Text and images excerpt from the catalog “Old crafts in Serbia”
Author: Dimitrije O. Golemović P.h.A.
SINGLES LOVE SILLY
Play your music, but know when to stop.
Musical instrument is an important element of the musical tradition of a nation. It appears in countless forms, and by its origin, it is either autochthonous or adopted from another culture. Many instruments, especially more recent ones, are products of the serial (industrial) production; in reality, however, they, like their predecessors, the “old fashioned”, traditional musical instruments, entirely subjugate themselves to musicians, representing an “extension of their hands”. Since players themselves are limited by tradition, the term “extension of their hands” does not apply to players’ individual characteristics, but to what they create by standing out as typical representatives.
Therefore, it is safe to say that the traditional instrumental music is conditioned by various, mainly social factors. In the course of its development, the instrument has undergone many changes, which have often been more significant in the field of its use, rather than in its construction. Hence, the great German ethnomusicologist, Fritz Bose named the instrument in its early development phase a “sound weapon”. Performing a variety of sounds and noises, the instrument “spoke” similar “language” as other elements of the ritual: singing, playing or acting that were not understood in the usual, modern-day sense of the word either. During its development, the instrument ceases to be the ritual device, and becomes the “signal” device, such as, for instance, a shepherd’s trumpet from Northeastern Serbia, which uses its signals to communicate with sheep and shepherd dogs, “inviting” them to pasture. “Finally”, at the height of its development, the musical instrument actually becomes a true musical instrument in the full sense of the word, since it is used to make music, i.e. a melody becomes an “ideal” pursued. Its use becomes very mosaic, permeating all the forms of human life.
According to the material as a source of sound and a way a sound is produced, instruments are classified into:
- 1) idiophones
- 2) membranophones,
- 3) chordophones, and
- 4 aerophones.
Idiophones (self-sounding instruments) are relatively rare in our country and usually have very simple structure, which clearly points to their ancient origin and the fact that during their centuries-long existence they have almost remained unchanged. This does not pertain to their function, for which there are many examples. Let us mention the bell, which, in Southeastern Serbia, “turned” from a device that “completed” the caroling ceremonies or “kraljice” (“queens’”) rituals, into a kind of signaling device. The ritual function of the “klepalo”, (an instrument made of a board which is struck by a wooden mallet), is no longer in living memory, but its use in church services where it is used instead of bells (in the period from Good Friday until Easter) clearly indicates its age. Some idiophones have become children’s instruments in Serbia, thus being preserved in the folk practice: the “klepetaljka” (clapper) made from corn or “castanets” and the “violin”, also made from corn stalks, while some of them, although simple in design, have become instruments in the full sense of the word thanks to their use. Such instrument is the Jew’s harp, made of a pear-shaped metal frame, with an elastic spring in the middle, attached to the wider and free at the narrower part of the instrument. The instrument is held firmly against the performer’s parted front teeth and the free end is plucked with a thumb. The sound thus produced in the oral cavity, which serves as some kind of a resonator, turns into a tone, accompanied by aliquot parts. This instrument thus creates melodies and often serves as an instrumental accompaniment to folk dances (mostly in Northeastern and Southeastern Serbia.
Membranophones, (instruments producing sounds by a vibrating membrane), are relatively rare in the Serbian traditional music practice, and are characterized by the function. For example, the “bubanj” (drum), which appears under different names, most often as “tapan”, or “tupan” (the word also means “silly”), most frequently accompanied the bagpipes in Eastern Serbia, while its modern variant, complete with the small cymbal, follows brass orchestras throughout Serbia. Along with the drum, the “darabuka” (goblet drum) once existed in the local music practice, a goblet-shaped membranophone made of clay, as well as the “daire” (tambourine) or “def ”, two variants of the same instrument consisting of a circular wooden frame with leather stretched over it and metal disks placed in slots in the frame (“daire”). “Daire” and “def ” accompanied folk songs sung by women, and sometimes a dance. The “cupa” or “beges” (friction drum) was named “cupa” because it is made of “cup” (pot). The tone is produced by dragging wet fingers over a cane stalk which is inserted through the center of the stretched membrane. Although ritual in the past, the function of this instrument is musical: it is used in the tamboura ensembles instead of the bass (in Vojvodina).
