THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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14 posts categorized "Projects"

23 August 2016

Passionate music from a hot country: a musical visit to Iraq-Kurdistan

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The British Library's World and Traditional Music section supported ethnomusicologist, Rolf Killius, on a field trip to record music in Iraq-Kurdistan over June/July 2016. This is his report.

Rugged Mountains in Kurdistan Photo Rolf Killius
Rugged Mountains in Kurdistan. Photo Rolf Killius, 2016

It is hot. No, it is extremely hot. Today the temperature is 45° Celsius; the air is bone-dry, no trace of wind. I am in Sulaimani, the second urban centre in Iraq-Kurdistan. This part of Iraq belongs to the Kurds and is de-facto an independent state run by a Kurdish government.

Traditional singers and musicians have gathered in the Zardosht Café. Zardosht is the Kurdish term for Zoroastrianism, an age-old religion known in the wider region. Since the coming of the Islamic period, it has become a minority religion, often frowned upon. These days the Zardosht belief is making a kind of come-back. Here in Kurdistan the faith is essentially Kurdish and promotes traditional folk music.

Listen Zardosht Cafe Group


The group starts to play: The zarab (goblet drum) player provides rhythm while the Korg keyboardist adds harmonies and melodic phrases. Occasionally the saz (plucked lute) virtuoso contributes drone and melodic sounds. But the musical highlight is the charismatic lead-singer Ata Azizy; he alternates – or even competes – with the balaban player, Jowanro, in expressing intricate melodic lines. A balaban is a traditional single-reed wood instrument; it is very similar to the Armenian duduk. Its sound is soothing and exciting at the same time. Their way of singing and playing, including the guttural stops, is possibly what makes the music “typically” Kurdish.

The singer Ata Azizy Photo Rolf Killius
The singer Ata Azizy. Photo Rolf Killius, 2016
The balaban player Jowanro accompanied with zarab drum, keyboard and saz Photo Rolf Killius
The balaban player Jowanro accompanied with zarab drum, keyboard and saz. Photo Rolf Killius, 2016

With the support of the British Library's World and Traditional Music section, I was able to visit Iraq-Kurdistan and record traditional music during live events and in pre-arranged recording sessions. I was curious: how does a new country treats its rich traditional music culture?

I stay for the ‘after-party’ at the Zorgasth Café. Here the singer, Rafat Germiany, and the same balaban player perform howrama. Though this musical genre is remotely connected to Zoroastrianism, it is known as a typical Kurdish vocal style. The voice and the wind-instrument alternate again.

 Listen Zardosht Cafe Howrama group

 The singer Rafat Germiany (second left) and the balaban player Jowanro (second right) Photo Rolf Killius

The singer Rafat Germiany (second left) and the balaban player Jowanro (second right). Photo Rolf Killius, 2016

For me the most remarkable thing is the large, mainly young crowd (only men). They watch the performance with increasing anticipation. It shows that the music is still meaningful to a younger audience and therefore has a future. One participant told me that this café was the only public space where a female singer was allowed to perform these days.

Everybody mentions the traditional vocal style called heiran from the Erbil region, Erbil being the country’s capital and the other urban centre. Mr Delzar, a friend, invites me to his home village far from Erbil, just below the Qarachokh mountain range. Today his ‘village’ consists of several farm-houses managed on a part-time basis and re-created only recently. The original Kurdish villages of this region were destroyed by Iraqi troops, the last time by Saddam Hussain in 1988. Only in the last few years – the region was only recently secured by the Peshmerga (Kurdish liberation army) – have some of the original villagers and their descendants come back to farm again.

A seasoned Kurd arrives at Mr Delzar’s farm-house and immediately starts singing. Mr Mahyadin Sherwani is a farmer and self-taught heiran singer. He explains to me that the songs of the heiran genre describe the rugged countryside of Kurdistan and its people.

