Статья 'Чувашские гусли в научном наследии В.А.Мошкова' - журнал 'PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal' - NotaBene.ru
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PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal

Chuvash gusli in the scientific heritage of V.A.Moshkov

Tanikova Elena Sergeevna

Federal State Budgetary Research Institution "Russian Institute of Art History", Head of the Department of Cultural and Educational Programs

190000, Russia, g. Saint Petersburg, Isaakievskaya ploshchad', 5








Abstract: The subject of the study was instrumental music of the Chuvash and wider – instrumental gusel tradition of the Volga region. The object of the research is the work on the music of the peoples of the Volga region by the scientist-ethnographer of the XIX century V.A.Moshkov "Melodies of the Volga-Kamya" (1894), the first serious study and musical-theoretical monograph on the traditional music of the peoples of the Volga region. Applying the method of performing approbation, the author for the first time gives instrumental comments on the materials, explores the notation and the structure of the gusli, as a result of which the important role of the positional thinking of the musician is revealed - an aspect that regulates the key parameters of the performing process and plays an essential role in the instrumental music of the peoples of the Volga region.    The scientific novelty of the article lies in the instrumental analysis, applied for the first time to the notes of V.A. Moshkov, which had not previously been subjected to the performing-approbation method of research and affecting the most important elements of music - the features of instrument tuning and notation of the playing. The study of the problem of matching the structure of the instrument to the recorded playing is one of the most pressing questions of the researcher when trying to reproduce notations, the further alignment of the entire performing body of notation - fingering, agogics, textural accompaniment, strokes and ultimately the structure of the playing depends on it. Having examined Moshkov's materials, the author of the article discovers identical elements of performing culture in the Mari tradition, geographically and historically existing in the neighborhood of the Chuvash ethnos, which confirms the general opinion of researchers about the Volga-Kamya region as a multiethnic space of "mosaic" cultural elements, a unique combination of which constitutes the identity of each tradition.


traditional music, chuvash gusli, music of the peoples of the Volga region, folk instruments, instrumental music, Mari instrumental tradition, Chuvash instrumental tradition, instrumental notation, traditional chuvash melodies, the system of the Chuvash gusli

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.


The scientific heritage of V.A. Moshkov is a unique musical and ethnographic evidence of the traditional culture of the Volga region at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Attention to detail and analytical mindset allowed the researcher, a professional military man, to draw up a detailed picture of the musical and material culture of the peoples of the Volga region, becoming a kind of discoverer of the traditional art of many ethnic groups. The work of the scientist "Materials for the characterization of the musical creativity of foreigners of the Volga-Kama Region" became the first serious study on this topic [9], the first musical-theoretical monograph on the traditional music of the peoples of the Volga region. Among the issues discussed by him: the variability of tunes, the varieties of the fret structure of the tunes, the quantitivity of traditional musical rhythmics. One of the first researchers draws attention to the personality of a traditional musician, separating professional and amateur performance. He describes in detail the names of the parts of the Chuvash gusli, morphological features, technical details of manufacture, the position of the instrument during the game and even the nuances of its tuning.  Important instrumental aspects of this work are analytical remarks about the structure of the Chuvash gusli and the structure of the plays (first recorded in two-handed notation), where the features of the texture, saturated with authentic modal turns and variable fret structure, are accentuated.

The content of his work was significantly ahead of the time of the author himself and anticipated the future conclusions of researchers of the culture of the peoples of the Volga region. In 2011, his work, thanks to the efforts of scientists, researchers of folklore of the Volga region M.G.Kondratiev and N.Y.Almeeva, was republished, provided with analytical comments by editors and became available to a wide range of readers [10].

It became obvious that with all the variety of musical and stylistic features, the traditional culture of the peoples of the Volga-Kama region has a common historical and cultural complex in the field of ritual song and instrumental music, which manifests itself at the level of a number of elements of the musical fabric: in angimetonic melodic structures, quarto-quinte comparisons, in the quantitivity of rhythmic models, in the features of ritual practices in morphology and methods of making folk instruments.  In particular, the researcher of the Chuvash musical culture, M.G.Kondratiev notes that "it makes sense to thoroughly develop and introduce into the general theory of music the concepts of the Volga-Ural regional varieties of pentatonics, heterophony, rhythmics, plotting, etc." [6, pp.59-63].

