Sleeping Dogs Lie 06aug10: Akira Rabelais, Vladimir Petrovsky

Spellewauerynsherde: Spell. Wavering. Shard. Spell as in speaking, incantation, a digitally constructed matrix of words and voices, summoning up a strange, distant past. Wavering: the shivering of those voices as they dissolve and recombine in Rabelais’ rich filtering systems, turning into pulsating, frequency rich drones. Shard: fragments, of voices, of ideas, of memories, of the past, brought back to life again.

Spellewauerynsherde is built up from found sounds, field recordings of traditional Icelandic accapella lament songs recorded in the late 1960s or early 1970s on Ampex tapes and then forgotten about. After discovering the neglected tapes, cleaning them up and digitizing them for a library, Rabelais became fascinated with the heartbreaking sadness of the voices and began to think of them as source material for a series of compositions.

In working with the tapes, Rabelais was very careful to preserve the sound and shape of the originals giving some of the tracks, such as the lovely track 5, an almost Duchamp-like sound quality — they sound barely touched, hardly compositions at all by most people’s standards. “I didn’t want to abstract it so much that it lost its essential quality. I didn’t want to damage the fabric of the original language, I wanted to set it, cast it in a certain light.”

The frame that Rabelais uses was constructed using a piece of computer software called Arge•phontes Lyre, which Rabelais developed in the late 1990s – a flexible tool for filtering sound sources, turning them into the remarkable pulsating, shifting sound fields and strange choral effects to be heard on Spellewauerynsherde’s track three for example. In contrast to much of the contemporary electronic music scene, which remains heavily dependent on commercially available software, and which mostly consists of running through every possible combination of the potentialities within such software, resulting in a glut of music that is basically indistinguishable from each other, Rabelais has worked continuously on developing software that can achieve his various sonic goals. “I tend to write filters as I need them and they go through quite a bit of fine tuning. At the same time I try to let them evolve organically. I try to appreciate my mistakes.”

Even though Rabelais’ use of the software has an iterative, mathematical aspect, in that it can be used to crank out numerous mutant variations on a particular block of sound, he claims that he sees writing software as similar to writing poetry. “I have a sort of Magical Realist approach to writing code. Borges, Garcia M‡rquez and Bruno Shculz. Labyrinths, a cascade of stars and tailor’s dummies. Code can intersect with function and abstraction in a way that poetry can’t. It can take on a life of it’s own, really surprise you.”

Rabelais then decided to throw his own unconscious as a tool into the mix: “When I was working on it, I would do an iteration of filtering and editing and then I’d burn it on a disk and play it. Put it on repeat in my bedroom for a weekend and sleep to it. Let it seep into my subconscious and then make changes off of those impressions.”

If the tracks on Spellewauerynsherde are ultimately built around the complexities of digital programming, the framework of title and text that Rabelais gives the music is equally important and transformative. In fact, Rabelais says that he worked simultaneously on the editing and processing of the sounds, and the extraordinary texts that accompany the music, as well as the seven long, mysterious track titles, drawn mostly from the Oxford English Dictionary’s definitions of the words that make up the title of the piece. “The OED is one of my favorite books. It’s interesting how words and meaning evolve over time. It’s like a secret natural history of human thought.”

What Rabelais has come up with in Spellewauerynsherde, is a haunting spiritual disk that sounds at once medieval, especially framed by Rabelais’ beautiful texts, while at the same time, on the cutting edge of electronic music. Digital technologies, with their use of permutation and combination of seemingly unrelated elements, bring us back to the world of magic, which also sought to transform matter in ways that give it spiritual significance. Spellewauerynsherde brings back voices from the edges of history, tapes gathering dust in archives, and transforms them into ghosts that thrive in the digital era, albeit in sometimes monstrous forms. “I transmit, “As above, so below.” I try to connect to something ineffable and then transmit it in some way.” (

Bell ringer: Vladimir Petrovsky . Bells of the Arkhangelsk museum reserve “‘Malyie Karely” (Small Karely).

