Sutartinės (from the word sutartito be in concordance, in agreement) are highly unique examples of folk music. They are an ancient form of two and three voiced polyphony, based on the oldest principles of multivoiced vocal music: heterophony, parallelism, canon and free imitation. Most of the sutartinė repertoire was recorded in the 19th and 20th centuries, but sources from the 16th century and later show that this style of singing was important along with monophonic songs for a considerable period of time.
The topics and functions of sutartinės encompass almost all known Lithuanian folk song genres - work, calendar cycle ritual, wedding, family, wartime, historic, and other songs. The melodies of sutartinės are not complex., containing two to five pitches. The melodies are symmetrical, consisting of two equal-length parts. Rhythms are typically syncopated, and the distinctly articulated refrains give them a driving quality.
Folk singers categorize sutartinės into three main groups according to performance practices and function. Dvejinės (twosomes are sung by two singers or two groups of singers. While the first singer (or group) performs the first phrase of the melody, the second member (or group) sings the second part. This results in an unusual harmony of parallel seconds.
Trejinės (threesomes) are performed by three singers in strict canon. All three singers perform both phrases of the melody at staggered intervals, continuing until they have sung the entire text of the song.
Keturinės (foursomes) are sung by two pairs of singers. The lead singer of each pair sings the meaningful text, while the partner sings the refrain. The second pair repeats what the first pair has sung, and they continue to alternate back and forth. These sutartinės usually accompany dancing or have humorous texts.
Sutartinės are a localized phenomenon, found in the northwestern part of Lithuania. They were sung by women, but men performed instrumental versions on the kanklės (psaltery), on horns, and on the skudučiai (pan-pipes). The rich and thematically varied poetry of the sutartinės attests to their importance in the social fabric. Sutartinės were sung at festivals, gatherings, wedding, and while performing various chores. The poetic language is not complex, but it is very visual, expressive and sonorous. The rhythms are clear and accented. Dance sutartinės are humorous and spirited, despite the fact that the movements of the dance are quite reserved and slow. One of the most important characteristics of the sutartinės is the wide variety of vocables used in the refrains (sodauto, lylio, ratilio, tonarilio, dauno, kadujo, čiūto, and so on).
At present the sutartinės have almost become extinct as a genre among the population, but they are fostored by many Lithuanian folklore ensembles, who take great pleasure in keeping them alive.
Compiled by Skirmantė Valiulytė