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Niiranen, Elina / TaY (public defense on Sept 7th 2013): Maria Feodorova´s Songpathways – Songrepertoire of Viena Karelian Singer constructing local musical generation

The aim of this study is to examine the song repertoire of one singer from Viena Karelia1, Maria Feodorova (1909–2000). Through analyzing the personal song repertoire, I attempt to reveal how the changes in the sources of one´s livelihood, the political circumstances and youth culture affected the song traditions amongst the Karelian people at the local level. The themes of the songs and the social contexts of singing were continuously changing as a result of the cultural and political changes that began with the Russian Revolution of 1917. Singing was no longer a part of local ritualistic drama as it previously had been, for example, in symbolic association with weddings.

I present Feodorova´s repertoire as a part of the local musical generation, which was born before Word War II. The willingness to dance and play with other youngsters was characteristic to this generation. Most of the songs they learned to sing were sung while dancing. The song repertoire of Feodorova is a good example of a versatile song corpus that consists of songs connected to older Karelian traditions and to newer song styles that are a part of modern lifestyles in Karelian villages. Feodorova´s repertoire includes old song types in Kalevala-metre, however most of the songs are newer ones like rhyming folksongs, composed political songs and local songs as well as children´s songs.

This study is based on my own fieldwork in Viena Karelia between 1998–2004. In addition to fieldwork material which I collected, this work contains several interviews of Maria Feodorova made by researchers during the years 1984–1999. Interviews, which I made of fifteen other informants, were also used as background material.  

Methodologically this study belongs in the field of ethnomusicology. My work concentrates on analyzing the song repertoire not only from a cultural point of view, but I also examine the musical structure of Feodorova´s repertoires. At the centre of this dissertation is Feodorova´s own interpretation of her songs and their connections to local social activities.

My dissertation consists of a preface, six chapters and a conclusion. In the first chapter, my foremost aim is to explain the methods and theoretical setting of the study. I also make a general presentation of earlier research in this field. In the second chapter, I describe the reality (cultural, social and economic) in which my fieldwork took place at the end of the 1990s. The focus of this chapter is also the complex co-operation between the singer and me as a researcher.

The following chapter concentrates on the social practices connected to music in Viena Karelia at the beginning of the twentieth century. Especially, I describe dancing styles connected to rhyming folksongs. Traditional formation dances and circle dances were held in almost every village until the 1930s. After the Revolution in 1917 a new ideology – communism – aimed to break old habits, however changes in cultural practices took effect quite slowly. One of these changes was the diminishing tradition of celebrating the patron saints of villages at a local festival called praasniekka. These celebrations played a very important social role, especially for the youth, as these celebrations provided the circumstances for meeting other youngsters. When these local celebrations were finally discontinued in the 1930s, young people changed their habits and began to dance and sing in newly-created politically oriented clubs.

In the fourth chapter, I look at the song repertoire through Feodorova´s own conceptualization. Feodorova classifies songs on the basis of song audience, on the basis of content and thirdly on the basis of song use. For Feodorova the meanings of the songs were dependent on the social contexts in which her songs were performed. She described her own participation in those meetings with other youngsters. As a musician, she was very active in her youth, and I use the concept song pathway to illustrate her role in social musical activities.

In the fifth chapter, my approach is in the musical structures of song repertoire. The purpose of the metrical analysis in my research is to give a comprehensive review of songs structures. I categorize songs on the basis of their stress patterns. In the sixth chapter, I study Feodorova´s repertoire through the concept of locality. Representations of locality in Feodorova´s repertoire reveals themes such as village, youth, wandering and home.

In conclusion: Maria Feodorova´s song repertoire reflected Karelians´ local circumstances from 1920–1930 in Viena Karelia. The songs borrowed from Finland, the rhyming folksongs, indicate that Karelians had frequent contact with Finland before 1917. Feodorova classified songs as a part of her life story and her experiences indicate that songs were important in the everyday life of Karelians. These songs were connected to important social relations, evening entertainment and new innovations. Villages were important social communities for Karelians and, for example, another significant social group for Feodorova was her age cohort, of both sexes at a young age. Looking at the contents and functions of the songs in Viena Karelia villages, it is easy to see how they are connected to the greater cultural and political development in Viena Karelia at the beginning of the twentieth century. The song repertoire of the people had started to change through new innovations that came to the villages, and new employment opportunities in the forestry industry and the collective farms were reflecting in songs.

1 Viena Karelia, also known as White Sea Karelia in English or Belomorskaia Kareliia in Russian, is located in the northern part of Karelian Republic in today´s Russian Federation.