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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access December 31, 2019

Individual Rhythmic Variation in Oral Poetry: The Runosong Performances of Seto Singers

  • Janika Oras EMAIL logo
From the journal Open Linguistics


The article explores the individual differences of rhythmic variation in traditional sung oral poetry. The analysed group of ritual songs is part of the Seto singing culture – a subtradition of Finnic oral trochaic tetrameter. The rhythmic variation, created by different positioning of stressed syllables in the song line, reveals itself on two levels, in linguistic verse structure and in musical performance. In the singers’ performances the verse and musical structures complement each other, having a cumulative rhythmic effect. By designing the rhythm at both levels, the singers systematically take into consideration the linguistic features of the used words. A statistical analysis shows a remarkable divergence in the rhythmic variation of different lead singers. The results are more homogeneous at the level of linguistic verse structure and more diverse at the level of musical performance. Also, the rhythmic choices of the lead singer and his or her choir in the course of the performance may differ. We may speculate that this divergence in individual rhythmic strategies could have been caused by the singers’ type of creativity and skills, their different perceptions of genre features and intergeneric relations, and the musical influences between more closely related singers.


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Received: 2018-11-14
Accepted: 2019-10-30
Published Online: 2019-12-31

© 2019 Janika Oras, published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License.

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