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“Talking Jew’s Harp” and Its Relation to Vowel Harmony as a Paradigm of Formative Influence of Music on Language

Abstract

A very popular, yet barely researched, musical instrument is Jew’s harp (a.k.a. Jaw harp, JH). Its earliest archeological occurrences date back to the early Bronze Age, but its simplest constructions, made of tree twigs and bark, along with its cross-cultural connection to shamanic beliefs, suggest its prehistoric use. Archeological evidence points to Northeast China and the Amur basin as the source of JH’s early dissemination (BCE) over a vast area, from the Volga steppes to Japan. JH has been an important musical instrument in most local traditional musical cultures within this area. For some indigenous ethnicities such as the Yakuts, this is the only non-percussive musical instrument. Its uniqueness is manifested in the peculiar tradition of articulating speech-like sounds. The importance of this tradition is evident by its enormous geographic span from Western Europe to Melanesia. Its use to camouflage romantic communication between a young male and a young female is especially common. Little known is the similarity between the vocal system of articulations in the “talking JH” tradition and vowel harmony found in most languages of the Turkic, Mongolic, and Tungusic families of the Transeurasian (a.k.a. “Altaic”) family, as well as in many Uralic languages – all of which are spoken by peoples that regularly use the JH. This paper outlines a possible scenario in which the spread of the cult of ancestral plants across this vast region, from Altai to Sakhalin, and the cult of the “singing mask” of the Tuva-Amur area may have given special importance to musicking on the JH, initiating its spread along pastoralism to the neighboring regions. Once established, the JH tradition may have bifurcated into two types: the framed idioglot, usually made of organic materials, which was sustained in north and northeast, and the bow-shaped heteroglot metallic type that spread to west and southwest. The ethnicities that preferred the framed JH construction retained the JH as their sole (or one of the very few) musical instruments within their timbre-oriented music culture. The ethnicities that adopted forms of frequency-oriented music developed a rich assortment of musical instruments which transformed their JH traditions and reduced the importance of the JH in their music cultures. It is JH’s unique status as a primary traditional instrument that may have granted it formative influence over the existing languages of the Transeurasian family and the neighboring Uralic family.

Keywords

  • Jew’s harp
  • Protomusic and protolanguage
  • Musilanguage
  • Tonal organization
  • “Timbre-oriented” music
  • “Timbre-class,” vowel harmony
  • Agglutination
  • Morphonology
  • Transeurasian family
  • “Altaic” languages

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-981-15-4250-3_8
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Fig. 8.1
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Fig. 8.6

Notes

  1. 1.

    Not all forms of traditional non-Western music adhere to the collective format of musicking. The vast part of Eurasia, between the Volga Plateau and Japan/China, has nourished the cross-cultural tradition of personal music that is based on cultivation of timbre classes and pitch contours as opposed to pitch classes of the frequency-based music, conventional for the Western European music cultures as well as many non-European cultures (Nikolsky et al. 2020). Nevertheless, this fact should not take away from the overall importance of the criterion of synchronization in defining music in contradistinction to speech. Although traditions of personal music make collective performances exceedingly rare, makers of timbre-based music are capable of synchronizing their performance with multiple participants (which normally occurs during few of the most important annual festivities). Moreover, the historico-morphological analysis of the indigenous genres of personal music indicates that timbre-based forms have been gradually replaced by frequency-based forms. Combined with the current overall prevalence of collectively-made frequency-based music all over the world, this suggests that personal music might have constituted an intermediary form of musilanguage cultivated prior to the divergence of music and language.

  2. 2.

    One of the leading JH players of today, Aigul Abysheva from Kirghizia, often plays without using her hands. Many of her performances can be found on YouTube.

  3. 3.

