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Montenegro Music

Part I: Introduction

There almost does not exist a better way to describe Montenegro than the one to compare it with its music. From a sparse and small space, but rich with imagination and spirit, Montenegrin motif tells the most beautiful story how life of Montenegrins used to be lacerated between long and proud freedom fight, and rare and warm moments of rest, fete and mourn, which were filled with some form of music activity. Sometimes, only with the song, Montenegrins spoke more than many symphonies and operas. Through those small and melodically poor forms, they told a much deeper, and more emotional story than you would expect. To understand Montenegro and to experience all its faces means to meet every achievements and expression of Montenegro. Music, being one of them, will open you new horizons on your way of unveiling our country.

Montenegrin musical creativity had its first expression in outpours of mourn for dead, in a kind of sepulchral songs – female laments, characteristic for entire Montenegro. Filled with great emotional charge, strong words, improvisations, and drama element, laments, beside the male howl, are indefeasible Montenegrin expression of pain because of the loss of a beloved person, which has overgrown into an element of folklore. The beginnings of the vocal – instrumental music in Montenegro are neither extravagant nor mystical. The song of the Shepard, primitive, but the warm sound of fife (reed), patriotic singing of players of “gusle” (Montenegrin national instrument) or simply a song of the shepherdess in the mountain – were the first, but for Montenegrin music most significant melodic expression. Early forms of music playing were a foundation for further development of music in Montenegro, which came to its expression through singing and cultural – artistic associations, pedagogic activity etc., in the XX century. People who opened the door to the further artistic expression of Montenegro were Spiro Ognjenovic, Mirko Petrovic Njegos, and Jovan Ivanisevic, as the first educated musician and the most important Montenegrin composer of his time. Behind them Antun Kopitovic, Antun Pogacar, and the first Montenegrin writer of the symphony music, Ilija Lakesic, have continued the work on creation of original artistic expression, leaving the space for modern Montenegrin composers such as Borislav Tamindzic.

The road which Montenegrin music underwent, from howl and lament to the symphony, was long and hard. With the effort of talented and patriot creators, starting from a relatively poor grounds, Montenegrin music art has managed to stand shoulder against shoulder with other Balkan arts, according to its worth.

First records of Montenegrin music date from 1488., when for a Kotor church a procurement of organs was documented. A swing, in the domain of development, Montenegrin music experiences in the XIX century, when also the entire Europe in hey-day of Romanticism and Enlightenment is finding its specific expression. Kotor, at that time under the Austrian administration, was the first, which felt the need to give swing to its freethinking feelings, giving in that way a faith and an encouragement for freedom. The first singing association in Montenegro was founded in 1939 – Serbian singing association “Jedinstvo” (UNION). Somewhat later, as a part of the association an orchestra was founded, whose members were people from Kotor as well as several foreign musicians. The first female composer in Montenegro was also born in Kotor. Jelisaveta Popovic with a rich musical legacy is counted into the most significant Montenegrin composers of all times. Cetinje, Montenegrin capital, became the center of musical happenings in the second half of the XIX century. In the Girl’s institute special attention was dedicated to music, through various forms of practical and theoretical work, and on of the teachers, Czech Anton Shulc, the first bandmaster in Montenegro, is also know as the composer of former anthem “Ubavoj nam Crnoj Gori” (TO OUR BEAUTIFUL MONTENEGRO), whose text was written by Mirko Petrovic Njegos. Military music and opening of the schools of music profile, even more have strengthen the creation of music awareness in Montenegro, but until nowadays it will remain something that was born from the folk spirit. Musical identity of Montenegro can only be understood if you go inside its folklore and the very people.

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