I first experienced traditional Kurdish vocal music many years back in the Kurdish region of eastern Turkey. I listened to the always slightly over-amplified and highly reverberated recordings from cassettes played on the crackling PA-system of a local bus. There, listening to this music and viewing the hills flying past, I imagined how this music was born in the Kurdish countryside.  I have the same feeling today, listening to this talented singer in this Iraq-Kurdistan village.

The Heiran singer Mahyadin Sherwani Photo Parwez Zabihi
The Heiran singer Mahyadin Sherwani. Photo Parwez Zabihi, 2016

Listen The Heiran singer Mahyadin Sherwani

 

I have already mentioned the saz. During my last week in Iraq-Kurdistan I was invited to a performance in the heart of Erbil of the saz player and musical instrument shop owner, Bakr Sazvan. He has his shop just below the ancient citadel set on a mound towering over the city. He played a number of electrifying pieces, setting his business aside for a full hour.

The saz is a pear-shaped plucked instrument, with five or six strings organised in three courses. For the Kurds the saz is an essentially Kurdish instrument though it is also used by Turkish and Iranian musicians.

Especially intriguing is how Bakr Sazvan plays, combining melodic phrases played on the higher pitched strings, and striking the lower pitched strings in order to create the accompanying drone sound.

The Saz player Bakr Savan in his workshop Photo Rolf Killius
The Saz player Bakr Savan in his workshop. Photo Rolf Killius, 2016

Listen The Saz player Bakr Savan in his workshop

 

As I pack my bags for the return journey to London I ponder about Kurdish traditional music: in comparison with many other regions of the world I’ve visited, the music of the Kurds is still alive and kicking! As these people are very keen to demonstrate traditional music and to preserve their culture, they invited me to come again for a much longer stay. I happily accepted.

Rolf Killius (rolfkillius@yahoo.com and www.rolfkillius.com) 09/08/2016 

(with thanks to the musicians, interpreters, fixers and friends who assisted on the trip)

The recordings made during this project will be added to the Rolf Killius Collection (C815). Some of Rolf's recordings from rural India are online on BL Sounds.

Find out more about the work of the British Library's Sound Archive and the new Save our Sounds programme online.

Follow the British Library Sound Archive @soundarchive and the British Library's World and Traditional Music activities @BL_WorldTrad on Twitter.

 
 



03 June 2016

Peter Kennedy Archive

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As part of an AHRC Cultural Engagement project grant awarded to City University and partially funded by the National Folk Music Fund, ethnomusicologist Andrew Pace, has engaged in a project to catalogue thousands of paper and photographic files from Peter Kennedy’s collection of British and Irish folk music held at the British Library.

This month we have launched a unique website - www.peterkennedyarchive.org - in which listeners can retrace the chronology and geographical routes of Kennedy's extensive field recording activity. In the text below, Andrew describes the project and walks us through the website's main features.

PR0925
Peter Kennedy interviewing Edgar Button. Thebburton, Suffolk, 1956 [PR0925]

Peter Kennedy was one of the most prolific collectors of British and Irish folk music and customs from the 1950s up until his death in 2006. Working closely with other collectors of his generation, such as Alan Lomax, Sean O’Boyle and Hamish Henderson, he recorded hundreds of traditional performers ‘in the field’, including Margaret Barry, Fred Jordan, Paddy Tunney, Harry Cox, Frank and Francis McPeake and Jack Armstrong. In 2008 his collection came under the care of the World and Traditional Music section of the British Library.

I’ve been working on Peter’s sizeable collection periodically since 2010, cataloguing thousands of audio tapes and photographs of traditional performers and uploading some of this material to Sounds. In fact, just this month an additional 500 photographs and 70 audio recordings from Peter’s collection have been added to the existing collection available online. 

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Bob Copper, John Copper, Ron Copper and Jim Cooper photographed by Peter Kennedy in Rottingdean, Sussex, 1950s [025I-MSMUS1771X1X-0201A0]

However, Peter’s paper files, comprising song texts, scores, contracts, draft manuscripts and a large amount of correspondence between himself and performers, collectors, institutions and enquirers, hadn’t been catalogued. This is the task that I’ve been undertaking since January. All of these papers will be uploaded to the Library’s catalogue in due course.

