TRADITIONAL MUSIC AND PROFESSIONAL MUSIC: AN AESTHETIC COMPARATIVE OBSERVATION ON A UNIVERSAL PLAN

Prof. Dr.  SPIRO J. SHETUNI

Universiteti Winthrop

Rock Hill, South Carolina

U.S.A.

  1. CREATIVE PROCESS

COLLECTIVE CHARACTER AND INDIVIDUAL CHARACTER OF CREATION:  Created by all masses of people and created by only certain people

The collective character of the creation of traditional music means the fact that it is created, more or less, thanks to the contribution of an entire ethnic community.  Thus, a phenomenon is born in folkloristics called anonymity, i.e., an art without authorship.  Recognizing that traditional music is created collectively, we underline that, however, there are always certain people who, with their special artistic skills, give it a definite physiognomy.  More specifically, traditional songs, instrumental pieces, dances, etc., initially, are created only by talented individuals of a particular ethnic community.  Then, they undergo change, adaptation, alteration, always in line with the aesthetic collective tastes of the ethnic community.  The collective character as a feature of the creation of traditional music, and, with it, the so-called “anonymity,” theoretically and virtually, should never be absolutized:  they are just relative.

 The fact that, within traditional music, in the interaction between creative collective element and creative individual element, the collective creative stride gains precedence, historically, has brought with it the birth of so-called musical dialects, musical sub-dialects, and musical styles. They differ from one nation, people, and ethnic group to another.  Likewise, they also differ within each nation, people, and ethnic group, making up what we might call its traditional musical universe.

Meanwhile, professional music is always created individually.  Since, in the history of Western music–the professional music culture of Europe and America–during the Middle Ages (roughly the period between the 5th and 15th centuries of our Era), composers did not write names on musical works, their identification, at times, has been and and still is problematic for musicology. Later, composers began to give names on their creations.  The fact that, within professional music, however, individual creative element reign, historically, has brought with it individual musical styles of outstanding composers of all nations, peoples, and ethnic groups.

SELF-TAUGHT CHARACTER AND EDUCATED CHARACTER OF CREATION:   Created by people who have not completed special artistic schools and created only by people who have completed special artistic schools

The self-taught character of the creation of traditional music predicates the fact that it is created usually by people who have not attended special artistic schools to compose music.  The makers of traditional music are, in general, ordinary people–peasants and citizens–, who have not graduated in the field of music composition:  they have become creators, usually, self-taught.

But, sometimes, the traditional music’s makers can be and have graduated  in another area.

Thus, they belong to a wide group of people, sometimes educated, sometimes, semi-educated. Their common characteristic is precisely the fact that they have become self-made creators. However, historically, there were even professional composers who have created and create traditional music.

Meanwhile, professional music art makers usually attend special artistic schools:  in general, they have become and become creators after graduating in the field of musical composition. However, there are professional composers who have made a real name even though they have been self-taught.  Let me remind you, for example, well-known figures, such as:  German composer, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827);  Austrian composer, Franz (Peter) Schubert (1797-1828);  Russian composer, Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky (1841-1893);  American composer, pianist and conductor, George Gershwin (1898-1937);  American composer, Charles Edward Ives (1874-1954);  American singer, guitarist, and actor, Elvis Aaron Presley (1935-1977); American singer, composer, and musician, Michael Jackson (1958-2009);  Brazilian composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959), etc.

EMPIRICAL CHARACTER AND RATIONAL CHARACTER OF CREATION:  Creating empirically and creating logically

The empirical character of the creation of traditional music implies the fact that it is created, in general, within the principles, laws and aesthetic rules of traditional musical composition. Meanwhile, in order to express it in another way, such a fact implies the creation of traditional music, generally, outside the principles, laws and aesthetic rules of professional music composing.  Within the traditional music field, there are no theoretical written treaties about how its composition should be made.  However, paradoxically, it is a fact that traditional music composition is again subject to certain aesthetic principles, laws, and rules.  The traditional Albanian music, for example, faithfully adheres to certain aesthetic melodic-harmonic and metric/rhythmic criteria.

It is superfluous to argue that, in contrast to traditional music, within professional music, there are written theoretical treatises on how composing should be done.  Usually, these treaties differ from one historical era to another, from one musical-artistic school, flow, and direction to another.  The professional music of the Middle Ages (roughly, the period between the 5th and 15th centuries of our Era), the professional music of the Renaissance (approximately, the period between 1450 and 1600), the professional music of the Baroque (roughly, the period between 1580 and 1730), the Classical professional music (approximately, the period between 1730-1820), the Romantic professional music (roughly, the period between 1810-1890), the Modern professional music:  Atonal, Serial, etc. (approximately, the period between the beginning of the twentieth century and onwards), all of them, have similarities in the manner of musical composition, yet they also distinguish among themselves..

