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PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal

The Principle of Modeling as a Means of Classifying Instrumental Ensembles With the Domra

Lygina Elena Vladimirovna

Postgraduate at the Department of Musicology, Composition and Music Education Technique of Krasnodar State Institute of Culture

350901, Russia, Krasnodarskii krai, g. Krasnodar, ul. 40-Letiya pobedy, 33

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Abstract: This article develops a comprehensive approach to classifying instrumental ensembles featuring the domra. It aims to discern the underlying principles that can be used to create various models of such ensembles. The author recommends analyzing the various aspects of the phenomenon being studied from different perspectives: as music groups and from the viewpoint of music compositions composed for these groups. This article examines and compares different models of concert groups based on the number of members and instrumental components, as well as the unique genre and style characteristics of instrumental ensembles featuring the domra and their collaborations with composers. This classification method helps comprehensively cover the work of a large number of musicians, both members of ensembles and composers. Constructing various systems for classifying instrumental ensembles can aid in the examination of the existence of such groups in contemporary music culture. The author concludes that, at present, Russia's spectrum of music performance contains a vast range of ensembles made up of various instruments and different numbers of members. The diversity of these groups’ genres and styles is reflected in their repertoires, from folk to classical music and modern composing schools to jazz, rock, pop, and performance. 


timbre, style, genre, model, classification, domra, instrumental ensemble, sound extraction, Russian folk instruments, repertoire

The relevance of the topic of this article is due to the growing number and variety of instrumental ensembles that include the domra; the increasing interest of professional composers in this instrument and the potential of its capabilities in various ensemble combinations; the lack of fundamental research on the place of the domra in the ensemble; and, in general, the need to popularize Russian folk instruments, in particular the domra.

This article, which develops an integrated approach to classifying instrumental ensembles with the domra, aims to identify the principles from which to build various models of these objects.

Mod́l (French: modèle, ital. modello, from Latin modulus; measure, sample, norm). According to the New Illustrated Encyclopedia definition, a model is an image, including a conditional or mental image, which can be used for research and obtaining an explanation or description of certain objects, phenomena, processes, and systems [5, pp. 5–6]. As a method of scientific study, modeling is the most important philosophical category about the rudiments of knowledge, a technique that contributes to the development of scientific knowledge.

In the scientific literature concerning art criticism, instrumental ensembles, as a rule, are considered from the position of their historical path of development in world music [7, 9], the functions of the musicians' interactions in the ensemble are comprehended [2, 9], or theoretical analysis of specific works is presented [3]. From the standpoint of aesthetics and sociology, it is proposed to investigate the phenomenon of the ensemble by I. Polskaya [6], A. Gladkikh, and O. Gladkikh [1], considering the ensemble as a system of artistic coherence, balance, and integrity related to compositional creativity and performing activities. This will include the actual process of an ensemble music performance, its participants' quantitative and qualitative composition, and the music itself intended for such a performance [1, p.7].

In modern works devoted to Russian folk instrumental art, much attention is paid to the historical path of the ensemble performance's development as a whole and as individual collectives [8], the technique of the musicians' interaction in a polytimbral ensemble [4]. To study the introduction of folklore traditions and elements in modern music ensembles of folk instruments, authors M. Sharabarin [10], N. Shirieva, and E. Dyganova [11] analyze the work of individual composers.

The aspects of the existence of such collectives and the music performed by them have not been systematically analyzed, including from a genre and stylistic affiliation point of view.

The classification of the phenomenon we are studying, "instrumental ensembles with the domra," can be carried out on various grounds: both directly by groups of musicians and from the point of view of musical works created by composers for various ensemble compositions.

Considering instrumental ensembles with the domra as groups of musicians, it is possible to distinguish the following types of models: by the number of participants (duets, trios, quartets); uniformity and heterogeneity of compositions; instrumental content, types of domra (three-string or four-string), its tessitura varieties (small, alto, bass, double bass) and, accordingly, the function of the domra's part in the ensemble; and by genre affiliation and stylistic orientation of a particular collective. Also, within certain types of research, historical and sociological in particular, the following positions can be considered and summarized: a student group or a professional one, where it was organized (based on an educational institution or a concert organization), the path of development of the ensemble, its competitive achievements and concert activities, and, alternatively, the relationship of the gender identity of the musicians –performers who make up the ensemble – and their age with the musical trends and stylistic features of the repertoire they perform. Let's make a reservation right away that this is far from an incomplete list of facets of creative life, from the position of which we can consider the existence of such collectives.

