The first and second existence of folklore
Even if there are some doubts raised today as to whether it actually figured, the first existence of folklore is indisputable. Nevertheless, not the first but the second existence of folklore became one of the leading subjects in folklore studies of mid- and late 20th century, though it seems to be a much older phenomenon. This state of affairs may be interpreted in different ways, depending on the position of culture in a given environment, as well as on the official ideology, or, though indirectly, on the traditions in methodology.
The concept that dominates in Anglo-Saxon studies is the "Invented Tradition,(1) " hypothesis, greatly successful in interpreting the history of Western Europe, although not so much in the examination of tribal societies. In the case of the latter, mainly former British colonies(2) , the concept proved far less helpful, especially as far as gaining acceptance of the observed communities is concerned. Explaining the history and cultural development of Eastern Europe with the aid of the aforementioned hypothesis must also be considerably limited, though again it is difficult to take a decisive stance here. Still, in many other cases the hypothesis becomes quite useful.
Contemporary folklore studies, as a tradition-oriented discipline, try to extract the rational element of theories such as the above. This applies also to scholars dealing with folk culture of Eastern and Central Europe, both the "in-" and "outsiders." The latter are mainly Americans specialized in researching this part of Europe, who, unlike local scientists, have a tendency to indulge in theorizing and prognosticating. The result of their animated discussions are numerous terms: apart from the aforementioned concepts of "second existence" or "Invented Tradition," there appear many others, not necessarily equally well-grounded in theory. Here we should point to the fairly popular, though not fully adequate to concrete realities, concept of the "Returning culture," later changed into "Retuning Culture(3) ," or to the attempt at alluding to the "Invented Paradise" hypothesis, or even the "Escape (4) " theory. All these proposals do not seem to be fully accepted by local Eastern European scientists, who want to fight for the continuation of their culture and traditions just like they fight for the preservation of the natural environment. Taking the labels of "Warriors" or "Frontliners" (Frontowniki in Russian), popular in the region, they want to see themselves as defendants of the "Green Frontline (5) ," struggling to keep up the tradition not yet departed, but only in need reinforcement.
According to specialists from Eastern Europe, such as Zinajda Mozejko or Wiaczeslaw Szczurow, one should not "escape" from surrounding reality into the realm of myth, or try to make up for discontinuity with the aid of "Invented Tradition," but uphold things still stable, "uninverted," not yet "retuned." Culture and tradition must remain pure and untouched as long as it is possible, and should we "escape," then not "from" reality into myth, but "into" oneself, as the elementary values of tradition should be integrated by their carriers, even if external conditions hinder the functioning of culture in its past form.
The aim of this article is a tentative answer to the questions of the nature and range of contemporary transformations, or, more specifically, to the question of how contemporary changes affect the continuity of tradition. Unsurprisingly, its most persistent components often survived in spheres not fully embraced by consciousness. This pertains both to folklore and to elements of myth and ritual rhythm, frequent in this form of art. Therefore, the constructed, or, as some would prefer to call them, "invented" hypotheses for the "second existence," try to evoke these very elements. One can expect a success only in the case of such theories, which find natural reception, which, as the already quoted Zinaida Mozejko claims, correspond with what was drawn from the natural functioning and integrated in a natural way, which, as Rice's correspondents say, "may fill your soul" (see below). Only culture transformed in the following way can be called "alternative."
The results of Polish research in the field
Research devoted to the movement of young musical bands drawing their inspiration from folklore has been carried for a couple of years now, and its results point to an intensive growth in initiatives of this kind, as well as to their great variety. The activity of such bands increased after the year 1989, that is after the fall of the socialist system, when the idea of folk groups governed and subsidized by official institutions lost its standing. Changed character of the recent initiatives stems not only from different conditions of functioning, but, more importantly, also from different motivations of the initiators. It is worth noting that among such projects, alongside with groups of evidently ethnic character (like Łemkowie or Kaszubi), already widely covered in specialist literature, there are also ones that have their roots in the rock subculture. These bands, very influential in young audience, despite their great variety, have certain common features, among which there are the tendency to stand in political opposition, and the presence of ever more identifiable references to the traditions of folklore. The above are the reasons why such groups developed especially in eastern and Central Europe, as well as in China, and they have come to flourish in the last decade and a couple of years before (since late 1980s in Poland). The connections with the opposition have forced their initiators to adopt alternative strategies of functioning, above all self-sufficiency in organizing financial means and finding the audience.