Bells in Russia appeared soon after Christianisation. For already a millennium their chimes accompany every person’s life. Bells were not a Christian Church invention, they came from the West, first as a signal, but already at the beginning of the 16th century Russia had its own national original art of bell ringing. The main expressive means of these chimes are rhythm and timbre. Rhythmical variety of sounding is reached by the new way of bell ringing – not by moving the bell itself, as in European countries – but by moving the tongue of motionless bells. The fate of Russian bells is tragic. They were silent almost for about half of century. One of the contemporary centres of bell ringing revival is the Arkhangelsk museum reserve of wooden architecture “Malyie Rarely”. Here in the Russian North – a real treasury-house of national culture “Chimes of Russian North” were revived. These chimes are characteristic variety of All-Russian chimes. This museum is the only place in Russia where a school of bell ringers is situated. Vladimir Petrovsky is a bright representative of this school. He is a professional musician for whom the tradition is a basis, both in musical and moral aspects. He can really hear and feel the soul of a bell. The compositions featured on this disc show the listeners his careful attitude to the old Russian heritage and gift of free improvisation. The latter feature you can see more vividly in his performance of “Waltz of Bells”, “Monk’s Tale”, “Delusion”. In this chime Petrovsky affirms his own understanding of contemporary bell ringing as a concert genre.

01 Akira Rabelais: “1671 Milton Samson 1122 Add thy Spear, a Weavers beam, and seven-times-folded shield” (from “Spellewauerynsherde”) (2004)
02 Vladimir Petrovsky: “Funeral Chime” (from “Chimes of Russian North”) (1991)


Atlantic Waves 12jan10: Russia

Leshukonsky wedding ceremony is one of the local variants of the Russian Northern wedding with widely developed sphere of wedding lamentations. Group lamentation of the bride is of special interest. It is sung by three girls, one of whom is the bride, leading the singing. But all the texts are performed from the first person, for the bride. This is the survival of the very archaic mythological consciousness and behavior, which are hardly preserved in Russian traditional culture. In Valentina Alimova’s performance lamentation fills with unusual expression and force of artistic and emotional influence.

Musical dramaturgy of the Leshukonsky wedding is based on the comparison of several stylistic lines: ritual forms (lamentations and tunes-formulas and non-ritual), lyrical and dance songs. Lamentations exist in the form of group lamentations, individual lamentations of mother and the bride and recitative lamentations of the bride. Non-ritual songs are included in the ceremony very organically. The dance song “The Street”, to which young fellows whirl girls and against the background of which one can hear sorrowful lamentation of the bride, impresses the listener especially.

In ritual dramaturgy one more genre is important, but now rarely met. It is invocations and dialogues which are led by the bridegroom’s friend or match-maker and in this tradition by the “guard”.

Unfortunately the recording was inevitably abridged. But even in this variant the Leshukonsky wedding is an outstanding phenomenon of Russian traditional culture.


Atlantic Waves 15dec09: Russia

95 Atlantic Waves 15dec09


Atlantic Waves 08dec09: Russia

Skylark is a young and gifted folk group from Petrozavodsk, Karelia. They perform traditional music of Phenoscandia (Karelia, Finland, Sweden) and folk music of Celts (Ireland, Scotland, Breton). They use national instruments such as Jouhikko and Kantele.

The Moscow group Mervent (in translation from the Breton, “Mervent” means a wind from the southwest, and is a punning expression of their influences on the music that they play), which was formed in August 2000, with a nucleus of two members of Si Mhor – Igor Burmistrov (fiddle, guitar, lead vocals) and Anastasia Papisova (harp, vocals, dance).

The musicians of Mervent try to exploit to the full their very varied musical experience, and this comes across clearly in their sets. The rich diversity of stringed, wind and percussion instruments gives their sets a shimmering range of instrumentation which is fully exploited in the arrangements of tunes in their sets, and the Irish dance numbers performed by Anastasia (rated as one of the best performers of Irish dance in Moscow by Irish nationals visiting Russia) are a natural visual enhancement to their concerts. Mervent’s repertoire consists mainly of the music of European peoples, from Scandinavia and Ireland to the Balkans and Western Ukraine. There are also arrangements of Armenian melodies, and original compositions. […] Mervent does not perform reconstructions, but concentrates on playing contemporary folk music in a style strongly their own.

Ayarkhaan, the band of Jew’s-harp performers from the exotic Siberian land. Ayarkhaan was established in 2002 by khomus music promoter Albina Degtyareva. They are based in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), the biggest Siberian region.

Reel is a Russian world music band, based in Russian folk and traditions. The idea of some kind of mutual integration of different musical cultures is in the basis of the first album titled “Strange People” (strannie ludi). Reel are: Olga Gajdamak (Vocals, violin), Alexander Leonov (Vocals, flute, iouhikko), Arcady Sokolov (Drums, background vocals), Sergey Sheljapin (Double bass) & Alexey Derevlyov (Guitars, background vocals).

