EVERY RECORD EVER RECORDED!!! A Field Guide to the Music of Earth


 

#5: WOMEN'S TEXTILE SONGS AND RITUAL MAGIC with Kristine Barrett
listen on Apple Podcasts listen on Spotify listen on Google Play

In which we visit Scandinavia, the Celtic world, the Baltic and the Black Sea to tease out the threads connecting the voice and magic, spinning and the other world, art and power, weaving and polyphony....
 


 

KRISTINE'S WEBSITE:

is at kristinebarrett.com, where you can listen to her music, see her gorgeous visual art (including needlework!) and keep up-to-date on her work at the intersection of vocal and textile arts.

FURTHER EXPLORATION:

* First off, check the show playlist below, annotated by Kristine! So much more fascinating info than we could fit on the podcast!

* While you're reading about them, listen to all the pieces played on the show in their entirety over at the official ERER005 Youtube playlist! (With the exception of the lullaby sung by Mary McLaughlin, sadly not available on youtube.)

* The composer who graphed the sutartines is Dainius Valionis - more in this interview with Daiva Račiūnaitė-Vyčinienė of Trys Keturiose (in Lithuanian, but Google Translate does an intelligible job - note that it translates "sutartines" as "contracts")

* Mary McLaughlin, sean-nos teacher

* Interview with Mary McLaughlin on This Mythic Life podcast - much great stuff about keening

* Grace Johnson, voice teacher and researcher into the connections between the voice and histories of assault

* Is the Venus de Milo... spinning?

RECOMMENDED READING:

 

COVER STARS:

Trys Keturiose - photo by J. Treinytės from here

 

HEARD ON THE SHOW (listen here!):



 

HEARD ON THE SHOW, THE EXTENDED VERSION!:

 

Opening Credits: Trys Keturiose - Duno, Duno Upe

Robot translation (based on the Lithuanian words here): Down, down river, Down, down the river. Down River, Lylio, Deep gooseberry. Down River, Lylio, Tami deer, Down River, Lylio, Flying litter, Down River, Lylio, And my brother. Down River, Lylio, Tami deer, Down River, Lylio, Hair lots of fish. Down River, Lylio, Atais rib, Down River, Lylio, Will catch fish. Down River, Lylio, There are a lot of fish.

Trys Keturiose - Bite, Dabiłėli, Dabilio

Kristine says: I learned this from TRYS KETURIOSĖ and the online library of Zenonas Slaviūnas. Rough translation: “Bee, cane, dabilio, I sowed you, dabilio. Bee, cane, dabilio, come back in beef, dabilio. Bee, cane, dabilio, jelly collects, dabilio. Bee, cane, dabilio, from a beautiful blossom, dabilio. Bee, cane, dabilio, making keral, dabilio,” and “Clover, bee, dabiłėli.”

