Temporal Structure of an Estonian Lament: A Case Study
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Publisher:Ohio State University. Department of Linguistics
Citation:Working Papers in Linguistics, no. 45 (1995), 166-169.
The acoustic structure of a South-Eastern Estonian lament was analyzed. The lament was recorded in 1972 as performed alternatingly by a soloist and a choir (of several female voices). In this lament, the basic structural unit consists of two four-foot verse lines of alternating trochaeic and dactylic feet (2 + 3+ 2 + 3 syllables). The first verse of the couplet has invariant verbal content throughout the whole lament. The two-line unit is first performed by the soloist and, at the end of the second line, taken over and repeated by the choir. There are 11 structural units in the whole lament. Due to an almost complete one-to-one correspondence between syllables in the text and notes in the melody, the overall number of notes in the lament is n = (2 + 3 + 2 + 3) x 2 x 2 x 11 = 440 reduced by occasional pauses where the performer has to take a breath. Durations of all notes are perceived as equal by a listener, the exception being the very end of each structural unit where the last two notes are sung at a faster speed. The possible influence of a number of factors on syllable/note durations was tested by an ANOVA. These factors included word stress, metrical accent, modus of performance (solo or ensemble), variability of verbal contents (first or second line of the structural unit), position in the verse line, and position of the structural unit in the whole lament. The results were significant for performance modus, syllable/note position, and (somewhat less) for word stress. A closer study of differences between the performances of the soloist and the choir reveals a marked ritenuto at the end of the second verse line sung by the soloist, probably aimed at signaling to the choir that it has to step in.
This study was made possible through a Fulbright scholarship granted to the first author in 1992.