    There are 236 JH retail models sold at the Oberton store, in Saint Petersburg, Russia, one of the world’s biggest retailers of JHs (as of 12/9/18), offering a variety of JH constructions developed by various ethnic traditions all over the world (https://www.oberton.pro/en/). The lab at this store publishes the metrics for all instruments that have been featured in its catalog (https://www.oberton.pro/en/lab.htm), as well as the information on how these metrics relate to the instrument’s sound. All JHs have a mean gap of 0.1 mm (SD 0.06 mm), 4x ratio of the lamella’s overall length to the distance from its elbow to the tip, and 5 mm arm thickness – which corresponds to the wavelength of 68.6 Hz. The average FF of these 236 models is 78 Hz (SD 24 Hz).

  4. 4.

    JH players routinely imitate an enormous repertoire of natural sounds, e.g., animal calls, sounds of animal gait, rain, wind, and even streaming water (E. Alekseyev and Levin 1990). This trait is the most cross-cultural (Maslov 1911; Beliayev 1933; Roux and Charles Constant 1950, 2:507–8; Picken 1957, 186; Koizumi et al. 1977; Zagretdinov 1997; Alekseyeva 1986; Alekseyenko 1988; Bulgakova 2001; Sermier 2002, 103; Alexeyev and Shishigin 2004; Mamcheva 2005; Canave-Dioquino et al. 2008; Yesipova et al. 2008; Suzukei 2010; Kartomi 2012, 159) – in fact, it is hardly possible to name a single indigenous JH tradition that would not include onomatopoeic imitations. JH also uses “experimental” articulatory devices that find no analogs in the player’s native language or sound environment, but are the result of exploring the JH’s sonic capacities, such as a special device of traditional Yakut technique, khos yrya (“2-part singing”), characterized by the ongoing opposition of different registers in JH musicking (I. Y. Alekseyev 1988).

  5. 5.

    Typical applications include concealing the young man’s identity in his confessions of love, articulated on JH just outside of the maiden’s house, while she is not allowed to look out (Canave-Dioquino et al. 2008, 437), or the reversal of the serenading roles between both genders (Hsu 2001). A variation of this use is in engaging JH to “encode” romantic confessions in order to prevent possible eavesdropping (T. Levin and Suzukei 2006, 117).

  6. 6.

    Thus, Yakuts believed that abaasy (evil spirits) liked the sounds of JH and tried to imitate them but became confused, upset, and therefore left the playing human alone by himself/herself (Popov 1949, 265). Similar beliefs would explain the tradition of using JH as a talisman to repel bad fortune, still surviving in Siberia and Altai. In Tuva, a JH is sewn into a person’s attire to prevent evil spirits from approaching that person in his/her sleep (V. Dyakonova 1981). Some informants explain JH’s power by the evil-repelling properties of metal of which the JH is made and the blacksmith who has forged that metal – akin to beliefs in the horseshoe protection, common in Europe (Tadagawa 2017b). However, this cannot explain why JHs made of organic materials are believed to possess supernatural power. Thus, Ulch shamans use not only metallic but also wooden JHs (Duvan 2000).

  7. 7.

    The Altaic word “seok” has been traditionally used to refer to “kin,” “bone,” “remnants,” and “generation” in the context of a specific form of societal exogamic patrilineal organization (Verbitsky 1865). These meanings are all united under the umbrella of the general symbolic meaning of “cemetery,” where bones are metaphysically understood as “the quintessence of an alive matter, capable of supporting future births” – native Siberians think that children of the same kin “grow” out of their parental bone ingredients (Sagalayev and Oktiabr’skaya 1990, 39–40).

  8. 8.

    In the mid-twentieth century, mothers still taught little children to make mas-khomus by splintering a chip from a young tree and holding the thicker end by the hand while bringing the thinner end to the mouth and pinching it by the finger, treating it like the JH’s lamella (Tchakhov 2012). Beliayev (1933) considers the JH’s adoption as children’s toy by Turkic peoples in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan as one of the typical cases of “infantilization” of an archaic musical instrument after the ideological aspects of its original music culture have become forgotten.

  9. 9.