For example, we offer some of the proposed models in terms of the number of participants, instrumental content, and the ensemble with the domra repertoires in terms of genre and style features and their cooperation with composers.

According to the number of participants, instrumental groups of two to eight people (duets, trios, … octets) and groups of musicians of more than eight people, whose name contains the word "ensemble," let's call them "big," fall into this study's field of view.

To classify the homogeneity of ensemble formations, we will use the characteristic of monotimbrous and polytimbrous instrumental compositions proposed by M. Sharabarin [6, pp. 31–33].

Today, there is a wide variety of instrumental ensembles with the domra in concert practice, both well-established (domra, balalaika, and bayan in various combinations and tessituras) and unique (domra with harp, domra with organ, domra with a jazz trio, etc.). It should be noted that the smaller the collective (duet, trio), the more options there are for combining homogeneous (monotimbrous) instruments with the domra by the type of sound production.

As an example of monotimbral domra duets, we can cite unison domra ("Solo for Two"), domra malaya with domra altova ("Edelweiss," E. Mochalova, S. Boganov), with balalaika prima (duet ENCORE, Russian Virtuosos, V. Mahan –E. Shabalin), with guitar ("Russian Virtuosos," "Prima Vera"), with ukulele (Olga and Mikhail Galaev), with harp (E. Mochalova – A. Boldachev), with keyboard harps (V. Mahan –E. Petukhov), plucked gusli (E. Volchkov – P. Lukoyanov, N. Banina –P. Lukoyanov), and piano (E. Mochalova – D. Yakimova).

Polytimbral duets are most often represented by domra ensembles with bayan ("Sketch," "Nota Silver"), with the harmonica (G. Vasiliev –P. Mikhnyuk), and the unique combination of the domra with the organ (E. Mochalova –A. Bardin).

The variety of monotimbral domra trios can be achieved by combining different types of domras in the collective ("Sforzando"), or by adding bass ("Caravan"), piano ("Tango Trio"), or prima balalaika and guitar ("Gala Trio") to the domras of the small and alto balalaika.

Quartets, quintets, sextets, and octets in their composition, as a rule, have an instrument with a long-sustained nature of sound, providing a more colorful timbre variety to the ensemble sound (most often bayan or accordion). Among the quartets, the most common polytimbrous composition is the domra malaya, balalaika prima, bayan, and balalaika bass or double bass ("Ayushka," "Kamchatka," "Paraphrase," "Rondo Folk," "Russian Renaissance," "Funny Shows Balalaika"). A completely different combination of timbres and instrumental parts occurs when the domra viola is used in the quartet together with the malaya domra ("Kamchatka," "Terem-Quartet") or with the balalaika prima ("Skif").

In quintets, the increase in vocals is often achieved by adding domra viola and a ringing gusli ("Russian Rhapsody"), domra viola and balalaika prima ("Kalinka"), guitar and balalaika prima ("Impromptu Quintet") to the leading polytimbral trio (domra malaya, bayan, balalaika contrabass), sonorous gusli and synthesizer ("Style of Five"), prima balalaika, and folk percussion and wind instruments ("Oryol Souvenir"). Also, a quartet of different-score domras can be supplemented with an accordion ("Creative Quintet").

In polytimbral sextets and octets compositions, there is, in most cases, a doubling of small domras or four-string domras (depending on the region), or there are different-scale domras ("Art Contrast," "Emerald," "Patterns"). The expansion of the composition can be made by adding, as an option, a saxophone ("Encore-Quit"), an oboe, a ringing gusli, and a piano (an octet of "Russian Rhapsody").

Homogeneous ensembles, as a rule, use different-scale domras (small, alto) and balalaika (prima and bass or double bass) – "Fairy tale," "Bass-tone," "Artis-quintet." It's very rare to find the use of instruments like the domra bass (trio "Sforzando," "Quintet of Four," and large compositions) and the domra double bass – three-stringed in the St. Petersburg ensemble of Domrists named after I. I. Shitenkov and four-stringed in the Ukrainian quartet "CymBanDo" with cymbals, bandura, and four-piece domra prima in the ensemble instrumentation.

