About the e-book Illustrations Sutartinės with sound records Map Lietuviškai
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About e-book

This electronic book presents a virtual publication of the three-volume collection “Sutartinės. Lithuanian Polyphonic Folksongs” edited in 1958–1959 by Zenonas Slaviūnas. The latter was a famous folklorist of the 20th century, interested in a wide range of phenomena, including popular customs, regional folklore, old Lithuanian literature, and archaic musical instruments. Technology of the sound recording was among his interests as well: in 1935–1939, Slaviūnas made phonograph recordings of over 6000 folklore pieces. Although being born in Samogitia, he devoted much time and energy to studying sutartinės from the Aukštaitija region. Analysis of these unique polyphonic songs made the subject for his doctoral thesis as well.

The three volumes of “Sutartinės. Lithuanian Polyphonic Folksongs” edited in 1958-1959 was the lifetime work by Slaviūnas. This collection comprised almost all the available sutartinės – both recorded by the previous collectors and by the editor himself, nearly 2000 pieces. In his introductory articles, Slaviūnas discussed the lyrics of sutartinės from the historical perspective, searching for evidence from the past in their texts. According to him, while passed from generation to generation folklore preserves very old things. Although being especially close to agriculture, sutartinės mention such old trades as hunting and bee keeping. “The theme of work is very old in sutratinės, it changes along with the social development, acquiring new aspects and solutions due to the altered circumstances” (1958, Vol. 1: 27). Sutartinės used to accompany collective kinds of work; the plural that is particularly recurrent in their lyrics is a reflection of this. Sutartinės were especially favored during rye harvesting, since “solemn character of this work and variety of rituals and customs involved created favorable conditions and mood for singing of sutartinės” (1958, Vol. 1: 37).

Performing of the polyphonic sutartinės was a rather complicated art. Sutartinės used to accompany work as well as calendar festivals and weddings. Slaviūnas maintained that cooperative way of performance, including repetition of stanzas and onomatopoeic refrains, manifested closeness and solidarity between the family members. Since age of the singers and height of their voices usually differed, polyphony of different voices occurred of its own accord. Collective singing by young and elderly people together was a natural way of continuing the singing tradition. In the northeastern Lithuania, sutartinės used to be passed from generation to generation, until the last few groups of singers remained in the beginning of the 20th century. After the WWII, in the middle of the 20th century, the survival of sutartinės was severely challenged. If it was not for the great devotion of Slaviūnas, they would be remembered today solely as an extinct variety of polyphony. Fortunately, these unique songs are alive today, promoted by a considerable number of their fosterers.

According to the contemporaries, revival of the sutartinės’ tradition occurred in 1968 in Vilnius, when a group of young performers – actors and musicians led by Povilas Mataitis performed a whole program of sutartinės onstage. Since that day on, the responsibility for preservation of sutartinės passed from the families living in Aukštaitija region to the Vilnius folklorists. The number of groups singing and playing sutartinės increased with time, reviving and promoting this tradition in the urban surroundings. In the 21st century, sutartinės became Lithuanian national symbols. In 2010, they were included into the UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Such status involves an obligation to aspire for international popularity of sutartinės.

The oldest manuscript and sound recordings of sutartinės are preserved at the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore, therefore this institution initiated the virtual presentation of the most outstanding publication of sutartinės in 2015. We invite the readers to use the electronic book (the contents of the printed book comprises 1820 sutartinės, but some pieces contain two variants – a and b, thus digitalized material comprises 1962 sutartinės altogether). In the descriptions, information on collectors and performers of sutartinės and their places of residence is available. Whenever sound recordings of sutartinės and photos of their performers have been made, these are also presented.

Creation of the electronic source was carried out at the Department of the Folklore Archives of the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore by Andželika Jakubynienė, Eligija Garšvienė, Rima Visackienė, and Irena Žilienė; leader of the project – Austė Nakienė; programming by Arūnas Ciesiūnas; supported by the Lithuanian Council for Culture (project No S/KP-34(6.45)/2015). For the background, photos by Giedrius Kujelis were used. Reviewed by prof. dr. (HP) Daiva Vyčinienė and dr. Vykintas Vaitkevičius.

Austė Nakienė

Lietuvos kultūros tarybaLietuvių literatūros ir tautosakos institutas Lietuvos Respublikos kultūros ministerija