“Rejoicing Discovery” Revisited: Re-accentuation in Russian Folklore and Stravinsky’s Music




Marina Lupishko



To Valeriya Fyodorovna Kravets, my first Russian music Teacher (1940-2007)



They [the members of Camerata] advised me to assimilate the manner praised by Plato and other philosophers who claim that music is nothing but word,

then rhythm, and finally sound but not the other way around.


(Giulio Caccini, Le nuove musiche, 1601, cit. in Vasina-Grossman 1972: 60-1).


          Igor Stravinsky is known to have assimilated precisely those traits of Russian folklore that later became the elements of his own mature style – a lack of formal and motivic development, harmonic ambiguity, and rhythmic and metric unpredictability. As a pre-eminent reformer of rhythm Stravinsky has been addressed in numerous studies in English and other European languages (White 1979, Lindlar 1982, Van den Toorn 1983, Vlad 1985, Walsh 1988, etc.). Although all these authors are aware of the folk origins of Stravinsky’s musical language, most of them, however, pay little attention to the fact, self-evident for a Russian researcher, that Stravinsky’s rhythmic innovations resulted to a great extent from his exploration of the rhythmic peculiarities of his native language, particularly the language of Russian peasant poetry.


          Since the pioneering studies of Asafiev and Belyaev were made in the 1920s and subsequently translated into English (Asafiev 1977, 1982; Belyaev 1928, 1972), many Soviet musicologists have touched upon the subject of Stravinsky and folklore (Birkan 1966, 1971; Vershinina 1967; Yarustovsky 1982; Grigoriyeva 1969; Kholopova 1971; Alexandrov 1976; Meyen 1978; Golovinsky 1981,[1] 1985; Druskin 1979; Paisov 1973, 1985; Kon 1992, etc.). With the exception of Yarustovsky (Jarustowsky) 1966, Kholopova 1974, and Druskin 1983, these works have not been translated into European languages and thus are almost unknown to the western reader.[2] Yet for the purpose of conciseness I shall discuss here only four authors whose works served as the main inspiration for the present study: two Americans, Richard Taruskin and James Bailey, and two Russians, Valentina Kholopova and Miron Kharlap.


          Taruskin was the one who literally “opened the door” to the mystery of Stravinsky’s prosody in his 1987 article entitled “Stravinsky’s ‘Rejoicing Discovery’ and What It Meant: In Defense of His Notorious Text Setting.” This article later entered as a constituent part into the two-volume Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the Works through Mavra (Taruskin 1996), where for the first time the folk sources of Stravinsky’s texts and music are studied systematically. Kholopova, although not concerning herself directly with Stravinsky’s text setting, can be credited with initiating discussion of the interaction of poetic and musical rhythms in Russian art music in her 1978 article subtitled “Russian musical dactyls and pentasyllabic meters.” Drawing on Asafiev’s theory of intonation and on the related works of contemporary philologists and linguists (Shtokmar 1952, Propp 1961, Zhirmunsky 1975, etc.), this analytical study substantiates the existence of the typically “Russian musical meters” borrowed from literary and folk verse in the works of almost all major Russian composers of the 19th century. The article was later published in its expanded version, covering all periods of Russian music history, as Russian musical rhythm (Kholopova 1983). Unfortunately, neither Taruskin’s groundbreaking piece of research, nor Kholopova’s interesting metric studies have ever been translated into each other’s languages.[3]


          The other two authors, Bailey and Kharlap, are both linguists by profession who had a musical education as well. A student and follower of Roman Jakobson and Kirill Taranovsky, Bailey had devoted over twenty years to the study of Russian lyric folk verse before publishing in 1993 Three Russian Lyric Folk Song Meters, a much-needed study since exclusively Russian epic folk verse had been thoroughly researched by his predecessors.[4] The preparatory and parallel work to this opus in the form of twelve landmark articles has been recently translated into Russian and published in Moscow under the title Selected papers on Russian folk verse (2001). Finally, the Soviet musicologist-linguist Kharlap (d. 1991) is the author of, among many other things, the 1972 article entitled “Russian folk barring system and the problem of music’s origin.” This very original interdisciplinary study uses a holistic approach to the problem of the irregular metric scheme of Russian folk verse cum music, exploring the link between the poetic and the musical rhythm, as well as between the rhythm and the melody of Russian folk song.


          And yet, the main incentive to this project was the discrepancy between the approaches of the two American researchers, Bailey and Taruskin, to the very controversial topic of the re-accentuation (shifting stress) of Russian folk verse. Taruskin (1996: 1207) sides with the late Stravinsky (Expo: 121) that the shifting stress of Russian folklore is caused by the distortion of the literary accents of the verse by means of music, while Bailey (1993: 15) explains that the phenomenon is brought about by the necessity to adapt the stress-flexible language of Russian folk poetry to the specific folk poetic meters. In the 1993 monograph, Bailey concerns himself in particular with pesennïe metrï (lyric folksong meters); however, his findings can be applied to a number of genres of Russian folk verse – spoken and sung, ancient and recent.


          At the same time, it would be a mistake to suggest that the folk re-accentuation occurs only because of the verbal rhythm. It is an established fact that in the folksong collections of Tchaikovsky, Lyadov, and Rimsky-Korsakov, to which Stravinsky was exposed early in his life (Mem: 97), the accents of the spoken verse are often distorted to a greater or lesser extent in the music.[5] Thus the problem under consideration becomes a very complex interdisciplinary puzzle that needs to be disentangled from both ends, linguistic and musical.


          The title of this paper points to several directions at once: those of vocal music theory, prosody and phonology of the Russian language, Russian literary and folk versification, Russian ethnomusicology, etc. Some of the topics addressed here have been clarified, others have been raised and still await an answer, yet many others have been passed over in silence almost entirely. Intended more as a methodological glossary than as a catechism, this paper will try to resolve only the most essential of them. Several specific cases of re-accentuation in Stravinsky’s Russian vocal music of the early Swiss period (1913-17)[6] that have parallels in Russian folklore will be discussed briefly at the end.



Vocal Music versus Poetry


          As is well known, everyday speech in any language has at least two common grounds with music: rhythm and intonation. Poetry (that is, metrically organized poetry and not vers libre) has at least one additional parameter in common with music – that of meter.[7] The problem of transformation of poetry by way of music leads to the question of correspondence between poetic feet and musical measures, the two smallest units of these two very different metric systems (Monelle 1989). It needs to be specified right away that the present study will examine solely Russian versification in relation to the western European measure system – the two “main ingredients” of Stravinsky’s vocal works of the Swiss period.


          “[It is a] well-known fact that Russian verse allows the tonic accent only” (Chron: 78). Stravinsky’s statement is true in general: Russian poetry is qualitative and not quantitative, that is to say, accentuation is achieved predominantly by the placement of expiratory accent (accent tonique in French) and not by the durational ratios between long and short vowels. To be more precise, Russian classical poetic meters are frequently referred to as “syllabo-tonic meters,” i.e., both the number and position of accents and the number of syllables per line are significant. Roughly speaking, Russian literary verse is made up of a constant number of uniform poetic feet, either two-syllable ones (trochee Sw, iamb wS), or three-syllable ones (dactyl Sww, amphibrach wSw, anapest wwS).[8] It is obvious that only trochees and dactyls can be directly “translated” into music as two-beat (2/4) and three-beat (3/4) measures, while other poetic meters will have the appearance of over-the-measure rhythmic motives, either with a one-beat anacrusis (iamb, amphibrach) or with a two-beat anacrusis (anapest).


          On the other hand, music possesses a quantitative aspect, not characteristic of Russian or western European versification. In western European music, the basic metric components are conventionally in a strict double or triple durational ratio to each other, although more complex ratios are also possible. Because of this aspect, there exist numerous ways of musical transformation of, let us say, a simple trochaic foot: qualitative (metrically fore-stressed), quantitative (prolonged first syllable), with a dotted-note rhythm, syncopated, in augmentation, diminution, or any combination thereof.[9] On the whole, the poetic meters with three-syllable feet – dactyls, amphibrachs, and anapests – generally have fewer possibilities for musical transformation than those with two-syllable feet (Ruch’yevskaya 1966: 82).[10] This happens because in two-syllable meters even ictuses are accented sometimes stronger or weaker than odd ones – in the same way as there are strong and relatively strong beats in the musical meter 4/4. This phenomenon (called “accentual dissimilation” – see below) is not very typical for ternary poetic meters, usually represented as 3/4, where ictuses are usually fulfilled by a stress in the rhythm.


          In comparison with music, which is governed by a complex system of metric, rhythmic, dynamic accents, etc., there are only two different kinds of accents in poetry – word accents and phrasal accents. Word accents are considered metrical when they correspond to an ictus in the poetic meter, and non-metrical when they do not. Consider this famous line from Lermontov:  


                                                    Meter                             Rhythm     

Белеет парус одинокий[11]          

Beléyet párus odinókiy         wS wS wS wSw                wS wS ww wSw


          The poetic meter of this line is a four-foot iamb (iambic tetrameter) with a feminine ending. Here the word accents coincide with the ictuses in all instances but one: the first “o-” in “odinókiy.” The rhythm of the poem is different from its meter because the ictus corresponding to the first syllable in “odinókiy” does not receive a stress in the rhythm.[12] Compare now with a line from Nekrasov:


                                                                                  Meter and Rhythm

Однажды в студёную зимнюю пору[13]                         

Odnázhdï v studyónuyu zímnyuyu póru                       wSw wSw wSw wSw


          This is a four-foot amphibrach (amphibrachic tetrameter) with a feminine ending. Here all the ictuses are fulfilled because they coincide with the word accents, and thus the rhythm and meter of the poem are in perfect correspondence with each other. In contrast to poetry where some ictuses can be perceived as virtual (being unfulfilled in the rhythm), in vocal music all ictuses are always perceived as real (being fulfilled in the rhythm). The general slowing down of the text of vocal music as compared to the spoken verse (with the exception of musical patter) can sometimes undermine or even destroy the regularity of the poetic meter. On the other hand, total correspondence between two- and particularly three-beat musical measures and two- and three-syllable poetic feet over an extended period of time quickly leads to an unbearable monotony in vocal music, especially in a slow tempo (Ruch’yevskaya 1966: 82-3). 

          In the literary Russian language, word accent can fall on any syllable of a word, and there are usually no variants in accentuation of one and the same word (case changes notwithstanding), although Russian literary accentuation has changed considerably over the last two centuries. Correct word accents are as important in Russian as in English, and their non-observance can lead to a total change in meaning, as, for instance, in “zámok” (castle) and “zamók” (lock). Correct literary accentuation distinguishes a Russian native speaker from a foreigner, an educated person from an uneducated one, and a resident of the capital from a dialect-speaker. In vocal music, there exists a method of correlation between musical and poetic metric accents, the so-called “rule of prosody,” allowing for better understanding of the text on the part of the listener. The unwritten rule states that ictuses in poetry should always fall on strong or relatively strong beats in music. However, a too strict observance of this rule can be tedious because the temporal aspect is of much greater importance in music than in poetry. For this and other reasons (many of them are yet to be found), in all European vocal music – ancient and modern, classical and popular, small-scale and operatic – an occasional shift of the correct accent is not only permissible but sometimes desirable and even unavoidable.



