Monday, January 17, 2011


Cover for Folk Music of Rumania
(from a photograph by Bela Bartok)
20" x 16"
oil on canvas, 2011
Same record, same size canvas, and as with the previous blog earlier today painted from a photograph by Bela Bartok. The painting represents again a field recording made in Romania. Whereas the previous one dealt with a lively dance music style called Hora, the style here is called  a Bocet, not so lively it's in fact the opposite, it's a lament for the dead. In Romania, as in many other countries/cultures, part of funerary rites contain the hiring of a professional mourning singer. I have mentioned, but not yet dwelt on in these pages, my obsession with cry-singing, or keening or wailing. I collect recordings of such practices and every year I find one or two new ones and write about it in my commentaries. The commentary always involves this one story, allow me to quote from my book Top 100 2009:

    About fifteen years ago I heard in a museum exhibit a sound recording of a banshee. At least I thought I did but as it turns out there is no such thing as a sound recordings of a Banshee. A banshee is a spirit who appears in the form of a woman, the spirit of death in Irish lore. Whatever it was I heard I don’t know but it was the most beautiful and haunting recording of a female voice I had ever listened to. I swear it was at the Columbus Museum of Art but upon inquiry they didn’t know what I was talking about. But I did hear it for real, I’m not crazy. It has become a quest to find it, the Holy Grail, a song so beautiful it would render all others meaningless. Irish friends well versed in Irish lore could not lead me to it, scientific research through OSU’s music cognition program did lead me somewhere but not to the banshee. Many things I found on this quest; through keyword searches such as keening, wailing, mourning, and of course banshee, I have come across many voices of women weep-singing, a tradition that is forever linked with the wake of a deceased especially a child. The wake for a dead infant is a rite found in many parts of the globe (The Cossacks of the Caucasus in Russia, in the rain forests of Papua New Guinea, in Mediterranean Spain, Hungary, Latin America, Ireland, etc.) Especially the wakes in Christian countries are festive rituals, including music and dance to celebrate the child becoming an angel. Sound recordings of these are sparse but this year another two were added to my modest collection.  
I am pleased to welcome the eleventh geographic example of weep-singing to my collection. 
(If anyone has only the slightest idea of what I heard, that fateful afternoon in the museum, let me know. I will follow any and every lead.)

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