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Beraçe Timings

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Bob Leibman


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.

Albania Bob Leibman (see photo above) 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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