Russian Folk Song versus Russian Folk Verse


          Stravinsky was not the first Russian composer to write vocal works, nor was he the only one to become interested in the theoretical possibilities of bringing out the essence of Russian language by way of music. As Kholopova argues in her article (1978: 164), the problem of approach to the study of “Russian musical rhythm” is one of methodology, and the methods are suggested by the historic conditions of the development of Russian professional music over the previous two centuries. One of them is the conscious exploration by virtually all 19th-century Russian composers of the link between music and word – i.e., between musical rhythm and common speech, folk and literary verse, etc. – as a way to ensure the creation of a truly national art, which explains the increased attention these composers always paid to vocal music. From Dargomyzhsky’s credo (“I want [musical] sound to directly reflect word”), through Balakirev’s declaration of the direct dependence of music upon word, to the metrically complex Lieder of Borodin, the picturesque recitatives of Musorgsky, and the compound speech-like meters of Rimsky-Korsakov, the realm of Russian language historically served as an impulse for the most daring musical innovations. According to Kholopova, these and other composers relied heavily on verse theory in their attempts to describe the peculiar rhythmic qualities of their music (1978: 165). Numerous parallels appeared – those between poetic feet patterns and specific musical rhythmic formulae, between metric structures of verses and measure groupings, between the rule of alternance[14] in poetry and its realization in music, and so on (1978: 166). 

          The specifically folk Russian rhythmic formulae, also prominent in Russian literary poetry imitative of folk verse – final dactyls and pyatislozhniki (pentasyllabic meters) – are studied thoroughly by Kholopova (1978: 185-228), who finds them in vocal and instrumental works of all the significant Russian composers of the 19th century. Both formulae have their origin in the following Russian lyric folksong meters, tentatively presented in a chronological order by Bailey (1993) – from the archaic trochaic tetrameter to a more recent two-stress tonic verse:[15]


1) SwSw SwSww                                              Trochaic tetrameter with dactylic endings:

Отставала лебедь белая                                Otstavála lébed’ bélaya    (Bailey 2001: 112)

Как от стада лебединого[16]                            Kak ot stáda lebedínogo


2) wwSww wwSww                                           5+5 meter with a caesura in the middle:

Я вечор млада во пиру была,              Ya vechór mladá vo pirú bïlá,  (Ibid.: 213)

Во пиру была, во беседушке[17]                      Vo pirú bïlá, vo besédushke


3)   wwSwww wwSww                                       Two-stress tonic verse with dactylic endings:

      wwSwwwww wwSww                      

Я вечор молода во пиру была,             Ya vechór molodá vo pirú bïlá,  (Ibid.: 213)

Во пиру была пирочке, во беседушке[18]         Vo pirú bïlá piróchke, vo besédushke


           What pushed Bailey into his exploration was the insufficiently known Russian lyric folk verse, on the one hand, and the rejection by virtually all verse theorists of the 19th and 20th centuries of the existence of any repeated classical poetic meters in Russian folk verse, on the other hand. Perhaps one reason for this rejection was the habit of linking all classical poetic meters to western European literary versification. This very popular contraposition of Russian and non-Russian ways of cultural development also implied that Russian folk verse had nothing in common with Russian literary poetry, heavily influenced by western European models (Bailey 2001: 63). Using numerous (in fact, many thousands) examples of folk song texts, Bailey refutes this theory. The author demonstrates not only that regular poetic meters are better preserved in lyric verse than in epic verse (Ibid.: 215), but also that trochees are widespread in various traditional genres of Russian folk song texts (bïlinas, historic songs, funeral laments, ballades, wedding and love songs, etc.). This proves to some extent that the folk trochaic meters are more ancient than the irregular two- and three-stress tonic verse patterns, previously considered as the most typical of Russian folk poetry.


          In fact, all the three poetic meters are variants of each other, for the phenomenon of “accentual dissimilation,” present in the trochaic tetrameter (Bailey 2001: 43), stands for the fact that in Russian folk verses even ictuses are often accented stronger than odd ones (as in the trochaic tetrameter with dactylic endings “Otstavála lébed’ bélaya”) – hence the difference between S and S on the scheme above. Therefore, one can roughly speak of the following three common features of these meters: (1) the initial anapest wwS, (2) the final dactyl Sww, and (3) the two-stress tonic verse pattern with a variable number of syllables per line wwSSww. The dactylic ending is recognized by many Slavists beginning from Tred’yakovsky (1752) as the most stable and typically Russian folk element, found both in lyric and epic folk verses. On the other hand, the initial anapest in Russian folk poetry is found to be frequent but not constant (Bailey 2001: 334).


                      The combination “initial anapest + dactylic ending” produces a centrally stressed five-syllable formula, very typical of Russian lyric folk poetry: wwSww. The expressions “krasna dévitsa” (lovely girl), “dobrïy mólodets” (fine fellow), “chudo chúdnoe” (wonderful wonder), “divo dívnoe” (miraculous miracle), “okeán-more” (ocean-sea), and the essential “ya lyublyú tebya” (I love you) are all cases in point.[19] The abundance of such pentasyllabic idioms supports the presence of a caesura (metric pause) between the two hemistiches of the 5+5 meter. Sometimes folk singers insert the particle “da” in place of the caesura (note the typical folk accent in “lyúdi”):


Все люди живут – как цветы цветут,              

А моя глава да вянет как трава.[20]    


Vse lyudI zhivútkak tsvetï tsvetút,                  wwSww        wwSww

A moyá glavá da vyánet kak travá.                    wwSww (w)  wwSww


These instances do not ruin the basic 5+5 meter (Bailey 2001: 83). The ten-syllable poetic line is the basic metric unit here because major syntactic articulations come at the end of even hemistiches. Interestingly, the phenomenon of “accentual dissimilation” is also present to some extent in the 5+5 meter, if the caesura between the two hemistiches is taken into account as a substitution for a weak syllable. As Bailey proves by his statistical analysis, the third and eighth syllables are constantly stressed, and the first, fifth, sixth, and tenth syllables reveal a tendency to be stressed – SwSwS  SwSwS (Ibid.: 85).


          As Kholopova demonstrates, folk pentasyllabic meters were appropriated by several major 19th-century Russian poets, notably Lermontov, Kol’tsov, and Nekrasov, and transformed by professional composers directly into the 5/4 musical meters found in Glinka, Balakirev, Borodin, Musorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Arensky, Tchaikovsky, Lyadov, Glazunov, Scriabin, etc. (Kholopova 1978: 204-228). Paradoxically, in Russian genuine folk music this five-syllable formula is often extended to fit a six-beat musical measure by doubling the rhythmic value corresponding to the third or the fifth syllable of each hemistich (Popova 1955I, cited by Kholopova 1978: 182). The beginning of the bïlina “Kak vo gorode stol’no-Kievskom,” cited by Kholopova on p. 181, serves as an example of lengthening the fifth syllable of each hemistich of the 5+5 meter (see Example 1):





Как во городе стольно-Киевском        Kak vo górode stol’no-Kíevskom    wwSww wwSww

   У Владимира Красна Солнышка[21]      U Vladímira Krasna Sólnïshka       wwSww wwSww


Example 1: Bïlina "Kak vo gorode stol’no-Kievskom" (Kholopova 1978: 181)


          On the other hand, musical five-beat meters are also present in Russian folk song but achieved in a different way: usually by adding melismas to the trochaic tetrameter (Kholopova 1978: 183; no example is given). Cases of melismatic lengthening of the trochaic tetrameter and other folk poetic meters in the melody of the slow lyric drawn-out song (protyazhnaya pesnya) are all too numerous – consider, for instance, the famous “Step’ Mozdokskaya” (Belyaev 1971: 61-2), where each line of the text, a four-foot trochee with masculine endings, is followed with a long sigh “A-akh!” The music reflects neither the trochee, nor the 5+5 meter of another variant of this text: “Uzh tï step’ moyá, /Step’ Mozdókskaya” – it is an elaborate and ornate cantilena (Example 2):





Уж ты степь ты, моя степь,(ах)       Uzh tï step' tï, moya step', (akh)     Sw Sw Sw S

Степь моя Моздокская,(ах)[22]         Step' moyá Mozdókskaya, (akh)      Sw Sw Sw S


Example 2: Drawn-out Song "Step' Mozdokskaya" (Belyaev 1971: 61-2)



          Dolzhansky has also noted this peculiarity:


As a general rule, [Russian folk songs] contain various melismas; this is why the poetic meter of the text is not usually reflected in the melody, and the melody is not governed by the poetic meter. Syllabic settings of poetry in Russian folk songs, where each syllable of the text corresponds to only one pitch of the melody, are not too numerous.[23]


          Metrically regular syllabic setting of the trochaic tetrameter also exists in Russian folklore and is more characteristic of children’s songs and dance songs – the two genres that often display a direct correspondence between poetic and musical meters in any language (Burling 1966, Brailoiu 1973). This notwithstanding, the majority of Russian folk songs do not usually preserve the poetic meter of Russian folk verse. Thus one must speak primarily of the absorption by the professional composers of poetic, rather than musical, Russian folk meters.[24]



Re-accentuation in Russian Folklore


          Before Stravinsky only Lyadov and Musorgsky set Russian folk poetry to music.[25] However, literary poems modeled on folk poetic meters were set by virtually all the composers beginning with Alyabiev (1787-1851), Varlamov (1801-1848), and Gurilyov (1803-1858). These settings more or less obeyed the rule of prosody – a topic for ardent discussions within the circle of the Mighty Five and beyond.[26] It is known that musically conservative Tchaikovsky, for instance, called it “the capital rhythmic law” and criticized Bortnyansky (1751-1825), whose sacred concertos he edited and sometimes even rebarred, for not submitting to it fully (Kholopova 1983: 100).