Amongst these papers I discovered 31 reports written by Peter for the BBC’s ‘Folk Music and Dialect Recording Scheme’, a project on which he was working during the 1950s. Across 180 typewritten pages, Peter describes his daily itinerary recording traditional performers around the UK and Ireland between 1952 and 1962. Full of anecdotes and insightful information about the musicians he recorded - including confirmation of when and where he recorded them - these documents reveal a great deal about Peter’s fieldwork during this period.

I decided to use these reports as the basis for a new website which brings these narratives together with all of the audio recordings and photographs from Peter’s collection that have been digitised so far: www.peterkennedyarchive.org.

These reports feature ‘hotspots’ placed over the names of the more than 650 musicians that Peter recorded during these trips. Clicking on the name of a performer reveals any sound recordings or photographs taken of them by Peter on that particular day that are available to view and listen to on Sounds. Additionally, links to entries in the British Library’s catalogue are provided for any related material that hasn’t yet been digitised, such as Peter’s tapes or BBC transcription discs.

What makes this website unique is the way it contextualises recordings and photographs of performers with Peter’s own notes about them. Whilst the British Library’s catalogue is useful as a search tool, it doesn’t reveal how a collection was formed and developed – and it doesn’t tell us very much about who created it. This new website gives us a better idea of what’s in this collection by refocusing attention on Peter as a recordist and reconstituting his material into a form that better resembles how he created it.

I hope www.peterkennedyarchive.org will prove useful to researchers and musicians alike and encourage more people to explore Peter’s collection at the British Library. As more of his field recordings are digitised and attached to the site, it should become an increasingly valuable resource

- Andrew Pace

Find out more about the work of the British Libary's Sound Archive and the new Save our Sounds programme online.

Follow the British Library Sound Archive @soundarchive and the British Library's World and Traditional Music activities @BL_WorldTrad on Twitter.

 

07 July 2015

Thea Musgrave - a new performance and a PhD opportunity

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A few years ago the British Library acquired the archive of Thea Musgrave. We are now collaborating with the University of Glasgow to offer a PhD studentship on "The music of Thea Musgrave: an analysis based on the archival sources". Now in her 80s, Thea Musgrave remains very active as a composer, and her latest work Voices of our Ancestors will be premiered on Thursday 9 July at the City of London Festival by the Choir of Selwyn College Cambridge.

Theamusgravephotochristiansteiner
Photo: Christian Steiner

The studentship will be offered under the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership scheme in conjunction with the British Library, London. This exciting opportunity will require the researcher to divide his or her time between the University of Glasgow and the British Library. The student will be expected to assist with the cataloguing and interpretation of the archive, and will be invited to participate in other aspects of the British Library’s activities. A supervisory team from both institutions will oversee this work and full research training (including archival research skills) will be offered. The team will include Dr Martin Parker Dixon (Music) and Dr Simon Murray (Theatre Studies) from Glasgow University, and Richard Chesser, Head of Music at the British Library.

The studentship is funded for three years to commence in October 2015 and covers tuition fees at the Home/EU rate, due to funding. Home students and EU students who have lived in the UK for 3 years prior to the award will also receive a maintenance bursary (stipend) of £14,057 (2015/16 RCUK rate). In addition, the student is eligible to receive up to £1,000 a year from the British Library to support travel directly related to the doctoral research, and will be given use of a desk and computer in the Music department of the Library and access to staff catering facilities. All AHRC Collaborative PhD students automatically become part of the UK-wide Collaborative Doctoral Partnership development scheme which will provide training in a range of skills needed for research within museums, archives, galleries and heritage organisations.

Informal enquiries are welcome. Please write to Dr Martin Parker Dixon (martin.dixon@glasgow.ac.uk) in the first instance.

