On September 26-30, 2022 Tbilisi State Conservatoire and the Folklore State Center of Georgia hosted the 11th International Symposium on Traditional Polyphony at Tbilisi State Conservatoire. The symposium was held under the patronage of the President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili and with the support of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth of Georgia.
It has already been 20 years since the first symposium was held at Tbilisi State Conservatoire; and the international conferences that started in the 1980s have continued to exist under the name of International Symposium on Traditional Polyphony since 2002. Over the past years, more than 450 scholars from 38 countries, and about 250 folk ensembles have participated in the symposium.
Following the UNESCO proclamation of Georgian polyphonic singing a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001, the first Tbilisi Symposium aroused great interest among ethnomusicological circles and since then, the forum has hosted many world-renowned researchers of polyphony.
The Tbilisi symposia present modern directions in the research of polyphony and promote the integration of Georgian ethnomusicology with Western science. They aroused interest in Georgian polyphony among foreign researchers who unanimously recognize its special place in the musical culture of the peoples worldwide.
The eleventh symposium boasted the participation of 36 scholars (including 28 Western researchers) from 16 countries and up to 25 Georgian and visiting folk ensembles.
The symposium opened with the concert of female performers; the concert was attended by Salome Zurabishvili the President of Georgia and Thea Tsulukiani the Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth of Georgia.
The examples of Georgian, Azerbaijani, Estonian and Ukrainian traditional music were performed at the concert. The Canada-based Ukrainian singer and researcher Andrea Kuzmich, together with ensemble Ialoni dedicated Ukrainian folk songs to the Ukrainian people’s heroic struggle. The audience included the citizens of Ukraine displaced due to the war. Among the concert participants were the female performers from Georgia, who are represented in the book prepared by Conservatoire’s International Research Centre for Traditional Polyphony and published under the auspices of UNESCO in 2022.
The scientific sessions of the symposium were held in a hybrid format. Presentation of the new publication of the IRCTP – Bruno Nettle: “Ethnomusicological Studies: Thirty-three Points of View” (in Georgian) took place on September 27.
The podcast of British singers Susan Thomson and Holly Taylor-Zuntz – “Voices of the Ancestors: Voices of Our Grandmothers” and the film “Voices of Conviviality” by the Italian ethnomusicologist and director, describing the evening spent by the singers from Premana (Italy) and ensemble Adilei in the village of Lakhushdi in Svaneti were shown as part of the symposium.
On the closing day of the symposium the Round Table on the most relevant topic in modern ethnomusicology – “Musical folk tourism” was held, with Professor Caroline Bithell from the University of Manchester, as chairperson, Marina DeCristoforo, Geoff Burton, Nino Naneishvili and Madonna Chamgeliani as co-presenters.
The symposium was solemnly closed with the concert of world polyphony, in the hall of the Folklore State Center of Georgia.
At the concert, for their special contribution to the study of Georgian polyphony Caroline Bithell (UK) and Frank Scherbaum (Germany) were awarded the title of Honorary Doctor of the Tbilisi State Conservatoire.