          The exaggerated lack of correspondence between textual and musical accentuation in the Russian vocal works of Stravinsky has been noticed by many scholars. It has become a commonplace to quote the late Stravinsky’s own explanation in Robert Craft’s retelling:


One important characteristic of Russian popular verse is that the accents of the spoken verse are ignored when the verse is sung. The recognition of the musical possibilities inherent in this fact was one of the most rejoicing discoveries of my life; I was like a man who suddenly finds that his finger can be bent from the second joint as well as from the first.[27]


Taruskin bases his entire treatment of re-accentuation in Stravinsky’s Russian vocal works on this quotation (1996: 1206-36), believing that Russian folk verse features literary accentuation, which is afterwards “adjusted” by authentic performers of Russian folk song in accordance with their musical needs.[28] As an illustration, Taruskin quotes the third stanza of the well-known round-dance song “Akh vï, seni moi, seni,” which, according to Simon Karlinsky, “the late Roman Jakobson liked quoting to his students” (see his fn. 138 on p. 1207 and his Example 15.22, cit. in my Example 3).  In his  chapter  on  Stravinsky’s  chansons  russes, Taruskin’s Russian musical examples are all underlaid with the normative literary accentuation instead of the folk one, as in “Uzh kak po mostú, po mostú, po shirokomu mostú” (Taruskin 1996: 1207) – instead of the well-known “Uzh kak pó mostu, po móstu, po shirokomu mostú.” Actually, Roman Jakobson need not have quoted this verse as a musical example – he could have simply recited it. In fact, the triple shift of accentuation of “po mostu” is caused primarily by the requirements of the regular poetic meter, the trochaic tetrameter with (alternately) feminine and masculine endings. Besides, all the three variants of “po mostu” coexist on equal terms in folk verse. They are examples of the so-called “folk accentuation” (see my explanation below):    




Уж как по мосту, по мосту,        Uzh kak pó mostu, po móstu,            Sw Sw Sw Sw

По широкому мосту[29]               Po shirókomu mostú                         Sw Sw Sw S       


Example 3: Round-dance Song "Akh vï, seni moi, seni," 3rd Stanza (Taruskin 1996: 1207)


          Another point of departure for Taruskin’s ideas was Evgeniya Linyova’s preface to her first volume of The Peasant Songs of Great Russia as They Are in the Folk’s Harmonization (1904): “The accent in folk song moves from one syllable to another within a word or from one word to another within a verse, according to the demands of sense in verse or melody, which are closely bound together and mutually influential” (Linyova 1904I: xvi, cit. in Taruskin 1996: 1213).[30] However, Stravinsky-Taruskin-Linyova’s explanation of the re-accentuation phenomenon does not stand apart as something new and original. In fact, this explanation reflects the tendency of some late 19th-century/early 20th-century linguists to attribute the irregularity of Russian folk verse to the complexity of the music of Russian folk song – the so-called “musical theory” (muzïkal’no-taktovaya teoriya) of Russian folk verse  (Korsh 1901) – and is neither complete nor accurate.[31] It is accepted today among linguists that the problem of re-accentuation in Russian folk verse is primarily a philological, and only secondarily an ethnomusicological problem. As Bailey has shown in his pioneering study (1993), (1) the standard literary Russian language accentuation differs significantly from the one of folk poetry,[32] (2) the shifted accentuation is a normative feature of Russian folk verse, not only Russian folk song,[33] and (3) although the shifted accentuation often occurs in order to coordinate the two rhythms, poetic and musical, in many cases, it is the Russian folk poetic meters that make the shifted accentuation necessary.[34]


          Another reason, touched upon by Kholopova, who justifies Bortnyansky’s re-accentuation by the oral performance practice of old Slavonic liturgical texts (Kholopova 1983: 101), is a link between re-accentuation and phonetics. As Vasina-Grossman points out (1972: 31), in Russian speech (as well as, for that matter, in English and German), only stressed vowels are phonetically clear, while the rest have some sort of mixed or reduced pronunciation. In this aspect Russian differs, for instance, from the Italian language, where all vowels are always pronounced clearly. It is known that the place of an accent in the Russian language is not fixed – as opposed to the Czech, Polish, or French languages, where the stress always comes on the first, penultimate, or last syllable of any word, respectively. As to the ways of accentuation of a stressed syllable in any language, they are at least three: intensity, duration, and pitch. Some languages use only one of these properties (as, e.g., the English language uses intensity, modern Greek uses duration, and Chinese and Vietnamese use pitch), while others use a combination thereof. In the Norwegian and Swedish languages, for example, musical accent is accompanied by an amplification of volume. In the Russian language, a stressed vowel is both slightly longer and louder in comparison with the rest; therefore, every clearly pronounced, prolonged or simply sung Russian vowel could be easily perceived as stressed.


          Therefore, it is not surprising that many verse theorists have always regarded Russian folk verse as being made up of accents of different strengths at different places. In the beginning of the 20th century, a theory existed (which, by the way, also belonged to F. E. Korsh) that regarded dactylic endings as double-stressed, for it is precisely the final syllable of the line that is often prolonged in folk songs (“krasna dévitsà,” “dobrïy mólodèts,” “chudo chúdnoè,” etc.). On the other hand, the investigators of the 18th century beginning with Tred’yakovsky (1752) regarded “dóbrïy mólodets” as a “trochee-dactyl,” ignoring the secondary final stress altogether. From the 19th century onwards, a theory of clictics was popular: the main phrasal accent falls on the middle syllable of the 5+5 meter, while all other words lose their word accents and become proclictics (“krasna dévitsa,” “dobrïy mólodets,” “chudo chúdnoe”) or enclictics (“okeán-more”). At present, the accepted view is that of Taranovsky who was the first to introduce the notions of “word accent,” “phrasal accent,” and “accentual dissimilation” with its constants and tendencies. The author explained that the order of parts of speech in a pentasyllabic phrase is what makes a difference in the accent order: “In phrases like ‘vo chistó polyò’ [adjective + noun] the accent is usually shifted backward, in phrases like ‘kònya dóbrogo’ [noun + adjective] forward. In both cases, the strongest phrasal accent always falls on the middle syllable, while weaker word accents fall on other words.” (Taranovsky 1956, cit. in Bailey 2001: 195). I will summarize this clash of opinions below:


SwSww            Tred’yakovsky

wwSwS            Korsh

wwSww           The theory of clictics

SwSwS            Taranovsky-Bailey


          Thus the Russian folk 5+5 meter is built around one main phrasal accent, placed in the middle of a hemistich and dominating other word accents in the hemistich. A similar hierarchy of accents – although more differentiated and more obvious to our perception – is intrinsic to music at the stage of barring notation (roughly from the 16th century onward), which perhaps could explain the following confession made by the younger Stravinsky in Chroniques de ma vie:


What fascinated me in this verse was not so much the stories, which were often crude, or the pictures and metaphors, always so deliciously unexpected, as the sequence of the words and syllables, and the cadence they create, which produces an effect on one’s sensibilities very closely akin to that of music. [35]


          But as far as Stravinsky’s chansons russes are concerned, where unjustified re-accentuation abounds, this is not “the whole truth” either. There exists yet another type of interdependence: that between re-accentuation and musical intonation. In his 1972 article, Kharlap draws attention in passing to a case of re-accentuation, driven by the need to raise the reciting pitch in accordance with a more or less fixed melodic formula. What Linyova and Taruskin call “logical accent” – a rather subjective and somewhat outdated term in Russian metrics[36] – Kharlap (1972: 230-1) describes as a balance between a pair of emphases found in each hemistich, one high and one low, arsis and thesis, both of equal importance.[37] Their distance from each other, as well as the number of syllables in each of the two hemistiches, is only approximately the same (1972: 230-1, italics mine). Using numerous examples, mostly taken from epic folk verses, the author demonstrates that arses are usually placed one full step higher than theses in melody. Thus the need for preservation of the same descending melodic line in each poetic line of the stanza (something typical of epic folk songs) might occasionally cause a change in normal accentuation:


Жил Святослав девяносто лет,               Zhíl Svyatoslàv devyanósto lèt,

Жил Святослав да переставился.            Zhíl Svyatoslàv da perestávilsyà.    

Оставалось от него чадо милое,             Ostaválosot negò chado míloè,    

Молодой Вольга (да) Святославгович.[38]  MOlodoy Volgà (da) Svyatoslávgovìch.


          This is a bïlina, a large-scale mythological epic, which is nowadays generally considered to be a three-stress tonic verse (arsis and thesis in each hemistich are marked with the symbols ´ and `). The biggest problem, says Kharlap, is that if Russian folk meters are viewed as tonic, the need for additional words – conjunctions, interjections, particles like “(da)” in the verse above, etc. – employed by performers, as well as for shifted stress in general becomes unclear (1972: 228). Thus, Kharlap says, the shift of accent in “molodóy” of the fourth line cannot be explained by any other reason than by the need to raise intonation at the beginning of the line in compliance with the already established arsis and thesis (see his musical example on p. 258, copied in my Example 4, arses and theses are shown above).


Молодой Вольга (да) Святославгович     MOlodoy Volgà (da) Svyatoslávgovìch.


Example 4: Bïlina "Vol'ga i Mikula," 1st Stanza, 4th Line (Kharlap 1972: 258)


Sometimes, however, with the main intonation being preserved, fluctuations in the size of a hemistich and in the placement of accents are possible. Thus the line ‘Mólodoy Vol’gà (da) Svyatoslávgovìch’ can be read, without destroying the meter, with the literary stress on ‘molodóy’ instead of the bïlina-stress ‘mólodoy.’ Therefore, although the musical structure is quite clear from the text here, it is sometimes useful for clarification of the rhythmic structure of the verse to know how it is sung.[39]

          The complexity of the re-accentuation issue thus becomes even more pronounced: Stravinsky, Linyova, and Taruskin all seem right in that in certain cases the shift of accent in Russian folk songs is not required by the metric formula of the verse but is caused by the urge to maintain the established melodic structure. Such cases are genre-specific and thus cannot lay claim to be a general rule, because this type of re-accentuation is not typical of faster genres of Russian folk songs where the metric scheme is more regular and the vocal melody is less flexible than in bïlinas. These faster genres often feature a different type of re-accentuation (see below). 




Russian Folk Versification and the Problem of Incomplete Poetic Feet


          Since re-accentuation is an evident feature of both Russian folk verse and Russian folk song, there have been numerous attempts to explain this phenomenon from the point of view of both musicians and linguists. However, these attempts often resembled a search for one unknown quantity through another, even lesser known one. Indeed, the main stumbling block has often been the irregular metric scheme of Russian peasant poetry. In the final part of this article, I will shed some light on the distinction between the “foot” (stopnaya), “tonic” (tonicheskaya), and “musical” (muzïkal’no-taktovaya) theories of Russian folk versification. This distinction is necessary, primarily, in order to better understand the differences between tonic (irregular) and isometric (regular) folk poetic structures discussed above, and secondarily, because it can help clarify the phenomenon of “incomplete poetic feet.” In its turn, the notion of “incomplete feet” will bring us to the discussion of the last type of Russian folk re-accentuation. 


