Searching for those "special" folk tunes, especially from Eastern Europe

January 10, 2019, 7:29 PM · Sometimes I find a special folk tune, often from cultures I know little about. I have several polskas, for example, that I thoroughly enjoy arranging and playing.

Here is a tune from Armenia, Mom Bar, which I have arranged for fiddle and cello:

I plan to develop a bass quartet from this arrangement.

If you have special folk tunes, just the titles, or a link, or any other information, I would be pleased if you would share these with me. Thanks.

Replies (17)

January 11, 2019, 1:14 AM · That's a wonderful arrangement, it gives the impression of being isorhythmic and despite the simplicity of the material continually challenges the listener. Alas, I can't point you to sources of more such tunes... though Bartok and Kodaly collected hundreds of tunes like that; I wonderful if their notebooks and recordings have been archived somewhere accessible.
January 11, 2019, 6:43 AM · Hi Katherine, Mom Bar is in 10/8, grouped 2,3,2,3.

Tunes like this were played for hundreds of years in places like Macedonia, Bulgaria, etc. It is just that I can't get my hands on such tunes.

January 11, 2019, 7:29 AM · Hi Graeme (and others who may be interested), may I recommend "Eastern European Fiddle Tunes", edited by Pete Cooper. It comprises 80 tunes for folk violin from Poland, Ukraine, Klezmer tradition, Hungary, Romania and the Balkans. The book includes several pages of detailed technical notes (tri-lingual) about the different genres, and a CD.

Pete Cooper is a well-known U.K. teacher, performer and publisher of a wide range of folk music genres from around the world.

Here is the publication data for "Eastern European Fiddle Tunes":

Publisher: Schott
British Library Catalogue: ED 12886
ISMN M-2201-2543-0
ISBN 978-1-902455-89-1

There are also Bartok's 42 Violin Duos, very much folk-based, which are well worth playing.

January 11, 2019, 9:28 AM · Several years ago I attended a gypsy violin workshop given by a Dutch violinist/teacher (targeted to children students so I was there to collect teaching ideas). There is a repertoire list on her website and I think much of it was brought to her program by a German colleague, the white-haired gentleman in these videos:
Julischka (from an Austrian composer's operetta)

(Some of the names are probably too generic to be useful for searching but I have some unlisted YT videos from the workshop and could share off the forum, so that you know the tunes when checking other sources.)

I had also bought a (homemade) CD from her and a few tracks are not on that repertoire page:
"Fire Dance" & "The Birds"
"Black Eyes" - I eventually found this one in an old piano book, it was also used in Looney Tunes
"Berceuse de Mono" - it's this

Edited: January 11, 2019, 9:49 AM · I've got the Schott book. I've only glanced at it briefly. Possibly it's a little too wide-ranging - Polish music is very different from Balkan, and if you want Balkan, there's perhaps not enough of it in there, and the book could be divided and doubled in size into two books.
January 12, 2019, 1:36 AM · For other people who may wish to find some different "fiddle" music, here is one helpful site I have found.

Edited: January 13, 2019, 3:07 PM · Graeme,

This balkans link is great!

Back before the internet was much of a thing, I sang in a Balkan choir. We had a thick stack of music and recordings we worked from. But we were always looking for new material. Two of our singers were Russian expats so we got some interesting Slavic stuff from them. But occasionally one of us would find an obscure recording and someone with much more experience than me would do the hard work of transcribing.

I’ve moved and no longer sing with the group but I have bookmarked your website recommendation and also forwarded it to my friends still in the group.

Thank you very much for posting the link.

PS. I still have my music but it is in storage. Let me know if you might be interested in copies

And I like the your arrangement of Mom Bar. Two things I like about Balkan music are the unusual (for the west) time signatures and the dissonant harmonies

Edited for spelling

January 13, 2019, 3:54 PM · Thanks, Ginger. I am very keen to find more gems of balkan and other traditional music.

I have a lot of sources, but most of the music lacks the spark I admire in these gems I crave. If you can email me some titles, please, I will check out the tunes, and see if they "cross the line". You could email me:

PS I share you admiration for Anne Sophia Mutter, a gem of a violinist.

January 13, 2019, 3:58 PM · Will do Graeme. The music is in storage. It will be sometime next week before I can get there. We live about an hour from town. I’ll email you then. Cheers
January 14, 2019, 7:06 AM · I have finished a version of the bass quartet for Mom Bar.

If anyone is interested, you can hear it:

Of course, I will probably tinker with it, in a month or so, when I have forgotten what I did.

The large range of the folk tune caused a few anxious moments for me, but I think I have sorted the problems. Bass players will let me know.

January 14, 2019, 12:15 PM · I would just throw in a little caveat into this discussion, as a person who plays music from several traditions. Prompted by this comment--"Sometimes I find a special folk tune, often from cultures I know little about"--I want to mention that it is probably worthwhile to know something more about these cultures before you appropriate their traditional music. It pays to be mindful of what these musical treasures can mean to the people who created them.
January 14, 2019, 11:51 PM · Good thought, thanks, Paul, and I wouldn't tinker too much with sacred music from other cultures. Only a large movement of "stylists" can re-culture sacred music (blues musicians come to mind, and "commercial gospel", etc).

But, folk dance music ... what possible objection could be uttered? Folk dancing and it's context is about fun, in all cultures, I suggest.

Edited: January 15, 2019, 6:45 AM · "What possible objection could be uttered?" Well, that's why it's a good idea to do a little background research. You may think it's "all about fun," but my advice is to dig deeper than your assumptions.

Yes, sacred music can be delicate, but also it is a good idea to know the history as well. I once had to put together a group of musicians for what was a great gig, but it involved both Greek and Turkish musicians, and let's just say that being aware of their history made it possible to have the performance be pleasant for everyone. There are unspoken rules in every tradition, and it is worth the effort to tread carefully. I shared an office for many years with a Native American shaman who also taught Native American history in the university where I taught. He was very generous with his knowledge, but more than once, even the questions I had could be "wrong" because they were based on assumptions that were from my culture, and of course the difference in our heritage (my ancestors are mostly European) was a backdrop. He was talking once about the songs that were being lost since the elders in his group weren't passing them on. I innocently asked whether these songs could be recorded and learned that way, and he looked at me in horror--"You would never steal a song that had not been gifted to you. If the elders don't pass the song on, then it must die with them." It isn't always all about fun.

January 15, 2019, 6:47 AM · Some other folk tunes that are fun to mess around with are Scandinavian (particularly Norse) hardanger fiddle tunes.
Also, Greek folk music, Sirtaki, is also really beautiful, but doesn't really involve violins.
February 1, 2019, 7:35 PM · This is another gem, I think, from Greek folk traditions:

fiddle and cello

February 5, 2019, 6:28 AM · This about the island of Samos.

Cello duet.

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Violin Finder
Yamaha Violin Finder

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Warchal Metronome

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Potter Violins

Pro-Am Strings

Violin Lab

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop