Genres, melody, language of Prussian Lithuanian songs

Genres, melody, language of Prussian Lithuanian songs

The written sources of the 16th-19th centuries mention ritual wedding and burial laments and hymns of Prussian Lithuanians, and provide information on the birth, calendar feasts, entertainment, love, work and wartime songs, musical instruments, dances and rateliai (dances in a circle). All this was a syncretic part of customs and rituals. By the end of the 20th century, the songs best preserved in the memory of Prussian Lithuanians were wedding, family and wartime-historical songs, along with a fewer number of children's and humorous songs, while calendar songs were completely forgotten. The exclusive songs in view of other regions of Lithuania are fishermen’s songs.

From 1805 to 1998, over 720 melodies of Lithuanian songs were recorded in Lithuania Minor (in Klaipėda region and the current Kaliningrad region). Prussian Lithuanians used to sing them in unison, although some songs can be performed as multi-part pieces of music. However, there is no confirmation of the multipart singing tradition in Lithuania Minor.

Two thirds of the melodies of Prussian Lithuanians were performed in a major key, while others were in a minor key or had melodies of variable tunes. They wind within the octave and even wider intervals, though there are also fifths, sixths and, especially rarely, melodies within the intervals of thirds or fourths. The emotionality of the singers and the tendency to improvise and singing alone led to the diversity of the metro-rhythmic patterns of the melodies that is closely related to the dialectal peculiarities.

Until World War II, the Lithuanians of Lithuania Minor, with the exception of the northern part of Klaipėda region, spoke in dialects (kauniškių, striukių, baltsermėgių) of the western part of Aukštaitija region. In the northern part of Klaipėda region, the donininkų dialect of the western part of Žemaitija region was prevalent.