Voices of our Ancestors
A page of sketches for Thea Musgrave's new work, Voices of our Ancestors

We see four interconnected questions as providing the stimulus for developing and integrating original research into Musgrave’s oeuvre:

  • Thea Musgrave follows a fairly typical pattern of British composing of the period in that she is concerned to synthesise new continental techniques of serialism and aleatoricism with more traditional academic preoccupations of long-term tonal planning and modal harmony. With this, for example, she follows the same trajectory as the composers of the more heavily researched Manchester School. A comparative analysis of Musgrave’s technical via media – for which a study of the sketches would be indispensable – would provide an intimate portrait of the cultural and intellectual tolerances and ambitions of post-War Britain.
  • Another significant parallel with the Manchester School is Musgrave’s impulse towards drama and theatre, both in terms of writing for the stage, but also working with movement and spacialisation to affect ‘dramatic-abstract’ scenarios in her instrumental works. It would be important to contextualise her theatricalisation of musical form, and her concept of the dramatic against theatre practices and theories of the day. Musgrave has been described as essentially an operatic composer and it is important to substantiate this insight by discerning the representational, theatrical or narrative elements of her musical language. We stress that the concept of ‘theatre’ must not be treated naively or ahistorically, and this is why the investigation of this key aspect of Musgrave’s oeuvre needs to be carried out in collaboration with Theatre Studies.
  • A broader approach to her technique would attempt to discover the origins of her notion of compositional professionalism and work ethic, and her tactfulness and practicality towards the technical limitations of musical performers. These are principles that she has generally wanted to impress upon her students. Musgrave has very successfully managed the ‘business’ of compositional production at a time when commissions for new music were not easy to come by. Because she settled in the USA in the early 1970s, her life affords the opportunity to consider the different working conditions, expectations and cultural positions of the American and the European composer as they attempted to build a career within the economy of new music during the latter half of the 20th Century.
  • A further question relates to how her compositional career-building in the post-War context was shaped, hampered, or indeed boosted by gender and national identity. Early in her career, Musgrave seems to have benefitted enormously by being identified as Scottish at a time when Scottish musical institutions needed to champion homegrown talent. This identification does not sit easily with her more modernist and international positioning. And while a good proportion of her music has Scottish themes, there is no overt nationalist sentiment in her work. It is also impossible to ignore the fact that she is very much treated as a woman composer, even though she would rather be considered a ‘composer’. Susan McClary notes that Musgrave is one of many successful female musicians who is quick to rebuff any association with feminism. This tension must be explored.

In all of these areas of enquiry we anticipate that close study of the manuscript materials will underpin the research findings. It may then be appropriate for a catalogue description of the archive, taking account of the compositional processes as revealed in the source materials, to form an appendix to the thesis. By this means the student’s contribution to the Library’s catalogue can form part of the overall evaluation of the PhD.

For further details of how to apply for the studentship, please see http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_408759_en.pdf

Applications should be submitted by Friday 17th July 2015, and interviews will take place in early August.

01 July 2015

The British Library at WOMAD

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The British Library is celebrating 30 years of collaboration with WOMAD.

British Library team member at WOMAD

The British Library’s relationship with WOMAD is nearly as long as the festival's existence. Since 1985, missing only 3 years, we have been present at WOMAD's major annual summer event in the UK. Each year a small team of staff from the Library has spent an enjoyable weekend making documentary recordings of as many of the performances as possible. We try to cover all the stages and often record artists several times as they deliver different performances, including workshops and interviews, over the weekend. The concentration in one place of so many diverse and talented musicians allows us to document musical traditions from around the world right here on our doorstep. And it's not just a case of keeping a record of each performance for listening at the archive, but also a way of documenting for the long term a significant event on the ‘world music’ scene.

The British Library now has recordings of a significant number of early UK appearances by artists who, since their appearance at WOMAD, have made great inroads on the international music scene; artists such as Baaba Maal (first recorded by the British Library at WOMAD in 1991), Thomas Mapfumo (1990) and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (1985), to cite only a few.