The research shows that in the recent years, due to significant changes in the political situation, the oppositional tendencies have weakened in favor of stronger references to folkloristic traditions. This should be explained by the need for a conscious voicing of one's identity in the new conditions, which seems to be motivated by factors of far from nationalistic nature. Still, so far it is difficult to give a definite answer to the question of to what extent the observed growth of the interest in folklore results from private needs, and to what extent it is a trend adopted from Western Europe, fascinated with folk music, mostly Irish. Interviews conducted in Poland indicate that in the last few years we have witnessed a shift of interests, from songs offering comments on the current socio-political situation, to music inspired by foreign folklore, Native American or Celtic, and later by local folklore as well. This type of evolution is typical of most today's young bands.
Results gained in the survey explicitly demonstrate the fact, that the new reality imposed by the demands of market economy and opening the borders, became a great challenge for the initiators of any cultural projects. These not only had to oppose the past structure of subsidies, but were also forced to invent new ways of winning support from both the state(6) and private sponsors. At the same time they had to face mass commercialization and its rules, not to mention the necessity of competing with various imported stylistics. Thus, the most important symptom of the new state of affairs became the struggle against mass entertainment culture of the disco type, promoted by big record labels and, because of its popularity, used for political wars, especially by the parties in power. Significantly, such new forms of mass music won great popularity particularly in backward regions, for Eastern Poland, where they contributed to a total devastation of traditional music. The danger of spreading this new subculture became even worse when even within its domain the authors started to refer to folkloristic elements, and if not refer, then propagate such references, notwithstanding obvious facts. Therefore, ambitious youth music groups came to see their task in challenging the officially advertised mass culture, taking "returning to the quietude of ancient villages" (in case of purists), or simply "going back home(7) ," for their maxims.
In spite of the many features that the originators of young, aspiring bands have in common ideology-wise, at the same time they fail to agree in many respects, and discussions in their circles do not always result in mutual approval. It is also difficult to perceive their activities as absolutely free and independent of the existing political and economic situation. Their considerable sovereignty, however, is truly praiseworthy, just like their continuous attempts at devising new artistic means, among which the principle of getting back to the "old ways" plays an important role. One can still wonder at the fact that this kind of ambitious and actually elitist activity should acquire such a great popularity, and largely among very young people.
The ideologies of the bands in question is a very interesting subject for studies, both as regards the similarities and the features they do not share. The most significant discrepancies can be noticed between the so-called "purists" and those who meet the expectations of the young audience and prefer "beat:" in other words, those who remain close to the traditions of rock music. Consequences of these differing approaches influence the instrumentation, the repertoire, and, above all, the principles of its arrangement.
A thorough investigation of the artists' motivations helps one appreciate the profound sense of their decisions and the range of their interests, as well as see the values they cherish. The above seem to explain why political parties take interest in young groups, either supporting their actions or expressing their disapproval. Interestingly, church authorities and conservative parties tend to encourage the actions of the "purists," while Centro-Leftist parties are supportive of rock-based projects meant for a wider audience. Nevertheless, a shared characteristic of both kinds of groups is their resistance to commercialized disco-type music promoted by representatives of the establishment, who use it in electoral campaigns(8) .
The ideological dissimilarities and their artistic consequences we have pointed to above constitute a captivating subject. It is worth-examining how the tendencies oscillate between discovering "the new" and returning to "the old," between the need to acknowledge the cultures of minorities and neighboring countries and the need for self-discovery and searching the sources of one's identity. A no less fascinating theme is the fluctuation between things popular, ensuring success, and things bringing solace. The histories of particular bands, as well as the discussions between their members, display the clashing of concepts and the diversity of artistic attempts. Nonetheless, upholding the links with folklore is a unifying factor for the whole movement, serving almost as its anchor.