         The question of metrics in Russian folk verse was first put forward in the middle of the 18th century by Tred’yakovsky (1752), one of the two reformers – along with Lomonosov – of Russian literary versification according to western European standards. Tred’yakovsky’s “foot” theory viewed Russian folk verse as tonic-syllabic (sillabo-tonicheskiy stikh), that is, as consisting of a constant number of identical poetic feet per line. According to this theory, all metric curiosities result from a combination of different poetic feet, as in the familiar “trochee-dactyl” “dóbrïy mólodets.” However, it was soon found that many folk metric phenomena (as, e.g., the 5+5 meter) could not be explained by a simple combination of two heterogeneous feet into one. Therefore, in the beginning of the 19th century, a critical attitude toward this theory arose, which later prompted the writings of Vostokov (1817). Vostokov put forward a completely new concept of word stress, linked to the breathing process during singing or recitation of a verse. His “tonic” theory denies the existence of poetic feet in Russian folk verse and regards it as “purely tonic” (chisto-tonicheskiy stikh), that is, a verse that has a constant number (normally 2 or 3) of main stresses (phonetic, syntagmatic, or logical – that was still a question to answer) per line. Unlike the “foot” theory, which was gradually losing its significance during the 19th century, Vostokov’s highly original concept grew even stronger, spawning later linguistic doctrines, including the theories of “syntactical feet” by Potebnya (1884) and of “free meter” (vol’nïy razmer) by Sokal’sky (1888), the two reference points for Kharlap’s investigations. With small modifications, this concept ended up in modern textbooks.


          However, already in the 19th century, there arose a discontent with the theory, as it had failed to explain the basic difference between Russian folk verse and prose. In addition, some works appeared that directly addressed the insufficiency of accent-counting on the grounds that “not all four-storeyed buildings are of the same height” (Shtokmar 1952: 43). At the beginning of the 20th century, Korsh (1901) put forward his “musical” theory, which regarded Russian folk verse as isochronic (ravnodolgotnïy stikh): the verse is inseparable from its vocal performance and is organized metrically by its tune. Popular during the period when the first phonographic records of Russian folk songs were made, this theory did not receive much scientific recognition afterwards, for it skirted the question of poetic metrics altogether, having granted the exclusive right to deal with it to ethnomusicologists (Shtokmar 1952: 106).


          This mass of contradictions began to disentangle in the 1930s, when Russian folk epic verse became the subject of the “Russian” linguistic-statistical method of analysis in the writings of Jakobson (1966 [1929]), Trubetskoy (1990 [1937]), and Taranovsky (1956). Only at the end of the century did Bailey (1993) succeed in reconciling many controversial viewpoints by considering Russian folk verse as co-existent in many different metric variants, both tonic and regular, and sometimes even non-metric (prose-like). Bailey also surmised that tonic verse was very likely a secondary formation as compared to regular verse, and that it represented the first step toward the disintegration of Russian folk versification into prose. The habit of adding small words in order to adjust the verse to the regular meter – conjunctions, interjections, particles like “da” in the bïlina above, etc. – on the part of the performers gradually led to an abuse of this practice, which was probably one of the causes of this disintegration (Bailey 2001: 378). 


          Nowadays, the standard scientific approach to the problem of metrics of Russian folk versification has the genre of a particular verse as its basis (Propp 1961: 46). The division of Russian folk verse into epic, lyric, and spoken (skazovïy stikh), where the first is less metrically regular than the other two, is accepted by all modern folklorists.[40] According to Propp, lyric folk songs about love and family are divided into two parts – protyazhnïe (“sad and slow” drawn-out cantilena songs) and chastïe (“happy and rapid” dance and game songs, that is, songs connected with physical movement) (Ibid.: 14-16). “Happy and rapid” songs can be easily distributed into musical measures, and the reason for this is simple: the western European measure system appeared due to the influence of popular dances on the music of professional composers. In the preface to his collection of lyric folk song texts (1961), Propp examines several widespread types of the four-foot trochee – the most characteristic poetic meter of dancing (plyasovïe), round-dancing (khorovodnïe), and game songs (igrovïe pesni). He notes that absolute correspondence between poetic feet and musical measures is quite rare, but he does not elucidate in detail the phenomenon of incomplete (or silent syllable) poetic feet – the main reason behind the formation of so many kinds of the trochaic tetrameter.


          Although extremely widespread in children’s, dance, and game songs, “incomplete feet” as applied to Russian folklore have never been the subject of a special study, for the very existence of homogeneous poetic feet in Russian folk verse is still put into doubt by many linguists. This is why the author of the present study had to rely on generative linguistic studies of English folk verse for clarification of this phenomenon (Hayes, Kaun 1996; Hayes, MacEachern 1996, 1998). In my opinion, the concept of “incomplete feet” is merely a special case of musical isochronism or temporal equality of the two hemistiches achieved in singing – which was one of the subjects of the “musical” theory of Russian folk verse. Musical isochronism, interpreted as a certain “contraction” of two short syllables into one long syllable, is discussed by linguists beginning from the middle of the 19th century well into the 20th (to repeat: the phonetic difference between short and long vowels does not exist in Russian). Potebnya (1884), for instance, has expanded the concept of musical isochronism by applying it to spoken verse (Shtokmar 1952: 68-69). As concerns Soviet ethnomusicologists, who have never paid enough attention to the metric structure of Russian folk verse (Bailey 2001: 27), some of them addressed the issue in detail. Viktor Belyaev, for instance, the author mostly known in the western world for his outline of Les Noces (1928), explains the phenomenon as follows:


One of the most widely disseminated meters in the world is the trochaic tetrameter. This and other poetic meters are often used with sporadic deviations from standard types – e.g., with omissions of structurally important syllables from the poetic feet or, vice versa, with extra syllables inserted into them. Our analysis of this creative method allows us to draw two important conclusions.


Firstly, the predominance of omitted syllables in poetic lines is typical of the earliest stage of formation of poetic meters. It is observed mostly in underdeveloped song cultures and preserved to our day in children’s folk songs…


Secondly, the predominance of inserted extra syllables is characteristic of the formation of new poetic meters and of further development of poetic rhythm in general.[41]


          The author provides numerous musical examples in order to illustrate these two principles.[42] The two excerpts of text below correspond to my musical Examples 5 and 6, respectively. Belyaev explains ibidem (and his explanation is entirely pertinent to my Example 5) that in the first case complete classical 7- or 8-syllable poetic lines (i.e. trochaic lines with masculine or feminine endings) are replaced with incomplete 6-syllable poetic lines, although the four-beat structure of the verse remains clear and intact. In the second case, the insertion of one-syllable words “oy” (oh) and “da” (and) into the six-foot trochee leads to an appearance of a more heterogeneous poetic structure with dactylic elements:




Дождик, дождик, пуще,      Dózhdik, dózhdik, púshche,           Sw Sw Sw à Sw Sw S    S

Дадим тебе гущи[43]            DAdim tEbe gúshchi                    Sw Sw Sw à Sw Sw S    S


       Example 5: Children’s Game Song “Dozhdik, dozhdik, pushche" (Kharlap, 1971: 248) 





Горе, горе лебеденьку моему[44]

Góre, góre lebedénku moemú                Sw Sw Sw Sw Sw S           


Ой горе, горе да лебеденьку моему                                           

Oy gore, góre da lebedén’ku moemú       à         Sww Sw Sww Sw Sw S


Example 6: Lyric Song “Oy gore, gore” (Belyaev 1971: 56)       


           “The melodic rhythm in these examples coincides with the rhythm of a cantilena-like declamation of these poems,” says the author (Belyaev 1971: 55). This last statement is very important, as it proves that Belyaev is aware of the fact that the incomplete feet phenomenon belongs to both the realm of poetry (or, to be precise, poetic performance practice) and that of music. Let me show the existence of incomplete trochaic feet in the following three excerpts from children’s verse (Shein 1989: 33-4):    


Тилим-бом, тилим-бом,            Tilim-bóm, tilim-bóm,                          Sw  S    Sw S

Загорелся козий дом.[45]           Zagorélsya kóziy dom.                                    Sw  Sw Sw S


Трах, трах, тарарах!                 Trakh, trakh, tararákh!                          S    S    Sw  S

Едет баба на волах.[46]             Edet bába na volákh.                          Sw Sw  Sw  S


Уж дождь дождём,                   Uzh dozhd’ dozhdyóm,                       S    S   S   S

Поливай ковшом![47]                  Poliváy kovshóm!                               Sw S   S   S 


          In the first example above, there is an alternation between a complete four-foot trochaic line with a masculine ending and a four-foot trochaic line with two incomplete feet. In the second example, there are as many as three incomplete feet in the first line. Finally, in the first line of the last example, all trochaic feet are incomplete.


          Sometimes the organizational potential of the trochaic tetrameter is so strong that it outweighs other poetic meters. Consider these two examples, the second of which is supplied with music (Example 7): 


Жила-была Дуня,        ZhIla-bïla Dúnya,                             Sw Sw Sw à                Sw Sw S   S

Дуня-тонкопряха.[48]    Dúnya-tonkopryákha.                 Sw Sw Sw à   Sw Sw S   S




А было у бабки                       A bïlo u bábki               wSw wSw  à  Sw Sw S   S

Четыре вола.                          Chetïre volá.                 wSw  wS    à  Sw Sw S   Ø

Приехало к бабке                   Priékhalo k bábke          wSw  wSw à  Sw Sw    S

Четыре купца.[49]                     Chetïre kuptsá.              wSw  wS    à  Sw Sw   Ø


Example 7: Lullaby "A bïlo u babki chetïre vola" (Rubtsov 1967: 196)


In the first example, the three-foot trochee is “distributed into four measures in singing” (Propp 1961: 45) precisely because the third complete trochaic foot in the poem turns into the last two incomplete trochaic feet in the song. The second example, taken from Rubtsov (1967: 196), shows a very curious transformation of the amphibrachic dimeter of the spoken verse into a trochaic tetrameter with incomplete feet in the music. Moreover, the normative literary accents of “A bïlo,” “Chetïre” and “Priékhalo” are fore-shifted in the process of this transformation: “A bïlo,” “ChEtïre” and “PrIekhalo.” Prima facie, one would consider this example a perfect illustration of the Stravinsky-Taruskin-Linyova theory. In fact, such transformation is only a matter of altering the metrical organization of the verse during declamation.[50] Although the spoken verse resembles children’s nonsense poems, its musical embodiment suggests a lullaby – a genre that tends to favor regularity and slow tempo more than anything else. Rubtsov surmises that the tune and the verse might have existed independently of each other, and that this text could have been taken by the performer merely for lack of a more appropriate one (Ibid.).


