Liminal Utterances and Shapes of Sadness: Local and Acoustic Perspectives on Vocal Production among the Yezidis of Armenia
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 December 2018
The Yezidis are a Kurmanji-speaking (northern Kurdish) religious minority living scattered across northern Iraq, Syria, the Caucasus (Armenia and Georgia), and western Europe. Among the Yezidis of Armenia, “speech” (axavtin), “song” (stran; pl. stranen), and “words about” (kilamě ser, pl. kilamen ser) constitute the three main categories of vocal production. This article is a detailed exploration of the acoustic characteristics of these categories of vocal production with a special focus on “words about.” At first sight, one may question whether “words about” (kilamě ser) actually amounts to a separate vocal category. These words lack any name that would set them clearly apart from axavtin (speech), which is clearly also made up of “words” (kilamen). Furthermore, the Yezidis never refer to an abstract category of “words about” but only to “words about” something: “words about the dead” (kilamen ser mirya), “words about exile” (kilamen ser xerîbîě), “words about the hero” (kilamen ser měranîě), and so forth. What these topics share in common is their association with tragic events and/or feelings of sadness and nostalgia; “words about” are thus lamenting utterances. When Yezidi people (especially women) say “words about” such things, they often resort to a special tone of voice. This tone may be described as a kind of chanting that combines characteristics of axavtin and stran. As with axavtin, there is neither metre, rhyme, nor steady beat. And as with stran, there are sustained pitches and an interactional salience. These differences are all addressed in more detail below.
- Speech, Song, and in-Between
- Copyright © 2017 By The International Council for Traditional Music