EOL 2: Russian panpipe playing (Velitchkina)

The musical structure of a tune

For the following discussion, one tune, commonly called Timonia, has been chosen as an example for analysis of players' movements. It is a very widespread tune, well known and readily performed by today's players, thus many versions of it are available for analysis. These versions are often quite different melodically.

Common for all different melodic versions of the Timonia tune is a compact harmonic/rhythmic "kernel", which constitutes what can be called a 'deep structure' of this tune.(10) Hereafter this structure will be referred to as the 'period'.(11) The period is repeated over and over again in performance in a cyclic manner, while players provide varying 'surface' melodic renditions. This principle is the same for all pieces of the local instrumental repertoire.

A period consists of a number of pulses, or isochronic time spans filled with a note (in case of panpipes), or a chord (in case of instruments with chordal progression possibilities, such as the balalaika). These time spans will be referred to as 'positions'. They are convenient units to account for the structure of a tune, since a chord cannot be changed within a position, while shorter ornamentation notes are possible in the melody, especially when played by a rozhok (a reed instrument), which has technical possibilities for fast finger movements. Each of the panpipe players, however, generally plays only one note per position, although the accompanying players insert their sounds between those of a lead player, i.e. they play in half-position delay with respect to the leader.

Timonia belongs to the group of tunes whose periods have 12 positions. Its structure is based on the alternation of two 'chords' (or sound complexes) in a certain rhythm. For the sounds available on the set of panpipes, these sound complexes include: the first one - pipes 1, 3 and 5, and the second one - pipes 0 (the largest one of the gukal'nye set), 2 and 4, and also pipe 5, which has special bi-functional status.(12) Designating these two complexes by the symbols o (for pipes 1, 3, and 5) and * (for pipes 0, 2, 4, and 5), we can propose the general 'chord alternation' rule for a period of Timonia as the following (the number in parentheses here and later refers to the rule number):

Positions:	  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 10 11 12 
Sound complexes:  o  o  *  o  *  *  o  o  * o  *  o    (1)

The period is metrically organized into two 6-position phrases which have the same content, except for the last position in each of them (i.e., positions 6 and 12), which are different. The correspondence between the two phrases becomes evident when they are superimposed:

o  o  *  o  *  *    
o  o  *  o  *  o    

In a slightly simplified version of the same scheme, there may be no change of chord on position 3, especially in the parts of the instruments that tend to use sustained notes (as the reed instrument rozhok). This variant of the scheme can be presented as follows:

o  o  o  o  *  *  o  o  *  o  *  o  	(1a)

Audio example 1 demonstrates the realization of the rule (1) and its variant (1a) of Timonia's 'deep structure' played by different instruments (recorded separately) -- the pyzhatka (a flute), the rozhok (a reed), the fiddle, and the balalaika. Figure 3 shows their respective notations. For ease of comparison, all notations use C as the final note and they are aligned vertically.

audio iconAudio 1, 350K .au Timonia as played on 4 different instruments -- pyzhatka, rozhok, fiddle and balalaika -- separately.

Figure 3: Notation for Audio 1

Although each instrument has its own set of standard variation techniques, the general structure of the tune (as in rule 1) is easily recognizable in all its different versions. The panpipe melodies are based on the same scheme, while their specific shapes seem to depend on the morphology of the instrument and the players' body movements. The same is true for the other instruments of the ensemble.(13)

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