Chordophones (string instruments) produce tone by actual playing, i.e. plucking (striking), or rubbing a taut string with a bow. The most common in the Serbian practice is tamboura, the instrument that came from the East, and was then represented by several variants, in its Oriental or Central European form. The tamboura is usually played in Vojvodina in the tamboura ensembles consisting of the prim, prim-bass, cello and kontra, and performing songs and dance music. The same region is known by the “samica” (the word also means “single woman”), the tambouritza characterized by polyphonic accompaniment, whose function is to accompany singing or dancing. The appearance of the so-called “dvozica” (two-stringed) or “trozica” (three-stringed) tambouras of simple construction and musical accompaniment, and occasionally even the sargija, the tamboura typical for Bosnia and Herzegovina, characterizes the Vojvodina immigrants from Lika, Kordun, Bosnia and other areas.
An indigenous representative of chordophones is the gusle, the instrument that arrived in Serbia during the centuries-long migrations from the Dinaric regions. The construction of the gusle is simple (it has only one “string”, composed of several twisted strands of horsehair). It accompanies long epic narratives, although in the past it complemented humorous songs, and even songs sung during the “kolo” dance. The violin is a favorite among the Serbs, both as a standalone instrument, which was sometimes played with the accompaniment of drums, and in particular as a part of stringed bands that consisted of two violins, viola and double bass, which undoubtedly testifies to the strong Central European influences.
Aerophones (aer – Greek: air) are classified in the folk music practice into free and wind instruments.
The free aerophones are very diverse and include, for example, a leaf, grass and a leaf of the onion, as well as the mouth organ, also called “muzike”. The accordion also belongs to this group. Since the time it appeared (at the time of World War One) until the present day, it has penetrated even backwater villages and superseded many traditional musical instruments.
Wind instruments are undoubtedly the most numerous of all in Serbia, and are represented in almost all the existing groups, as flue instruments (folk flutes): pipes (duduk, tin whistle), ocarina, double flute, “cevara”; reed instruments (folk clarinets): “lejka” , “surla”, “paljka”, bagpipes, “diple” (with immigrants from Bosnia and Montenegro); and instruments where a sound is produced by vibration of the player’s lips (folk trumpets): trumpet made from tree bark, “rikalo-busen”.
The function of these instruments is usually manifested in the performance of songs, and occasional music of shepherds or carters (double flute), mostly as an accompaniment to folk dances, while the shepherd’s trumpet and “rikalo” appear as signal instruments.
Brass orchestras were widespread in Serbia. Being themselves a product of the Central European influence, these orchestras, composed of trumpets, the so-called baritone trumpets, tuba and drum, produced three different musical styles: the so-called style of Western Serbia (surroundings of Cacak and Uzice), the style of Eastern Serbia (Zajecar, Negotin, Boljevac), and the style characteristic for the so-called Serbian South (surroundings of Vranje and Leskovac).
The Pipe Making – Instructions by Dobrivoje Paunovic from the Village of Pecka
For the well-made pipe, a branch should be cut in autumn and dried well throughout winter; obtain a sharp knife to peel the bark.
To make glue, take one egg white, 3-4 cloves of garlic, egg size of plum tree resin.
First, take the bark off the branch, then place the knife in the “heart” of the branch and cut it into two equal parts with a strong blow of a hammer. Pour milk over both halves to fit closely and tie them tightly with twisted wool to prevent warping. Leave them to dry until spring.
Spread the mixture of egg white, garlic and resin along the “cut” to glue the halves carefully.
Smear the pipe several times with oil and vinegar to prevent the wood from absorbing saliva when playing. Place the pipe in the roast, usually mutton, to absorb grease and be impregnated. The thus made pipes are not for sale. The poorly sounding instruments are given to children, while the best ones are kept. Pipes are handed down from father unto son.