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Odmev prvih zapisov / The Echo of the First Recordings.

Odmev prvih zapisov / The Echo of the First Recordings

Iz arhiva Glasbenonarodopisnega instituta / From the Archives of the Institute of Ethnomusicology

CD + 52 pp. booklet. Ljubljana: SAZAS GNI CD 007, 2004. <>

The Echo of the First Recordings was issued to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the Slovenian Institute of Ethnomusicology, and in many respects it is immediately comparable with A Century of Song, the CD that the EFDSS issued in 1998 to celebrate the centenary of the founding of the Folk-Song Society. (1) Anyone with an interest in historic recordings and the history of recording technologies in relation to folk music will find this a fascinating document, and I should say straight away that this is all music that is very accessible to the listener attuned to English traditions, despite the language barrier and such different practices as polyphonic singing.


The Committee for the Collection of Slovenian Folk Songs was formally established in 1905, and even before that time the purchase of a phonograph had been high on the agenda of Karel Strekelj, later president of the Committee. (2) For various reasons, a phonograph was not in fact purchased until 1914, at which time Juro Adlesic made recordings of thirty-eight folk songs in the Bela Krajina region. A number of earlier recordings, however, had been made in Slovenia by the Hungarian collector Bela Vikar in 1898 and by the Russian collector Evgenia Lineva (Eugenie Lineff) in 1913. Vikar, incidentally, is said to be the second person in the world to record folk songs using the phonograph (the first being, presumably, Jesse Walter Fewkes).

Examples of songs recorded by these three collectors begin the CD, along with a recording of the singing of Slovenian soldiers made for the Austro-Hungarian Ministry of War in 1916. There follows a recording made in 1958 of the collector Franc Kramar singing from memory a stanza of the song of Pegam and Lambergar which he had collected from Katarina Zupancic in 1910. This is the only known melody for a song that is first mentioned in the seventeenth century, although there was apparently a transcription made in 1775 but now lost.

After the Second World War the Institute of Ethnomusicology acquired two tape recorders and in 1955 recording expeditions began, again in the Bela Krajina region. Tape recordings form the foundation of the sound archives of the Institute, with a switch to digital media in the mid-1990s. These two groups of songs and tunes provide the bulk of the forty tracks on the CD. They encompass a wide and fascinating range of songs, instrumental music, and vocal recitations and incantations, as well as an example of the remarkable change ringing of Slovenian bell-ringers. The post-war tape recordings have been chosen to represent occasions on which songs and music were still employed in their original functional roles, including young men's courtship traditions, weddings, wakes, and calendar feasts. The more recent digital recordings are said to demonstrate the preservation and also the adaptation of the music--by folk ensembles, for example.

The booklet has extensive notes in English as well as Slovenian. The introductory commentary states, among other things, that the technological innovations that brought about advances in the quality of recorded sound were also responsible for displacing folk songs from everyday life. One wonders how widely applicable is such an observation? Certainly there is much here that seems in one way or another to parallel the British experience.



(1) A Century of Song: A Celebration of Traditional Singers since 1898, CD (English Folk Dance and Song Society EFDSS CD02, 1998).

(2) For an account of the purchase of the phonograph, see Drago Kunej, '"We have plenty of words written down; we need melodies!": The Purchase of the First Recording Device for Ethnomusicological Research in Slovenia, Traditiones, 34.1 (2005), 125-40.
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Author:Atkinson, David
Publication:Folk Music Journal
Article Type:Sound recording review
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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