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 Study Group on Folk Musical Instruments


Rinko FUJITA and Timkehet TEFFERA

17th Meeting: Erkner 2009

The 17th Meeting of the ICTM study group on folk musical instruments was carried out from 1st – 4th April 2009 in the Bildungszentrum of Erkner, a small town located nearby Berlin, Germany. After the long lasting winter, it was just a perfect timing that the warm and sunny weather started exactly when the meeting begun. About 40 scholars from the various parts of the world participated in the meeting. The local organizers were Dr. Gisa Jaehnichen (Kuala Lumpur, Berlin) and Dr. Timkehet Teffera (Berlin, Addis Abeba). The meeting was partially funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft [German Research Association] which gave the organizers a good opportunity to provide financial support for a number of participants who would not have been able to attend this meeting.
By taking the following three major topics, namely 1) Percussion; 2) Migration of musical instruments and 3) Current research, into consideration, very interesting and fruitful papers were presented and discussed in 10 sessions each consisting of three interrelated issues. Although the papers primarily focused on percussion instruments such as bells, stones, gongs, clappers, xylophones and drums, there were also presentations dealing with other types of instruments such as zithers, lutes, bagpipes and harmonicas.

Presentations principally discussing organological, technological and socio-cultural issues of percussion instruments in general and drums in particular were presented by Juergen Elsner, Jasmina Talam, Nana Marianne Zeh, Larry Francis Hillarian, Justin Hunter, Timkehet Teffera, Andreas Meyer, Irena Miholić, Rolando Antonio Peréz Fernández, Lujza Tari and Rinko Fujita.
Elsner presented the flat-bottomed kettledrums Tasa and mrfa from Yemen and discussed their organological, technical, functional and musical features. Talam’s paper referred to traditional drums that exist in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina that is based so far made ethnomusicological and material researches as well as supplementary information gathered from her fieldwork in this region. Zeh reported on drum orchestras of samba schools in Rio de Janeiro by taking the high tuned master drum called repinique into a closer consideration, due to its striking similarity to European drums in terms of construction and playing technique that strongly reflects to the his¬tory of marching bands of European origin. Hillarian introduced the frame-drum kompang, a drum of Arabic origin, today considered as an emblematic drum in the Malay Muslim culture of the Malay Archipelago. In this regard, he clarified the role of the kompang that is played on various social occasions of the Malay community alongside or interchangeably with the two additional Malay frame-drums called hadrah and marwas. Teffera discussed ngoma drums that are widely found in many cultures of Sub-Saharan Africa by giving special focus to ngoma drum ensembles of the Wasamba people of Northeast Tanzania. Besides the organological and musical analysis, the clearly de¬fined gender roles in the ngoma music performances have been examined. Meyer’s paper dealt with morphologically related African American percussion instruments created on the Caribbean Islands in times of slavery. These are drums, idiophones and lamellophones that substituted the missing African drums. In the paper an attempt was made to trace back the trans-cultural processes that took place in the past and to describe styles and musical functions of today’s Ghanaian ensembles comparing them with common playing methods in America in past and present times. Miholić reported about the hybridization of traditional music in Croatia by taking the West African drum jembe (also jenbe and djembe) as an example and its presence in today’s Croatian ethno-music. Among other issues, the use of jembe drums and its role in Croatian bands as a “beat instrument” or as “background sound” has been explored in this paper. Fernández talked about the geographical distribution of the wedge-bracing drums of BaKongo descendants in Cuba by exploring their ethnic and historical aspects as well as their gender roles and socio-cultural functions and meanings. Tari examined percussion instruments, among others drums, and their musical roles in past and present Hungarian musical traditions using written and oral research documents. In this relation she mentions the importance of re-thinking this issue today, since former researches had less chance to explore certain communities that - in the meantime - have become minorities in foreign countries after the 1st World War. An example is the former Soviet Union, particularly the Ukraine, where Hungarian scholars were prohibited to access this area until 1988. Fujita systematically analyzed the performing practice of percussion instruments in the gagaku-music of Japan predominantly focusing on its aesthetical principles. In his paper Hunter discusses the century’s long tradition influenced by Western styled military music in the mid 19th century of Japan. Hence, he outlines his approach to reading the Western military drum score Eikoku kotekifu, an approach that attempts to sys¬tematically understand the structure of the score and the Japanese tech¬niques for representing a Western drumming tradition.
Other than drums Mashino presented her paper on the Balinese gamelan music primarily focussing the aesthetic aspects of body movements in Balinese gamelan performances. The importance of each body part and its expressive value, the visual and acoustic communications of the dancers and their presentation in front of an audience have been some of the major points of discussion. Jaehnichen on the other hand reported about an experiment she made with students of Universiti Putra Malaysia in Serdang, who derive from various social, cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds. The experiment was made on a forgotten gamelan stored at the university. Hence, she explained the results of this experiment that reflected the distinctive backgrounds of the students in the perception and representation of “local” and/or “traditional” music. According to Jaehnichen the strong involvement in Western music training at conser¬vatories that is also highly admired by the Malayan majority and given a special value than cultural musical idioms is to be considered as one of the major problems.

