Traditional music making with multi-pipe whistles skudučiai in North Eastern Lithuania and Biržai area

Rūta Šimonytė-Žarskienė

Making music on skudučiai in the area of Biržai cannot be dissociated from the multi-pipe whistles (panpipes) playing traditions in other areas of Lithuania; therefore the present paper deals with it within the context of all this tradition. In Lithuania, from the second half of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century, the skudučiai had been popular in the north-eastern area that coincided with the area inhabited by north eastern highlanders. The skudučiai used to be made from umbellifferous plants, wood or bark. The music had never been made by one pipe. The skudučiai is a collective music instrument. Usually a group from two to six men, sometimes women, had performed pieces of music that imitated sounds of nature, accompanying the singing of sutartinės (multipart songs) or other repertoire; they played blowing over four to eight pipes holding in their hands one to three pipes each. The skudučiai had been used when herding, especially during night grazing of horses, as well as various festivals such as Pentecost, Saint John’s Eve, Christmas, wedding parties etc. The people in Biržai area used to name skudučiai as skurdutės, they used to play popular music pieces such as “Skurdutė”, “Katė” (Cat), “Atžagarinė” (Crabwise), “Kukorka” (Cook) etc. with six pipe set. Pipes in a set were called the first, the second, the third, kvepas (breather), spjaudalė (spitting one) and untytė (little duck). The traditions of multi-pipe whistles music of this area had been described for the first time by Lithuanian culture researcher, translator and poet, Rev. Adolfas Sabaliauskas (1873–1950), a native of Biržai rural-district, Krikščiai Village. He had recorded the data from two famous Biržai parish musicians: Jurgis Krisikėnas (born in 1846) from the Dirvonakiai Village and Martynas Klibas (1840) from the Šimpeliškiai Village. The activity of Rev. Sabaliauskas had been continued by his cousin ethnologist Stasys Paliulis (1902–1996), who visited also the Biržai multi-pipe whistles sites during the period from the twenties to the thirties of 20th century. He put down the data from famous Biržai musicians: Mykolas Venclavas (1856–1940) from Braškiai Village and Petras Lapienė (1864–1962) from Kviriškis and many other presenters. One of the first skudučiai music tradition animators in Biržai area was Kostas Burbulis (Burbulys, 1889 –1982), a native of Šimpeliškiai Village. Having learned from older multi-pipe whistles players, he transferred this art to young villagers, gymnasium students; he organised skudučiai player groups, which performed at public concerts. Their performances have been recorded in audio media in 1937, 1966 and 1973. Thanks to Burbulis, the land of Biržai is up to now known as the last site of skudučiai music making in its traditional environment.