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World Library of Folk
& Primitive Music: Romania

(Rounder, 2001)

One of Rounder's re-releases from the World Library of Folk & Primitive Music compiled and edited by Alan Lomax, Romania contains a rich and varied sampling of the songs and music integral to Romanian folk life. One of the most important functions of music is in the ritual songs connected to the seasons, the harvest, rain and life rituals such as weddings and funerals.

Recorded between 1930 and 1960 and performed by individuals, mostly peasants, from all regions of Romania, the selections on the re-released CD are rearranged and edited by Speranta Radulescu of the Romanian Peasant Museum in Bucharest. Radulescu also prepared the second edition of the original LP. She supplements the existing liner notes and provides documentation of her methodology. Her preface and commentaries are concise and informative. She also includes the original "Introduction to the Folk Music of Romania" by Tiberiu Alexandru, who compiled the original album.

The CD begins with an overture, "Semnal de primavara (Signal for Spring)" performed on a tulnic, one of the five types of alphorns found in Romania. After the overture, the selections are divided into ritual music, dance music, pastoral music, doine (long songs), ballads and epics, lyric songs and lautari, music performed by the lautar, professional musicians who perform for village celebrations.

The ritual music includes carols specific to seasonal celebrations and a curious piece called "Jocul caprelor (Dance of the Goat)." According to the liner notes, this dance is "intended to promote the increase of man, beast, and plant and to banish the powers of the devil."

In addition to the tulnic, other instruments specific to Romanian folk music are introduced. (I was a bit disappointed that there were no other examples of alphorns, even though there were quite a few photographs of them in the liner notes.) There's the tilinca, a kind of flute, cimpoi, or Romanian bagpipes, of which there are five types, and the cobza, a kind of lute. Perhaps, though, one of the most intriguing tracks is one of the doine called "Ce codru (Forest Tune)." I wondered whether I was listening to soprano vocalization, but the piece is performed on a humble pear leaf.

The detailed liner notes round out the listening experience well, although like other volumes in this series, Romania (Volume XVII of the Alan Lomax Collection) will likely appeal most to the serious student of world folk music. Still, the organization and the clearly written accompanying material make this CD one of the more accessible examples of the musical genre and could be a good jumping off point for those interested in learning more about the traditional music of other countries.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 21 October 2001



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