          The problem of incomplete feet leads us to the last, very special type of Russian folk re-accentuation – the one that is there for color effect and nothing else. This type mainly concerns children’s spoken verse pribaoutki, as well as dance songs and game songs, performed solo or in a group. As in the two previous cases, this type of re-accentuation is not evident from a printed text and is indeed “fully revealed only in singing” (Taruskin); however, a metrically organized declamation will also give a good idea of it. This type concerns an immediate repetition of one and the same word, which keeps the main metric parameters intact but slightly shifts the agogic emphasis from a stressed syllable to an unstressed one. Kholopova (1983: 146) calls this type “accentual variation of a word-motive” and mentions several cases of its employment by 18th- and 19th-century Russian composers. Shtokmar (1952: 204-5) has also noted this peculiarity: “A play of overt, even provoking stress shifts is finding its advocates and gradually becoming legalized by the poetic folk tradition. There appear certain verses where all accent variants of one and the same word are catalogued, as it were, by the folk singer.” Consider, e.g., the shifts of accents in “lúgu” (meadow in the dative), “mólodtsa” (fine fellow in the genetive), and “boyús’” ([I’m] afraid) (Shein 1989: 65-6):


Как по лугу, по лугу,                          Kak po lúgu, po lugU,                           Sw Sw Sw S

По зелёному лугу[51]                           Po zelyónomu lugU                              Sw Sw Sw S


Как у молодца, молодца                   Kak u mólodtsa, molOdtsa                   Sw Sw Sw Sw

Разгорелися глаза[52]                         Razgorélisya glazá                               Sw Sw Sw S


Не боюсь я вечной муки,                    Ne boyúsya véchnoy múki,                 Sw Sw Sw Sw

Боюсь с миленьким разлуки[53]           BOyuss mílenkim razlúki                     Sw Sw Sw Sw


As a matter of fact, this type of re-accentuation can only be explained by using the notion of incomplete feet. Here is the beginning of the famous round-dance folk song “Oh we sowed the millet,” mentioned by Taruskin apropos Stravinsky’s “rejoicing discovery”:



А мы просо сеяли, сеяли![54]           A mï próso séyali, seyalI!             Sw Sw S  Sw Sw S

Ой, дид-Ладо! Сеяли, сеяли!        Oy, did-Ládo! Séyali, seyalI!           Sw Sw S  Sw Sw S


Example 8: Round-dance Song "A mï proso seyali" (Taruskin 1996: 1209)


This three-stress tonic verse becomes surprisingly regular (trochaic) in the music.[55] The interplay of accents in “seyali” is due to the “incomplete + complete” foot combination in the former case and the “complete + incomplete” foot combination in the latter case (S  Sw vs. Sw S). The accent, as it were, “jumps over” from the first to the last syllable of the same word. Notice, however, that in the music the doubling of the rhythmic value coincides with the metric accent only in the first “seyali,” while the second “seyali” is agogically back-stressed but metrically fore-stressed (“sèyalí”).





Conclusion: What Does It All Have to Do with Stravinsky?


          After the excursus into the area of Russian folk versification, it becomes obvious that the late Stravinsky’s explanation of the phenomenon of Russian folk re-accentuation should be taken with caution. Above I argue that the problem of re-accentuation in Russian folk verse and song is seen today primarily as linguistic, and only secondarily as an ethnomusicological problem. At the same time, it would be no more appropriate to dismiss entirely the role of purely musical factors in the emergence of re-accentuation in Russian folk songs, especially considering the abundance of “musical” re-accentuation in the famous folksong collections consulted by Stravinsky from his youth onward. Quite often, the effect of re-accentuation can be caused, for example, by a prolongation or melismatic extension of a syllable while singing (phonetic factor), by a rise of musical intonation in accordance with the already established melodic pattern (intonational factor), or by a creative urge to destroy monotony at an immediate repetition of one and the same word (agogic factor). However, such types of re-accentuation are often genre-specific: the first is more typical of slow drawn-out songs, the second is more characteristic of epic songs with their irregular metric structure, while the third type is found mainly in rapid lyric folk songs – children’s, dance, round-dance, and game songs, that is, in songs connected with physical movement.


                      In the light of the above discussion, the reasons for re-accentuation in Stravinsky’s settings of Russian folklore texts can be divided schematically into two parts: (1) “primary” re-accentuation that is already present in Stravinsky’s text sources, and (2) “secondary” re-accentuation that is present in the works of Stravinsky but absent from his text sources. The latter is the most numerous category including stresses shifted for rhythmic or metric purposes, for semantic purposes, for preservation of the same melodic material, for color effect, for the purpose of deviation from the traditional poetic structures, etc. However, the former predominates in his early settings of Russian folk verse: “rïzhikI,” “senatOrï,” “sidyuchI,” “glyadyuchI” in “Kak gribï na voynu sobiralis’” dating back to 1904 (“How the Mushrooms Prepared for War”), “vskOchila,” “slOmila” in “Sorochen’ka” (“The Magpie”) and  “nA vecher” in “Chicher-Yacher” from Souvenirs de mon enfance (1906-13), “stOit” and “gorYO-toskú” in “Kornilo,” “medovAya” and “zharU” in “Natashka” from Pribaoutki (1914), “kOza,” “glAza,” in “Tilim-bom,” “vOrobey,” “tArakan,” ”banyU” in “Gusi-lebedi” (“Geese, swans”) from Trois histoires pour enfants (1915-17), etc.[56]


          In most such cases, we deal either with the folk accentuation (“sidyuchI,” Example 9, mm. 5-6) or with a stress shift caused by a necessity to adjust the poetic line to the regular – mainly trochaic (although there is one case of an amphibrach in “Natashka”) – folk verse pattern. The difference between the two causes of re-accentuation is barely noticeable even to a native speaker; indeed, most of these words are found in the appendices of folk stress variants in Bailey 1993 (cf. “gorYO” on p. 320, “dubOm”  on p. 323,  “medovOy” on p. 329)  and  Bailey 2001 (cf.  “sidyuchI”  on pp. 77, 102). These are all cases of the “primary” re-accentuation to which Russian folk singers and Russian-speaking readers of folk poetry rarely pay attention. Who, for instance, would seriously doubt the presence of two stresses in the word “zAgorélsya,” one primary – the literary stress on the third syllable – and one secondary, a folk trochaic shift? Accentual  dissimilation is responsible for the difference in intensity of these two stresses.




Под дубом сидючи,                Pod dubóm sidyuchI,               Sw S    Sw  S

На грибы глядючи, [57]             Na gribï glyadyuchI,                  Sw S    Sw  S


Example 9:  “How the Mushrooms Prepared for War” (mm. 1-11)

© Copyright 1979 Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd. Reprinted by permission


Such stress shifts as “ZAgorelsya koziy dom” (Example 10, mm. 3-4) or “Otkazalis’ rïzhikI” (Example 11, mm. 84-85) are so widespread in Russian folk tradition that to call them “re-accentuation” would seem a bit of an exaggeration for a native speaker (especially a child), who would most likely pass them by unnoticed. But the stress shifts in “senatOrï” (Example 12, m. 38), “vskOchila” (Example 13, m. 6), “slOmila” (Example 13, m. 8), “gorYO-toskú” (Example 14, mm. 11-13) and “medovAya” (Example 15, mm. 5-6) are quite another matter, because the stress shift here falls on a syllable adjacent to the literary stress and thus contradicts the accentual dissimilation, natural to the word itself. Stravinsky, born linguist that he was, could hardly pass over these stress shifts unnoticed. Precisely these cases of folk accentuation (notice that they still belong to the “primary” re-accentuation) were so engraved in his memory that even in old age he spoke of some curious capacity of folk performers to ignore literary accents while singing:


One important characteristic of Russian popular verse is that the accents of the spoken verse are ignored when the verse is sung. The recognition of the musical possibilities inherent in this fact was one of the most rejoicing discoveries of my life; I was like a man who suddenly finds that his finger can be bent from the second joint as well as from the first.[58]




Тилим-бом, тилим-бом,           Tilim-bóm, tilim-bóm,                Sw S    Sw S   

Загорелся козий дом.             Zagorélsya kóziy dom.             Sw Sw Sw S         

Коза выскочила,                     KOza vïskochila,                       Sw S    Sw S       

Глаза выпучила,[59]                 GlAza vïpuchila,                        Sw S    Sw S 


Example 10: "Tilim-bom" (mm. 1-9)





Отказались рыжики:                Otkazális’ rïzhikI:                       Sw Sw Sw S   

«Мы простые мужики,[60]         “Mï prostïe muzhikí,                   Sw Sw Sw S


Example 11:  “How the Mushrooms Prepared for War” (mm. 83-90)

© Copyright 1979 Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd. Reprinted by permission





Отказались мухоморы,           Otkazális’ mukhomórï,               Sw Sw Sw Sw 

Говорят, мы сенаторы, [61]      Govoryát, mï senatOrï,              Sw Sw Sw Sw 


Example 12:  “How the Mushrooms Prepared for War” (mm. 36-40)

© Copyright 1979 Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd. Reprinted by permission






Вскочила на ёлочку,               VskOchila na yólochku,             Sw Sw S   Sw

Сломила головушку. [62]          SlOmila golóvushku.                 Sw Sw S   Sw


Example 13:  Souvenirs de mon enfance “Soroka” / "The Magpie" (mm. 6-10)




Приразмычь горё-тоску:                     Prirazmïch’ gorYO-toskú:          Sw Sw Sw S

Стоит бражка в туяску, [63]                  StOit brázhka v tuyaskú,           Sw Sw Sw S


Example 14: “Kornilo” (mm. 10-14)




Сладка медовая,                    Sladká medovAya,                   wSw wSw   

В печи не бывала,                   V pechí ne bïvála,                     wSw wSw   

Жару не видала.[64]                 ZharU ne vidála.                       wSw wSw   


Example 15: “Natashka” (mm. 1-10)


          Beginning from the early-to-middle period of his, so to say, sensitivity to Russian folk verse, Stravinsky starts to systematically introduce the “secondary” or “musical” re-accentuation, the one that does not exist in his text sources. But already in “Vorona” (“The Rook”) from Souvenirs de mon enfance, he shifts the accent from one stressed syllable to the other, unstressed one, in “móknet” and “sókhnet” at their repetitions, imitating a similar procedure in folklore (cf. “A mï próso séyali, seyalI”). This shift results in an interplay of fore-shifts and back-shifts (Example 16, mm. 25-28):





Пусть ворона сохнет,             Pust’ voróna sókhnet,               Sw Sw S    S

Пусть ворона сохнет. [65]         Pustvoróna sokhnEt.              Sw Sw S    S


Example 16: Souvenirs de mon enfance,”Vorona” / ”The Rook” (mm. 23-28)


                      Opening the first song of Trois histoires pour enfants “Tilim-bom” as a very conventional setting of a popular nursery rhyme, he soon turns off the road of predictability, accelerating or slowing down the syllabic rhythm of the poem as compared to the “prosodic norm” (the term is taken from Ogolevets 1960). In so doing, he introduces utterly distorted accents, alien to the rhythmic structure of the text (refer back to Example 10, mm. 5-7): “vïskochIla,” “vïpuchIla” (cf. “vïskochila,” “vïpuchila”), etc. Another interesting case of inversion of the natural accentuation of the tonic verse is found in the setting of the first two lines of the irregular tonic verse of “Polkovnik” (“The Colonel”) from Pribaoutki, which aims to mark the initial “Ps” of the tongue-twister (Example 17):




Пошёл полковник погулять.

Поймал птичку-перепёлочку.[66]


Poshyól polkóvnik pogulyát’.      à POshyol pOlkovnik pOgulyat’.

Poymál ptíchku-perepyólochku. à POymal ptíchku-perepyólochku.