Daiva Račiūnaitė-Vyčinienė says: “Since ancient times, bees have served as an example of order, co existence, diligence, and devotion to family and community. Both in common language and in folklore, bees are always compared to people--they eat, dance, go in circles, weave, sew, knit, make patterns. It is said that God made bees sacred because they fed him honey. Ancient Lithuanians held bees in great esteem and considered them sacred being (God gave us bees and devil gave us beekeepers). In Lithuanian folklore diminutives are always used when referring to a bee: bitułė, bitelė, bičiukė. Bees are held in respect even today: you have to tend to a beehive dressed in clean clothes, bathed, and with a peaceful, positive mind. It is believed that bees can feel people—they love the good ones and do not sting them. Evolving ideas about the connection between singing polyphonic songs (also defined as chants) and creating world harmony as well as the sacralized female role in this creative process brought us to the theme of bees. Some motifs of polyphonic chants about bees are unique and enigmatic. For example, the fragment four beehives for three bees reminds of the cryptic title of the band ”Trys Keturiose” (three in four)--the refrain three in four is often encountered in polyphonic songs dedicated to flax processing, and can in turn be associated with one if the singing methods when the song consists of three layers performed by four singers. Thus the connection between the bees, the spinning/weaving and singing polyphonic chants begs for a deeper and closer analysis. Just like singing polyphonic chants, beekeeping requires attentiveness on one hand and peace and total relaxation on the other. Today, for most beekeepers apiculture is still not just a means to obtain honey, but also a meditative communication with nature. Since ancient times, the world of bees has been an example of community life. Bees can achieve most of their goals only as a community. A bee is nothing without a family: one bee cannot gather a beehive full of honey. The same applies to polyphonic songs. The birth of a polyphonic chant - the developing process of singing - is not an individual, but a joint result of all the participants. Individual singers disappear in the creative process - the value is not in the skill or the voice of a particular singer, but in the overall achievement of the entire group. The complexity of the world of bees has always seemed mysterious and awe-inspiring. Communication or friendship through bees - bičuolija, bičiulystė, bitninkavimas - was the highest form of community and human intimacy. Bičiulis, bitninkas is a ‘friend through honey.’ It is said: Friendship dies when the bees die. Bičiuolija also means the feast of cellective honey harvest. References to this ancient custom are encountered in many polyphonic songs about bees. for example, the son Skrido bitė, tato (First a bee, tatato) is related to the old Lithuanian custom called bičiuolija (the word meaning ‘friendship’ is derived from the word ‘bees’): The song was sung by her grandmother. It is a Bičiuolija song. Neighbors and relatives would be invited to the house during the time when honey is extracted. The honey would be brought in a trough to a receptacle called rūstinė hollowed out of a thick log. Eating honey would also involve chewing the comb. Bičiuolija was associated only with honey. The motifs of gathering honey and feasting are also encountered in ritual polyphonic chants performed in spring during the inspection of rye fields. Some of them describe treating others with honey and feasting on honey (Sweet honey for my mother, white combs for my father), other depict drinking beer and mead. Bees do not only roam freely between blossoms, but also dance by flying in circles. Such dancing is compared to the ritual circle of the bride performed during a wedding. Some polyphonic songs about bees feature not only the image of a circle, but also the combination of similar sound words rytas (morning) and ratas (circle). Such examples are abundant. In one song, the rising (tekėjimas) of the Sun is developed in parallel with the marriage (ištekėjimas) of a sister which is accompanied with a refrain mentioning a bee--Bitel, bitel, dobiłėliau. In several polyphonic songs, a queen wakes kup her bees and urges them to fulfill their nature to gather honey on a bright day and to sew combs on a rainy day, while brother wakes up his sisters to weave cloth for their dowry. Many polyphonic songs compare bees-menders of honeycombs, sewers, pattern weavers (they sewed the combs and made the patterns without silk) - with sisters who are also weavers trying to match the skill of bees in pattern-making (they made the patterns like the bees made the combs). The girls are taught this kind of work by their grandmothers or mothers, while the bees learn from their queen, which is considered the foundation of the bee family. This reminds us of Austėja, who is believed to have been the goddess of bees and the proliferator of their families in Lithuanian mythology. She is considered an industrious weaver; her name is derived from the word austi-to weave, to run around, to open doors. all of these meanings speak to repetitive actions. Probably the initial meaning of the words audėja (weaver) and audimas (weaving) is connected not with the weaving of cloth, but with the making of honeycombs. In polyphonic chants and other songs bees making combs are often depicted in parallel with sisters spinning or weaving. The geometric work of the bee - the making of perfectly hexagonal cells is compared with the top quality weaving. Mythologically, it corresponds to the ideas of conversion of chaotic nature into an orderly cosmos through sanctification, and of orderly creation. Figuratively, weaving is connected to thought and speech - weaving of thoughts, threads of thoughts. Those are controlled thoughts, a focused tangle of ideas, a unique expression of reasoning as the highest organized activity of the brain. This is the metaphoric distinction between two aspects of human spirituality, i.e. culture - the tangible (weaving) and the intangible (verbal creation, singing).”

Cití Ní Ghallchóir (Kitty Gallagher) - Keen for a Dead Child

I don't have a translation of the words to this one, unfortunately, but you can hear the sorrow in it nonetheless - although it wasn't actually recorded at a wake. The folksong collector Alan Lomax made several collecting trips to Ireland, and Kitty sang this song for his tape recorder in Lomax's hotel room in Letterkenny in 1951, along with many others.

Sorcha Bn Uí Chonfhaola - Amhrán Mhuinse

Irish, Connemara, from Máire Ní Chlochartaigh (the daughter of the woman who wrote it supposedly). I pieced this together from several sources: the Irish group Líadan, Sarah Ghriallais, Sorcha Bn. Uí Chonfhaola, and Ragus, along with the book Leabhar Mór Na nAmhrán. The song is written by a woman from Connemara in the nineteenth century, (usually the composer is known for this type of song), transcribed after death by her daughter Máire (Mairín) Ní Chlochartaigh. She was married to Taimín Bán Ó Conghaile of Leitir Calaidh but she asked to be buried six miles away in Mhuighinse where she was from (Mainis near Carna, County Galway). The local story goes that her request to be buried at her birthplace was to be fulfilled by her cousin, who promised on her deathbed; however, 3 days of stormy seas made the journey impossible and she had to be buried in Leitir Calaidh. Wakes were a sort of ritual practiced for generations (and forbidden by unsympathetic priests and the English, yet still practiced). Family and friends would take turns sitting with the body, laid out on a table in the best room in the house, to help ward off evil spirits; often drinking, eating, singing, and keening. A keening woman (often also the local midwife) would be hired to keen (caoineadh in Irish) over the deceased. “If I were three leagues out at sea or on mountains far from home, Without any living thing near me but the green fern and the heather, The snow being blown down on me, and the wind snatching it off again, And I were to be talking to my fair Taimín and I would not find the night long. Faithful Mary, what will I do, this winter is coming on cold. And faithful Mary, what will become of this house and all those in it? And isn’t it a pity now, to be leaving you, during the fine weather (season/time), When a cuckoo (also: sob, whine, a strain of music) is playing music and every green leaf is growing? And If I have my children home with me, the night that I will die, O they will wake me (literally: they will fly me) in mighty style, three nights and three days; There will be fine clay pipes and kegs that are full, And there will be three young mountain women, to keen me when I'm laid out. And cut my coffin out for me, from the choicest (true/intense pick/arrangement) brightest boards; And if Seán Hynes is in Muínis, let it be made by his hand. Let my cap and my ribbon be inside in it, and be placed stylishly on my head, And Big Paudeen will take me to Muínis for rough will be the day. Undertaking west to Inse Ghainimh, have the banner be in the mast (tree, mast, pole). And do not bury (put) me in Leitir Calaidh, for it's not where my people are, But bring me west to Muínis, the place I will be mourned (keened) highly. The lights will be on the dunes, and loneliness with not be on me there.”

