The Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore
initiated the long-term preservation and publishing
program of sound archives in 2001. Its aim is to preserve
the substantial recordings of Lithuanian folk music
by using modern technologies. This program will help
to protect from different kinds of decay the early
recordings made on wax cylinders and on shellac discs
(1908–1949) exposing the authentic tradition,
as well as ones of the later times recorded on audio
tapes (1953–2001) providing an abundance of
the samples of contemporary folklore pieces alongside
with traditional folklore. The most interesting recordings
transferred into digital format and cleaned will be
presented in a series of CDs; they will thereby become
more accessible to the public interested in ethnic
culture both in Lithuania and abroad.
Dr. Rūta arskienė is leading the program along
with the executive members: Dr. Austė Nakienė, Povilas
Krikščiūnas, Skirmantas Sasnauskas, Eligija Garšvienė
and the helping archivist of Audio-Visual Archives
of Lithuania Vytautas Vizgintas.
In 2001 the program was supported by the Ministry
of Culture of the Lithuanian Republic and followed
by the funding supplied for the transferring of the
most valuable part of the collection the 1935–1949
recordings on shellac discs (1373 items) to digital
format. Now these works are being implemented with
accuracy and meticulousness: the condition of phonograph
discs is being estimated, the properly preserved discs
are being transferred to digital format, the data
on the recorded folklore pieces, performers, places
of recordings and others are being inserted into the
computer database. The archival material related to
the recordings of 1935–1949 is also under study.
The first CD “Songs and Music from Suvalkija”
was published in 2003. The second double CD “Songs,
Sutartinės and Instrumental Music from Aukštaitija”
was released in 2004. The last CD's from the series "Songs and Music form Žemaitija" and "Songs and Music form Dzūkija" were published in 2005.
The development of Lithuanian folk music has been
documented about a hundred years. In 1908–1909
the first Lithuanian folk melodies were recorded on
wax cylinders by Eduard Wolter, professor at the St.
Petersburg University and an eminent scholar of the
Lithuanian language, history, archaeology and folklore.
A portion of the cylinders is held in St. Petersburg,
whilst another one is stored in Berlin Phonogramm
Archiv. In 1911 Lithuanian folk songs were recorded
by another famous specialist in Lithuanian philology
professor at the Helsinki University Aukusti Robert
Niemi (his cylinders are stored in Helsinki). A wax
cylinder collection of not large quantity (167 items)
recorded in the early 20th century is stored in the
archives of the Institute of Lithuanian Literature
and Folklore. Supposedly the recordings were made
by Dr. Jonas Basanavičius.
The Lithuanian Folklore Archive was established
in Kaunas in 1935. It was a little scientific centre containing
good technical equipment, sufficient number of skilled
folklorists, and collaborating with other European archives.
The researchers of archive were constantly documenting
the living process of folklore, and they were successful
in collecting a great number of folklore pieces. In 1935–1939
an exceedingly valuable sound collection was gathered
together by an outstanding Lithuanian folklorist Zenonas
Slaviūnas, who recorded about 6000 pieces of folklore
on shellac discs. The end of the tradition of north-eastern
Lithuanian polyphonic music is documented in these recordings
the voices of the last performers of polyphonic
songs sutartinės, the sounds of the multi-pipe whistles
skudučiai and wooden trumpets ragai are exposed, ancient
work, wedding and calendar songs of southern Lithuania,
tunes played on fiddle, accordion and there performed
by instrumental ensembles are also recorded.
The polyphonic sutartinės have become the national symbol,
the standard of Lithuanian folk music nowadays, though;
they could be recognized but in published editions as
well as in the modern performance of folklore ensembles.
Apart from professionals, an authentic sounding of the
sutartinės has not been available for the audience. Different
sound materials stored in the Folklore Archive of the
Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore continues
to be almost unknown to the public too. Publication of
these sound recordings both would give an opportunity
to hear the primal sounding of peculiar vocal and instrumental
polyphony, and would promote ethnomusicological research,
would enable to investigate Lithuanian folk music using
computer programs of analysis. The information accumulated
on sound recordings is of much more abundance in comparison
with that documented on sheets of scores of folk melodies.
They lead toward a sure hearing of the music which sounded
long ago and remained unchanged and provide a more proper
understanding of the substantial changes of musical culture
which happened to emerge during the resent decades.
© 2004 The Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore
Zenonas Slaviūnas with phonograph apparatus, 1937
Rūta Žarskienė and Austė Nakienė, 2003
Phonograph apparatus, used in the Lithuanian Folklore
Recording folklore on magnetic tape, 1960.