Folk songs accompanied a Russian peasant throughout his whole life: from the cradle until his funeral. The aphorism that the soul of a people is in their songs is confirmed by numerous masterpieces of Russian musical folklore.

The typical song repertoire of every village in the Desna River and Bolva River Basin consists of more than one hundred songs. We see our goal not only in recording the texts of songs and tunes, but, most importantly, in studying a song as a specific means of comprehending the world around us and as a specific form of expressing people's attitude toward their world.

Listen to my song, the Sun! (Briansk province). Photo Alison Edwards    Russian folk song exists traditionally in choral performance. A solo performance was always perceived as defective by singers. Recording of folk many-voiced folk singing in traditional cultural and ethnographical contexts is of the utmost interest to us. In connection with our study of the choral group as a peculiar creative association in which every singer is interdependent on the whole group and yet simultaneously, the fact that every singer is free for the artistic self-expression of her (or his) emotional state is of great importance. The unique conjunction of the collective principle (sobornost') and personal will remain one of the basic characteristics of folk choral performance to this day.I sing for you, my dove! (Smolensk province). Photo Karen Baker

    One of the main goals of our interviews with singers is to reveal zones of contiguity of the singer's personal experience and the verbal (musical) content of a song. We plan to find out these biographical, psychological and situational conditions which account for the joining up of separate singers in a common harmonious chorus.

We will have to find answers on a wide spectrum of questions: When and under what circumstances this or that song was sung? A wedding song (Briansk province). Photo Sandie Page For example, was the song sung on the way to a meadow-land; during spinning; during wedding ceremony? Who was the leader of this song traditionally and why? What were women's and men's attitudes to this song? Were there events similar to what the song describes? And the most important point - do the singers like this song and why?

Besides this large goal dedicated to the philosophy of folk song, we plan to identify the territory of dissemination of different songs by means of the comparison of versions, and to determine songs' transitional forms.

Taisiya A. Samokhina

An oak tree on a hill

Taisiia Afanasievna Simokhina (1930), a singer (Brianskaia province, Rognedinskii district, Piatnitskoye village)

Tamara S. Dudina

A car was going

Tamara Stepanovna Dunina (1932), a singer, Brianskaya province, Rognedinskii district, Selilovichi village)

Antonina G.Balabanova

The grass dried up

Antonina Grigorievna Balabanova (1926), a singer (Kaluzhskaya province, Kuibyshevskii district, Toitskoie village)




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