    The only large Siberian ethnos that does not unequivocally regard JH as a traditional shamanic instrument is Sakha. Thus, Maria Czaplicka categorically stated that, in contrast to the surrounding peoples, for Sakha JH was a purely secular instrument (Czaplicka 1914). However, her predecessor, Ivan Khudiakov, reported that Yakut shamaness Dyereliyer always carried a few JHs with her (Khudiakov 1969, 362). Few surviving rites and superstitions of Yakuts in regard to JH indicate that JH might have been a part of the archaic shamanic cult of Mother-Beast (Vasilyev 2016). It seems that Czaplicka’s informants misunderstood her questions. “White” shamanesses, “udagan,” who unlike “black shamans” did not commit sacrifices and specialized in contacting benevolent spirits, have been using JH to cure diseases and foretell fortune (V. Dyakonova and Grigoryeva 2017). It could be that Czaplicka’s informants were speaking about “black shamans” (“oyuun”). Khudiakov, most likely, had a better rapport with local indigenous population since, unlike Czaplicka, who just briefly visited Yakutia (1914–1915), he spoke fluent Yakut and resided there for 10 years in exile (1867–1876) while serving his sentence.

  10. 10.

    Historically more recent use of vocoding’s secrecy was found in those Turkic cultures, such as Bashkir, which adopted Islam – since the latter restricted musical entertainment, especially for Turkic women who constituted the base for using JH made of non-organic materials (Zagretdinov 1991).

  11. 11.

    For example, the characteristic “modal” tone in the harmonic minor mode is the sharpened seventh degree that distinguishes the harmonic mode (e.g., A-B-C-D-E-F-G#-A) from the natural (A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A). This degree is nicknamed the “leading tone” because of its tendency to be resolved by the ascending melodic motion to the upper “tonic” degree – which prompted Huron (2006, 160) to introduce the term “tendency tone.” The characteristic modal intonation of the harmonic minor mode is the interval of augmented second that descends down to the V degree of a minor key (G#-F-E). More rare is the ascending intonation (F-G#-A), directed at the upper tonic (Nikolsky 2016, Appendix-4).

  12. 12.

    A well-known example of this discrepancy is the subdivision of the minor key of Western classical music into 3 modes: harmonic, melodic and natural. A “harmonic mode” is indeed “harmonic” in a sense that it is defined by “vertical” relations of tones in chords and double notes. In absolute majority of cases in Western classical music, “harmonic mode” is not displayed melodically – there is not a single occurrence of an augmented second (between the sixth and seventh degrees) in the melody, and this second is confined to the accompaniment for the melody (usually, in chords, but possibly engaged in melodic figuration). Melodic use of the harmonic minor in the Western tradition usually has to do with referencing non-Western music of Jewish, Turkish, Arabo-Persian or Gypsy origin (Nikolsky 2016, Appendix-4). In contrary, a “melodic mode” is genuinely “melodic,” i.e., defined by the succession of two “modal tones” (sharpened sixth and seventh degrees) in melody rather than harmony. Harmonically, the use of major subdominant triad in a melodic minor is exceedingly rare. Finally, a “natural mode” in the Western tradition is harmonic as well as melodic: its modal tone, “natural” seventh degree, occurs with equal frequency in harmonic progressions and melodic motion.

  13. 13.

    In Western classical tradition, modal rhythm constituted the backbone of temporal organization in early Medieval music (Ars Antiqua) (Hughes 1954). Modal rhythm had formative influence on the compositional practice, most obvious in “isorhythmic motets” that often featured different rhythmic modes reserved for different parts in multi-part settings. However, in general, modality of rhythm by no means was limited to Western music systems, e.g., classical Indian music theory also observed rhythmic modes despite employing completely different metric principles (Clayton 2000).

  14. 14.

    Additive meter should not be confused with compound or composite meters of Western music theory (Read 1969): the latter two remain divisive in their concept by marking the downbeat, thereby dividing musical time into a succession of equal-size tactus, although this tactus could consist of symmetric as well as asymmetric parts which seem to be added together (London 2004).

  15. 15.