The migratory and historical aspects of musical instruments were focal point of the papers of Ullrich Morgenstern, Ioana Baalbaki, Dorit Klebe, Elizabeth Markham, Rembrandt Wolpert, Cajsa Lund and Katrin Lengwinat. Thus, Morgenstern presented the Russian bagpipes volynka and duda that have been long forgotten after the decline of the medieval minstrel’s skomorokhi. According to historical sources however, there is clear evidence that these instruments had been very popular until the second third of the 19th century. Baalbaki discussed Turkish musical instruments in Romanian culture, an influence that took place during the Ottoman Empire between the 16th and the 19th century. In doing so, the paper explores the historical process of the migration of Turkish musical instruments in Rumania and their strong influence in various ways still observed in present day Rumania. Klebe examined iconographic artifacts, i.e. miniatures, paintings and ceramics, of musical instruments in Turkic-Mongolian-Persian cultures from the 12th century onwards, and talked about their origin, geographical distribution as well as their typological characteristics. Markham presented the earliest musical sources for songs in medieval Japan that are memory-aids for sing¬ers that do not posses any pitch-notation for the voice, but rhythmic, men¬sural, and grouping information. Taking selected examples of text copies of court songs for singers from the mid to late Heian Period (794-1185), she described their melodic and metro-rhythmic structures and their distinctive features. Wolpert examined the observance of a modal cycle through the cycle of years in two pre-modern Japanese musical manuscripts and analyzed the turning of the four stringed Sino-Japanese lute Pípá/biwa. Singing stone slabs and stone blocks of prehistoric times in Scandinavia was the subject matter of Lund’s presentation. According to legend and popular belief, these stones are supposed to have served as percussion instruments due to their metallic sound when struck. Referring to Afro-Venezuelan percussion ensembles and their local and regional diversity, Lengwinat talked about the distinct musical role and function of such ensembles on the St. John’s Festivals. By presenting two examples namely, a group of indirectly struck idiophones (bamboo tubes) and an ensemble of tubular drums she explained among others their contradistinctive nature in terms of their sound principles.
Further music instruments belonging to the group of percussion instruments (bells, clappers, xylophones) as well as to other groups of instruments (zither, accordion, harmonica and alphorn) were presented in the papers of Mojca Kovačič, Helen Hahmann, Alla Sokolova, Mikhail Shilnov, Naoko Nagai, Sydney Hutchinson, Bernard Garaj, Charlotte Vignau and Alevtina Mikhailova. Hence, Kovačič focused on church bell traditions in different European countries (Spain, Italy, Croatia, Germany and Slovenia) and compared their diverse playing techniques that depend on the musical expertise of respective players, the form of the bell tower and the number and the size of bells. Sokolova highlighted wooden clappers known as Pkhachich from the Western Adyghian region and briefly discussed the historical, mythological, typological, sociological, traditional, ergological, organological and musical features and the performing practices from various perspectives. Shilnov introduced the Ukraininan Xylophone called tsimbaly attempting to position this music instrument within the system of the European instrumentarium and to trace the historical development of the instrument, hoping that the study will help pave a way for further researches on European folk xylophones.
As a result of a fieldwork conducted in the cities Jauja and Huancayo, Mantaro-Valley/Peru in 2007, Hahmann presented the natural horn of central Peru called wakrapuku and its use within the rituals of animal marking. Further explanations denote the organology, construction method and material and its historical and sociological aspect. Nagai reported on the ancient Chinese zither known as Se, its specific role as well as its symbolic meanings referred in written historical documents and archaeological evidence deriving from very early periods. Hutchinson presents the socio-cultural aspect of the accordion, the drum tambora, and the metal scraper güira from the Dominican Republic used to play merengue típico. However, these music instruments have rather been considered as noise than music by the culture bearers so that the survival of the Dominican culture and particularly its deeply-entrenched social hierarchies are presumably have been threatened. Garaj’s paper reflected on the Slovak diatonic button accordion heligonka that was introduced into the Slovak folk music of Czech instrument makers around the first third of the 20th century. In doing so, he discussed the rapid spread and popularity of this instrument in Slovakia that has among others been considered as an enemy to the deeply rooted traditional bagpipes and small string bands of Slovakia. Vignau presented the alphorn, a very traditional and symbolic music instrument of Switzerland. Using some case studies, she described the migration of the alphorn outside of Switzerland, among others the Netherlands and Japan. The paper of Mikhailova focussed on the Saratov harmonica, one of the symbols of the Volga region. Additional points of discussion were the social status of the harmonica, its musical features; i.e. melody, rhythm, metrum, timbre, repertoire and respective dances.

Last but not least the presence of Hannes Heyne from Dresden, Germany, who made interesting demonstrations on a number of sound producing rare musical instruments, was a good complementation and entertainment for the participants of this meeting.  

Apart from intensive sessions two excursions were planned for the participants. The first took place in the “Museumsinsel” [Museum Island] in the city-center of Berlin, in which the participants had the opportunity to visit a number of historical museums as the Bodemuseum, the Pergamonmuseum, the Altes Museum, and the Museum of Musical Instruments. The second excursion was planned for the Ethnological Museum in Berlin-Dahlem, where Dr. Susanne Ziegler guided the participants to the exhibition rooms of the Berlin Phonogramm-Archiv and the display of musical instruments.

In the final discussion, chaired by Prof. Dr. Marianne Broecker, a new format of publication as well as new topics for the next study group meeting aimed to take place in 2011 have been discussed.

17th Meeting: Papers

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