Vocal expressions in oral cultures

This book focuses on vocal expressions in the borderland between song and speech. It spans across several linguistic and musical milieus in societies where oral transmission of culture dominates. ‘Vocal expression’ is an alternative word for ‘song’ which is free from bias based on cultural and research-related traditions. The borderland between song and speech is a segment of the larger continuum that extends from speech to song. These vocal expressions are endangered to the same degree as the languages they represent. Perspectives derived from ethnomusicology, prosody, syntax, and semantics are combined in the research, in which performance templates serve as an analytical tool. The focus is on the techniques that make performance possible and on the transmission of these techniques. The performance templates serve to organize the vocal expression of words by combining musical and linguistic conventions. It is shown that all the cultures studied have principles for organizing these parameters; but each does this in its own unique way while meeting a number of basic needs on the part of human society, particularly communal interaction and interaction with the spirit world. A working method is developed that makes it possible to gain qualitative knowledge from a large body of material within a comparatively limited period of time.

Open Access (free)
Singing or speaking or both?
Håkan Lundström and Jan-Olof Svantesson

This chapter provides an overview of research in ethnomusicology on the relation between music and language. The borderland between song and speech is described, and key concepts are defined. Research methods and methods of collaboration are discussed.

in In the borderland between song and speech
Open Access (free)
Method, results, and implications
Håkan Lundström and Jan-Olof Svantesson

This chapter contains a discussion of the methods used in the book. The results are summarized and their implications are discussed in relation to other research in ethnomusicology and linguistics, as well as to emerging interdisciplinary results. It turned out to be possible to recognize forms of human communication that can be described as vocal expressions in the borderland between song and speech. In addition, it was seen to be feasible to design a method for studying them that leads to new knowledge of this borderland.

in In the borderland between song and speech
Anastasia Karlsson, Håkan Lundström, and Jan-Olof Svantesson

This chapter deals with a number of vocal expressions in the tradition of the Kammu (or Khmu) people in northern Laos. The analysis of the performance templates shows how they are constructed and that most Kammu vocal genres can be explained by them. Vocal expressions typically include a degree of improvisation, and they are re-created in performance. The results include an overview of the types of interplay between music and language that occur. It is also shown that the two lexical tones in Kammu are handled differently in the various vocal genres.

in In the borderland between song and speech