Example 17: Pribaoutki, "Polkovnik"/ "The Colonel" (mm. 6-9, 15-18)


          The setting of the tonic verse of “Starets i zayats” (“The Old Man and the Hare”) also abounds with re-accentuation of this type, totally unjustified by any logical reason except, perhaps, by the “contrafact” method of text-setting (Taruskin 1996: 1277): “kOsoy zaYAts” (Example 18, mm. 18-19), “prosIt izvarEts” (mm. 23-24), and so on and so forth. These shifts of accents result from a conscious breaking-up on the part of the composer of the natural prosody of children folk poetry, either sung or spoken:




Прибежал косой заяц             Pribezhál kosóy záyats             à Pribezhál kOsoy zaYAts

И просит изварец.[67]              I prósit izvárets.                        à I prosIt izvarEts.


Example 18: Pribaoutki, "Starets i zayats"/ "The Old Man and the Hare" (mm. 15-27)


          “Pesenka medvedya” (“The Bear”, Example 19), the last one of Trois histoires pour enfants, stands out from all the chansons russes as the quintessence of Stravinsky’s newly discovered “new technique of text-setting” (Expo: 120). The most distinctive feature of this song is its metric ambiguity: the quasi-iambic poetic meter perpetually clashes with the 2/4 meter of the music. The first two lines of the poem, an iambic dimeter and an anapestic dimeter, are set as if they were trochaic tetrameters: a “Chicher-Yacher” (see Example 20) type with four incomplete feet and a “Tilim-bom, tilim-bom” type that is further transformed into a trimeter with one silent foot. The result of such a conversion of the poetic meters is a complete distortion of the natural accentuation of the poem: “SkrIpi, nOga,/ SkrIpi, lipovAya” (Example 19, mm. 1-4):




Скрипи, нога!              Skripí, nogá!       wS wS            à  S    S    S    S  à  S    S    S   S      

Скрипи, липовая![68]     Skripí, lípovaya!  wwS wwS        à  Sw S    Sw S   à  Sw Sw Sw   Ø     


Example 19: Trois histoires pour enfants, "Pesenka medvedya"/"The Bear" (mm. 1-7)





Чичер-Ячер                                Chícher-Yácher                         S    S    S    S[69]   

Собирался на вечер.[70]              Sobirálsya nA vecher.               Sw Sw Sw  S   


Example 20: Souvenirs de mon enfance, “Chicher-Yacher” (mm. 1-3)


          The Stravinsky analysis above confirms that each of the two types of Russian folk re-accentuation – “primary” (required by the regular poetic meter) and “secondary” (caused by the totality of musical factors) – coexist on equal terms in his music. Similarly, these two tendencies coexist peacefully in Russian folklore; however, the deliberate and systematic distortion of prosody – rare if inexistent in folklore – in Stravinsky’s music gradually acquires a status of a prominent feature. Such distortion will soon become the quintessence of the composer’s mature style in the late chansons russes, Bayka, Svadebka, and other works.






The New Grove system of transliterating Russian vowels is adopted with minor amendments. The letter ы is transliterated as ї, the letter й is transliterated as y, ю and я as yu and ya, ё as yo, e as e, but after hard or soft signs (both are represented as ’) or between two vowels “e” it is transliterated as ye. Standard renderings of proper names (Dargomyzhsky, Musorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Scriabin, etc.) are used.



Symbols for Prosodic Analysis


Accents (primary ´ and secondary `) are given in the transliterations of Russian folk poetry. Re-accented vowels are marked in capital letters. Other symbols are used as follows (the parentheses around the masculine ending are only meant to show the extra space after S):



strong syllable


weak syllable


trochaic foot


iambic foot


dactylic foot


amphibrachic foot


anapestic foot


feminine ending (complete foot)

(S  )

masculine ending (incomplete foot)


silent foot

S vs. S

primary stress vs. secondary


trochaic foot with inserted one extra syllable



Chron              Stravinsky, Igor. Chronicle of My Life. London: Victor Gollancz, 1936.


Expo               Stravinsky, Igor, and Robert Craft. Expositions and Developments. London: Faber and Faber, 1962.


Mem                Stravinsky, Igor, and Robert Craft. Memories and Commentaries. London: Faber and Faber, 1960.


Selected Bibliography


Aleksandrov, A. 1976 “Zhanrovïe i stilisticheskie osobennosti ‘Bayki’ Stravinskogo” (The features of genre and style in Stravinsky’s ‘Bayka’). Iz istorii russkoy i sovetskoy muzïki 2 (From the history of Russian and Soviet music 2, Moscow: Muzïka): 200-242.


Asafiev, Boris. 1977 Kniga o Stravinskom (A book about Stravinsky). Moscow: Muzïka.


___________1982 A Book About Stravinsky. Translated by Richard F. French, introduced by Robert Craft. Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Research Press.


Bailey, James. 1993 Three Russian Lyric Folk Song Meters. Columbus, OH: Slavica Publishers.


__________2001 Izbrannïe stat’i po russkomu narodnomu stikhu (Selected papers on Russian folk verse). Translated, edited, and introduced by M. L. Garparov. Moscow and CEU: Yazïki russkoy kul’turï.


__________2004 Izbrannïe stat’i po russkomu literaturnomu stikhu (Selected papers on Russian literary verse). Moscow: Yazïki russkoy kul’turï.


Banin, A. A. 1978 “Ob odnom analiticheskom metode muzïkal’noy fol’kloristiki” (About one analytic method of musical folklore study). Muzïkal’naya fol’kloristika 2 (Musical folklore study 2, Moscow: Sovetsky Kompozitor): 117-157.


Belyaev, Viktor. 1928 Igor Stravinsky’s ‘Les Noces’: An Outline. Translated by S. W. Pring. London: Oxford University Press.


____________1971 “Svyaz’ ritma teksta i ritma melodii v narodnïkh pesnyah” (The relation between the textual and musical rhythms in folksongs). O muzïkal’nom fol’klore i drevney pis’mennosti (On musical folklore and ancient writing, Moscow: Sovetsky Kompozitor): 52-64.


____________1972 Musorgsky, Scriabin, Stravinsky. Sbornik statey (Musorgsky, Scriabin, Stravinsky. A collection of papers). Moscow: Muzïka.


Birkan, Rafail. 1966 “O poeticheskom texte ‘Svadebki’ Igorya Stravinskogo” (On the poetic text of Igor Stravinsky’s ‘Svadebka’). Russkaya muzïka na rubezhe XX veka (Russian music in the beginning of the 20th century, Moscow-Leningrad: Muzïka): 239-251.


___________ 1971 “O tematizme ‘Svadebki’” (On the thematic material of ‘Svadebka’). Iz istorii muzïki XX veka (From the 20th-century music history, Moscow: Muzïka): 169-188.


Brailoiu, Constantin. 1973 “La rythmique enfantine.” Problèmes d’ethnomusicologie (Genève: Minkoff Reprints): 267-299.


Burling, Robbins. 1966 “The Metrics of Children’s Verse: A Cross-Linguistic Study.” American Anthropologist 68: 1418-1441.


Dolzhansky, Alexandr. 1973 “O svyazi mezhdu ritmom russkoy rechi i russkoy muzïkoy” (On the link between the rhythm of Russian language and that of Russian music). Izbrannïe stat’i (Selected papers, Leningrad: Muzïka): 178-199.


Druskin, Mikhail. 1979 Igor’ Stravinsky. Leningrad: Sovetsky Kompozitor.


_____________1983 Igor Stravinsky: His Life, Works, and Views. Translated by Martin Cooper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Gasparov, Mikhail. 2000 Ocherk istorii russkogo stikha (An outline of history of Russian verse). Moscow: Fortuna Limited.


Golovinsky, Grigory. 1981 Kompozitor i fol’klor: iz opïta masterov XIX-XX vekov (The composer and folklore: From the experience of the 19th-20th-century masters). Moscow: Muzïka.


________________1985 “Stravinsky i folklor: nablyudeniya i zametki” (Stravinsky and folklore: Observations and notes). I. F. Stravinsky. Stat’i, vospominaniya (I. F. Stravinsky. Articles, reminiscences, ed. by G. Alfeevskaya and I. Vershinina, Moscow: Sovetsky Kompozitor): 68-94.


Grigoriyeva, G. 1969 “Russkiy folklor v sochineniyakh Stravinskogo” (Russian folklore in the works of Stravinsky). Muzïka i sovremennost’ 6 (Music and contemporaneity 6, Moscow: Muzïka): 54-76.


Halle, Morris, and S. Jay Keyser. 1966 “Chaucer and the Theory of Prosody.” College English 28: 187-219.


Hayes, Bruce, and Abigail Kaun. 1996 “The Role of Phonological Phrasing in Sung and Chanted Verse.” The Linguistic Review 13: 243-303.


Hayes, Bruce, and Margaret MacEachern. 1996 “Are There Lines in Folk Poetry?” UCLA Working Papers in Phonology 1:125-142.


__________1998 “Quatrain Form in English Folk Verse.” Language 3: 473-507.


Jakobson, Roman. 1966 “Slavic Epic Verse.” Selected Writings. Vol. 4 (The Hague: Mouton & Co): 414-463.


Jarustowsky (Yarustovsky), Boris. 1966 Igor Stravinsky. Berlin: Henschelverlag.


Kharlap, Miron. 1972 “Narodno-russkaya taktovaya sistema i problema proiskhozhdeniya muzïki” (Russian folk barring system and the problem of music’s origin). Rannie formï iskusstva: sbornik statey (Early forms of art: A collection of papers, ed. by S. Yu. Nekhlyudov, Moscow: Iskusstvo): 221-272.


Kholopova, Valentina. 1971 Voprosï ritma v tvorchestve kompozitorov XX veka (The problems of rhythm in the works of the 20th-century composers). Moscow: Muzïka.


_________________1974 “Russische Quellen der Rhythmik Strawinskys” (Russian sources of Stravinsky’s rhythm). Die Musikforschung 27: 435-446.


_________________1978 “K voprosu o spetsifike russkogo muzïkal’nogo ritma. Russkie muzïkal’nïe daktili i pyatidol’niki” (In reference to the specifics of Russian musical meter. Russian musical dactyls and pentasyllabic meters). Problemï muzïkal’nogo ritma: sbornik statey (Problems of musical rhythm: A collection of papers, Moscow: Muzïka): 164-228.


_________________1983 Russkaya muzïkal’naya ritmika (Russian musical rhythm). Moscow: Sovetsky Kompozitor.


Kon, Yuzef. 1992 “Metabola i ee rol’ v vokal’nïkh sochineniyah Stravinskogo” (Metabola and its role in the vocal works of Stravinsky). Muzïkal’naya Akademiya 4: 126-130.


Korsh, F. E. 1901 “O russkom narodnom stikhoslozhenii” (On Russian folk versification). Sbornik otdeleniya russkogo yazïka i slovestnosti 67/8 (A collection of papers of the department of the Russian language and philology 67/8).


Lerdahl, Fred, and Ray Jackendorf. 1983 A Generative Theory of Tonal Music. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


Lindlar, Heinrich. 1982 Lübbes Strawinsky Lexicon. Bergisch Gladbach: Gustav Lübbe Verlag.


