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Beraçe Timings

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Bob Leibman

COMMENTS

On September 8, 1998 Steven Finney wrote:

I recently asked Tim Rice if he knew of any published attempts of quantifications of actual performed rhythms in Balkan music, and he didn't know of any.


Bob Leibman replied:

Many years ago, I tried to gather all recordings of Berançe like meters (12 or 13 or even 17 (Levendikos) – from records, my field recordings, those of others (Mark Levy, Larry Weiner, etc.). I have a notebook indicating a total of 114 such recordings. I even transcribed the melodies of many of them – I was interested in which melodies, if any, were particularly associated with specific dances (or dance names). Since I am not particularly talented as a musician, I did this by playing tunes at 1/2 or 1/4 speed. (I can't recall what I used as a reference for pitch – without help, I could easily hear a 1/2 note rise as a 1/2 note drop.) In any case, I also did some stopwatch timing of the major beats for several measures in each.

For example, using four (successive?) measures from a performance of Bajraçe (Žensko Bajrače) by the group of Aegean women (Kostur area) living in Skopje at the 1st(?) Bitola Ilindenski Denovi Festival in 1972(?), I have average readings of:

     2.4    1.7    1.95    2.45   v1.8

a total of 10.3 (I'm not sure of units or whether this is 1/2 speed or 1/4 speed, but it doesn't matter.)

Taking four measures from the same group at Ohrid, I have:

     2.3    1.45    1.75    2.4    1.8 (a total of 9.7)

(I can't tell whether they were playing the piece faster, or my sample is from a later point in the performance, which clearly does speed up.)

Adjusting these to a first beat of 3 (my arbitrary decision), we have:

Bitola performance:

     3    2.13    2.44    3.06    2.81 (a total of 13.44)

Ohrid performance:

     3    1.89    2.28    3.12    2.34 (a total of 12.63)

All of the faster beats are played faster in the latter one.

In comparison, consider the averages for 8 measures from Gornoselsko Oro (Pece Atanasovski's Kucano music):

     3.15    1.85    2.4    2.8    2.4 (total of 12.6)

or adjusted:

     3    1.76    2.28    2.66    2.28 (total 11.98)

Very different is Pece Atanasovski's gajde playing of Žensko Pušteno (on record):

     1.2    .7    1.0    .8    1.2 (I used different speed?):

or adjusted:

     3     1.75    2.5    2    3

How's that for a display of obsessive-compulsive behavior.


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