Two points differ in the compositions of large collectives. Monotimbral ensembles usually occur in educational institutions based on a class of one teacher chosen from among his students (pupils). An example of this is the St. Petersburg Ensemble of Domrists named after I. Shitenkov, including students of N. Shkrebko of the St. Petersburg Conservatory and the ensemble of the Premiere, including students of L. Potapova of the Kazan Conservatory.

In their creative development, large polytimbral instrumental ensembles tend to move into the category of small or chamber orchestras of Russian folk instruments. So, the collective "Buffoons" of the St. Petersburg State Institute of Culture from 1969 to 2005 was an ensemble, and since 2005 has been a chamber orchestra of folk instruments.

Most concert ensembles are permanent, have their own name (brand), genre, and style features. The artists among them may change, but the integrity and essence of the idea underlying collective creativity do not. Such luminaries of instrumental and ensemble performance on the Russian stage are "Ayushka," the duets "ENCORE," "Kalinka," "Orel souvenir," "Russian Virtuosos," "Fairy Tale," "Skif," "Terem-Quartet," "Style of five."

Temporary creative unions represent the other side of modern folk instrument ensemble performances. In this case, the musicians gather to participate in a project or perform a new work written by a composer specifically for such a set of instruments or directly for these musicians. As a rule, these are small ensembles (duets, trios, quartets) of unique compositions: the duets of V. Mahan and E. Petukhova (domra malaya and gusli keyboards), E. Mochalova and A. Boldachev (domra malaya and harp), E. Mochalova and A. Bardina (domra malaya and organ), the trio of N. Shkrebko, O. Yarkina, and S. Konnova (domra malaya, harp, and piano), E. Mochalova and a jazz trio consisting of D. Matsuev, A. Ivanov, and A. Singer.

In our opinion, the most significant detail of a particular ensemble's creativity is its repertoire and, accordingly, interaction with composers. From this position, the following models of classifying instrumental ensembles with the domra are built: the repertoire is limited to arrangements of famous classical and folk music, cover versions, or original music written specifically for the composition are performed. If the composer's music is performed, it should be noted if they are directly in the ensemble as a performer (in this case, they can be both a professional or non-professional composer) or if they are a professional composer who is outside the ensemble contingent and writes works for various instruments and performing compositions, including for instrumental ensembles with the domra. As a rule, in this case, the author focuses on a certain circle of performers, entering into a creative union with them. There is also a kind of compositional creativity such as the collective creativity of the entire ensemble, a vivid example of which is the original repertoire of the ensemble "Terem-Quartet."

When building genre-style models for the repertoire of instrumental ensembles with the domra, it is necessary to consider the refraction of folklore traditions in the composer's work, the implementation of modern compositional writing techniques, and the music's various genres and style directions. Of course, it is rare to meet a performing group of "narodniks," whose repertoire would be kept strictly in one style, direction, and genre. Apparently, in this case, it is necessary to look at the musicians' vector of tastes and preferences in the works that are the ensemble's hallmark.

Here is an example of various models of the repertoire component and the creativity of some instrumental ensembles with the domra and their cooperation with composers.

Analyzing the repertoire of various ensembles, we can conclude that as small ensembles, such as duets "ENCORE," "Russian Virtuosos," "Solo For Two," "Sketch," "Nota Silver," "Prima Vera"; trios "Gala Trio," "Sforzando," "Tango Trio"; and the large, St. Petersburg Ensemble of Domrists named after I. I. Shitenkov, "Premiere," gravitating mainly to the classical repertoire and folk music arrangements and perform original composer's works written for these compositions.

Comparing the repertoire and its instrumental composition's genre-style features with the domra from quartet to octet, we can conclude that the current priorities when choosing an ensemble of artists for their creative path are the colorfulness and, even in some way, the extravagance of the concert performance. Russian crossover genres, the discoverer and constant follower of which was and remains the "Terem-Quartet," continues to develop and is being adopted by many modern collectives ("Crystal-Balalaika," "Encore-Quit," "Russian Renaissance," "Emerald").

Our famous collectives ("Fairy Tale." "Ayushka," "Skif," "Style of Five") have remained constant in their commitment to a specific performing style for many years; the repertoire of these ensembles contains works of various genres and styles.

