“Suoni di un’isola” vol. 1
Cd-rom edited by
Marco Lutzu. Italian/English
is the first volume of the series “Suoni di
un’isola”("Sounds of an Island”) edited by Marco Lutzu and
published by Live Studio. The purpose of this project is to "portray"
the present musical lanscape of Sardinia as regards traditional genres
through a series of cd-roms devoted to the different repertoires.
Notwithstanding the many available recordings and books on Sardinian
music, an organic initiative directed to the multimedia documentation of
this incredibly rich world, accompanied by accurate scholarly
information, has not so far been available.
The first volume deals with one of the most
important genres of Sardinian
polyvocal male singing: the a
tenore singing, reserved mostly for secular occasions. The editor
points out that this genre has already been documented in 1787, when the
abbot Matteo Madau from Ozieri published Le armonie de' sardi. It
was described in the following terms: "In the area of Logudoro they sing
their verses with concord of many voices, called Polyodia by the Greeks,
that is an artful union of voices […] divided into four parts: soprano,
alto, tenore, basso, opposed to each other with exact measure of time
[…]. This song seems to be introduced by the Greek Dorian colonies,
whose way of singing […] was low, pathetic, vigorous, majestic and
noble, and able to arouse and gather the hearts […]" (Madau 1787).
In modern terms, a tenore singing is
described as a polyvocal genre distributed across the
central-north of Sardinia, performed by a group of four male
singers, each of them entrusted with rendering one of the four
parts. The tenore belongs to the wide family of “canto ad
accordo”, where a melodic line performed by a soloist is
accompanied by chords realized by the other singers. Sa oghe,
the leader of the group, both sings the text and leads the
singing, choosing the tone, tempo, speed, length, and tonal
shifting (which deeply characterizes this kind of polyvocality).
The other parts are usually called su bassu, sa contra
and sa mesu oghe. They are endowed with a specific range
and perform a rhythmical and harmonic counterpoint, singing
nonsense syllables that change from area to area (bim-bò,
The volume Tenores
presents six a tenore groups from six different
villages, which are representative of the main geographical
areas where the genre can be found today: from the western
coast of Sardinia (Seneghe) to the eastern coast (Dorgali
and Torpè), and even the most internal villages like Bitti,
Ollolai and Fonni.
In this way the different styles of singing
found in the region are carefully documented. Compare for instance the
style of a group from Bitti (Tenores Mialinu Pira) performing Oche ‘e
notte with the more relaxed and extended way of singing the same
form realized by a group from Fonni (Cuncordu Vramentu).
Tenores Mialinu Pira (Bitti)
Oche ‘e notte
Tenores Mialinu Pira (Bitti)
Cuncordu Vramentu (Fonni)
Boghe ‘e notte
performed by Cuncordu Vramentu (Fonni)
Twelve audio tracks document also the main
repertoires which commonly employ a tenore singing: ballu,
that is dance song - perhaps the most typical expression of this style
-; boghe 'e notte (night
by Tenores Mialinu Pira (Bitti)
song), muttos and
lestra, secular songs whose form is individually determined
by a particular poetic structure; and gosos, a religious
type of song.
performed by Tenore Milìa
performed by Tenore
performed by Su contrattu
de Seneghe (Seneghe)
The volume also includes an
interesting survey of the main questions related to a tenore
singing dealt with in the section entitled “a tenore singing”. Marco
Lutzu talks over its history — from its origin until its role in today’s
Sardinian society —, occasions and functions, and musical features —
from the function and role of the voices to their timbre, from the
repertoire to the language and relationship text-music, and even the
singers’ behavior in terms of kinesic and prossemic.
Further sections deal with the
geography of a tenore singing,
and musical transcriptions, thus
providing wide information on the genre, its structural aspects, the
related poetic forms and its distribution across the island.
Finally, the editor
takes advantage of the multimedia format in order also to
include a series of video-interviews with the six groups of
singers, which allow us to observe their behavior while singing,
besides providing information from inside.
In conclusion Tenores
is certainly a work worthy of consideration, which will be very
useful both for scholars and for a wider audience thanks to the
quality of the audio and video recordings and the accuracy of
the accompanying text. The only criticism concerns the English
translation of the text, which would benefit from a revision.
Levi per Istruzione Musicale Superiore
Matteo. 1787. Le armonie de' sardi. Cagliari: Stamperia Reale.