An Annotated & Illustrated Collection of Worldwide Links to Mythologies,
Fairy Tales & Folklore, Sacred Arts & Sacred Traditions
by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.





Russian Lute Player
(Courtesy of Russian Sunbirds) [URL updated 22 June 2001]

"The Musical Heritage of Eastern Europe and Russia":  This is an on-going project run by students in the music department at Rhodes College in Memphis, TN. [Note: The server can be quirky as you move from link to link; if you're told one is down, try another and then return to the first and you can usually get through.]

The various sections are uneven in quality, as is to be expected of student work, but they are nonetheless really quite interesting. They include many composers, generally Russian and Czech -- many of whom composed music with strong folklore thematic elements (which several students explore at length).  You'll also find data on Russian ballet, icons, sacred music, opera, stage production, music composed in the concentration camp at Terezin, and a travel diary kept by a music student crossing Russia and Siberia.

Russian Woman playing Panpipes
(University of Maryland site --
see the following two links)

[Added 17 September 2000]:   This site from the University of Maryland (USA) offers fascinating mini-videos on panpipes, usually played only by elderly women who use ancient techniques far more complex and demanding than I had ever imagined.  There is excellent text describing many aspects of this vanishing art.
...Pan-flute music in Russia is found only in small groups of villages in two non-contiguous localities, one on the border between present-day Briansk and Kaluga provinces, the other in South Kursk province, roughly 200 to 350 miles south-west of Moscow....
[Added 17 September 2000]:  Also from the above University of Maryland site is this lovely illustrated page on the panpipes themselves.  Exact descriptions are given of how the pipes are made, including their tuning:
...After the entire set is made, the players check its tuning by ear, and make slight adjustments by putting seeds or grains into the pipes, if necessary....
[Citing Charles Wead]:
...Modern Europeans for the sake of harmony nearly banished all scales but one, and seldom know by what rules the instruments are tuned to furnish this. But for these people the instrument is the primary thing, and to it the rule is applied, while the scale is the result, or a secondary thing; and the same rule applied a hundred times may possibly give a hundred different scales.(Wead 1902:438)....
There are also two tiny video clips (they take time to load but are delightful).  One shows an elderly woman dancing as her friends play the pipes.  The other shows women thrashing a field in rhythmic counterpoint; they consciously relate the cooperative synergy of their pipe playing to the same patterns and rhythms of fieldwork:
...In general, this complementary rhythmic coordination between the parts of a panpipe ensemble is often compared to threshing with flails: "it is like threshing, not together, but one after another, so one even could dance."

Threshing with flails used to be a necessary skill for every villager in pre-war times....The most typical size of a threshing group was from three to seven workers, the same as for a panpipe ensemble. The workers usually stayed in a circle or two parallel lines facing inside, watching and listening to one another. They produced their flail strokes with strict rhythmic regularity one after another in clockwise order, trying to hit one spot in the center of their circle. The leader's flail (which was usually given to the strongest male worker) was heavier than the others, so the group sound had a definite starting point and a cyclic rhythmic pattern of strokes, depending on how many people participated. These patterns were often appreciated aesthetically and imitated by clapping.... Threshing required excellent coordination, both between members of a group and within one's own body. The quality of the worker's strokes was judged on the basis of sounds he or she produced. If the flail did not hit the ground with its whole surface, the sound was shallow and empty. On the contrary, if the movement was done correctly, it sounded deep and resonant, almost like a chime....

These amazing sounds are clearly heard on the little video clip.

Courting with a balalaika
(Courtesy of Russian Sunbirds)
[Added 17 September 2000]: From David Brown of the International Folk Culture Center at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas comes a brief but useful (and illustrated) page on the balalaika:
The varied family of Central Asian lutes is a large one, and one of the most popular and best known is the balalaika, with its unique triangular body shape. Developed from unstandardized folk lutes by the nobleman Andreyev in the late 18th century into a whole family of instruments with standard tunings, the balalaika has become one of the most important plucked stringed instruments in Eastern Europe, and the quintessential lute in Russia and the Ukraine....
[Added 17 September 2000]: From Stephen Schoenfeldt of the International Folk Culture Center at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas comes this illustrated page on the bandura, an instrument from the Ukraine:
...The bandura is a traditional plucked-string musical instrument from Ukraine. Its timbre resembles a harpsichord's. Although similar-sounding names appear in numerous European and Asian languages (Examples: Spanish bandurria, pandura of Savetian and central Asian societies, Indic tambura, and English bandore), the Ukrainian bandura evolved from a line of lute-like instruments in Ukraine.....

...From 15th to 18th centuries, bandura was played by kobzars (wandering minstrels, usually blind and sometimes led by a child)....Because the kobzars were a nationalistic force, the Soviet Union government liquidated them in the 1930s....

The page lists two places where recordings of this instrument may be purchased.

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This page created with Netscape Gold 3.01.
Technical assistance: William Weeks
Text and Design: copyright 1998-2001 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.

Latest Updates (after the 11/13/98 launch):
17 September 2000 (added more links + misc. updates); 2 October 2000;
22 June 2001 (checked all links); 5 July 2001.

Danila playing his shepherd pipes
Detail from "The Stone Flower"
(Author's collection)