A small percentage of performing groups focus on folklore and original composers' works, which are based on folklore traditions of the place of education and creative life of the ensemble ("Kalinka," "Orel Souvenir," "Stozhary").

A separate, even smaller direction in the genre orientation of ensembles with the domra is an attempt to occupy a pop music niche, creating cover versions and shows ("Glamorous Collective Farm," "Funny Balalaika Show"). Using the example of a Glamorous Collective Farm, it is clear that, in this case, the instruments are gradually replaced by electronic ones (first a balalaika and a domra bass with pickups, and then, an electric guitar in the form of a balalaika and a bass guitar), which levels the timbral features of Russian folk instruments. For example, in the ensemble "Russband," S. Boganov's solo viola domra is electronic and sounds almost like an electric guitar, which, from our researcher's position, on the one hand, falls into the category of ensembles with unique combinations of instruments, and on the other, takes this collective beyond the outlined circle of interest of the "instrumental ensembles with the domra."

It can be argued that the variety of genres and styles used by folk instrument ensembles depends on the uniformity or heterogeneity of the collective's instruments. Polytimbral compositions have more diverse music in their repertoire since, in our opinion, the collective's creative possibilities are expanded due to the use of various instruments in the ensemble.

Several positions can be noted from the point of view of the interaction with the composers.

The ensemble uses original music by professional composers, which the authors write specifically for the composition. An example of this cooperation is the work of I. Tamarin and the ensemble "Skaz", Z. Basenko, N. Bykadyrov, Yu. Vesnyak, G. Gontarenko, A. Kusyakov, and other domra composers with the ensemble "Kalinka," the St. Petersburg Ensemble of Domrists named after I. I. Shitenkova with E. Stetsyuk. The ensemble team has its own professional composer, E. Derbenko, in the "Oryol Souvenir," E. Stetsyuk as part of the ensemble "Style of Five."

As an example of when one of the members of an ensemble takes on the role of a composer, becoming a composer in fact, without being a composer by education, we can cite the work of ensembles such as the Gala Trio or the duet of M. Galaev (balalaika prima, ukulele) and O. Galaeva (domra malaya), where M. Galaev created the entire repertoire, and the duet The Sketch consists of K. Perelevsky (bayan) and T. Klevko (domra malaya), one of the facets of whose repertoire are the works of K. Perelevsky, as well as the trio "Sforzando," composer and arranger S. Fedorov and the quartet "Ayushka," author of compositions and arranger V. Zykin.

The ensemble we have already mentioned is Terem-Quartet, when the entire ensemble team is a composer.

Often, when the ensemble's repertoire has a lot of arrangements of various genres and styles written for other instruments and instrumental or vocal compositions, the ensemble has its own arranger, or the artists resort to the help of professionals ("Quintet of Four," "Creative Quintet," "Russian Renaissance," "Glamorous Collective Farm," " Encore-Quit," "Premiere," etc.).

In our time, it should be noted that the timbres and performing capabilities of Russian folk instruments, particularly the domra, are used by composers to develop modern compositional writing methods and implement the most daring composer's finds (introducing new playing techniques, polystylistics, etc.).

Thus, by modeling various systems of constructing methods for classifying instrumental ensembles with the domra, it is possible to study the peculiarities of the existence of these collectives in modern musical culture from different angles more fully to identify the patterns of their instrumental content, depending on the number of artists, the place of activity, and the composition's uniformity. To trace the analogies of the methods of combining similar collectives, for example, large domra unisons.

Summarizing the research material on the foundation of the "house ensemble," we can conclude that, at present, there is a wide range in the instrumental and quantitative content of these ensembles. Many temporary compositions appear simultaneously within permanent groups of musicians aimed at performing a certain work or participating in a project.

This classification method allows us to systematically cover the work of a large number of musicians, both ensembles and composers, to identify trends in the dependence of the repertoire used by the ensemble on its instrumental composition, to justify differences in the selection of the repertoire by the musicians' taste preferences and by finding a composer who writes for the ensemble, inside the structure of the collective or outside of it. Summarizing our research's data in terms of the repertoire, it can be argued that a large number of diverse genre and style models of instrumental ensembles with the domra are presented on the modern concert stage as never before, from folk music, classical, and modern composing schools to jazz, rock, pop, and shows.

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