TRACING THE TRADITIONAL SINGING...
The repertoire presented in this album uniquely brings together, juxtaposes, and intertwines disparate singing styles of Dalmatia—its islands, its coast, and its hinterland. Although geographically close, these musical traditions remain stylistically and performatively distant even today—mirroring in their "dissonance" the different histories, experiences of everyday life and labor, and the diversity of natural surroundings and environments of their respective areas. The mere soundscapes of the musical styles that have in time become the symbols of these different musical worlds—klapa singing of the coastal and island towns, on the one hand, and ojkavica, rera, and ganga singing of the Dalmatian hinterland, on the other—are illustrative of their seemingly irreconcilable musical and cultural differences. Both musical worlds, however, are above all marked by vocal polyphonic singing, which forms the core of this program developed through the collaboration of the Harmonija disonance Ensemble and the Jazz Orchestra of the Academy of Music in Zagreb.
Since the songs presented in this release are part of ancient, predominantly oral traditions whose transcriptions exist only in scarce ethnomusicological studies, the main sources in the making of the program were the field recordings of Croatian and foreign ethnomusicologists preserved in the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research Archive in Zagreb. Equally valuable in this regard were the encounters with renowned traditional singers, whereby the members of the Harmonija disonance Ensemble had the opportunity to learn through direct musical interaction and collaborative learning with the traditional bearers of this heritage who are still active today. The process of music making in the Ensemble has always been firmly grounded in the act of concentrated listening—listening to the voices and harmonies of traditional singers, introspective listening to one's own voice, and continuous listening to the voices of co-singers, guided by the idea of coming ever closer to the sound ideal of archaic traditional harmony.
Preparing for the concert held in the acoustically challenging space of the French Pavilion of the Students' Centre in Zagreb in May 2017, the Ensemble tried to develop a representative program of traditional singing of the Dalmatian coast, islands, and hinterland. They did this by carefully choosing songs that are musically intriguing, performatively challenging, and which at the same time reflect local specificities and the heterogeneity of expressions, styles, and genres as some of the underlying characteristics of traditional music in general. The sound recordings of this concert performance became the initial impulse, inspiration, and particular musical challenge to the composer Zoran Ščekić, who managed to "translate" them into a series of instrumental miniatures for the Jazz Orchestra of the Academy of Music. These represent the new and different (re)reading and (re)interpretation of traditional sources in the jazz renditions of several songs performed by the Ensemble.
In this release, the traditional singing of the Dalmatian coast, islands, and hinterland began its second life in new and different interpretations, significantly distant from their original performance contexts, but at the same time stylistically and musically close to their sounds. These experiments with tradition, colored by the artistic expression of the latest generation of academic musicians, should therefore be listened to as one of the possible answers to the question of what could happen on the contemporary journey in search of “the traces of traditional singing” without an in-advance-fixed travel itinerary.
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