ARUMANIAN TRADITIONAL MUSIC: AN ANCIENT CULTURE OF THE COUNTRIES OF BALKAN PENINSULA AND ALL SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

Prof. Dr.  SPIRO J. SHETUNI

Universiteti Winthrop

Rock Hill, South Carolina

U.S.A.

  • Arumanian traditional music is just my music!
  • When I was a kid, the first songs I heard from my parents, were exactly Arumanian traditional songs!
  • When I grew up, the songs that filled the house, and her yard, were also precisely Arumanian traditional songs!
  • When I die, I am sure I will be buried accompanied by Arumanian traditional laments!
  • May the energy and enthusiasm of Arumanian folk artists to preserve in centuries the Arumanian poetical and musical cultural heritage does never rest!

PROLOGUE

For the purpose of scientific objectivity, I am asking scholars in general and ethnomusicologists in particular:

  • To agree that, the Arumanians of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula and the entire Southeastern Europe, do constitute national minorities, but not ethno-cultural minorities (!). Actually, taking the Arumanian population of the Balkan states as a single socio-historical occurrence, it might very well be characterized as a nation.
  • To agree that, Arumanian traditional music of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula and the entire Southeastern Europe, is not simply a music influenced by other Balkan musical cultures (Albanian, Greek, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Rumanian, etc.). In fact, it has, over the centuries, been crafted, developed, and refined, to produce its own distinctive fundamental, substantial and formal, features.
  • To understand that, not only has Arumanian traditional music been influenced by other Balkan musical cultures (Albanian, Greek, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Rumanian, etc.), but has, in fact, itself, had an influence on those musical cultures.
  • Not to regard, Arumanian traditional music of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula and the entire Southeastern Europe, just as a music influenced by other Balkan musical cultures (Albanian, Greek, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Rumanian, etc.). It is with a deep professional conviction, that I feel that its basic substantial and formal features form that kind of cultural and artistic phenomenon which could be called, without any doubt, an Arumanian traditional musical universe.

 FUNDAMENTAL FEATURES

  1. Arumanian traditional music of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula and the entire Southeastern Europe occupies a very wide ethno-socio-geographical area, which, with a name, can be called Arumani.  From a melodic-modal point of view, it exists in a number of musical dialects, which vary according to specific Arumanian ethnic communities, such as:
  • Arumanian musical dialect of Albania, or Arumanian traditional music of Albania;
  • Arumanian musical dialect of Greece, or Arumanian traditional music of Greece;
  • Arumanian musical dialect of Republic of Macedonia, or Arumanian traditional music of Republic of Macedonia;
  • Arumanian musical dialect of Bulgaria, or Arumanian traditional music of Bulgaria;
  • Arumanian musical dialect of Rumania, or Arumanian traditional music of Rumania, etc.

Naturally, within the above dialects, there exist numerous sub-dialects and musical styles.

2. From a structural-formal point of view, Arumanian traditional music of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula and the entire Southeastern Europe, same as sister Balkan musical cultures, exists in different groupings, such as:

  • rural traditional music and urban traditional music;
  • vocal traditional music and instrumental traditional music;
  • one-part traditional music and a multi-part traditional music;
  • singing traditional music and dancing traditional music;
  • traditional music of women (girls and women) and traditional music men (boys and men);
  • traditional music of youth (girls and boys) and traditional music of adults (women and men);
  • traditional music interpreted individually and traditional music interpreted collectively;
  • a cappella traditional music (unaccompanied by musical instruments) and traditional music accompanied by musical instruments.

Arumanian traditional music of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula and the entire Southeastern Europe, in its entirety, appears more rural than urban, more vocal than instrumental, more multi-part than one-part, more singing than dancing.  In general, rural traditional music represents an ancient cultural and artistic heritage, sometimes simple in its content, but always original in terms of its melodic-modal physiognomy.  Although somewhat younger, or much younger in age, within Arumani, a part of traditional music can be characterized as urban traditional music.  Maintaining strong relations with rural traditional music, on the one hand, at the same time, urban traditional music is characterized by individual features, on the other hand.

