The Sobieskis – preserved in sounds

The Sobieskis – preserved in sounds

The exhibition “The Sobieskis — preserved in sounds” at the Museum of Folk Musical Instruments in Szydłowiec commemorates outstanding Polish ethnomusicologists — Jadwiga and Marian Sobieski, authors of scientific achievements of fundamental importance to the development of Polish ethnomusicology, one of the main initiators and organizers of the nationwide Musical Folklore Collection Initiative (Polish: Akcja Zbierania Folkloru Muzycznego or AZFM), the aim of which was to preserve the fullest possible picture of Polish traditional music, which in the post-war period was progressively disappearing. The activity of Jadwiga Pietruszyńska-Sobieska was also at the basis of the “unprecedented” act of creating the Museum of Folk Musical Instruments in Szydłowiec, according to some specialists, the first museum of its kind in Europe. She actively participated in the process of creating this innovative museum gathering mainly Polish folk musical instruments. Together with dr. Jan Stęszewski she developed the first scenario of the permanent exhibition. Her knowledge and contacts with folk artists helped the museum in Szydłowiec to acquire valuable and interesting exhibits, which is why the project dedicated to the Sobieskis is also part of the Jubilee of the 50th anniversary of the creation of the museum in Szydłowiec, which was in 2018.

The exhibition was divided into three main parts: Studying and commencing scientific work, Research and scientific work and In a private sphere. The first part presents the period of scientific and research activities until the outbreak of World War II, the second part — the post-war period, with particular emphasis on the nationwide Musical Folklore Collection Initiative, and the third part shows family photographs and memorabilia from private family collections. The exhibition presents archival photographs, showing Jadwiga and Marian Sobieski at different stages of their activity, selected photographs of the instrumentalists and singers they recorded, documents, including study reports, music and lyrics transcriptions, as well as examples of music recordings made by Jadwiga and Marian Sobieski from the Phonographic Collections of the Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences. The exhibition is complemented by a collection of instruments gathered by Jadwiga and Marian Sobieski, which since 2014 has been a permanent fixture of the collection of the Museum of Folk Musical Instruments, as well as the exhibits borrowed from the collections of other museums: Museum of Musical Instruments — Branch of the National Museum in Poznań, the National Museum of Technology in Warsaw and the Leon Wyczółkowski District Museum in Bydgoszcz. An integral part of the exhibition is a 1958 documentary film about the activity of Jadwiga and Marian Sobieski “Melodie, które nie zaginą” (Eng. Melodies that will not disappear), made available by the Wytwórnia Filmów Oświatowych (Eng. Educational Film Studio) in Łódź.

Jadwiga and Marian Sobieski’s research on musical folklore began at the turn of the 1920s and 1930s, when they both undertook musicological studies in Poznań. On the initiative of professor Łucjan Kamieński, students visited the villages of Wielkopolska during field trips and recorded folk vocal and instrumental pieces. The Sobieskis travelled many kilometers and Jadwiga Sobieska travelled used the results of field research on bagpipes in 1935 for her MA thesis. The recordings were sent to the Regional Phonographic Archive at the University of Poznań, and until the outbreak of the war over 4 thousand of them were collected. The highest intensity of Jadwiga and Marian Sobieski’s research activity fell on the post-war times. During field trips, they researched and documented musical folklore and searched for instruments.

In 1946 they came across a copy of a mazanki, a small violin of a peculiar construction that was already considered extinct. The instrument they found then is the first one to be presented at the exhibition. In the late 1940s, the Sobieskis family found a kozioł weselny — a form of bagpipes used in wedding rites. The impulse for the development of research was the implementation of the national Collecting Musical Folklore Initiative between 1950 and 1954. Under the scientific direction of Marian Sobieski, teams carried out research in almost the entire country, as a result of which the collection was multiplied to a great extent, creating a comprehensive documentation of musical folklore on unprecedented scale. The collection of post-war recordings gathered under the direction of the Sobieskis in 1963 consisted of 2683 tapes, which included about 64,000 folk songs, folk instrumental music performed solo and by ensembles, and a number of statements about rituals, techniques of building folk instruments. In the manuscripts section, handwritten records of melodies amounted to 18,000 pieces at that time, while handwritten records of song lyrics amounted to 30,000. The collection was the basis for current and future folklore work for music historians, instrumentologists, literary historians and theorists, linguists, ethnographers, sociologists and cultural historians. The legacy of both researchers includes also numerous publications, a hitherto invaluable source of knowledge for ethnographers and ethnomusicologists.

The exhibition includes 8 stands where you can listen to authentic recordings of music performed by folk musicians and singers from different regions, recordings of voices of Jadwiga and Marian Sobieski, who announce recordings of folk musicians as well as sing folk songs themselves.
The exhibition set up at the Museum of Folk Musical Instruments in Szydłowiec is a tribute to people who have been restoring the memory of Polish musical folklore for a number of years. Many of its elements were found and saved by the Sobieskis practically at the very last minute, saving them from falling into oblivion. The exhibition was financed with the funds of the local government of the Mazowieckie Voivodeship, under the honorary patronage of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, prof. Piotr Gliński (PhD, dr hab.) and the Marshal of the Mazowieckie Voivodeship, dr. Adam Struzik.

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