Harris Sarris – Tassos Kolydas – Takis Tzevelekos, «Parataxis: A Framework of Structure Analysis for Instrumental Folk Music», Journal of Interdisciplinary Music Studies - JIMS, Ismir, 2010, 4/1, 71-90.



Background in Ethnomusicology. The music of folk instruments is a less studied topic compared to the study of the folk songs repertoire. This is mainly due to its 'complexity', which may get a scholar into a tangle. Talking about the Balkans or the music of the Aegean, apart from the great differences between instrumental traditions from place to place, one can point out a common ground regarding structure. This is the act of placing the melodic units side by side, hence creating the form, which we shall call 'the technique of parataxis'. Little research has been done regarding this technique, though. Koglin (2003) depicts the music structure through special graphs, Theodosopoulou (2005) codifies paratactic repertoire from Crete, and investigates the series of music phrases, while Sarris (2007a) analyzes paratactic genres from Greek Thrace using tables.

Background in Computing. Computing is regarded as part of the modern structure of musical scholarship (Parncutt 2007). Knowledge representation for musical data using tags and metadata appears to be of great significance in late studies (Chryssochoidis, Delviniotis, & Kouroupetroglou, 2007) Data mining and knowledge discovery in databases have been attracting a significant amount of research, industry, and media attention of late (Fayyad, Piatetsky-Shapiro, & Smyth, 1996). However few are the studies that focus on folk instrumental music, while combining annotation based on acoustic analysis and native musicians.

Aims. In this study, we propose a methodology framework for analyzing folk instrumental repertoire that follows the technique of parataxis. By including both systematic analysis and analysis from the native's point of view for the same material, we scope to 'bridge the gap' between the two perspectives. A relational database will form the base for a web-based tool, providing interpretation of the data. For more details regarding the Parataxis project, follow http://www.parataxis.eu/

Main contribution. How can one understand a 'flowing' music, which is re-created each time it is played? What kind of information can he/she take from an informant who may not have lingual codes to describe his music? Is it possible for an analytical tool to act as a 'bridge' between the scholar and the folk musician? In order to examine such issues a special research methodology is proposed. A selected piece is annotated with tags, using the PRAAT software. The term 'tags' refers to descriptive coded information values, which corresponds to a particular part of the music signal, making queries within the signal easier and more accurate. Segmentation and parameter value set is performed under two different perspectives. On one hand, an ethnomusicologist using the tools of systematic musicological analysis is responsible for the annotation. On the other hand, native informants are asked to find parts in the piece that are distinctive in their opinion and to comment them, producing another group of metadata. Hence, hints for more detailed and focused questions may come out. The method for the manipulation of the data includes the modeling, designing and developing of a relational DataBase, based on the entity-relation model that will be produced. The application will be available through the Internet as a tool for the analysis of the 'technique of parataxis'. As our example, we have chosen to analyse a live recording of a Páno Chorós dance from the village of Olymbos, Karpathos.

Implications. Our research can hopefully provide a useful tool for the ethnomusicologist, in order to analyze and understand instrumental folk music. It can also be yet another link with the informants, since each one can tag a given music piece the way he/she conceptualizes it. With all that data lying side by side, research can be more fruitful, thanks to modern computer tools.

Research about Greek folk music, as well as about the folk music of the Balkans in general, has mainly promoted the study of song, while the study of instrumental music leaves a lot to be desired. One can explain this phenomenon due to the fact that the study of folk song, especially from the early 20th century and on, filled up the study of folk poetry, which flourished in the 19th century in the spirit of Romantism. Accordingly (since the study of music was based upon transcriptions almost exclusively) the transcription of a song's melody was a much easier task, compared to the transcription of a 'flowing' instrumental piece, which seemed rather complicated in the eyes of a non-native scholar. Unfortunately, the high complexity of music is not the only challenge a perspective scholar has to deal with. Technically speaking, one has to understand the possibilities and the playing technique of the musical instruments used. Ethnographically speaking, we have to figure out the way native musicians conceptualize their repertoire, as well as their playing technique. This is a quite difficult task, since folk musicians usually have not developed detailed lingual codes in order to describe what do they play, or how they play it (Rice, 1980). They comprehend music as something 'floating', which exists for the needs of a ghléndi (fest), and they do not feel like arranging it as 'pieces', following a logic established by the music industry. It is a usual phenomenon for folk musicians not to be able to recall in details what they have just played. A typical answer is: "I play whatever comes into my mind".

This article proposes an analytical methodology for the analysis of structure, the annotation and the study of folk instrumental music from the Balkans, and from the Aegean. By using the technique of tagging and by processing annotated data through an online database, it is possible to 'penetrate' into the structure of the music under analysis.

Our methodology combines the perspective of an ethnomusicologist using systematic musicological analysis, with the perspective of a native musician or informant. It can hopefully act as a 'bridge' between these two different viewpoints. On the one hand, it offers a powerful tool to the scholar, in order to analyze systematic analysis data, as well as to encode and understand the native's perception. On the other hand, due to the fact that it favours the scholar-informant collaboration, the former can have numerous chances for focused questions to the later, hence enlightening the music phenomenon. Analytical data is illuminated through special texts, containing biographical and ethnographical information.

The starting point for our research was the ascertainment that, in the case of various traditions of the Balkans (such as Greek Thrace), as well as in the case of the Aegean, apart from the great differences between instrumental music traditions from place to place, one can point out a common ground regarding structure; musicians' improvisations are based upon the creation (or recreation) of melodic units in sequence, which build the overall structure of a given instrumental piece. We shall call this phenomenon 'the technique of parataxis', after the homonymous literary technique[i].

[i] Parataxis: from Greek verb paratásso, which means 'the act of placing side by side' (pará, beside + tássein, to arrange). It is a literary technique in writing or speaking that favors short, simple sentences, often without the use of conjunctions.


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