk music and dance. Back

12. Performers often comment on the importance of the fifth pipe, which can appear in both sound complexes. The special role of pipe 5 from the perspective of movements will be explained later. It is important to note that the content of chords is the same in Timonia and several other tunes that are played using all five pipes of the lead pan- flute set. Playing other tunes, however, is often limited to 4 pipes on the lead set (that is, one of the pipes 2, 3 or 4 may be skipped). In these cases the chord stucture is different. Back

13. Baily and Driver (1992) outlined two possibilities for the research on the role of motor grammars in musical performance: a) study of the same music played on various instruments and adapted to their different technical possibilities; and b) study of one instrument cross-culturally. The Timonia perfomance by different instruments can serve as an interesting example of the first type of study. It can show that adaptation of the new instruments into traditional performance context and repertoire leads to gradual changes both in the repertoire and the structure of the tunes. For example, one of the reasons of Timonia present-day popularity may be that its harmonic structure fits better the chord choice of the accordion, than the structure of the other traditional tunes. However, it is out of the scope of the present discussion. Back

14. A performance based on a field recording by author on 11.6.1989 in the village of Plekhovo, Kursk province. The performer was asked to play the lead part without the vocal sounds, then accompany that recording with the pattern of the priduval'nye part. Back

15. The same is true for many of the work movements (threshing, mowing, etc.) that also can be performed from the left or from the right side, and reversed if necessary. In threshing, for example, there were special techniques used to change the arm holding the flail without stopping the team work. In one of them the flail was rotated in the air, missing one stroke, and then brought to another side of the worker in time for the next stroke. Back

16. This technique is called "multi-microphone recording" and is widely used by Russian folklorists for studying oral polyphonies (see, for example, the explanation and application of this technique in the collection of songs by Rudneva, et al. 1979). Since there was no possibility for Russian folklorists to obtain portable mixing panels and multi-channel tape recorders, the multi-microphone recordings were produced using many tape-recorders. Back

17. For the sake of clarity, I notate each player's part on two five-line staves on one brace; one for the pipe, the other for the voice. The voice and the pipe never sound together, but since vocal sounds follow the sound of the pipe very quickly, I do not express this delay in terms of exact note duration. The notation of this performance in its entirety was published in Velitchkina 1992, 1993. Back

18. Although it appears that the second player is more "creative", since she changes more notes from one period to another, this impression does not correspond to the villagers' opinion of these performers. On the contrary, they frequently reproach the second player for "staying all the time on the fifth pipe and not sufficiently "walking across the pipes". Back

19. A formal definition of the Markov chain can be found, for example, in Cox and Miller (1965:76). A (finite) Markov chain is a particular class of Markov processes in discrete time with a discrete state space; a sequence X0, X1, ... of discrete random variables with the property that the conditional distribution of Xn+1 given Xo, X1, ...Xn depends only on a value of Xn, but not further on X0, X1, ...Xn-1. In less technical language, for a Markov chain model it is assumed that (1) there is a finite set of states in which the system can be at any given moment, (2) the probabilities of transition from one state to another are not equal and can be expressed in the form of a matrix, and (3) the probability of transition at each given time t depends only on the state of a system at the preceeding moment of time t-1. (i.e., the memory of a system is only one step). The last condition, called the Markov property, is in fact a big restriction and may be thought not to hold true for music. However, as Wim van Zanten showed for Malawian pango music, the knowledge of two preceding chords reduces the uncertanity of prediction only slightly (van Zanten 1983:90). Insofar as the methods applied here are similar to those of van Zanten, one can assume that the Markov chain model gives a good approximation of panpipe music as well. Back

20. Wim van Zanten in his article discusses the level of entropy as an expression of uncertanity of prediction in a matrix (1983:94). In his definition, the entropy is a real number between 0 and 1. If all transitions in a matrix were equally probable, then the entropy would be 1, that is, the uncertanity of prediction is maximal. If the probability of transition equals 1 at some point (i.e., one element is necessarily followed by another), then the level of entropy at this point is minimal. Back

21. The substitution of one's fingers for panpipes traditionally served as a means of self-instruction. Nowadays, the finger imitation and vocal sounds often replace panpipe playing in an ensemble with louder instruments. Back


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