Tag Archives: ethno

Project Finito

After almost a year from planning and researching, to living in Trieste for 3 months, to writing my documentation and giving a presentation, I have finally finished my Practice in Context project. Without a doubt, I’ve learnt loads and really enjoyed the process.

So this is just a post to say…. thank you to everyone who:

hosted me, gave me a bed, played music to or with me, taught me tunes, gave me advice, gave me contacts and put me in touch with people, fed me, clothed me, watered me, talked with me, gave me information, invited me, gave me music c.d’s and other resources, drove me around, taught me Italian and was patient enough to listen to me in Italian.

I could not have done this project without the amazing contributions from the citizens of Trieste and around!! There are so many people who fit into one or more of these categories, so thanks! It’s been a joy.

In other news my band, Four People have been invited to play at a festival in Lake Garda this Summer with a stage from from a folk music bar in London. So tour of Northern Italy 2014 is looking very hopeful!!

I’m re-performing my presentation again tomorrow for other students who are about to plan a project to see how its done and give some tips etc. How well I’ve fared in the module is yet to be seen – I think I’ll find out in a couple of weeks. Fingers crossed.



An extremely overdue post about my trip to Milan.

First of all, I think this post is about two months late. Since I returned from Italy I have been manically documenting my project for university deadlines. I made a book with photos, diagrams and c.d. and last week I gave a presentation. I made a theatre studio into an osmiza to make my presentation nice and informal. So it is only now that I’ve got around to updating my blog – apologies to my most dedicated fans!!

So a bit of context about this last venture in my trip: I briefly met Stefano Schiraldi at the Barcolando in October. He then contacted me through this blog and we began meeting informally to play music. He told me about this project he was working on, creating original music and songs for a theatre piece. He was writing for many different arrangements such as solos, group vocal pieces, accompaniments, so I we were able to try out various parts and develop the scores.


(performance flyer)

After a few of these meetings, quite unexpectedly, Stefano asked if I would like to join him and the theatre company in Milan. Of course I willingly accepted the offer and couldn’t quite believe my luck. So on Monday 25th November we drove to Milan to start rehearsing – the performance would premiere on the Thursday and ran for 4 nights and 1 night in Trieste the following week.

The company had only these three days to rehearse the piece pretty much from scratch so the rehearsals were quite tense at first because many things had to be achieved before opening night. As a result the music changed a lot, having to cut and paste sections here and there. Having to navigate the situation solely in Italian was… challenging. Not being familiar with the performance or cues was an added difficulty especially as there was little time to faff about/continuously ask people to repeat themselves! But luckily I soon caught on the the structure of the performance.

By the opening night Stefano and I were confident that the music would go well. We had developed a good rapport and communication over the rehearsals and his ruthlessness over accuracy and selection of the final performance material had paid off.

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Dell’Umiliazione e della Vendetta (of humiliation and revenge) dealt with attitudes and violence towards women in Italy but, moreover, it celebrated womankind, femininity and girl power. It was a piece of Music Theatre devised by an all-female company.

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In discussion with the director, Marcela Serli, I found out more about the devising processes. Although the piece was contemporary there were quite a few influences from traditional practices such as the Tarantella dance  and Marina Abramovic’s Balkan Erotic Epic.

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In short, it was a great opportunity to be able to work on and perform in this piece and I am reaaaally grateful to ATOPOS (the company) for letting me play and to Stefano for guiding me through! It was whirlwind of a week – I stayed in no less than 4 different people’s houses in various locations around Milan which was quite disorientating but also pretty exciting.

Overall it was heaps of fun and I am very happy to have been involved in such a quality piece of theatre.

Expedition to Croatia!

