THE DRAMATIC DISSONANCES OF A BOLD POLEMIC KNIGHT
With his book titled Musical Folklore: Albanian Polyphony (Tole 1999), the ethnomusicologist Vasil S. Tole, all of a sudden, appeared as a bold polemic knight, never seen in the history of Albanian ethnomusicology! From the dramatically short Introduction of this book, which consists of only two paragraphs, he came up with a range of overwhelming statements, which are, in the first place, as professionally wrong, as they are morally ugly! To be able to use a musical notion, let me think of his thoughts as dissonances. They appear more often biased and subjective–sometimes, denying, underestimating, depreciating, and, at times, asserting, overestimating, over-appreciating–but never non-biased and objective. As a matter of fact, the dissonances brought are many. However, I will only observe eight of them, which I think are the most damaging and most flagrant ones. Examination of such dissonances deserves full attention, in the name of the well-being of Albanian ethnomusicology, both in our day and in the future.
First dissonance: Disclaimer! Disclaimer! Disclaimer!
Clearly, the first dissonance can be formulated in this way: The denial, underestimation, depreciation of the ethnomusicological scientific research contribution of previous Albanian ethnomusicologists! Tole appeared as a denier of the entire ethnomusicological scientific research activity carried out by former Albanian ethnomuscologists, dead or alive.
Second dissonance: Prejudices! Prejudices! Prejudices!
Obviously, the second dissonance can be formulated as follows: The assertion, overestimation, overappreciation of allegedly ethnomusicological scientific research contribution of authors who are not ethnomusicologists! Tole appeared as an affirmer of the alleged ethnomusicological scientific research that representatives of Albanian history, life and culture–who are not ethnomusicologists–have given to the study of traditional Albanian multi-voice music. In this realm, are given the impressions that various international travelers of the nineteenth century have written on traditional Albanian multi-voice music. Then, there are mentioned, among others, figures, such as: Faik Konica, Eqrem Çabej, Mitrush Kuteli (nickname of Dhimitër Pasko), Ismail Kadare, as well as Zef Jubani, Lumo Skëndo (nickname of Mid’hat Frashëri), Mehdi Frashëri, etc. Such authors, at times, may have expressed an opinion on traditional Albanian multi-voice music, but they have never had it as an object of their activity. Therefore they have never pretended to have made any ethnomusicological contribution
Third dissonance: Pseudo-innovation! Pseudo-innovation! Pseudo-innovation!
Clearly, the third dissonance can be formulated in this way: The disclosure, use, pursuing of a supposedly new methodology in the field of study of traditional Albanian multi-voice music! Tole appeared as an allegedly unprecedented innovator etnomucicologist ever seen, who would, necessarily, at any rate, at any case, bring a new methodology as far as the study of traditional Albanian multi-voice music is concerned.
Fourth dissonance: Distortions! Distortions! Distortions!
Obviously, the fourth dissonance can be formulated as follows: Distorting, altering, transforming the fundamental ethnomusicological notions! Tole appeared as a distorter of a number of well-known ethnomusicological notions, in both Albanian and international ethnomusicology, such as: traditional polyphony, musical style, musical dialect, musical sub-dialect, etc.
Fifth dissonance: Mediocrity! Mediocrity! Mediocrity!
Clearly, the fifth dissonance can be formulated in this way: The interpretation, understanding, the look of traditional Albanian multi-voice music as allegedly the highest part of traditional Albanian music! For reasons that only he knows, Tole mistakenly thinks that from the standpoint of aesthetic values in general and melodic-modal features in particular, the traditional Albanian multi-voice music stands higher than the traditional Albanian one-voice music, i.e., according to him, it is an “elite phenomenon.”
Sixth dissonance: Claims! Claims! Claims!
Obviously, the sixth dissonance can be formulated as follows: The running, interest, approach towards non-ethnomusicological issues, topics, subjects (literary, ethnographic, historical, archeological, etc.), a phenomenon that in any case brings about the departure from ethnomusicological issues! Tole appeared as a truly curious tracer with regard to a number of non-ethnomusicological issues, topics, subjects (literary, ethnographic, historical, archeological, etc.).
Seventh dissonance: Abuse! Abuse! Abuse!
Clearly, the seventh dissonance can be formulated in this way: The giving, presenting, documenting the names of hundreds and hundreds of villages, both in a wrong place and through a wrong method! Tole appeared as a non-Orthodox scholar, as far as the place where are given and how are given hundreds and hundreds of village names.
Eighth dissonance: Formalism! Formalism! Formalism!
Obviously, the eighth dissonance can be formulated as follows: The giving, bringing, displaying bibliographic citations coming most often from non-ethnomusicological sources (literary, ethnographic, historical, archeological, etc.). Tole appeared as a diligent tracer of non-ethnomusicological sources, which are supposed to explain in-depth ethnomusicological phenomena.
Only factors, such as: the quality of the books being written, their methodology, the problems that lie within them, the contribution given in its entirety, etc., determine the name of every scholar in a certain field of knowledge, scientific or artistic one.
Professor Spiro J. Shetuni, Ph.D.