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Berace Timings

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posting from Bob Liebman

At 7:34 PM -0400 9/8/98, 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.

(Bob replies:) Many years ago, I tried to gather all recordings of Berance 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 Bajrace (Zensko Bajrace) 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    1.8

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'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's gajde playing of Zensko Pusteno (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.

Bob Leibman