Linyova (Lineva), Evgenia. 1904, 1909 Velikorusskie pesni v narodnoy garmonizatsii (The Peasant Songs of Great Russia as They Are in the Folk’s Harmonization). Texts edited by the academician F. E. Korsh. 2 vols. St. Petersburg: Imperial Russian Academy of Sciences.


Lupishko, Marina. 2007 “Stravinsky’s ‘Rejoicing Discovery’ Revisited: The Case of Pribaoutki,” Mitteilungen der Paul Sacher Stiftung 20 (March): 19-25.


______________ 2006 The “Rejoicing Discovery” Revisited: Re-accentuation in Stravinsky’s Settings of Russian Folk Verse. Ph. D. dissertation, defended at Cardiff University.


______________ 2005 “Stravinsky and Russian Poetic Folklore,” ex tempore: A Journal of Compositional and Theoretical Research in Music 12/2 (Spring-Summer): 1-24.


Mazo, Margarita. 1990 “Stravinsky’s Les Noces and Russian Village Wedding Ritual.” Journal of American Musicological Society 43: 99-142.


Meyen, Yelizaveta. 1978 “‘Pribaoutki’ I. Stravinskogo” (I. Stravinsky’s ‘Pribaoutki’). Iz istorii russkoy i sovetskoy muzïki 3 (From the history of Russian and Soviet music 3, ed. by M. Pekelis and I. Givental’, Moscow: Muzïka): 195-208.


Monelle, Raymond. 1989 “Music Notation and the Poetic Foot.” Comparative Literature 3: 252-269.


Ogolovets, Alexey. 1960 Slovo i muzïka v vokal’no-dramaticheskikh zhanrakh (Speech and music in vocal-dramatic genres). Moscow: Muzgiz.


Paisov, Yury. 1973 “O ladovom svoyeobrazii ‘Svadebki’ Stravinskogo” (On the harmonic peculiarity of Stravinsky’s ‘Les Noces’) I. F. Stravinsky. Stat’i i materialï (Stravinsky. Papers and materials, ed. by L. S. D’yachkova and B. M. Yarustovsky, Moscow: Sovetsky Kompozitor): 214-250.


__________1985 “Russkiy fol’klor v vokal’nom tvorchestve Stravinskogo” (Russian folklore in the vocal works of Stravinsky). I. F. Stravinsky. Stat’i, vospominaniya (I. F. Stravinsky. Articles, reminiscences, ed. by G. Alfeevskaya and I. Vershinina, Moscow: Sovetsky Kompozitor): 94-128.


Popova, T. V. 1955, 1962 Russkoe narodnoe muzïkal’noe tvorchestvo (Russian folk music). 2 vols. Moscow: Muzgiz.


Propp, Vladimir. 1998 Sobraniye trudov (A collection of works). 2 vols. Moscow: Labirint.


Propp, Vladimir, ed. and intr. 1961 Narodnïe liricheskie pesni (Lyric folk songs). Leningrad: Sovetsky Pisatel’.


Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolay. 1946 Sto russkikh narodnïkh pesen (One hundred Russian folk songs). Moscow, Leningrad: Muzgiz.


Rubtsov, Feodosiy. 1967 “Sootnoshenie poeticheskogo i muzïkal’nogo soderzhaniya v narodnïkh pesnyakh” (Correlation between the poetic and musical contents in folksongs). Voprosï teorii i estetiki muzïki 5 (Theoretical and esthetical issues in music 5, Leningrad: Muzïka): 191-229.  


Ruch’yevskaya, Ekaterina. 1966 “O sootnoshenii slova i melodii v russkoy kamernovokal’noy muzïke nachala XX veka” (On the correlation between text and melody in the Russian chamber vocal works of the beginning of the 20th century). Russkaya muzïka na rubezhe XX veka (Russian music in the beginning of the 20th century, Moscow-Leningrad: Muzïka): 65-110.


Sergeyev, L. 1975 “O melodike Stravinskogo v proizvedeniyakh russkogo perioda tvorchestva” (On Stravinsky’s melody in his Russian works). Voprosï teorii muzïki 3 (Problems of music theory 3, Moscow: Muzïka): 320-334. 


Shein, Pavel. 1989 Velikorus v svoikh pesnyakh, obryadakh, obïchayakh, verovaniyakh, skazkakh, legendakh i t. p. (The Great Russian in his songs, rituals, customs, beliefs, tales, legends, etc.). Moscow: Sovetskaya Rossiya.


Shtokmar, Mikhail. 1952 Issledovaniya v oblasti russkoro narodnogo stikhoslozheniya (Studies in the area of Russian folk versification). Moscow: The USSR Academy of Sciences.


Taranovsky, Kirill. 1956 “The Identity of the Prosodic Bases of Russian Folk and Literary Verse.” For Roman Jakobson: Essays of the occasion of His Sixtieth Birthday (The Hague: Mouton & Co.): 553-558.


Taruskin, Richard. 1987 “Stravinsky’s ‘Rejoicing Discovery’: In Defense of His Notorious Text-Setting.” Stravinsky Retrospectives, ed. by E. Haimo and P. Johnson (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press): 162-199.


______________1996 Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions: A Biography of the Works through Mavra. 2 vols. Berkeley: University of California Press.


______________1997 Defining Russia Musically: Historical and Hermeneutical Essays. Princeton: Princeton University Press.


Trubetskoy, Nikolay. 1990 Writings on Literature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.


Van den Toorn, Pieter. 1983 The Music of Igor Stravinsky. New Haven: Yale University Press.


Vasina-Grossman, Vera. 1972 Muzïka i poeticheskoe slovo (Music and the language of poetry). 2 vols. Vol. 1. “Ritmika” (Rhythm). Moscow: Muzïka.


Vershinina, Irina. 1967 Rannie baletï Stravinskogo (Stravinsky’s early ballets). Moscow: Nauka.


Vlad, Roman. 1985 Stravinsky. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Walsh, Stephen. 1988 The Music of Stravinsky. London, New York: Routledge.


White, Eric Walter. 1979 Stravinsky: The Composer and His Works. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Yarustovsky, Boris (see also Jarustowsky, Boris). 1982 Igor’ Stravinsky. Leningrad: Muzïka.


Zhirmunsky, Viktor.1975 Teoriya stikha (The theory of verse). Leningrad: Sovetsky Pisatel’.

[1] “Precisely the speech origin represents the layer [of folklore] discovered by Stravinsky, the layer that before him did not attract the attention of many composers. Here is a legitimate question: to what extent was this side of folklore really known to Stravinsky, and did he know all that we know about it now? A full answer is hardly possible today because of a lack of available data.” (Golovinsky 1981: 148, italics in the text).


[2] In Stravinsky in Pictures in Documents, there is a reference to Birkan 1966 (Stravinsky, Craft 1978: 619). Margarita Mazo gives references to Vershinina 1967, Birkan 1966, 1971, and Paisov 1973, 1985 in her article “Stravinsky’s Les Noces and Russian Village Wedding Ritual”(Mazo 1990: 100, fn. 5).

[3] Except for the introduction to Taruskin 1996, published in Russian as an article “Stravinsky: The enigma of a genius” in the 1992 anniversary issue of Muzïkal’naya Akademiya 4: 103-111.


[4] The main difference between lyric folk verse and epic folk verse is that the first is normally sung, while the second is recited or chanted.

            [5] See, e.g., number 8 “Duván dUvanili” (literal “duvánili,” Rimsky-Korsakov 1946: 17-8; see the list of symbols for prosodic analysis in my Appendix), No. 16 “Oy, pála-propála, oy, palA-propála” (Ibid.: 33), No. 48 “A mï páshnyu pAkhali, pakhalI” (literal “pakháli,” Ibid.: 92-3), and many others. Although influential on Stravinsky, such and similar cases, however, should not be treated as uniform but examined separately in order to distinguish, on the one hand, a transformation of the poetic meter into its variant in the music and, on the other, an accent shift driven by “purely musical” factors (see below for more detail).


[6] The pieces examined here are Souvenirs de mon enfance (1906-13), Pribaoutki (1914), Trois histoires pour enfants (1915-17), as well as “How the Mushrooms Prepared for War” (1904), Stravinsky’s earliest setting of a Russian folk verse.


[7] For quantitative poetry, characteristic for antiquity and some European and non-European cultures, duration should be added. However, slight variations in duration between accented and unaccented Russian vowels are not examined thoroughly in this study, although I mention below that due to phonological reasons, any prolonged Russian vowel can be aurally perceived as stressed.


[8] These are basic poetic feet known from antiquity; S means “strong” syllable or ictus, w means “weak” syllable. Other poetic feet, e.g., the four-syllable ones – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th paeons (Swww, wSww, wwSw, wwwS) – will be regarded here as secondary.


[9] See an extended list of musical iambs and anapests in Ruch’yevskaya 1966: 79, fn. 2.


[10] The author quotes Taneyev’s letter to Ya. Polonsky, dated February 7, 1881 (Ruch’yevskaya 1966: 82, fn. 3). She also mentions on p. 66 that Taneyev influenced Andrey Bely (1880-1934), the Russian symbolist poet, in his innovative metric studies, which led to the emergence of the 20th-century metrics as a separate science.

[11] [A lonely sail appears white]


             [12] Some authors point to the frequent presence of pyrrhics – poetic feet with “absent” ictuses, as on the scheme above (ww) – in iambic and trochaic verses (Ogolevets 1960: 262). In fact, such interpretations are at odds with the modern notion of “accentual dissimilation” which views ictuses as not disappearing but only changing their degree of strength. The problem of greater and lesser accents in Russian poetry is related to Russian phonology in general (the study of phonetic qualities of a given language), which remains a largely underdeveloped area in today’s linguistics.


      [13] [Once during a cold winter-time]

[14] The alternation of feminine (Sw) and masculine (S  ) endings of poetic lines, normative for Russian literary verse.

[15] According to Bailey (1993: 14), tonic (accentual) verse has a constant number of metrical stresses per line but a varying number of syllables between them (see below for more detail).


[16] [A white she-swan lagged behind/ A flock of swans]


[17] [I, a young lady, was at a party last night,/ At a party, at a little gathering]


[18] [I, a young lady, was at a party last night,/ At a party, little party, at a little gathering]


[19] One explanation for this peculiarity is that, unlike in most European languages, the ratio of stressed to unstressed syllables in Russian language is 1: 2.8 (Kholopova 1978: 178), i.e. the number of unstressed syllables is almost three times the number of stressed ones. Shtokmar (1952, quoted in Dolzhansky 1973: 180) notes that in certain genres of Russian folk verse – e.g., in bïlinas – this ratio attains 1: 3.8.


[20] [All peopleare like flowers in bloom,/ Only my head (and) is fading down like grass]


[21] [Once in the capital city of Kiev/ At Prince Vladimir's, Red Sun's]


[22] [Oh you, steppe, you my steppe,/ My steppe of Mozdok]


[23] Dolzhansky 1973: 189.