Our first WOMAD recording (on 20 July 1985 at Mersea Island, near Colchester) was of the Chinese sheng and flute players, the Guo Brothers, who had recently arrived in London to study at the Guildhall School of Music and were just beginning to create a name for themselves in this country.

In total we hold over 2000 hours of music recorded at WOMAD, backed up digitally for preservation and onsite access.

WOMAD is the only music festival that has this incredible relationship with the British Library, and to celebrate we are collaborating to offer one lucky winner a pair of tickets to this year’s festival at Charlton Park (24th-26th July) and an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the British Library Sound Archive in London for four people. For more information click here.

Open air stage Dhol Foundation 2
Dhol Foundation recorded by British Library at WOMAD 2004

Find out more about the work of the British Libary's Sound Archive and our new Save our Sounds programme

Follow the British Library Sound Archive on Twitter via @soundarchive and tag with #SaveOurSounds

Follow the British Library's World and Traditional Music activities on Twitter via @BL_WorldTrad

 

06 February 2015

Directory of UK Music Sound Collections

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Sound_types
The British Library’s Directory of UK Sound Collections is one of the first steps in our Save our Sounds programme launched on 12th January 2015 as one of the key strands of Living Knowledge, the British Library’s new vision and purpose for its future.

The purpose of the directory project is to collect information about our recorded heritage, to create a directory of sound collections in the UK. By telling us what you have, we can help plan for their preservation, for future generations.

Our aim is to be comprehensive; to search out sounds that exist in libraries, archives, museums, galleries, schools and colleges, charities, societies, businesses and in your homes.  And we’re not just interested in large collections: a single item might be just as important as a whole archive.

So far we have collected information about almost 200 collections amounting to roughly 250,000 items across a range of formats and subjects: oral history; wildlife, mechanical and environmental sounds; drama and literature; language and dialect; radio and popular, classical, jazz and world and traditional music.

A summary list of music collections includes:

  1. Mozart GLASS Collection: former Greater London Audio Specialisation Scheme (GLASS Collection retained by Westminster Music Library
  2. Some commercial music recordings included alongside collection of music scores and news cuttings relating to the life and career of Sir Thomas Beecham (1879-1961)
  3. A large collection of communist period vinyl records from Romania, and smaller collections from Bulgaria, Ex-Yugoslavia and Hungary
  4. Recordings made by many contributors of traditional song, music and drama; dialect speech; calendar customs; cultural traditions; children's games and songs (University of Sheffield Library)
  5. Sound recordings made by ethnomusicologist Jean Jenkins in Africa, India and the Middle East
  6. Recordings of songs by Plymouth artists (with paper transcripts) and photographs of Union Street Project, Plymouth
  7. The Erich Wolfgang Korngold Archive: Interviews, archival performances, acetates, 78rpm discs, broadcast tapes, private recordings, vinyl and CDs covering the life and work of composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957)
  8. organ  and morning service recordings from St Andrew's, Plymouth
  9. gramophone records of Princess Elizabeth's visit to Plymouth, recorded by RGA Sound Services, 21 Cobourg St, Plymouth
  10. 2 troubadour and 10 trouvère songs sung by Francesco Carapezza; 13 troubadour songs in spoken performance by Gérard Gouiran,  from the University of Warwick
  11. Music on LP and some wax cylinders, from Brent Museum and Archives
  12. A comprehensive, primarily classical, recorded music collection from Exeter Library
  13. Scottish Music Centre: Recordings of music by Scottish composers and performers (and associated spoken-word material), mostly dating from late 1960s to present. Over 12,000 items of which over 11,000 catalogued online (as at January 2015)
  14. 3,000 commercial recordings from the 78rpm shellac era, including some rarities and radio transcriptions (Radio Luxemburg, ENSA, BBC), as well as unusual/rare labels of non-jazz content
  15. 12,000 UK 78rpm records, 1920-1945, concentrating on British Dance Bands & personalities of the period
  16. 100 shellac discs of early jazz recordings
  17. Evensong half hour, recorded at Hunstanton parish church and broadcast by the BBC on 19th August 1951
  18. Cassettes of church organ accompanied by a choir boy
  19. Private recordings made on open reel tape of classical music performances
  20. Recordings of Scottish, English, Irish and other folk musicians, made mostly in Edinburgh from the late 1960s to mid-1970s
  21. Recordings of the Broughton Tin Can Band and Winster Guisers
  22. Private folk music recordings made on open reel tape
  23. Music by Derbyshire musicians.