Myllarit (The Millers) are a dynamic brisk vocal and instrumental folk band from Russian Karelia. The group came together in 1992, an outgrowth of the pairing of accordionist Zobnev – described as “a world-class accordionist” in Russian Life’s series titled “100 Young Russians to Watch”- with Alexander Bykadorov, who had traveled Europe together playing Karelian and Russian folk music in the streets.

The unique sound of Myllarit combines traditional music and poetry of Karelia, the White Sea, Olonets and Ladoga regions, and also Russian songs of the Trans-Onega region, with elements of rock, jazz and world music. Thus, fitting them to suit their more modern style. Besides, the group performs songs of the Ingria ( St. Petersburg region) in the local Ingric dialect of the Finnish language.

“Karelia represents a rich mixture of so many different cultures” said Zobnev. “Our rather severe climatic conditions help to hone this musical style. It is the music of the Russian pomors (White Sea coast natives) and Finnish and Karelian songs. It all mixes together and provides food for Myllarit.” Myllarit achieve their main impact on stage with great talent and humour. They are outstanding live performers.Their discography includes six albums.

Myllarit is also very active locally in their hometown Petrozavodsk, the capital of the Republic of Karelia, where they support and promote local bands through the Myllarit Center of Musical Initiatives and the organisation of musical events, such as the annual Petrozavodsk Folk Marathon.

These last years, they have taken part in many festivals like Koskis, Kaustinen, Haapavesi, Ugrijuhlat, Faces, Jutajaiset, Garage Fest, Folklandia, Kihaus, Hekajuhlat, Taiga Festival (Finland) Celtic Connections, Fringe Festival (Scotland) Finnish Music Festival, FinnGrandFest, Finlandia Festival, Duluht International Folk (USA),Watergate Festival (Estonia), Rockbridge, Carelian Faces, Folk Marathon, Festival of Modern Folk Music (Russia), Poborina Folk, Folkesi (Spain).

Raznotravije is a Russian folk band from Rybinsk, Russia.

Dobranotch is an international band consisting of musicians from Russia, Moldova and Lebanon, playing music inspired by traditions of these countries, using acoustic instruments, such as violin, accordion, cimbalom, tuba and percussion. An odd local folk band that blends Balkan folk, Klezmer music and Arab rhythms, Dobranotch is a far cry from the Irish-folk trio that it was when started out in the late 1990s. On its third album, “Gagarin Chochek”, released on ORANGE WORLD Records, the band documents its new style and lineup. “We mix Moldovan and Balkan elements with Jewish and Oriental ones,” said violinist Mitya Khramtsov, Dobranotch’s sole original member.

The musical blend comes from the mix of people in the band that now features Lebanese percussionist Ussama Shakhin, while the conservatory-educated accordion player Andrei Sapkevich comes from Moldova, where his father was a self-taught folk violinist, and played at Moldovan weddings. Khramtsov provides the Jewish musical influence in the band’s unique sound. “I was studying Klezmer from recordings and reading music, and from people I met on tours in Europe and even more at KlezFest [the annual local Klezmer festival and seminar] where musicians come from everywhere and mix with locals,” said Khramtsov, who is half-Jewish. “My family was not traditionally Jewish, though there was a certain atmosphere. I’ve always been interested in the Jewish culture, and even when we played Irish folk, we had one Jewish tune.” Zheka Lizin on cimbalom and Alexei Stepanov on tuba studied and performed Klezmer in an amateur band at the Jewish Community Center. “We try to learn from each other,” said Khramtsov.

Istoki-folk project is a result of cooperation of Podol folk ensemble Istoki and guitarist of Dmitriy Kvasov’s band Akusticheskie botinki. Everything began from the writing of phonogram for the performance of young members of Istoki ensemble on the city competition Yunue talantu. Then the compositions of ensemble and ethnic records of grannies from Archangel’skoe, Leluhino and Rusyatino (Tula district) village began to appear. Sidela Katushechka is made in Autumn of 2002. Guitar, bass and programmed drums and MIDI instruments: Kvasov Dmitriy. Record and composition: home studio of Dmitriy Kvasov. Vocal: female soloists of Istoki ensemble Larisa Gorchakova and Svetlana Palatkina (Record of 1995).

