Panel 13. Diachronic and synchronic dimension of intersubjectivity in traditional singing (ENG)

Organizers: Taive Särg (, Mari Sarv ( (Estonian Literary Museum)

In folk singing (as in oral tradition in general) intersubjectivity works both on diachronic (temporal) and synchronic (spatial) level, as far as the singers have a mental contact with the previous singers and contemporary members of their community. The older singing tradition belonged to a relatively stable way of living and cyclic view of time, respectively the figures and formulas of a song were general enough to be meaningful and relevant for several generations with only slight adaptations. The inherited song tradition expressed and reproduced recurring situations, relationships, attitudes in recurring cultural contexts of a traditional society.

Singing traditional songs in contemporary times, where there are many and various music cultures, also presumes a kind of mental contact with the past communities or singers. Today, the people may also have indirect contact with the past singers through sound and video recordings.

Honko (2000) says that tradition, existing in the process of recreation, is like the store of materials, motives, plots, and combining skills, etc, for forming folklore pieces. That kind of mental store is likely not fulfilled with impersonal details that can be mechanically composed into folklore, but there also exist the memories of people with their voices, styles and performances in singing occasions. During the recreation process, a singer does not only combine the details of folklore, but she/he recreates herself/himself in the role of a past singer, or/and fits into the role offered by the textual motives of folklore pieces.

Both dimensions of intersubjectivity simultaneously work in singing: diachronic interaction shapes the present performance, where a singer on the synchronic (social) level gets into mutual contact with co-singers or listeners. Tantucci says that the intersubjectivity in culture works both as direct and as extended intersubjectivity, ie. the “socio-cognitive skill to problematise what a general persona would act, feel or think in a specific context.” (Tantucci 2018)

In this panel we invite researchers to discuss how these processes of intersubjectivity do happen in ongoing and in revived singing tradition. To what extent the means of expression exist just as a singing language in one’s mind available for self expression, without memorising about anyone - and to what extent, traditional singing is related to certain people, whose voices give the example of singing? In which ways the singers relate themselves to the past real or imagined communities when singing traditional songs? Which groups and movements decide in favour of folk / traditional music and why, how do they relate themselves to the institutional power and other spheres of culture?

The panel is open for the insights concerning the singers’ intersubjectivity both in the traditional local communities as well in contemporary more fluent communities and social (ethnic, spiritual, ecologic, women, etc) movements, where folk / traditional songs are sung, either spontaneously or organised with a certain aim. Singing - often realised as co-singing (participatory singing) - belongs to a group’s social activity, which beside it’s direct functions in the context of an event, allows people to express themselves and communicate, create a sense of belonging and enhance the group's values ​​and uniqueness. ( E.g. Loersch, C., & Arbuckle, N. L. 2013, Fine 2016, Clayton 2016) The viewpoint of this panel helps us to understand in which way traditional songs are chosen and recreated in order to meet the singer’s and community’s immediate goals as well as to produce a shared commitment.


Honko, Lauri 2000. Thick Corpus, Organic Variation and Textuality in Oral Tradition. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura.

Clayton, Martin 2016. The social and personal function of music. In S. Hallam, I. Cross, & M. Thaut (Eds.), Oxford library of psychology. The Oxford handbook of music psychology. Oxford University Press, 47-59.

Fine, Gary Alan 2018, The Folklore of Small Things: Tradition in Group Culture. Western Folklore, Winter 2018, Vol. 77, No. 1 (Winter), 5-27.

Loersch, C., & Arbuckle, N. L. 2013. Unraveling the mystery of music: Music as an evolved group process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105(5), 777–798.

Tantucci, Vittorio 2018. From Co-Actionality to Extended Intersubjectivity: Drawing on Language Change and Ontogenetic Development. November. Applied Linguistics 41(2). DOI:10.1093/applin/amy050.