In this article we offer an instrumental analysis of V.A. Moshkov's notes, mentioned by him in his works, but not previously subjected to performance and morphological analysis. They relate to the design, manufacture, tuning features of the gusli, as well as the notation of instrumental tunes. We found identical elements of performing culture in the tradition of the mountain Mari, geographically and historically existing in the neighborhood of the Chuvash ethnos, which confirms the unanimous opinion of researchers that the Volga-Kamya region is a multiethnic space of "mosaic" cultures, a unique combination of each of the elements makes up the identity of each tradition [1,2,3,7,12].

Speaking about tuning the Chuvash gusli, V.A. Moshkov notes that traditional performers use open intervals in tuning the gusli, preserving, like aerophones, the natural structure of the instrument (a valuable indication that has not been found anywhere before): "the first five strings are tuned independently with proper intervals between them, then the 6th is built on the second, and the seventh on the third - fifths, all the rest are built in octaves: the eighth on the second, the ninth on the third, the tenth on the fourth, etc." [6, p.40].


At the same time, it seems logical to make some adjustments to the system presented by V.A.Moshkov. If you follow his instructions, then the fifth string should be an octave together with the 11th string, i.e. it should be changed to mi (instead of fa bekar), and the seventh string should be an octave with the thirteenth - i.e. it should be tuned to G sharp (instead of la sharp). 

In defense of our assumption, we note that this system correlates with instrumental games, which the researcher refers to later in the article. Perhaps Moshkov, having an excellent musical ear, recorded the formation of a somewhat upset instrument.

An interesting example of two-handed execution notation, recorded from Alexey Ermolaev [6, pp.40-41].

Let us note in the melody the six-step hemitone quarto-tertz fret structure characteristic of the traditional cultures of the Volga basin in the ambitus of the big sexta.   Cases of the use of quartz structures in the culture of the peoples of the Volga region are most often found in ritual folklore, which researcher O.K.Egorova associates with their archaism, and Laszlo Vikar, as a result of expeditions of the 70s in the Mari, Chuvash and Tatar ASSR, comes to the conclusion that hemitonic structures in the culture of these peoples may be at the time of occurrence earlier than it was considered to be [4, p.22], the more valuable is the notation of the Moshkov play, the living evidence of the proposed hypotheses. The recording of the notation of two-handed performance, divided by parties, gives an idea of the level of performing art of the Gusliars of that time. According to Moshkov himself, the musicians played this game countless times, "until they get bored", so during the performance the performer could quite improvise, changing the rhythmic, textured accompaniment, using syncopation, melismatics, arpeggato and other performing techniques.

Several instrumental tunes presented in the article in the form of one-voice notations are of interest because they give a fairly accurate idea of the rhythmic structures and melody of the tunes of that period. Note the hemitonic melodic structures and rhythmic patterns characteristic of dance tunes (perhaps the tunes presented below were used in this way) [10, p. 141].   

During the reconstruction of this playing, the following suggestions arose regarding the way they were performed: technically, it is difficult to perform the sixteenth on one string on a string instrument, since the string is still vibrating at this time, and the second sound drowns out the first. Comparing the tradition of performing such games on the mountain-Aryan kusle (geographically functioning in the immediate vicinity of the region under study), we can assume the method that could be used in this game. In the rhythmic model "eighth-two sixteenths", in which the sixteenths are at the height of one tone, traditional gusliars often use an octave interval.


The same principle can be assumed when performing the instrumental version of the Russian folk song "Lady" and "Cossack":



The instrumental tunes presented in the article give a fairly accurate idea of the rhythmic structures and melody of the tunes of that period, even if they are recorded in the form of one-voice notations. Based on these data, one can see what an important role the structure of the instrument plays in the performance of tunes, regulating many elements of the musical fabric of the tune – fingering, articulation, stylistic features, rhythmic patterns, playing techniques and ornamentation.

The oral musical and poetic creativity of the Chuvash and the peoples of the Volga-Kama region turned out to be fantastically grateful material for science. As V.A.Moshkov himself said: "I have not exhausted even a thousandth part of what the Chuvash folk music contains instructive for science, and therefore I look at my work only as an initiative in the study of this music" [10, p.53].

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9. Moshkov V.A. "Materials for characterizing the musical creativity of foreigners of the Volga-Kama region"-Vol. 1 Melodies of Chuvash songs-Kazan: Typo-lithography of the Imperial University, 1894. p. 56
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