Documenting Greece’s lyrical history in song

Since 1930, when musicologist Melpo Merlier and her husband, the Hellenist Octave Merlier, founded the Musical Folklore Archives (MFA), the institution has endured as a pioneering center for the documentation and research of Greek traditional music, which includes Byzantine, demotic and rebetika. The MFA is the oldest department of the Center for Asia Minor Studies, which was also founded by the Merliers with the purpose of preserving the cultural heritage of Asia Minor refugees. Four new publications to be presented at the Benaki Museum’s Pireos Street annex this Sunday enrich the existing data on Greek music. A two-volume tome includes documentation of traditional music from Crete during 1953-54 by Swiss Hellenist and musicologist Samuel Baud-Bovy (1906-1986). The publication marks the 100th anniversary since Baud-Bovy’s birth and underlines his vital contribution in placing traditional Greek music in the context of folk musicology. With the support of the MFA and the Swiss National Institute for Scientific Research, Baud-Bovy documented more than 280 songs and dances from Crete. It was the first extensive documentation of Greek traditional music done on such a large scale. The current publication presents the research’s methodology and history, theoretical essays by Baud-Bovy and detailed documentations of musical scores. There are also the corresponding recordings on digital discs. Folk musicologist Lambros Liavas, who has been responsible for organizing and studying Baud-Bovy’s unpublished documents since 1987 (they are kept at the archives of the Geneva Conservatory), is the editor of the publication. Marcos Dragoumis – a musicologist and head of the MFA, together with his MFA collaborator Thanassis Moraitis – also contributed. The original recordings that French linguist Hubert Pernot (1879-1946) made of more than 100 songs on the island of Chios is the subject of the second book. Pernot, who had made the recording using the wax-cylinder method, asked the composer Paul Le Flem (1881-1984) to make the transcription on musical scores. In 1999, Dragoumis corrected Le Flem’s scores on the basis of the rhythm and melody typical of demotic songs. The book includes all three documentations. The MFA has also released a double CD that includes Arvanitika songs (Arvanitika is a dialect spoken by a segment of the Greek population of Albanian origin) from the villages of Florina, Konitsa and Oresteiada. The recordings were made during the period 1996-2004. Dragoumis and Moraitis are the editors. A separate digital disc documents songs from Kastoria’s Vogatsiko. The recordings were made in 1965 by Dragoumis and in 1980 by Yiannis Anninos. It is one of the many examples of important contributions – which includes expeditions, fieldwork, theoretical research and publications -that the MFA has made to Greek traditional music and its history. The Musical Folklore Archives are located at the Center for Asia Minor Studies (11 Kydathinaion, Plaka, 210.325.2364, The Benaki Museum event will be held at 7 p.m. at the Benaki’s annex at 138 Pireos & Andronikou (210.345.3111). Entrance is free.

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