From a musicologist's point of view, an exceptionally attractive question is one of stylization: limitations in this area, their consequences, as well as acceptable alternations and concessions, are all worth studying. With respect to that, an especially remarkable task is comparing stylization methods used by the "purists," like Bractwo Ubogich, Scena Korzenie, or Dom Tańca, who perceive folklore as suffused with profound ethical values, with methods used by the more progressive folk musicians, like those from Orkiestra Świętego Mikołaja (St. Nicolas Orchestra), or Werchowyna. The differences lie not only in the fact that the repertoire the "progressivists," often propagating foreign music, mostly borrowed from Eastern or Southern neighbors, is more varied, but first and foremost in the fact that the two fractions approach the repertoire in different ways. If the "purists" try to reach to the essence of traditional music by learning it at its source, that is from folk artists in their natural environment, then the other group will rather look for new material an try to experiment with it, using various types of collage techniques or introducing exotic instruments. The effects of either of the two courses of action can be very interesting, and the artistry, as well as the quality of expression, depend not only on ideological assumptions, but also on the achievements of individual musicians. Masters in the musical craft are usually charismatic figures, who shape the artistic image and general profile of their bands. Undoubtedly, what remains a big challenge for them is avoiding the simplified, hypnotizing "beat" in favor of the "dense" rhythmical patterns characteristic of native folk music. Resistance to the "beat" effect, as well as to excessive amplification, typical of "purists," is a controversial objective, as the negated elements are exactly those that win most popularity.
The tendency for references to folklore shared by the observed groups is not limited to the questions of repertoire or the principles of playing: another essential common quality is reconstructing natural contexts for performances, that is the cyclical, calendar based festivals (Mikołajki Folkowe - St. Nicolas Folk Festival in the case of St. Nicolas Orchestra, or Kolędnicy - Christmas Carrol Singers and Pieśni Wielkopostne - Lenten Songs in the case of "purists"). Yet another shared characteristic is looking for patron saints or guardians (like St. Nicolas). In the conducted interviews one can discern the need for being rooted in tradition, which for some groups does not exclude experimenting.
The fondness for tradition noticeable in young bands stands in stark contrast with activities of groups originating directly from places where folklore still lives in its best-preserved forms. This phenomenon is observable especially among highlanders from the region of Podhale, whose culture remained lively, but who for commercial reasons allow their music to be arranged in ways completely contradictory to their traditional principles of playing. The most striking example of this type of arrangement is adjusting the two-measure rhythm of highlanders' music the requirements of "beat." This is notably puzzling when one takes into account the particularly strong sense of regional identity specific for this group, as well as the fact that its music enjoys international recognition. Such new attitudes of the Tatra Mountains Highlanders can mostly be explained by mercantile motives, combined with their great confidence in the power of their tradition "that cannot be harmed," which in my opinion is not actually true. Their assumption is that it is acceptable to use the resources of surviving tradition for financial profits. The great commercial success of some manipulated folklore-based hits may really be a reason to worry if we are not in fact facing the devastation of folk culture. The program guidelines of the media, television in particular, seem to be symptomatic of just the same, even though they endorse the policy of seeking middle ground between show business and traditional values!
The phenomenon of youth bands and their development, together with the growing popularity of such initiatives, can be interpreted as an example for "Invented Tradition," however well-rooted in the natural background it might be. This interpretation is supported also by the fact of cultivating this tradition by the representatives of former rock subculture, with their already developed awareness and specific ideological profiles. Additionally, the analysis of the situation proves that we are observing not so much the revival of a custom, but a case of shaping tradition, for which folklore provides a basic invariable. Obviously, the creative process concerns not only the intercepted elements, but also the attempts at reconstructing tradition in its possibly most veracious context, preserving the rhythm and cycle of the ritual. The results of our research indicate the existence of a need young people have to give a rhythm to their activities, to enjoy celebrations in their specific times, as it is not only the repertoire that matters, but also the sphere of associations it evokes. The animators of events wish therefore to create an atmosphere of collective feast, although they do not neglect the need for provoking individual reflections as well. Folklore is seen as a source for either of the two. According to the interviewees, the most essential thing is creating an opportunity for shared participation in joy and sorrow, as well as for a closer look at one's inner self.