Although this is a good selection across the musical genres, we feel there are many, many more music collections out there.

The census is live now and will run until the end of March 2015.  You can read more about the project, and send us information about your collections here: www.bl.uk/projects/uk-sound-directory.

You can follow the British Library Sound Archive on Twitter via @soundarchive and tag with #SaveOurSounds

07 November 2014

Film Screening: The Silk Road of Pop

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Silk-road-of-pop[1]

The British Library and International Dunhuang Project will be hosting a free evening of music and film on 28 November 2014. The London Uyghur Ensemble, a London-based group which plays traditional and popular music of the Central Asian Uyghurs, will open the evening with a live performance.

Following the performance, will be a screening of the award winning documentary The Silk Road of Pop, a portrait of the explosive pop music scene among the Uyghur community in China's Xinjiang Province. The Silk Road of Pop tells the story of Ay, a young Uyghur woman in China curious about the outside world who turns to music for answers and is drawn to musicians who mirror her struggles in their songs. The screening will be followed by a Q&A sessions with the film directors.

 

Friday 28 November 2014, 18:30 - 20:30

The British Library Conference Centre

96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB

MAP

BOOKING ESSENTIAL

 

08 September 2014

Archiving WOMAD 2014

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The British Library’s relationship with WOMAD (World of Music Arts and Dance) is nearly as long as the festival's existence, recording performances for archival purposes since 1985. The first recording in the WOMAD Collection, C203/1, was of the Chinese sheng and flute players, the Guo Brothers, who had recently arrived in London to study at the Guildhall School of Music and were just beginning to create a name for themselves in this country. It was made on Ampex 456 ‘Grand Master’ tape at half-track stereo and in the recordists' notes, strong winds were reported as interfering with the quality of the recording.

1985 flyer from Steve Sherman s_sherman@sky.com

Since 1985 and each year, with the exception of three, a small team of staff from the British Library record as many of the performances as possible, including workshops and interviews. This summer, between 24 and 27 July, six members of staff attended the festival equipped with portable digital recorders and recorded ninety-one performances, covering 95% of the festival. These recordings have recently been catalogued and processed and are searchable on our catalogue. They can be listened to free of charge through our listening service on-site at the British Library in King's Cross in London and in Boston Spa, Yorkshire. 

The British Library holds a significant number of early UK appearances by artists who, since performing at WOMAD, have made great inroads on the international music scene; artists such as Baaba Maal, first recorded by the British Library at WOMAD in 1991, Thomas Mapfumo, first recorded in 1990 and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, first recorded in 1985, to cite only a few. In total we hold around 2,100 hours of audio (you would need close to 3 months of non-stop listening to listen to it all!) of performances at WOMAD, held on different physical formats such as open reel tape, DAT, CD-R and digital audio files; all are stored in our basements and backed up digitally for preservation and access.

Womad advert

The British Library holds five million recordings on over one million items dating back to the 1890s and possibly earlier. The sound collections have their origin in 1906, when the British Museum began collecting metal masters from the Gramophone Company. Recording performances at WOMAD is one example of the many ways in which the British Library actively develops its sound collections although the majority of material is acquired through donations, purchases or loans.

Steven Dryden, Sound and Vision Reference Specialist, was a member of the WOMAD team this year. In this paragraph he relays his highlight of the festival: experiencing the live sound of DakhaBrakha, made possible thanks to Dash Arts, the creative agency which brought the group to the United Kingdom.