As part of my traditional music research, I decided to take a trip to Istria last week. The region is a peninsula on the Adriatic coast and the western part of Croatia (a tiny part of the peninsula is in Slovenia and Italy too but maybe 90% is in Croatia.) Istria has a very interesting history, which is closely connected to that of Trieste. Along with Trieste, it used to be a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until it dissolved in 1918. There was a large Italian population at this time and Italian was the official language of the area, along with Croatian. After the Austro-Hungarian period it became a part of Italy – things began to turn sour with the arrival of fascism and forced Italianisation so lots of the Croatian population left for Yugoslavia. Then towards the end of the Second World War, Tito occupied and forced out the opposition – this led to the gruesome Foibe killings and mass Istrian Exodus. When the war ended, a part of Istria was split in two parts, North and South – Zone A and B. Zone A was the Gulf of Trieste and Zone B began at the south of Muggia. It became known as the ‘Free Territory of Trieste’ to diffuse conflict between Italy and Yugoslavia as to who owned this area of land. In 1954 Zone A became a part of Italy whilst Zone B was given to former Yugoslavia. Now the population is largely Croatian – there is a small Italian population, I think somewhere between 5 and 10% and an Italian dialect is spoken in some areas.

So, how has this turbulent time in the 20th century affected the culture and music? Given that there were constant changes of population due to forced emigration, constant changes to the territory and borders, different governments, communism – I thought there could be a rich music tradition – so I got myself a bus ticket and went to find out more.

First of all I spent a few days in Bale in an ecological arts centre as a volunteer. Image

In the Summer they run workshops for the public, in Winter its quite quiet. Between building fences and chopping firewood etc. I was able to go on walks and explore the Istrian countryside and landscape. It was a good to be away from the city for a few days and to have time to reflect and evaluate(?!?!) the project so far. I’ve realised, one of the ways my project has transformed from the initial proposal, is that instead of me sniffing around for traditional music styles, it has become more about how a place makes music and how music makes a place (and this includes tradition, obviously.) For example how the location, geographical features, traditions, polictical situations influence the music created and in turn how music that is brought to or created in a place shifts the traditions, landscapes and helps maybe define a place. 


We went on trip one day and saw these stone huts. Shepherds used to use them to shelter from rain. You can find them all over Istria and some other parts of the Mediterranean. It was also quite interesting to find the deciduous Oak trees that we have in England as well as another species of Oak from the Mediterranean that is non-deciduous – I found it cool to find natural elements that factor the Eastern/Western location, i.e. it’s not just man-made elements like borders that define areas.Image

(there were amazing sunsets there!)

After my time in Bale I went to meet a friend of a friend in Pazin, to tell me about the Istrian music tradition. I was in for a treat-and-a-half!! After joining a very lively Croatian family lunch, we spent the afternoon playing instruments and listening to recordings, old and new of Istrian music.

He played pretty much every Istrian instrument going! I was introduced to Dvojnice, a kind of wooden double flute so you can play two notes at once. Sopele – a reed instrument, sounds quite like an oboe. Usually two are played together. Mih – a kind of bagpipes. The bag is made of a goats skin, the pipes are of wood and you can also play two notes at once. 

This is a soundclip of the instruments in the order that they are mentioned.

I was curious about the so-called Istrian scale that I’d heard about. As I thought, the term ‘Istrian scale’ started to be used for notation purposes but refers to many different styles of music e.g. vocal, instrumental pieces, music for dancing etc. I had also heard that Istrian music contained quarter-tones – this was another term that came about to describe any interval smaller than a semi-tone. Before there were standard models of instrument making, hand made instruments were quite unique from one another, i.e. holes were in slightly different places, they varied in size etc. This created the ‘quarter-tone’ sound, which is harder to hear now that instruments are made more or less the same. 

The vocal tradition is really interesting – usually a male voice leads and a higher female voice accompanies. The female voice is really nasal – i think it’s maybe to imitate the sopele. There is an improvisation element, but most singers must end on the same note. There are also many other arrangements of singing e.g. 2 men, 2 women, sopele accompaniment etc. 

I can’t find a really old example of singing – this video from unesco is really touristy and polished, which is the opposite of what i’ve heard and enjoy about this music, but it gives you an idea.

There is also a strong tradition for dance music, e.g. waltzes and polkas. This is quite an anarchic example!

Goran (who was hosting me) also plays the fiddle, so he, very kindly, taught me some tunes from the fiddle tradition. Hooray! Here’s a couple of videos – one is a march and one is a polka.

This is Goran’s band – Veja. They are mixing older Istrian instruments and styles of singing with new instruments and arrangements. The result is very cool – I was lucky enough to sit in on a rehearsal.

In short, I have learnt a lot from my trip to Istria!! Traditional music is certainly alive and well and responding to its surroundings in so many forms. It was a privilege to hear some of it.