Is traditional folk music indeed capable of responding to such challenges? This question must remain unanswered. Increasing popularity of this kind of activities seems to affirm the latter, yet is it not just an example of an ephemeral fashion, or are such initiatives not limited only to a few chosen groups? These questions have yet to be answered as well.
May it fill your soul?
The above phrase was the title of the published a couple of years ago and widely discussed Timothy Rice's(9) book devoted to the transformations of culture in contemporary Bulgaria. The title seems to underline the not fully conscious (hence the form of a question) need for things close to the soul. The interview with Bulgarian musicians conducted by the author of the book bears out the existence of an instinctive rather than rationally motivated longing for something lost in the transformation processes. The dialogue, continued for many years of mutual presence, proves how infrequent were the moments when this longing was satisfied. In other words, it points to the uniqueness of such moments, which awaken the illusions of returning to things past , but still perceived as most precious, in spite of the almost full acceptance of the present reality. Today nobody denies the necessity for transformation, nobody tries to oppose it. At the same time, however, that the need for what evokes associations with the past, and yearning for what one perceives as nearest to the good that we try to identify with, is here to stay.
The utterances presented above may raise doubts as to whether the new forms that refer to the traditional ones can fulfill such specific needs, and if they can, then whether experiences of such kind may be shared also by young people who do not know the ancient folk culture. It is hard to reply affirmatively. We can only hope that great artistry and rich imagination of a creator are capable of satisfying these longings. One can expect that great art can open the reserves of unconsciousness, even if their owners remain unaware of it. It seems obvious that no matter how conscious are the actions of those "inventing tradition," they are de facto operating instinctively, in agreement with their artistic intuition and imagination, and not according to fixed rules. Discovering rules is the interpreter's task. Art, which is supposed to "fill the soul," cannot be directed by imposed programs, an the process of identification and acceptance always remains partly unconscious. Folklore is such an instinctively searched value, conscious or even manipulated as those reaching to it might be. Only this type of activities may "fill our souls," only this type of artistic expression may become an example of alternative, correctly transformed art. Only in this way one can shape the "second existence."
Musicology Professor, Warsaw University
translated by Anna Strąk
1)See E. Hobsbawm, T. Ranger (Eds), The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge University Press, 1983.
2) See T.Ranger, "The Invention of Tradition in Colonial Africa." E.Hobsbawm, T. Ranger, The Invention of Tradition
3) See M.Slobin (Ed.) The Retuning Culture, Duke Univeristy Press, 1996. Basing on the editor's report, the title of the unpublished work was changed from The Returning Culture into The Retuning Culture.
4) See A. Czekanowska, "To Return or just Escape." P. Dahlig (Ed.) Pathways of Ethnomusicology. Warszawa: Towarzystwo Naukowe Warszawskie, 2000
5) Zinaida Mozejko's speech during The 5th European Seminar in Ethnomusicology, Geneva 1991.
6) See A.Czekanowska, "Music and Politics Approached Anew," a speech presented during The 15th European Seminar in Ethnomusicology, Belfast 2000.
7) See the album Czas do Domu (Time to Go Home), St. Nicolas Orchestra, Warszawa 1997.
8)This took place during the 1996 presidential campaign in Poland.
9) See T. Rice, May it fill your Soul, Chicago University Press 1993.
The Saint Nicholas Orchestra
Trebunie Tutki Group
prof. Jerzy Bartmiński
Folk Groups and Singers Festival in Kazimierz
Folk Music Festival of The Polish Radio "Nowa Tradycja"
International Folk Music Festival "Mikołajki Folkowe"
Folk Meeting "Z wiejskiego podwórza"
first and second existence of folklore" - prof. Anna Czekanowska
is longitudinal" - Marcin Skrzypek
revival" - Magdalena Sobczak
of folk" - Ewa Wróbel