The Bosnian and Herzegovian rural areas were mostly isolated from the major developments of social and economical infrastructure and retained a big part of their traditio
nal culture. Their culture represents a mixture of the elements of the pre-Islamic and Islamic periods. As a result of the efforts of visiting Czech folklorist Ludvik Kuba (in 1889) and native scholars (particularly Cvjetko Rihtman few decades later) the tradition of vocal polyphony was brought to the attention of European ethnomusicologists relatively early. Polyphonic singing is widespread throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. The main type of polyphony is drone. The drone is usually performed by a group of singers, and the main melody is performed by a soloist. The melody usually has a small range (third or fourth). Two-part singing dominates, although a three-part singing tradition has also been documented. In eastern Herzegovina the melodic line often uses special techniques: shaking of the voice (“potresanie”) and exclamations on “oi” (“oikanie”). These techniques are used in table songs, which survived despite the hostile attitude towards the table (and drinking) traditions of the official Moslem religion. The drone often consists of two components: the so-called “straight voice” (the pedal drone) and the ornamented drone with added small ornaments. This added ornamented drone is traditionally mentioned as a “sobbing” (jekanie) or “cutting” (sjecanie) voice. Melodies develop in a specific manner as a “crawling” across often the half-tone intervals. The range of each part is often very narrow (minor third).

The new style of vocal polyphony (called na bas), influenced by European professional polyphony, has been documented in Bosnia and Herzegovina from the beginning of the 20th century. This style is based on parallel thirds and specific cadencial fifths. Interesting examples of the mixture of old and new polyphonic styles has been also documented: “Older versions of Bosnian na bas singing sometimes use seconds in alternation with thirds” (Petrovich, 2000:964)

Montenegro, a small mountainous country, is a part of Serbia and Montenegro state unity. The Montenegrins still mostly live in predominantly agricultural societies and retain many elements of their traditional culture. Unfortunately, although scholars of a few other countries did a series of fieldwork and publications, due to the lack of a national school of ethnomusicology, the traditional music of Montenegro is possibly the least studied among the Balkan peoples. Ethnomusicologists note the existence of four regiona g to the available incomp an countries, the Montenegro singing tradition is mostly monophonic (solo). The tradition of vocal polyph l musical styles in Montenegro (Petrovich, 2000:957). Acordinlete information from Montenegro, unlike most of the Balk ony has been documented only in the Southwestern part of Montenegro, on the border with Herzegovina. Here on both sides of the border the same “Balkan” style of polyphony is documented, based on the wide use of drone and the coordination of parts in major seconds. This kind of polyphony, according to Petrovich, “occurs in shepherds’ and wedding songs of the Southwest region of Montenegro” (Petrovich, 2000:958). Interestingly, Albanian migrants from the mountainous area of Malesi (the Montenegro-Albanian border), the so-called “Malisori”, also sing polyphonically in Montenegro. Here is a rare published example of Montenegro two-part singing with almost constant sounding seconds:

Unlike the Bulgarian traditions of vocal polyphony that are spread through only the Southwestern part of the country, a big part of Serbian ethnic territory is quite homogenous in terms of the distribution of the tradition of vocal polyphony. The only region where vocal polyphony has not been documented is Southwest Serbia and Kosovo (where Serbs actually represent the minority. Forry, 2000a:953). onal styles of vocal polyphony can be distinguished in Serbia: eastern into a drone-like section with the sharp second. The scale system is very specific for this region. Two main regi and western. The difference between them is mostly expressed in the position of the main melody and the accompanying part. The eastern Serbian polyphonic style (or more precisely, the Southeastern style) is quite close to the Bulgarian and Macedonian styles, with the drone in the lower part and the predominance of sharp secondal dissonances. Only two-part singing has been documented here. Songs are always performed by the soloist and a group of basses. Soloist always starts the song and the group ( drone) joins the soloist with a drone. The lead melody usually has a small range (third or fourth). The drone is often pedal (sung on “a”). The rhythm is free (rubato). Serbs sing with open voice, with a tense sound, emphasizing and obviously enjoying dissonant intervals. Unlike the Southeastern style of Serbian polyphony, according to Forry, the western style positions the accompanying part higher than the main melody (Forry, 2000a:942-943).