Heinavanker - Loomine (The Creation)

“A mythical story about the creation of the world, typically sung from a big village swing.” This is an arrangement by Estonian singer and composer Margo Kõlar. “A blue bird, a blue-gold-multicolored bird flies into our meadow, makes a next in a paddock and hatches offspring. One chick becomes the moon, another the sun, the third the world, the fourth a star, and the fifth a rainbos. There were three bushes on the meadow: one was a blue bush, one was a red bush, the third was a golden bush. She did not care about the blue bush, she did not care about the red bush, she was pleased with the golden bush. The bird started to build a nest: she built it for a month, for another month, for a third month, for a week on the fourth month, a bit on the fifth month. She started to lay eggs: laid for a month, for another month, for a third month, for a week on the fourth month, a bit on the fifth month. One chick became the moon for Kurland, the second became the sun for Pärnu county, the third became the world, the fourth became the stars, the fifth became the rainbow.”

Bannal - A Bhean Ud Thall Gu De Thorr Aire?/'S Muladach Mi

Sadly we don't have a full translation of this song, but I can tell you that according to Google Translate, the title is "Lady, What is Your Order" / "Sorry, I'm Sad". Old-fashioned romance. Bannal is/was a group formed by singer, teacher and tradition-bearer Kenna Campbell to keep waulking songs alive. And yes, they are actually waulking cloth in this recording, which is the table-thumping you hear.

Birol Topaloğlu - Heyamo

A song from Lazona. He he heyamo, your aunt is having a working party. Let’s dig and go, quickly sisters quickly. When do we find such fine days? The work party is on our flat lands. The moonlight fills the night. We sing as we dig, all day and all night. Today the weather is very fine. Where is Aunt Termoni? The time passes so quickly, let’s go out and eat.

”As the borders were drawn up between Turkey and the Soviet Union, the planners used natural boundaries like rivers and mountains to establish their lines. Some of these went straight through communities. Because of the tensions between the two countries it became impossible to carry on daily life on both sides of a river. To visit relatives on the Turkish side, for example, Soviet-siders would first have to travel to Moscow, then Istanbul and Ankara, and finally on an uncomfortable overland journey, a total of thousands of miles—just to reach a destination that was in effect a stone’s throw away—or risk being shot by border guards. The villagers used songs to communicate what was happening on their side of the border, letting the other side know who was getting married, how the harvest was going, and so on. The songs were sent freely from one side of the valley to the other because their language was unknown to most soldiers posted at the watch points.”

Also, the content of the song describes a women’s work party, so likely textile production! If not specifically talked about in this song, there is a vast quantity of songs and stories around work parties in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, and often when they are referring to women they involve some kind of textile production—even if it means harvesting flax (to then be turned into thread/linen).

Mzetamze - Khert'lis naduri

Mzetamze are a group of Georgian musicologists formed to collect and preserve the folk songs of Georgian women. This is a song of collective work at the spindle from Ach’ara (sung by Nino Shvelidze, Ketevan Baiashvili, and an unidentified bani). "Oy, Nani da nana, the spindle has rubbed sore my hand, the spindle would that it break. He promised me, he deceived me, he, would he break his neck. On the flaxcomb there remains yarn, for you I still have respect. To the well I drove the oxen, the red ones, the horned ones. The girl with whom I have a date, has hair down to her ankles. The spindle has rubbed sore my hand, the spindle, would that it break.”

Mary McLaughlin - Éinini

This is a popular lullaby throughout Ireland, and though Mary's lovely version is not on youtube, a lot of others are.

“Little birds, little birds, go to sleep, go to sleep, little birds, little birds, go to sleep, go to sleep. Go to sleep, go to sleep, beside the wall outside, beside the wall outside, go to sleep, go to sleep, beside the wall outside, beside the wall outside. Blackbird and raven, go to sleep, go to sleep, female blackbird and crow, go to sleep, go to sleep. Robin and lark, go to sleep, go to sleep, wren and thrush, go to sleep, go to sleep.”

End Credits: Kristine Barrett - Bite, Dabiłėli, Dabilio

See above for more information about this song, and for Kristine's version, let me encourage you again to check out the full album! She approaches folk music with an un-precious enchantment, getting deep into its mysterious guts and turning it inside out. The album has a desolate beauty to it that makes me think of the landscape in the far north of Sweden where she composed much of it - a stark enormity, a land where the wind comes straight from the pole and the women are taller than the trees.


< #4: DHRUPAD

the earth floating in space, serenaded by a vast gramophone