My highlight of WOMAD 2014 has to be ‘Ethno Chaos’ founders DakhaBrakha - brooding, shamanic ‘noisescapes’ from Ukraine. The Siam Tent filled to capacity throughout the four piece set, the atmosphere building and building with each song. The sound is eclectic, in the truest sense of the word; there is a traditional folk element but also, dance, hip-hop and tribal rhythms. The songs often build to terrifyingly claustrophobic dins, but remain rhythmic and chant like - just as the ‘Ethno Chaos’ tag might suggest, there is a lot of beauty in this chaos. One couldn’t help but reflect on everything that has happened in the Ukraine in the last year. Perhaps DakhaBrakha are capturing the zeitgeist of a generation of Ukrainians? The performance is swamped with pride, Ukrainian flags are featured on stage and amongst the audience. But there is something more here, the sound of the four piece is defiant and confident, totally uncompromising between the past and the future sounds of the Ukraine. This band sucks you in to their world of noise and forces you to contemplate, all while moving your feet.

Listen to an excerpt from DakhaBrakha's performance

Andrea Zarza Canova, Curator of World and Traditional Music, attended WOMAD festival for the first time.

Bernie Krause's talk at the Society of Sound Stage was an inspiring complement to the numerous musical performances I recorded at WOMAD: The Good Ones, Monsieur Doumani, Aar Maanta, Siyaya, Amjad Ali Khan, Mulatu Astatke, Kobo Town, Magnolia Sisters, amongst others. In his talk, the bio-acoustician and founder of Wild Sanctuary, an organization dedicated to recording and archiving natural soundscapes, invited the audience to reflect on the origins of music by suggesting structural relationships between what he identifies as the three layers of the soundscape - the geophony ('non-biological sound that occurs in the natural world'), biophony ('all of the sounds that animals create collectively in a natural wild environment') and the anthrophony ('all the human noise we create'). Using spectograms and audio recordings from his personal archive and recordings of the BayAka Pigmies made by Louis Sarno, his points were made audible.

Listen to an excerpt from Bernie Krause's talk

Andy Linehan, Curator of Pop Music, attended the first WOMAD festival in 1985.

As ever, it is difficult to pick out the highlights of WOMAD – there is so much to see, hear, taste and enjoy even though we are working - but Manu Dibango has long been a personal favourite on record so it was great to see him live and Richard Thompson’s late-night set reminded me what a great guitarist and songwriter he is. Ibibio Sound Machine played a storming set on Saturday afternoon and Youssou N’Dour was as classy as ever that evening. Sunday brought my favourite band of the weekend – Les Ambassadeurs, the reformed band led by Salif Keita who revisited their 1970s blend of afrobeat, funk, jazz and soul in an all-too short 75 minutes of aural pleasure.  And in a contrast of style the final performance of the weekend was a blistering set by Public Service Broadcasting (probably the first band to have played both the British Library Entrance Hall and Womad) who enthralled a packed Siam tent and drew proceedings to a close. It didn’t rain either.

Listen to an excerpt from Public Service Broadcasting's performance

Get in touch to listen to performances from WOMAD on-site at the British Library and listen online to sounds from World & Traditional Music and Pop Music online! See you next year for WOMAD 2015!

31 July 2014

Recordings from the Skamba Skamba Kankliai music festival, Lithuania

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The British Library has recently acquired  a collection of field recordings made at the Skamba Skamba Kankliai Festival in Vilnius, Lithuania. The recordings were made by field recordist and composer Yiorgis Sakellariou with support from World & Traditional Music at the British Library and the generous guidance of Dr. Austė Nakienė at the Lithuanian Institute of Folklore and Literature in Vilnius. The following text, written by Yiorgis Sakellariou himself, details his experience at the festival and features audio excerpts from the collection:   

The Skamba Skamba Kankliai recording project is more so the documentation of an intense listening experience rather than the result of thorough ethnomusicological research. When I arrived in Vilnius I was mainly motivated by the curiosity to see how traditional Lithuanian music is presented and staged at a large-scale festival. My previous knowledge on the subject was fragmentary. I had recently lived in Lithuania for about a year and during that time I became interested in the country's folk music, however I never developed an organized method of collecting or documenting it. Nonetheless, it was easy to discover that there is a big variety of songs and dances and, furthermore, a long history of recording and archiving Lithuanian music.