REPETITIOUS CHARACTER AND NON-REPETITIOUS CHARACTER:  Creation by repeating the musical phrases and creation by not repeating the musical phrases

The repetitious character of the creation of traditional music implies the fact that it is created, generally, by repeating musical phrases.  If we take a look at the formal structure of traditional songs, instrumental pieces, dances, etc., we will see that their musical phrases are repeated several times in a row.  The whole form of traditional music is obtained only thanks to this aesthetic criterion  Meanwhile, within professional music, though the repeat criterion does not lack, it is used with a somewhat more variation or much more variation.

NON-PROFITABLE CHARACTER AND PROFITABLE CHARACTER OF CREATION:  Creating free of charge (as a non-revenue-generating tool) and creating with payment (as a livelihood tool)

The non-profitable character of creating traditional music implies the fact that it is created, generally, free of charge.  Such a feature is extremely strong especially for the ethnic, social, and geographic peasant environments of traditional music creation.  But it also appears as a characteristic of ethnic, social, and geographic urban environments.  Palok Kurti (Shkodra), Isuf Myzyri (Elbasan), Shyqyri Fuga (Berat), etc., never wanted to earn income. Another bigger force has pushed and is pushing popular artists to create:  the desire to reflect the objective reality in traditional songs, instrumental pieces, dances, etc.

The creation of professional music, although it does not deny in any way the spiritual aspect, has historically served and serves to earn income.  In different times and places, its financial evaluation has been done in differentiated ways.  During the second half of the 20th century, for example, the financial assessment of professional musical works in Eastern European countries, including the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, has been dramatically low. But in the countries of Western Europe and in the United States of America has been and is quite high.

  1. EXISTING PROCESS

ORAL CHARACTER AND WRITTEN CHARACTER OF THE EXISTENCE:  Existing in an oral way and existing in a written way

The oral character of the existence of traditional music implies the fact that it exists, usually, unwritten in the pentagram.  Consequently, in real life, traditional music, a few times more and a few times lesss, can change, can vary, can be enriched in many aspects of its existence.

However, change, variance, enrichment, always take place within representative musical dialects, sub-dialects, and styles.  Meanwhile, professional music, being written in the pentagram, can not change over time.  The works of Bach and Haydn, of Mozart and Beethoven,  of Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, of Debussy and Ravel, of Gershwin and Copland, of Zadeja and Daija, of Zoraqi and Harapi, to name just a few composer names, will remain in centuries as written by their own authors.

But either professional music has not been written down since its birth.  Music writing became possible after centuries-long struggles of medieval theorists.  The most respected and influential authority over music throughout this long historical era was undoubtedly Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (approximately, 480-524).  His book, The Basics of Music, written in the early years of the 6th century, when Boethius was still young, represents a collection of music within the medieval quadrilateral scheme of mathematics, music, geometry, and astronomy. Though medieval readers may not have understood how much Boethius relied on other authors, they again realized that his sayings were based on the authority of Greek mathematics and music theory.  (Grout 1996-27).

The oral character of the existence of traditional music and the written, documented, established character of the existence of professional music, represents perhaps the most important aspect of the aesthetic distinction between them.  Many other aesthetic aspects are interdependent and in many directions from it.  It is by no means the case that, when it comes to the aesthetic differences between traditional music and professional music, as two main areas of creative music artistic activity, attention focuses, in the first place, precisely in this regard.

SYNKRETIC CHARACTER AND THE EXCLUSIVE ARTISTIC CHARACTER:  Existence as part of life processes and existence simply as art

The syncretic character of the existence of traditional music implies that it has existed and exists, usually, as an inherent part of the various life processes of a nation, a people, and a particular ethnic group.  Let me mention, among others, musical genres, such as:  lullabie, mourning song, call-to action song,  or  lyric song  with its most varied types (of wedding, ritual , work, love, etc.), ballads, ritual dances, etj., which do not exist out of rituals and popular customs in general. Noting the syncretic character of traditional music, I admit that it has served and serves people also to take aesthetic pleasure.  Meanwhile, professional music has existed and exists, usually, simply as art:  to give listeners aesthetic pleasure, to entertain them. to delight them, to give them beautiful moments, to introduce them into poetic dreams for life, etc.  Usually, professional music does not exist in the name of any syncretic role.

Thus, while traditional music exists more as part of the vital processes of a nation, a people and a particular ethnic group, professional music exists more simply as art of a nation, a people, and a particular ethnic group.  In the first case, the priority gains the sync function, in the second case–the purely artistic function.

III.  ASSIMILATION PROCESS

(Continues the next day)

Prof. Dr.  SPIRO J. SHETUNI

Universiteti Winthrop

Rock Hill, South Carolina

U.S.A.

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