    Thus, in many Eastern European, especially Balkan, traditions, the metric group is created by adding contrasting (viz., even versus odd) “long” and “short” pulse-groups, e.g., the meter in a Greek Levendikos is defined as a 17-beat period made of long-short-short-long-short pulses (i.e., 4 + 3 + 3 + 4 + 3) estimated by performers in terms of the relative sizes of dance steps (Joukowsky 1965, 68–75).

  16. 16.

    The exact pace of each tempo can be adjusted without changing its main character. For example, in Western classical tradition, applying “meno mosso” in Presto does not turn Presto into Allegro, since meno mosso (Italian “less motion”) only refers to the pace but not the character of the music – it does not cancel the sense of hastiness and nervousness that characterize Presto. Similarly, a gradual inflection of “ritenuto” (Latin, “retain”) does not modify the character of the original movement. Ritenuto would only hold Presto back, generating tension – by no means easing the tempo (which would be required by Allegro that is characterized by a natural “lively” and jolly feel).

  17. 17.

    These syllables correspond to the following pitch values, expressible in Western diatonic tuning as “ning” = E, “nong” = G, “neng” = Bb, “nung” = C, and “nang” = D, if FF=C (Morgan 2008). Although this mode ([i] > [o] > [e] > [u] > [a]) differs from Ogotoyev’s ([a] > [o] > [ö] > [u] > [y] > [å] > [ü]-[i]), the very correspondence between pitch and articulatory degrees indicates that the JH tradition had at least some influence on singing and speaking practices within the vast geographic area from Bashkiria to Indonesia.

  18. 18.

    Sheikin (2002, 125–132) concluded that the non-metallic framed JH constructions were cultivated in two zones: by the Ugric ethnicities of northwestern Siberia (which Sheikin names “continental mountainy”) and by the Tunguso-Manchurian ethnicities of Far East (“oceanic coastal”). Sheikin holds that wooden instruments preceded bone instruments, and bone manufacturing was introduced as JH spread from Amur region and Primorye toward North and Northwest – to substitute for the shortage of forest in tundra environment. This transition must have occurred at the territory of modern Yakutia and had direct relation to the institute of seok. Yakut ethnos belongs to the Turkic family and descends from the seok system of Khakass (Sagai seok) – as witnessed by Russian explorers of the eighteenth century (Ushnitskiy 2016). The totality of the available linguistic, anthropological, and genetic data confirms the Altaic origin of Yakuts (Pakendorf 2007). And there is evidence that in the nineteenth century Verkhoyansk Yakuts were still using bone and wooden JHs (Khudiakov 1969, 153).

  19. 19.

    Suzukei (2010, 10–11) elaborated Sheikin’s model by adding two transitionary substages between the frame- and bow-shaped constructions: 1) idioglot wooden or bamboo fork-like frame JH, similar in shape to bow, and 2) heteroglot bamboo or copper JH without a bow and with a kneeless lamella.

  20. 20.

    To these three stages, it would be plausible to add the transitionary stage between (1) and (2) – exemplified in a frame-shaped idioglot JH with a little nail-like notch cut at the lamella’s tip – such notch reduces vibrations while facilitating pinching and plucking (Sheikin 2002, 125). This construction indicates the rising interest in increasing the loudness and richness of JH sounds by enabling the use of few fingers in lamella’s excitation. Sonorically, such nail-like JH surpasses konga chnyr but yields to the frame-based JH with a rope.

  21. 21.

    Iron JH was listed in the catalog of Turkish national instrumentarium compiled by Evliya (aka Ewliya) Chelebi in the seventeenth century, with the mentioning “invented in Danzig” – however, many other instruments on that list are supplied with mythological provenances (e.g., Pythagoras, Solomon, Queen of Sheba) (Farmer 1936). It is highly probable that JH was initially brought to Anatolia around the sixth century by nomadic Turkic tribes but lost its importance and became forgotten as the traditional nomadic clan-based lifestyle gave way to the sedentary lifestyle with a centralized government, and as Turkey evolved into a regional power, absorbing the cultural achievements of its southern neighbors, famous for their cultural pedigree. At this point the exuberance of sophisticated musical instruments and ancient orchestral tradition of Mesopotamia (Krispijn 2010) and Egypt (Sachs 2008) would have completely out-shadowed the modest melodic capacities of a quiet JH, designed primarily for personal use (Alekseyev 1991b).