Since 1973, Skamba Skamba Kankliai has been held annually in Vilnius, Lithuania and currrently it is organized by the Vilnius Ethnic Culture Centre. Every year the festival welcomes a large number of folk ensembles that present a wide and diverse range of traditional music. The festival also hosts international ensembles. In 2014, ensembles from Azerbaijan, Italy, Iran and Georgia assisted and performed folk music from their countries.

Skamba Skamba

The concerts took place in several locations of the old town of Vilnius and many times they overlapped which made it impossible to record every single one. I tried to record music that was as diverse and representative as possible, documenting material on the basis of style, place of origin, instrumentation or age and gender of singers. Often the decision was purely practical (distance between stages, exhaustion, weather conditions etc.). The recordings attempt to capture not only the performed music but also the sonic atmosphere of the festival. The concerts took place in squares, parks, streets, alleys, theatres and churches and on several occasions the purely musical sounds are mixed with street and crowd noise or simply the recording location’s ambiance.

This collection can only document a small sample of Lithuania’s long musical tradition but hopefully the recordings will stimulate curiosity of listeners who are interested in world and traditional music. I do not consider the recorded material as a relic of a past that desperately tries to catch up with the present and secure a place in the future. These songs, which mostly originated in late 19th century’s rural life, are filtered through the new ideas and experiences of the people that currently perform them and afterwards through me, an observer/recordist of the performances. The recordings themselves act as another filter, substituting the physical experience of actually being present at the performance. Yet, despite the multiple layers of filters, the core of the music remains intact. My impression, or perhaps even wish, is that its truthfulness can still deeply affect the listener of the 21st century. 

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Here are a few highlights from the festival selected and commented by Yiorgis Sakellariou.

Sasutalas folk ensemble performs Kas tar teka par dvarelį 

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The most significant form of Lithuanian singing is the polyphonic sutartinės (from the word sutarti meaning 'to be in agreement'). Each song includes short melodic patterns with few notes, which are sung independently following the polyphonic vocal music rules of heterophony, canon and counterpoint. On 1 June, the last day of the festival, Sasutalas folk ensemble performed a set of sutartinės at Adomas Mickevičius yard. A few children were playing games around the yard shortly before it started to rain.  

Toma Grašytė, Adelė Vaiginytė and Ieva Kisieliūtė perform Lioj saudailio, vokaro (sutartinė) 

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This sutartinė was performed by three singers at the opening of Nakties muzika (Night Music), a concert that was set in the atmospheric Lėlė theatre late on the evening of 30 May. A mesmerized audience of around forty people was in attendance.

Liucija Vaicenavičiūtė perform Vaikščiojo motulė po dvarų

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Earlier that day at the Lėlė theatre, Čiulba Čiulbutis (Little Bird Warbles), an event focusing on solos, duets and trios, took place. Liucija Vaicenavičiūtė is a member of the ensemble Vaicenavičių šeima (Vaicenavičius family). She sings a song about a mother who wakes her sweetest young daughter up and encourages her to go to the garden and look after their male guests.

Tatato folk ensemble performs Ar aušta rytas, ar diena?

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Tatato is the ensemble of the studio of the Ethnomusicology Department of Lithuanian Music and Theatre Academy. The ensemble director, Daiva Vyčinienė, has been devoted to the spreading and teaching of Lithuanian folk music for the past twenty years. 

You can listen to more recordings from the Skamba Skamba Kankliai Recording Project in British Library Reading Rooms by searching for C1661 on our catalogue. The British Library also has several CD publications documenting Lithuanian songs and music from 1908-1941 which were kindly donated by the Lithuanian Institute of Folklore and Literature. In addition, Yiorgis Sakellariou has also deposited environmental field recordings made in Lithuania at the British Library which you can find on our catalogue under collection number WA 2014/019.

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