[24] Although Kholopova unites final dactyls and pentasyllabic meters as the two elements of the trochaic tetrameter with dactylic endings (1978: 176), she is unaware of the existence of the 5+5 folk poetic meter.  Moreover, she considers the trochaic tetrameter with dactylic endings to be a “high society attire” (svetskiy frak), artificially added to the “genuinely folk rhythmic formulae” in the 18th-century literary poetry (Ibid.), that is, she makes the same mistake as many verse theorists, which brings her to the following false conclusion: “Final dactyls and pentasyllabic meters secured their typically Russian character not so much because they featured in genuine Russian folk songs, but rather, first and foremost, because they were mistakenly taken for being genuine.” (Kholopova 1978: 183).


[25] See the discussion of Musorgsky’s “Clapping Game” from the revised Boris Godunov, and of Lyadov’s opp. 14, 18, 22 in Taruskin 1996: 1162-66.


[26] César Cui wrote the rule as follows “The rhythm of the music and its meter must be in direct correspondence with the meter of the verse.”  (Cui 1889, quoted in Taruskin 1987: 162).



[27] Expo: 121.


[28] See, for instance, his words “[the] distentions of verbal stress patterns, something fully revealed only in singing” (Taruskin 1996: 1207), etc. This is how Taruskin comments on Stravinsky’s “rejoicing discovery”: “This is not quite accurate, since the verses he set are never spoken, only sung, and hence are not subject to distortion in quite the way Stravinsky implied, but merely representative of that distortion.” As a matter of fact, the majority of folk verses set in Souvenirs de mon enfance, Pribaoutki, Berceuses du chat, and Trois histoires pour enfants belong to the genre of spoken verse pribaoutki.


[29] [Along the bridge, the bridge,/ The wide bridge]


             [30] Evgeniya Linyova (1853-1919) was essentially an ethnomusicologist, not a linguist, and therefore her explanations of poetic phenomena should be taken with caution. Her chapter on rhythm, from which Taruskin extracts his long quotation on p. 1213, does not cover the issue of re-accentuation in detail. Furthermore, her preface to the two-volume collection of Russian folk polyphony (Linyova 1904I, 1909II) was edited by the linguist F. E. Korsh, the founder of the contemporary “musical” theory of Russian folk verse (see below). Although Linyova was the first Russian folklorist to make syllabic models of both spoken and variously chanted verse in order to establish a single rhythmic-syllabic prototype, she concentrated her attention mainly on lyric folk drawn-out songs, the genre which shows the least possible connection between musical and poetic rhythms (Banin 1978: 122).


            [31] In her preface to the first volume, Linyova admits that the rhythm of Russian folk song “perhaps is even more original that its harmony, because it is inseparably linked with the rhythm of the text and quite often is even subordinate to it” (Linyova 1904I: xvi, cit. in Shtokmar 1952: 102). Shtokmar quotes Linyova’s statement as an illustration of a rather desperate situation in the beginning of the 20th century with respect to the problem of Russian folk poetic meters: philologists are advising ethnomusicologists to start solving it first and, vice versa, musicians are turning to linguists for clarification of the phenomenon (Ibid.).


            [32] “As needs to be emphasized repeatedly, the distinctive idiom of folk poetry diverges in many respects from contemporary standard Russian (CSR). Viewed from the external standpoint of CSR, the traditional poetic language of folk songs represents a mixture of literary, archaic, dialectal, colloquial, substandard, and purely folk elements.” (Bailey 1993: 15). The folk pentasyllabic idioms above contain the most typical cases of folk accentuation: “dévitsa” (girl) and “mólodets” (fine fellow) – pronounced as “devítsa” and “molodéts” in the contemporary standard Russian language.


            [33] “It should be obvious that the Russian method can be successfully applied to rhythmical analysis of folk songs only after accentuation and syllabification in folk poetry have been extensively investigated.” (Bailey 1993: 16).


            [34] Pr. Bailey’s comment on Stravinsky’s “rejoicing discovery” passage above: “This is not true because only some 70 to 80% of the stresses [in Russian folk verse] are the same as they are in the literary language. Furthermore, many, many collectors have marked [folk] stresses in their collections of folk songs” (personal communication, November 12, 2004).

[35] Chron: 91.


[36] “In this mobility of accent one feels the urge to destroy monotony, for example: lúchina, luchína, luchiná [normally luchína, torch or kindling wood]… As a result of this mobility and mutability of [what we may call] the logical accent of folksong, it is often very difficult to reconcile it with the metrical accent of contemporary art music (as marked by bar lines), which strives for mechanical regularity in the counting of time units” (Linyova 1904I: xvi, cit. in Taruskin 1996: 1207, italics Taruskin’s). The concept of logical accent dates back to Vostokov (1817) who viewed it as the main structural force in folk verse, around which all secondary accents are formed (see below). Already in the 19th century the term was often criticized on the ground that “logical accent” did not always coincide with “tonic accent.” Besides, the concept failed to explain re-accentuation of one and the same word – that is, precisely such cases as lúchina, luchína, luchiná (see Shtokmar 1952: 37-51).


[37] Kharlap argues that due to special historical conditions, up until the 20th century Russian folk peasant song has preserved harmonic and rhythmic structure distinctly different from those of both professional music and literary verse. Russian folk song has been, as it were, “frozen” at the pre-metric stage of the development of both music and verse. The only organizational force at work there is phrasal intonation: each line of text is divided into two suitable for singing on one breath hemistiches – intonational feet – that each possess an arsis and a thesis. Kharlap bases his theory mainly on the study of epic verses, which had largely lost isosyllabism and metric regularity before the first ethnographic studies of them were made in the second half of the 18th century (Bailey 2001: 215).


[38] [Svyatoslav had lived for 90 years,/ Svyatoslav lived and then died,/ He left a young child of his,/ Vol'ga (and) son of Svyatoslav]


[39] Kharlap 1972: 237, italics mine. Bailey (2001: 254) cites this bïlina as an example of three-stress epic tonic verse. According to Bailey, this shift of accent in “molodóy” complies with Musorgsky’s notation of the first nine lines of “Vol’ga i Mikula” as cited in Gilferding 1873 (I am grateful to Pr. Bailey for pointing this to me). Another source is Rimsky-Korsakov 1946: 9, although the fore-shift there results from the dotted-note rhythm and not from a change of pitch: all the three syllables of the word are set to E flat.

[40] Vladimir Propp’s system, based strictly on text content, does not take into account the way in which a particular song undergoes modification during musical practice. This is why this system is not usually employed by ethnomusicologists (Rubtsov, Rudneva, Gippius, etc.), who classify folksongs first according to their function and structure, and only then melody and text. I am grateful to Pr. Mazo for this clarification (personal communication, December 25, 2005). An example of modification of a song genre in musical practice is given below (“A bïlo u babki”).


[41] Belyaev 1971: 54-5.


[42] Belyaev’s musical example 4 (1971: 54), a Chuvash children’s folk song “Mikulay mikmak,” is substituted in my Example 5 with a more familiar Russian children’s folk song “Dozhdik, dozhdik, pushche” (Kharlap 1972: 248). Belyaev’s musical example 6 (1971: 56) of the Russian lyric folk song “Oy gore, gore” is cited in my Example 6.


[43] [Little rain, little rain, pour harder,/ I will give you some soup]


[44] [Sorrow, sorrow/ Came to my little swan]


[45] [Tilim-bom, tilim-bom,/ The goat's shed caught fire]


[46] [Trakh-trakh-tararakh,/ A baba is riding a pair of oxes]


[47] [Hey Rain, Master Rain,/ Pour by the bucket]


[48] [Once upon a time there lived Dunya, /Dunya, the fine spinner]


[49] [A baba had / Four oxes./ There came to the baba / Four merchants.]


[50] The verse can be recited equally well while clapping two beats per line, as an amphibrach,

and while clapping four beats per line, as a trochee. The character of the verse changes: dance-like and fluid in the former case, it becomes abrupt and regular in the latter case. 


[51] [On the meadow, meadow,/ Green meadow]


[52] [The fellow, fellow/ Had his eyes kindled]


[53] [I am not afraid of perdition,/ I am afraid to be separated from my beloved one]

[54] [Oh we sowed the millet, sowed!/ Oy Did-Lado, sowed, sowed!]


[55] See Rimsky-Korsakov’s variant from May Night, cited in Taruskin 1996: 1210 (Ex. 15.25b) and partially copied in my Example 8.


[56] Cf. literary stresses: rïzhiki, senátorï, sídyuchi, glyádyuchi, vskochíla, slomíla, na vécher, stoít, góre, medóvaya, zháru, kozá, glazá, vorobéy, tarakán, bányu.


[57] [While sitting under an oak-tree and/ Looking at the mushrooms,]


[58] Expo: 121.

[59] [Tilim-bom, tilim-boom,/ Save the goat shed from its doom!/ Mother Goat while grazing/ Sees her home ablazing,] Transl. by R. Newmarch.


[60] [The saffron milk caps refused:/ “We are ordinary peasants,]


[61] [The fly-agarics refused,/ Saying, “We are senators,]


[62] [To the fir away she flew,/ Broke her little head in two.] Transl. by R. Burness.


[63] [We will wash away the blues./ There is some vodka in the jar,]


            [64] [A sweet little porridge,/ A porridge with honey,/ Ne’er been in the oven,]


[65] [That’s the way I dried her./ That’s the way I dried her.] Transl. by R. Burness.


[66] [The colonel went out hunting,/ The colonel caught a little quail;]


[67] [A squint-eyed hare came running to him,/ And asks for some stew.]


            [68] [Creak, paw! Creak, paw!/ Creak, the linden-tree one!]


[69] This study is a modest attempt to unite the branch of linguistics known as “generative metrics” (Halle, Keyser 1966, et seq.) and traditional musical analysis, applicable to Stravinsky’s works in question. I do not lay any claim to universality in my method, neither do I use the grid-of-feet of the generative music theory with its weak, medium, and strong positions (Lerdahl, Jackendoff 1983: 19). To remind the reader, this is what the metrical grid looks like (strong grid positions occupy the top line, medium grid positions the middle line, and weak grid positions the bottom line):


x      x      x      x         

x  x  x  x  x  x  x  x   



My labeling is essentially similar to that grid because the full-scale trochaic tetrameter (Sw Sw Sw Sw) designates the middle level of the grid, the “Chicher-Yacher” type of trochee (S   S   S   S) occupies the top position of the grid, the episodic insertion of extra syllables into trochaic feet (Sww instead of Sw) refers to the bottom layer of the grid, and so on. I am fully aware that the alignment of syllables of Russian folk verse to my own “grid” can be debatable. Nevertheless, I insist on that alignment simply because it is confirmed most of the time by Stravinsky’s settings.


[70] [Caw, caw! Jackdaw,/ Are you giving a party?] Transl. by R. Burness.