  22. 22.

    The Ugric word “tumran” does not carry any onomatopoeic connections, unlike many other local names for JH, but descends from “tombyra” of the Siberian Tatars and Turks of Middle Asia and Kazakhstan – used to refer to lute-like plucking musical instruments (Alekseyenko 1988). The common feature in this derivation must have been the plucking hand action that produces a characteristic sound with a strong attack, followed by a quick decay of the sound. “Pymel” of the Kets and Yughs does not have indigenous etymological connections either, probably descending from the Selkup “pynkyr” (“buzzing”) and relating to shamanic tambourines (“pendir” and “fendir”) of the northern Samodic peoples. The Yakut “khomus” (and its multiple Turkic varieties) descends from Old Turkic “khobus” (Nadeliayev et al. 1969, 451), which in turn, must be related to the Manchurian “kumun” – the name of the official 8-tone “state music” (Tsintsyus 1977, 2:431) and the pentatonic system theory borrowed from Ancient China (Zakharov 1875, 36). “Kumun” might have descended from the Old Korean “komungo” – “the lute of a black stork” (Tsintsyus 1977, 2:431). Sheikin lists the arguments that explain the sacred meaning of the concepts of “lute,” “stork,” and “black” within Ancient Manchurian cultures, and connects them to Japanese “koukin” (2002, 130). Like the word “tumran,” “khobus” is related to words used in reference to plucking string instruments – which is indicative of the later origin of “khobus” in comparison to “kongon.” Nivkh “kongon” has onomatopoeic origin (Mamcheva 2005). It relates to Udege “kunkai,” Nanai and Ulchi “kunkai-konkai,” Orok “kunka” and Negidal “konkikhi,” as well as, possibly, Even “konkukan” and Evenk “kongiipkavun” (Sheikin 2002, 131) – used in reference to the frame JHs made of organic materials. Bow-shaped metallic JHs are called by the Nanai, Ulchi, Oroch, Negidal, and Orok peoples “muene,” “mene,” “mukhele,” “mughene,” “mukhene” and “mukhane” – related to Manchurian “mekheni” and Ainu “mukkuri” (ibid.). This term must have been originally formed in reference to the bamboo JH, but was appropriated by neighboring ethnic cultures in reference to the metallic instruments.

  23. 23.

    Gruzdeva’s qualification of this VH as “height” was challenged by Ko, Joseph, and Whitman who interpreted it as based on the opposition of the advanced and retracted tongue root rather than the opposition in height (Ko et al. 2014). Shiraishi and Botma seem to pose a middle ground by arguing for “a synchronic pattern of co-occurrence restrictions that is based on height” which, in their opinion, nevertheless might have developed from an earlier tongue-root system (Botma and Shiraishi 2015).

  24. 24.

    VH differs from other forms of assimilation by systematically triggering an alternation in “target” vowels that are positioned in direct proximity to the “trigger” vowel once a certain feature specification is met (underlyingly or in the surface form), so that the “target” vowel sounds the same as the “trigger” vowel (Krämer 2005). Such triggering usually exerts morphonological influence by highlighting the boundaries of words in a sentence.

  25. 25.

