Pan-Balkan Waves in Romanian Oral Music
Speranţa Rădulescu
Text translated by Sorana Corneanu
The Museum of the Romanian Peasant, Bucharest

I will begin with four little stories ? four events of my life, separated by big, irregular intervals of time. They have stayed in my memory and not long ago I spontaneously traced them together and thus formed a hypothesis and several questions, which seem to me apt to indicate new paths of research. Therefore, these little stories are by no means mere fits of exhibitionism; but they are meant to give a narrative shape to the epistemological inquiry that led me to the hypothesis and questions I mentioned and which I will share with you along the way.

As a child, I discovered, while I was searching the mysterious attic of the house we lived in, several musical scores bound up in leather covers, which bore a title in golden letters: Horile noastre, culese şi arangiate pentru piano (?Our Hora Songs, Collected and Arranged for the Piano?) by D. Vulpian. As their title indicated, the volumes included the arrangements of some folk dance melodies for which the author was awarded a prize in 1886, as I was later to find out, in a contest organized by the Romanian Academy (Breazul, 1941). The pieces, which were, technically speaking, very simple, had been written ? I can tell that now ? for ladies enflamed with their husbands? national-patriotic cause and for young ladies educated in the most European fashion. I played some of them on the piano, as well as I could at that time. I found them extremely boring. I realize now it was no wonder: they are so childish in composition and spirit that they could not even provide some satisfaction to the child I was then. Just like the foremost composers of the time ? Gavriil Musicescu, Alexandru Flechtenmacher, Eduard Caudella, Alecsandru Berdescu, Louis Wiest, Eduard Wachmann and others ? D. Vulpian had invented (1) or copied down folk melodies that were more or less popular in the urban milieu, had simplified and regularized their melodic and rhythmic contour so that they become accessible to the musicians educated in the West, and then had ?Europenized? them once again with the tonal-harmonic accompaniment. ?Somewhere down the road? ? as our grandfathers used to say ? when I was a student at the Conservatory, I learned that the Western type of harmonization is definitely incompatible with the folk melodic line; the truly adequate solution is the modal type of harmonization. The idea had then ? and I have reasons to believe it still does ? the strength of an axiom no one thought of calling under question. Several years later I noticed that our lăutari (approx. fiddlers), who serenely turn their back on the refined musical sciences, have long been practicing the Western type of harmonization on peasant melodies. Certainly, the lăutari should not be expected to know how the harmonization of the folk song ?can? or ?cannot? be done, but they harmonize it on behalf and under the control of the communities they serve. Acceptance of these types of harmonization by the communities is a stronger validation than all the scholar axioms put together. (2) In any case, Vulpian accompanied his genuine or mock folk melodies himself, using the harmonies, sequences and ţiituri ? i.e. melodic and rhythmic formulas of harmony ? of the fiddler-performers: which is to say that he accompanied them in a folk manner which inevitably reflected the European musical influences as well.

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