»   Encyclopedic Dictionary »

Occidental and Oriental Music Index

"[Folk musicians] have to please patrons, stock up on tunes, gauge audience response, and satisfy their own tastes and heritage. [They follow] detailed, often implicit rules that regulate how far they can go in pushing the envelope, both socially and musically. They are at once conservatives and experimentalists, curators and dismantlers of the traditions in which they work."— Mark Slobin Keep up with a FREE subscription to the BABA YAGA newsletter.

The music

Histories, melodic and rhythmic modes, and beginner playlists with performance aids.

The Concepts

Minimize Cultural Schizophonia

Schizophonia is a word invented to describe the gap between the physical source of electronic music and the distant listener. Mark Slobin suggests that the same problem exists within the context of folk music. "Is it still folk music when separated from its physical and social setting?" Inform your performance and enhance your delight by including the following in your musical pursuits.

1. History. The history of a music genre is a backstory that adds depth and meaning to the music played in the present.

2. Melodic modes (the scales and their individual notes): Those of us accustomed to Western classical music are used to scales that are divided evenly into six whole steps (seven notes) and 12 half steps per octave [equal temperament], and to composed musical works that are enhanced by multiple melody lines [polyphonic]. However, much of the classical and folk music of the rest of the world uses octaves divided into 24 or more steps, NOT divided evenly but by the needs of the unique melody line [just intonation]. Improvisation is an essential part of the performance, and harmony lines are often minimal or absent [monophonic] [heterophonic].

3. Rhythmic modes (the rhythmic phrasing and the individual beats): Rhythm, in the context of culture that favors monophonic or heterophonic music over polyphonic music, is rarely a series of beats marching along like soldiers in a straight line. The rhythm of a piece of music embodies a distinct 'swing', and the swing cannot always be represented by a diagram. It would not be amiss to visualize the rhythmic modes as harmony for the melody. Listen to representative music as often as you can so that the flavorful swing will permeate your music as well.

4. Awareness: "Ganga [Bosnian folk songs] start with a solo, then move to a tight, precise, exquisitely controlled collective section, with pitches that can be hair-raisingly close together. Singers have a precise vocabulary for how the music should sound: dobro slozene, 'well put together,' for the fit of the voices, strong dynamics, protracted sounds, and a variety of okretaje, melodic patterns. Overall, the effect should display veliko umijece, or exceptional artistry, a phrase they also use for the construction of everyday objects, such as carpets, stockings or storage bags. This carryover of a descriptive term reveals an underlying folk aesthetic that crosses domains of experience and invention. At the same time, ganga should be zabava, entertainment, marking it off from stockings and carpets. So music needs to be both well crafted and effective... Good performances can move listeners to tears and shudders, but with a sense of happiness." — Mark Slobin

5. An open mind. Don't be a cultural Nazi, but don't get sloppy or lazy, either. Do your research and then do the best you can.

"Louis Dupree, who roamed the Middle East for decades, once told me that he decided to walk from Turkey to Iran at a leisurely pace, just to see how long it would have taken ideas (and songs) to travel in ancient times. he covered a couple of thousand kilometers (around 1,300 miles) in six months while stopping at campfires to chat with shepherds or hang out in the local bazaar. 'See,' he said, 'it doesn't take that long.' Travel and trade have always put music in the backpack and the saddlebag."— Mark Slobin, Folk Music.

"When I first went to Afghanistan in 1967, there was really no way I could tell how continuous any of the music I heard was. Nobody had written down or recorded what I listened to in the teahouses of the North... I would ask them for old songs, but sometimes those turned out to be their own arrangements of things they heard on the national radio station, which they had only recently started to receive on the new transistor sets. I simply could not tell what their grandfathers played and their grandmothers sang, and how much that had changed over the generations, since no one had written it up and there were no recordings."— Mark Slobin, Folk Music.

"Ganga singers are usually boon companions and are well thought of in their society because joy is treated as a very welcome emotion."— Ankica Petrovic

Looking for simple Middle-Eastern dance rhythms and music to play? Try these two pages:
Middle Eastern Rhythms
Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Dance Music.


Maura Enright

Archive.Folx.Org, an online database of folk music based in Europe.

Duncan Geere, Schizophonia: Its cause, effect and solution, Wired Magazine, 2010, Web.

Evelyn Glennie, How to Truly Listen,, Video. A deaf percussionist illustrates how listening to music involves much more than simply letting sound waves hit your eardrums.

Gerald Klickstein, The Musician's Way Blog, companion blog for the Musician's Way book.

Rice, Timothy. Music in Bulgaria. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Print.

Mark Slobin, Folk Music, a Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, New York, 2011. Print.

Wikipedia, List of Musical Symbols.

Keep up with a FREE subscription to the BABA YAGA newsletter.
Maura Enright, Proprietor
© by Maura Enright
Last updated 2018.01.07
© means the content is copyrighted. Your links to this content are much appreciated.