    This phenomenon is known in musicology in English as “harmonic rhythm” (Swain 2002) and as “harmonic pulsation” in Russian musicology (Berkov 1962). Its essence is that melodies and musical textures in Western classical tradition, starting from the XVII century, are built around the harmonic progressions that tonally fine-tune melodic structures, since the anchor tones of melody ought to constitute the “chordal tones,” present in a given harmony that encompasses the entire musical texture from one moment of metric time to another (Nikolsky 2016). Harmonic changes generate the peculiar pulse whose rate is usually sustained more or less intact throughout the musical composition in a manner similar to metric pulsation. Western music, including most folk and popular music styles, abides by rather strict metric and harmonic pulsations (which often coincide). Therefore, Western musicians and listeners develop a peculiar skill of figuring out an implied harmony while listening to a melodic progression (Povel and Jansen 2001) – even in a monophonic piece of music. Restraining the melody to only the chordal tones of a certain harmony effectively binds such tones into a syntactic group (motif, phrase or sentence): e.g., the main theme of the “Blue Danube Waltz” by Johann Strauss Jr.. Harmonic pulsation is not limited to Western art music. It is as common to all forms of Western folk and popular music (e.g., “On Top of Spaghetti”). Theoretically speaking, it should be present in every form of multi-part non-Western music that affords the use of chords.

  26. 26.

    Such practice, indeed, takes place in Western instrumental music. Composers, such as Praetorius, Mattheson, Telemann, Czerny, Berlioz, Glinka, Rimsky-Korsakov, Widor, and Koechlin, wrote at length about the expressive capacities of the most popular musical instruments and their appropriateness or inappropriateness for a particular musical expression. In professional music education, the study of instrumentation has become a standard course, often differentiated from orchestration – since instrumentation applies to the choice of musical instruments in composing and arranging chamber music as opposed to orchestral music. Although non-Western music lacks such formal discipline of study, nevertheless similar concerns preoccupy creation and reproduction of music in many musical traditions with rich instrumentarium: e.g., modern (Davis 2004) or historic (Krispijn 2010), as well as their combination (Pacholczyk 1993).

  27. 27.

    In 2017, the International Museum of Jew’s Harp at Yakutsk organized a project of comprehensive study of JH articulations on the instruments from its collection, conducted by Aleksey Nikolsky, Varvara Dyakonova, Ivan, Eduard and Erkin Alekseyevs, the report of which is currently being prepared for publication.

  28. 28.

    The hand of a player marks “syllables” by hitting, touching, or pinching the JH lamella, or pulling the rope tied to it (basically, any form of exciting the lamella), whereas the tongue position in his/her mouth controls whether the harmony is changed or retained. The change of the height along with the action on lamella usually marks the structural syntactic boundary between two musical intonations, motifs or phrases. The change of the height alone generates something akin a diphthong or even a triphthong. Performers are aware of such segmentation and usually control how many changes in articulation they make on a single act of excitement of lamella.

  29. 29.

    The example of the lexically meaningful text rendered in the “talking khomus” style on JH is (in IPA): /o-huo-xaj-dɯːr o-huo-xaj e-hie-xej-diːr e-hie-xej ʧej-der e-re do-ɣot-tor oj-dor, oj-dor o-juo-ɣuŋ køt-tør-køt-tør kø-tyø-ɣyŋ!/ (Nikolsky 2017). The opening 13 syllables are all meaningless vocables, traditional for singing during the Yakut round-dancing and for JH playing. The following syllables (Nos.14–34) can be translated into English as: “Come on, friends! Let’s jump, we’ll jump, jump for a while, fly up, fly up, keep flying!” The clip can be heard here: https://chirb.it/0g6pFO. As it is evident from listening to it, most of the consonant phonemes come out as “blurred” or even “swallowed,” despite the outstanding technical skills of the performer, an internationally renowned Yakut khomusist, Ivan Alekseyev.

  30. 30.

    Nivkhs believe that their entire ethnos descended from the larch tree, and each of the Nivkh kins in addition venerates its own ancestral tree. During the most important annual bear festival, Nivkhs transport a dried larch tree to their ancestral tree and conjoin them to provide access for a patronizing “heaven man” to come down to Earth and protect his people (99).

  31. 31.