3. The main vocal genres of Arumanian traditional music of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula and the entire Southeastern Europe are: i)  lullaby;  ii)  lament;  iii)  lyric song with its different types (ritual, work, love, wedding, etc.);  v)  ballad;  vi) epic song (legendary and historic), etc.  Of these, the first two are sung by one voice (in a monophonic manner), while the lyric song, ballad, epic song, etc., are interpreted either by multi voices (in a polyphonic manner), or by one voice (in a monophonic manner).  Meanwhile, within the Arumanian traditional music, the instrumental genres, from a melodic-modal point of view, in general, are closely associated with the vocal genres of respective countries.  Instrumental pieces are played by instruments, such as:  whistle, flute, clarinet, violin, lute, tambourine, etc., — typical instruments of all Arumani.

4. From the point of view of the overall structure, or the amount of melodic lines, Arumanian traditional music of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula and the entire Southeastern Europe, appears double:  rarely an one-part music and more often—a multi-part music:  a two-part one and a three-part one (never a four-part one).

Regarding the musical texture, Arumanian traditional music of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula and the entire Southeastern Europe, appears, also, double:  less frequently monophonic/heterophonic/homophonic, and more often polyphonic.

From the viewpoint of modal/tonal system, Arumanian traditional music of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula and the entire Southeastern Europe, brings a panorama like this:  i)  most of it is built in a pentatonic modal/tonal system;  ii)  a small, but significant part of it, is built in a diatonic modal/tonal system;  iii)  an even smaller part of it is built in a chromatic modal/tonal system;  iv)  at times, it is built in a mixed modal/tonal system:  pentatonic-diatonic;  diatonic-pentatonic;  diatonic-chromatic;  chromatic-diatonic, etc.

Regarding the meter/rhythm, Arumanian traditional music of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula and the entire Southeastern Europe, is organized in almost all kinds of meters/rhythms:  simplecompoundmixed.  (Structurally, mixed meters/rhythms are also compound ones, while compound meters/rhythms are not also mixed ones!)  In the meantime, half or completely non-metric rhythms (irregular or free) are also not missing. Among the simple meters/rhythms, frequently used are especially the two-units (2/8, 2/4) and three-units (3/8, 3/4) ones;  among the compound meters/rhythms—the four-units (4/8, 4/4) and six-units (6/8, 6/4) ones;  among the mixed meters/rhythms—the five-units (5/8, 5/4), seven-units (7/8, 7/4), nine-units (9/8, 9/4), twelve-units (12/8, 12/4), ones, etc.;  half or completely non-metric rhythms (irregular or free) are used really often.

From the point of view of relationship of vocal traditional music with musical instruments, Arumanian traditional music of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula and the entire Southeastern Europe, presents the following overview:  i)  sometimes, when it is either a one-part music or a multi-part one, it is not accompanied by musical instruments;  ii)  sometimes, when it is a one-part music, it is accompanied by musical instruments;  iii)  when it is a multi-part music, usually, it is not accompanied by musical instruments.

5. Dialects, sub-dialects, and musical styles of Arumanian traditional music of the Balkan Peninsula and the entire Southeastern Europe, as well as its basic structural-formal groups, are characterized, in any case, by common melodic-modal features so-called Arumanian.

ARUMANIAN TRADITIONAL SONGS’ MAIN POETIC-MUSICAL FEATURES

The study of the content of Arumanian traditional songs clearly brings out that they reflect, in the first place, the pastoral life of the Arumanian population and livestock as her main profession. Exactly for this reason, in Arumanian poetic culture, dominates the song with lyric-pastoral character.

Observing the content of Arumanian traditional songs highlights also the presence of turbulent emotions:  pain, regret, drama, tragedy, etc.  In both of its aspects—literary and musical—the content of Arumanian traditional songs is given, generally, in the emotional sphere of lyrical perception of reality, by incorporating original poetic and musical means of expression.  The content of Arumanian traditional songs, is, also, often obtained through a particular kind of performing, performing that arises in our artistic consciousness the vision of a conversation between the artist and nature.

Thus, as far as the main original poetic-musical features of Arumanian traditional songs are concerned, they probably could be formulated as follows:

  • prevalence of songs with a lyric-pastoral nature;
  • obtaining of turbulent emotions:  pain, regret, drama, tragedy, etc.;
  • prevalence of lyric emotions in delivering content;
  • presence often of original poetic and musical means of expression, as well as a conversational kind of performing between the artist and nature.