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Bulgarian traditional polyphony is one of the best known in the world, reaching the commercial music market in the 1980s and involving popular mega-star artists and producers (like George Harrison). Of course, it was mostly the superb arrangements of Bulgarian composers that became extremely popular (and not the original unarranged traditio al songs), but the Bulgarian traditional singing style with dissonant seconds and the cutting open style of singing was the crucial element and the real star in the great success of Bulgarian traditional polyphony in the 1980s. spite the international success and the status of a national musical symbol, the tradition of vocal polyphony is spread through only a relative estern quarter of the country. Thereforen Bulgarian polyphony is one of the best studied in the world by several generations of Bulgarian ethnomusicologists. Starting from the end of the 19th century, when the traditions of vocal polyphony were brought to the attention by Angel Bukoreshtliev, and then in 1925, when Vasil Stoin wrote about the possible Bulgarian origins of two-part singing in Europe (at that time almost none of the other Balkan polyphonic traditions were known) Bulgarian ethnomusicology went a long way and rightfully boasts an array of important works on Bulgarian traditional polyphony (Kaufman, 1963, 1968; Katzarova-Kukudova, 1962; Kaufman, Todorov, 1967, Stoin, E., 1970. Earlier part of Bulgarian scholarship was reviewed by Barbara Krader (1969). Heavily supported during the Communist regime in Bulgaria, the polyphonic singing style with dissonant seconds became a symbol of national music in Bulgaria, although in recent “post-communist” years the popularity of other genres (for example, wedding instrumental ensembles) has increased and the popularity of choral polyphonic singing, devoid of state support, somehow dropped (Rice, 1994). One of the possible reasons for this could be the fact, that de ly small part of Bulgaria – in the Southw 107 the tradition of polyphonic singing does not represent the majority of the population of Bulgaria.

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Most Romanian traditional vocal music is monophonic (solo or unison), although there are some “rudimentary forms of heterophony and polyphony” in some regions in some p ains sung by girls during evening working parties (Bihor); and children’s songs connected to different dance-games, found all over the country” (Apan, 2000:879). the most developed traditions of polyphonic singing in Romania. Their songs are always performed by two groups in antiphon, either in unison or in polyphony. G. Marcu distinguishes two vocal polyphonic styles among Macedonians in Romania: the first one is connected to “Pinderi” (Macedonians from the Pindul mountains) a Gramusteni” (mostly from Epir – northern Greece), and the second one is connected to “Farsheroti”, a shepherd population from North Greece and the Albanian district of Corcea. In the first style most of the singers sing the main tune in unison (or heterophonic) style. The rest sing the second part (often the drone). In both styles t ation of parts is often based on dissonant “barbarian” intervals (Dumitrescu, 1977:12).

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Regarding polyphonic singing traditions, the second largest country of Europe (after Russia), the Ukraine has quite a paradoxical situation. On one hand, Ukraine is a home of very interesting and rich forms of traditional polyphony (in Ukrainian bogatogolosie) and on the other hand most of the Ukrainian ethnomusicologists display almost total neglect towards their own polyphonic traditions.
Founders and the greatest representatives of early Ukrainian musicology Filaret Kolessa (beginning of the 20th century) and Klyment Kvitka (from the 1920s and 1930s) were concentrated on the study of solo professional singers (mostly blind musician-minstrels, kobzars). Polyphonic singing (“Gurtovoe penie”) was not in the mainstream of their research interests. K. Kvitka, considering polyphony a late phenomenon, wrote with regret about the replacement of the ancient monophonic tradition of refined music with the late mass tradition of “gurtovoe penie” (group singing, or choral polyphony. Kvitka, 1986:87).

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The Seventh International Symposium on Traditional Polyphony was held at Tbilisi State Conservatory from September 22-26, 2014. A series of concerts of polyphonic singing from different traditional cultures were running parallel to the conference. Full texts of the papers (in English and Georgian) were published in 2015 (The Seventh International Symposium on Traditional Polyphony. Proceedings. Edited by Tsurtsumia, Rusudan and Jordania, Joseph. International Research Center for Traditional Polyphony of Tbilisi State Conservatoire. Ministry of Culture and Monuments Protection. Tbilisi: 2015).

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First Seminar of the ICTM Study Group for Multipart Music was held Tallinn, Estonia from19-20 September 2014. The seminar was organized by Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre Eesti Muusika- ja Teatriakadeemia.

Local Organiser:Žanna PÄRTLAS (Estonia)

Supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia the Estonian Research Council

Seminar’s theme: Multipart Music: theoretical approaches on the terminology.

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Third Symposium of the ICTM Study Group for Multipart Music was organized from September 12–16 2013 Budapest, Hungary. Local Organiser were: Institute for Musicology, Research Centre for the Humanities, The Hungarian Academy of Sciences Budapest, Hungary.


1. Scholarly terminology and local musical practice. 2.The role of educated musicians and missionaries in local music practices. 3. Individualists in company

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The Sixth International Symposium on Traditional Polyphony was held at the Tbilisi State Conservatory from September 24-28, 2012. The Symposium was accompanied by the series of concerts of traditional polyphony from several cultures. Full texts of the papers (in English and Georgian) were published in 2012  (The Sixth International Symposium on Traditional Polyphony. Proceedings. Edited by Tsurtsumia, Rusudan and Jordania, Joseph. International Research Center for Traditional Polyphony of Tbilisi State Conservatoire. Ministry of Culture and Monuments Protection. Tbilisi: 2012).