    Russian archeologists refer to these singing masks as “lichina” – literally, “larva”, and figuratively, “mask” in a negative sense of feigning one’s look – but etymologically derived from the positive word “lik” (iconographic image of a holy figure). Such pictorial “masks” constitute something like a peculiar genre of Bronze Age fine art, compositionally analogous to “head portrait,” but depicting a deity, spirit or ancestor rather than a concrete human being (Khlobystin 1987). Some of such images seem to represent a genuine mask by depicting, under the chin, a handle for holding the mask or laces for tying it to one’s head (Devlet 1976, 6).

  32. 32.

    Wooden ritual facial masks (kambaba) have been used by Nanai and Udegei shamans to look for the soul of a sick client or to make sure that the dead soul indeed reaches the underworld (buni). If a mask happened to fall off a shaman’s face, his own soul was believed to perish. Nearly identical masks, mugde, were made by Nanais from the birch bark to contain the soul of the deceased (Okladnikov 1971, 106).

  33. 33.

    Nanai hunters manufacture such seons before hunting and carry them along in a special container. If a hunt was unsuccessful, they hung a seon on a tree, pray to the patron, and make a sacrifice. If the prayer was “heard,” a Nanai hunter draws on a patch of fish skin an icon of the seon Doonte, next to the sun, surrounded by 9 snakes, 9 birds, 9 horses, and 9 human figures (Lopatin 1922, 17:228).

  34. 34.

    Lipskii provides perhaps the most detailed explanation of the rituals related to funeral masks and dolls. His rich personal ethnographic and archaeological experience allowed him to notice important details in burials and relate them to contemporary indigenous practices and beliefs. Masks and dolls were manufactured by the closest relative of the deceased immediately after their death, replicating their unique physical traits (scars, tattoos, etc.) Such relative dressed the doll with the  clothes of the deceased person and put the mask on the doll. After 3–9 days of taking care of the doll (feeding, cleaning, and putting it to sleep), that relative broke or burned the mask together with the doll. This treatment was supposed to block the dead soul from the living and secure its transportation to the underworld (buni), where it had to stay in order to be available for reincarnation into future newborn generations of the dead soul’s seok. That is why “seok” simultaneously means “corpse,” “bones,” and “kin” – dead bones of a corpse give life to the future posterity of the same seok. Here, the individual resemblance of the mask and the doll were intended to make sure that the soul would attain its proprietary (and not some foreign) seok settlement in the underworld, being successfully recognized and accepted by that soul’s dead ancestors. Concern for correctness of this procedure reflected the incentive to keep the possessions of one’s kin and secure its procreation. Within this framework, a picture of a particular vocal articulation could serve like a password (“sesame”) to get access to a specific kin, its territory, and its ancestor/patron’s spirit.

  35. 35.

    For the study organized by the International Museum of Jew’s Harp at Yakutsk in 2017, mentioned above, it was very difficult even to find a set of native Yakut words that would be free from VH for comparative acoustic analysis. Practically all common Yakut words contain VH, and even those borrowed from non-VH languages (e.g., Russian) become “harmonized” in the pronunciation by native Yakut speakers. Yet another phenomenon, noticed while carrying out this project, is that native Yakut JH players intone the harmonized vowels differently than JH players for whom Yakut is a second language (Nikolsky 2017). This might constitute the “melodic” counterpart of the “harmonic” process triggered by habituation to VH.

  36. 36.

    Vinogradov’s use of the terms “vertical” and “horizontal” has nothing to do with the linguistic conventions of referring to “height harmony” and “cross-height,” or “horizontal harmony.” Vinogradov refers not to the physical parameters of vocal articulation but to the pattern of variation in speech production: synchronic for phonetic variation (hence, “horizontal” in a sense of “successive” adjustments, following the common convention of representing time by the horizontal axis) and diachronic for phonological variation (“vertical” in a sense of categorical rather than sequential adjustments).

  37. 37.

    The definition of a word’s boundary by the regularity of changes in the opposing timbral qualities in conjunction with the fixed stress can be thought of as an act of listening to a melody accompanied by a metronome with a ringing tone set to kick in on a particular click with certain periodicity – in addition to setting a particular click to be louder than the others and having an additional pulse set by changes of harmonies within the entirety of music. The resultant periodicities, despite their complexity and diversity, usually exhibit pronounced metric (i.e., regular periodic) organization.

