JÁNOS SÍPOS (Budapest) Similar musical structures in Turkish, Mongolian, Tungus and Hungarian folk music
"While studying Mongolian folk music, I discovered that the Tungus Evenkis in Inner Mongolia and certain Mongol tribes use a special musical structure. Until now most European scholars have known this structure to exist only in Hungarian folk music and in that of the Cheremis-Chuvash front."
Hungarian melody with a quintal shift:
"The essence of the phenomenon is that the melody is composed of parts, the second part being four tones (a quint) lower than the first one. This is what we call the quintal-shift structure. The shift can be strictly parallel note by note, but the second (shifted) part of the melody often contains modifications. Further characteristics of these melodies are the pentatonic scale and the descending melodic line. The pentatonic scale, the quintal-shift construction or the descending character can be found in the folk music of various peoples. If these phenomena coincide, and, moreover, if such melodies form a melodic style, then it calls for closer scrutiny.
The Mongolian quintal-shift style After studying some 700 Mongolian melodies, I found that one out of every ten melodies uses the quintal-shift.2 The melodies in question originate from Inner Mongolia, mainly from the singers and musicians of the Mongolian Barin, Khorchin, Arkhorchin and Keshikten tribes living in the Jo uda area. Let us investigate the main melody types of this Mongolian style. In short, two-section melodies we usually hear a partial quintal-shift.
Some four-section melodies shift their first half by a third and a fourth.
At the same time a great many short four-section melodies contain a perfect or almost perfect quintal-shift structure.
All of these melodies have their counterpart without a quintal-shift.
The scale of these quintal-shift melodies is usually la-pentatonic. Quintal-shift melodies with do- or so/-pentatonic scales are less frequent.
Quintal-shift construction in the folk music of other peoples In Europe, according to the evidence in the available material, this phenomenon appears only in Hungary. What exists in Europe is nothing other than partial quintal-shift parts within non-pentatonic melodies. However, this phenomenon exists as a fully developed style in the region of the Cheremiss-Chuvash front, but moving away from the area, this style vanishes. I have examined a large amount of Turkic musical material to determine whether the folk music of these peoples contains pentatonic melodies with a quintal-shift. In Anatolian folk music the pentatonic scale can be found only in traces, and among 5000 melodies I have managed to find very few with a quintalshift. In any case, the link between these few melodies and the main Turkish melody types is not the least bit likely.
The descending pentatonic character of the folk music of the Turkic peoples involves the possibility of the quintal-shift, even if this construction as a homogeneous musical style appears only on the Cheremiss-Chuvash front. The quintal-shift construction plays an important role in the music of the Tungus people. Tungus la-pentatonic quintal-shift melodies are short and in two sections.
What does all this mean? First of all, the fact that the quintal-shift construction also appears in Inner Asia refutes the idea that this style was born at the point of contact of the Finno-Ugrian and Turkic cultures. We can consider of the Altaic theory: we see parallelism between the folk music of the Turkic, Mongolian and Tungus peoples. But the quintal-shift construction is not universal among all Turkic, Mongolian and Tungus peoples. Furthermore, a detailed musical analysis reveals that the general character of the quintal-shift melodies of various peoples is more or less different. For example, the Hungarian material contains melodies with the la-pentatonic scale, and the melodic movements of the short sections are smooth. The Cheremis and Chuvash materials utilise la-, do- and .sol-pentatonic scales, the sections are long and the melody movements are larger. The Mongolian material, with respect to the melody movements, reassembles the CheremisChuvash material, while the scale of these Mongolian melodies is la-pentatonic, as is that of the Hungarian material. The Evenki melodies are simple and in two sections, revealing a relatively basic stage of development. I found only a few Evenki four-section quintal-shift melodies, but their scale is sol-pentatonic. How can this inter-ethnic phenomenon be explained? We know that descending pentatonic melodies play an important role in Chinese, Mongolian, Turkic and Hungarian folk music. In descending melodies, parallelism can take shape between the melody sections. The distance between these parallel sections can easily be just four tones (a quint), so it is not surprising that in the folk music of nations such as the Turkic, Mongolian, Tungus and Hungarian peoples, melodies with quintal-shift construction have come into existence. The structure of these melodies is well-developed and simultaneously easy to remember. This may explain why in the folk music of some peoples the quintal-shift melodies form a homogeneous musical style. In conclusion, these styles have probably developed from a somewhat similar pentatonic and descending melody base, and have crystallised independently from each other. What caused the crystallisation? This question will perhaps never be answered. "