The Essence and Evolution of Song. By Vladimír Úlehla. Translated by Julia Ulehla; edited by Katherine Freeze and Richard K. Wolf.

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Julia Ulehla


Vladimír Úlehla (1888-1947) uses his expertise in the biological sciences to perform an in-depth and ecologically situated study of folk songs from his native Czechoslovakia. His posthumous magnum opus Živá Píseň (Living Song, 1949) chronicled the musical traditions of Strážnice, a small town at the western hem of the Carpathian Mountains at the Moravian-Slovakian border. Informed by four decades of ethnographic inquiry, transcription, and several music-analytical methods, in Chapter VI Úlehla considers the songs from Strážnice as living organisms, links them to their ecological environs, and isolates musical characteristics that he believes correspond to stages of their evolution. He discusses modulation, vocal style, ornamentation, melodic and poetic structure, and identifies a diverse array of musical modes—evidence that he uses to refute the prevailing assumption of the day that folk music was derivative of art music.

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