  38. 38.

    By “incremental” function (Rus., stupenchataya funktsiya – literally, “degree-like function”) Vinogradov means the function that stays constant for certain “intervals” (spans) of text but changes abruptly for other “intervals.” He borrows the concept of the “degree” (gradation) of a harmonic quality from Greenberg (Greenberg 1963), defining it as a set of vowels, each of which can interact with another vowel from the same set, including itself, within some grammatically definable unit (usually a word, but possibly a morpheme). The presence of the opposing degrees in a vocal system of a language constitutes a necessary condition for VH. Vinogradov gives Evenk language as an example of “incrementally” designed VH due to the presence of harmonic degrees. However, he notes that traces of such design can be found in virtually any VH language.

  39. 39.

    The earliest date for the emergence of Mongolic, calculated with the help of the Automated Similarity Judgment Program, gives 267 BC (Holman et al. 2011). However, estimates based on the lexicon of documented and living languages of the Mongolic family suggest a time depth of no more than 1000 years (Rybatzki 2003).

  40. 40.

    Robbeets’ dating by the end of the Han period, based on the name changes in Ancient Chinese historiographies, generally agrees with Janhunen’s dating by the local Iron Age (500 BC–500 AD) (Janhunen 2012, 8).

  41. 41.

    Janhunen describes a simple yet effective method for dating languages and language families based on the calculation of the diagnostic differences (isoglosses) between geographically adjacent languages in question. The greater the diversification, the more ancient the origin, pointing to the linguistic homeland of the language family. A similar approach can be used to date and localize the JH traditions by cross-examining JH vowels, syllables, and words specific for affective expression within common genres (e.g., calming lullaby or affirmative hunting prayer) of indigenous JH music.

  42. 42.

    Typological differences in musical texture are recognized in multi-part music of Western classical tradition (Ratner 1980, 108–180) and non-Western traditional music (Agamennone 1996). But “single-part” (i.e., music conceptualized as a single melody) monodic and heterophonic forms of music also can be texturally analyzed (Swan 1943) – since textural changes, as a rule, accompany intra-sectional transitions in a musical form (Berry 1987, 184–300). In such cases, texture is comprised not by multiple parts but by different patterning of a single stream of sounds into such components as melody, passages, embellishments, repeated figurations of various melodic contours, rhythms, and registers (Skrebkov 1973, 136). In essence, any music that has “form” (i.e., contains distinct structural changes) also has texture. In this most general sense, texture should be defined as a specific arrangement of the totality of musical sounds engaged in production of a musical work or its autonomous portion in frequency/time to comprise a particular type of presentation of music (Frayonov 1981). The same applies to timbre-based music, including solo JH that can be broken in parts based on their musical functionality: e.g., melody, drone, accompaniment (Dobzhanskaya 1991).

  43. 43.

    The indigenous traditional music performed on mukkuri in Japan shares remarkable similarity of TO and spectral textures with bamboo-made Mongolian khulsan khuur and neighboring Tuvan kuluzun and cheler komus. These textures are analyzed in the Appendix (“Spectral texture and the influence different materials have on it on the example of Jaw Harp”) to the article “The overlooked tradition of ‘personal music’ and its place in the evolution of music” (Nikolsky et al. 2020). Culturally, Tuva has been under strong Mongolian influence (until 1912 Tuva was administered as part of Outer Mongolia). So, it is possible that the Mongolian khulsan khuur influenced the Tuvan cheler komus. To establish whether their similarity owes to the material of making or cultural contacts and whether Mongolian and Tuvan traditions are related to Ainu, it would be necessary to cross-analyze other remote indigenous JH bamboo traditions.

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Nikolsky, A. (2020). “Talking Jew’s Harp” and Its Relation to Vowel Harmony as a Paradigm of Formative Influence of Music on Language. In: Masataka, N. (eds) The Origins of Language Revisited. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-4250-3_8

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