94 Atlantic Waves 08dec09


Atlantic Waves 01dec09: Russia

Otava Yo is a new folk project from St. Petersburg. Otava Yo mostly plays Russian folk songs and tunes which were popular when their parents were young. Bagpipes, Russian gusli, fiddles, guitar and percussion –  Otava Yo plays powerful dance-like music which could be called Russian Beat. At times the music of  Otava Yo can make you laugh, even if you aren’t a Russian speaker.  Otava Yo recently produced a new album called “Once upon a time.” In 2009  Otava Yo toured in Latvia and Mexico.

“By far the best new discovery” at Globalquerque 2008, says Dirty Linen. Reelroad crafts a sound that is fresh and modern, catapulting Russian folk music on to center stage of the new folk sound.” World Music Central, January 2009.

Reelroad plays traditional Russian music in an original post-folk style in concert halls and festivals throughout Europe and Russia. In 2008 the band crossed the Atlantic to perform at world music festivals in Mexico and the United States. In early 2009 Reelroad celebrated its 10th anniversary.

Reelroad’s repertoire favors obscure folk songs from northern Russia and central Siberia, music driven underground for decades. Reelroad has two styles of performing Russian folk music. The first echoes the village with the sound of Russian instruments such as the gusli (zither), zhaleika (fife) and kaljuka. Traditional vocals are prominent, due in part to Reelroad members Anastasia Karaseva and Aleksandrs Dmitrijevs, founders of the authentic village choir “Dubinushka.” Acoustic guitar, violin, flute and bagpipes round out the sound. In the second style, developed for the large stage, Reelroad projects and amplifies the village sound with bass guitar and drums. All seven Reelroad members are musicians. Four serve as vocalists as well, singing in traditional Russian village voice. Anastasia Karaseva plays the tin whistle, pandereta and Irish harp. Alexey Belkin manages Reelroad and plays Galician and Scottish bagpipes, zhaleika (fife) and winged gusli (psaltery). Aleksandrs “Kep” Dmitrijevs plays acoustic guitar, banjo and harmonica. Natalia Vysokikh is a professional violinist. Alexey Skosyrev made the fretless bass guitar he plays, as well as Anastasia’s harp. Svetlana Kondesyuk, a graduate of the Academy of Arts, plays the flute and Galician bagpipes. Denis Nikiforov learned to play the drums in the army, studied at the Academy of Arts, and works at the famous Hermitage museum.

In addition to concert performances, Reelroad teaches Russian folk dances in clubs and dance schools. The band welcomes dancers of all skill levels and aims to dispel the belief Russian folk dances are boring or difficult.

93 Atlantic Waves 01dec09


Atlantic Waves 24nov09: Russia

A special previously unavailable version of “I Shall Leave For The Field Tonight With My Horse” by Vlad Kosarev plus 13 different versions of the classic Volga Cossack song “Ne Dlya Menya” (Not For Me)

This is a fundamental piece of living Russian culture for understanding the motivation of Russian people, Russian character, Russian soul.

– – – – –

Not for me – the spring will come
not for me – Don will spread
and a heart of a young woman will beat
with delight feelings – not for me…

Not for me – the gardens are bloming and flowering
and woods are blooming in the valley…
a nightingale is meeting the spring there
he will sing – not for me…

Not for me – streams are brawling
flowing with diamond jets…
and there is a black-eyebrowed girl
she’s  growing there – not for me…

Not for me – the Easter will come
and all the relatives will gather at the table
wine will be poured to the glasses
such life – is not for me.

and what is for me – a piece of lead
it will leech to my white body
and bitter tears will pour down –
such life is waiting for me.

92 Atlantic Waves 24nov09


Atlantic Waves 17nov09: Russia

15 different versions of the classic Russian song “I Shall Leave For The Field Tonight With My Horse”

– – – – –

I Shall Leave For The Field Tonight With My Horse
there is silence in the fields in the night
when we go together only me and my horse
only he and me

There are many stars in the field in the night
No one you may see in the field in the night
Only me and my horse
walking in the field

I will ride my horse
please, my horse, carry me through the field!
through the endless field
my lovely field

Let me take an eye to the east
where the field gives birth to the sunrise
well – the clusterberry light! Red Sunrise!
I wonder – whether this place exist or not!

Oh my field – streams, the fires of the far villages
Golden rye and curly line
I’m in love with you, my Russia, in love!

it’s going to be a good year for bread-birth
anything was in our life and anything will be passed
well, sing the Golden Rye, sing the curly line!
sing about how much I’m in love with Russia…

sing the Golden Rye, sing the curly line
we will go together to the fields…

(translated by Maria Chelnokova)

91 Atlantic Waves 17nov09