Basic distinctive features, substantial and formal, of the Arumanian traditional music of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula and the entire Southeastern Europe, form that kind of cultural and artistic phenomenon, which can be called without any doubt as ‘Arumanian traditional musical universe.’

INTERACTION BETWEEN THE ARUMANIAN TRADITIONAL MUSIC AND BALKAN SISTER MUSICAL CULTURES

The old-centuries co-existence between the Arumanian traditional music of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula and the entire Southeastern Europe, on the one hand, and Balkan sister musical cultures (Albanian, Greek, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Rumanian, etc.), on the other hand, has led to therefore interaction between one-another.  Several important issues of this hard, complex, multi-dimensional process, could possibly be formulated as follows:

Firstly, during the centuries of its existence, the Arumanian traditional music of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula and entire Southeastern Europe, born, raised, developed, and crystallized at the highest level, its basic fundamental distinguishing features, substantial and formal. Such features, which were just mentioned, were identified through analysis of fundamental ethnomusicological aspects, such as:

  • the overall structure, or the amount of melodic lines (one melodic line, two melodic lines, three melodic lines);
  • the musical texture (relationship and interaction that exists between horizontal and vertical strata in a musical piece, vocal or instrumental; theoretically,  it could materialize in four main types or forms:  monophony, heterophony, homophony, and polyphony or contrapunct;
  • the modal/tonal system (pentatonic, diatonic, chromatic, enharmonic);
  • the meter/rhythm (simple, compound, and mixed);
  • the relations of vocal musical culture with musical instruments (accompaniment or non-accompaniment with musical instruments).

Secondly, it would be a biased conceptualization, if, in addition to highlighting the main original poetic-musical features of the Arumanian traditional songs, to not point out the other side of the issue:  the phenomenon of impact of the Arumanian traditional songs by traditional songs of other Balkan peoples (Albanians, Greeks, Macedonians, Bulgarians, Rumanians, etc.).  The main indicators of this phenomenon could perhaps be formulated in this way:

  • the presence, during the second half of the twentieth century, along with traditional songs in Arumanian language, of the traditional songs in other Balkan languages (Albanian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Rumanian, etc.);
  • the impact on the musical aspect of the Arumanian traditional songs by traditional songs of other Balkan peoples (Albanians, Greeks, Macedonians, Bulgarians, Rumanians, etc.).

Thirdly, complex in its essence, the process of interaction between the Arumanian traditional music of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula and the entire Southeastern Europe, on the one hand, and Balkan sister musical cultures (Albania, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Rumanian, etc. ), on the other hand, objectively, it has always been mutual.  Therefore, if, the Arumanian traditional music, on the one hand, is influenced by Balkan sister musical cultures (Albanian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Rumanian, etc.), on the other hand, it itself has exercised influence on them.  Biased interpretation of the interaction process would not serve to better highlighting the truth.

INCLUSION OF THE ARUMANIAN TRADITIONAL MUSIC IN PROFESSIONAL MUSICAL ART OF THE BALKAN PEOPLES

Arumanian traditional music of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula and the entire Southeastern Europe can and should be included in professional musical art of the Balkan peoples, for the simple fact that it represents the art of a Balkan people:  descendant of Romanized Thracians. In a universal plan, it is known that traditional music of every nation, people, or certain ethnic group, plays an important and irreplaceable role in formation of national features of professional musical art and continuous deepening of its national character.  Thus, the traditional music of each nation, people, or ethnic group, constitutes a key element to having a professional musical art with a national physiognomy, as well as simple and understandable by the masses.  Only such a professional musical art, while, on the one hand, can serve his nation, in turn, can give contribution to the treasury of the world music culture.  The issue of inclusion of the Arumanian musical culture in professional music of Balkan peoples can be understood well just within the above-mentioned framework.

Arumanian traditional music of the countries of the Balkan Peninsula and the entire Southeastern Europe, –the ethno-socio-geographical area, where the presence of many nations, peoples, or ethnic groups, has resulted in the presence of many ethnic musical cultures (Albanian, Greek, Macedonian , Bulgarian, Turkish, Rumanian, Arumanian, Slovenian, Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian, Montenegrin, Roma, etc.)–can and should survive for centuries in two main forms:  both in its traditional pure form, and as an element of professional musical art of Balkan peoples.

Prof. Dr.  SPIRO J. SHETUNI

Universiteti Winthrop

Rock Hill, South Carolina

U.S.A.

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