This volume includes three ethnomusicological studies. Two of them are dedicated to one musical phenomenon which occurs in many traditional cultures around the world, but nevertheless has found little attention on the part of the scholars. This is what is known as polymusic – performance practices, mostly connected with rituals, where two or more autonomous musical entities (songs, laments, instrumental pieces, etc.) sound simultaneously in a generally uncoordinated manner.
Žanna Pärtlas in her article focuses on the principle of controlled disorder in polymusic, i.e. on the manifestations and relations of musical coordination and incoordination. She also investigates the possible psychological effects of polymusic related to the shaping of ritual time. The theoretical questions of polymusic are discussed using the example of the Seto wedding song genre kaasitamine.
Daiva Račiūnaitė-Vyčinienė investigates the functions and meanings of polymusic in Lithuanian funeral and wedding rituals. She analyses two cases where different musical genres are brought together in order to achieve certain ritual goals, and one case where a polymusical principle manifests itself in a dialogue of laments. All the cases considered are linked to lamenting in the context of rites of passage.
The third ethnomusicological study in this volume belongs to the field of applied ethnomusicology. Its author, Rytis Ambrazevičius, considers the roll of embodiment in the transmission of traditional vocal music, proceeding from his experiences as an instructor at the annual International Summer School of Traditional Music in Poland. The study reveals how the body can function as a mediator in relation to different aspects of folk song at different stages of the learning process.
The articles on music history in the present number of Res Musica are based on papers delivered at the conference “Urban and Court Culture in the Early Modern Baltic Sea Region”, which was held at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, Tallinn, on 2–3 May 2019 and organised by the Estonian Graduate School of Culture Studies and Arts under the direction of Kristel Pappel.1 In these papers researchers from different disciplines explore urban and court culture, amongst other things, from the perspectives of individual people. One of these, and one of the focal points of the conference, was Johann Valentin Meder (1649–1719), the 300th anniversary of whose death in July 2019 the conference marked. Working mainly in cities, Meder is an excellent example of a musician acting in urban environments in the Baltic Sea region; however, he interacted with courts as well, writing and dedicating works also to crowned heads, and without courtly institutions a large part of his work would not have been preserved.
The reader finds here a part of the conference papers on music history, carefully selected so as to focus on a limited number of related subject fields. These are, first, music life in Hamburg and, second, Johann Valentin Meder, with a time frame of the second half of the 17th and the first half of the 18th centuries. While the papers on music life in Hamburg add new aspects to previous research, this is the first time that multiple articles on Meder have appeared in one publication.
In Early Modern musical life, the aristocracy could play a role even in areas lacking a court. Thus Martin Loeser shows how aristocratic and bourgeois cultural acting could intertwine in music, especially in the concert life of the Free and Hanseatic city of Hamburg. Ingo Rekatzky reveals to the aristocratic influences on the repertoire of the Goosemarket Opera and analyses their interaction with the strong protestant moral system and popular genres. He shows how these interacting forces foreshadowed concepts of the later bourgeois theatre of the Enlightenment.
The authors writing about Johann Valentin Meder have chosen a source-based approach to the subject. The section opens with an article by Peter Wollny about notable source findings. Based on handwritten fragments by Meder previously unknown, Wollny discusses different facets of Meder’s work; referring to copies of pieces by other composers written in Meder’s hand, he points to the likely content of Meder’s music collection and to his contacts. Danuta Popinigis examines Meder’s Gdańsk years, shedding light on different aspects of the composer’s activity both as a musician and as a private individual on the basis of valuable new details discovered in archival research. With regard to prints of occasional music, Anu Schaper explores how Meder positioned himself in urban social networks and discusses the musical characteristics of the corpus, pointing to its links with the rest of the composer’s oeuvre.
The editors sincerely thank the peer reviewers for their contribution to the present number.
1 The conference was supported by the Regional Development Fund of the European Union (Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre, ASTRA measure, EMTASTRA project, 2014-2020.4.01.16-0043).