Songs and Music from Suvalkija
Songs, Sutartinės and Instrumental Music from Aukštaitija
Songs and Music from Žemaitija
Songs and Music from Dzūkija

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 Žarskienė 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

      Archive, 1935








Recording folklore on magnetic tape, 1960.