A SHORT HISTORY OF MONTENEGRIN MUSIC

In the geographical area of the present-day Montenegro, a type of whistle made of hollow animal bone was found dating from the Paleolithic period. This is the oldest example of a musical instrument, not only on the Balkan Peninsula, but in all of Europe. There are traces of musical activities in drawings on the walls of caves. Archeological discoveries from the last century before Christ include golden jewelry shaped in the form of a horn and dancing scenes printed on ceramic vases and similar items. These are musical relics of the Iliric civilization, which developed for many centuries, gradually incorporating elements of Christian culture.

The oldest Christian legends include one about the transfer of the remains of Saint Tripun from Asia Minor to Kotor (see http://www.montenegro.org/tripun.html). It mentions the singing of psalms, anthems, and religious songs of praise. Archbishop Jovan of Duklja, author of the religious chants, who lived at the end of the 10th and beginning of the 11th centuries, is the oldest known composer on the entire Adriatic coast. One pontifical, written between 1090 and 1123, which contains prayers written using "neumes" (medieval musical notes) is the only liturgical chant from the early middle ages preserved in writing. Today it is the property of the Academy of Science in St. Petersburg. Despite wars, fire, and earthquake, numerous church chants from the 13th and 14th centuries are preserved in Montenegro. One collection with square notation on the four line system, one printed missal, information about Kotor organs from 1488, as well as fifteen organs which were built later along the Montenegrin coast, manifest intensive church music activities.

The earliest mention of the secular use of musical instruments was recorded in the Ljetopisu Popa Dukljanina, a script from the second half of the 12th century. It is related to military tactics, designed to create the illusion of greater numbers when encircling enemy forces. The old Slavic names for traveling musicians from that time are preserved in the 12th century Miroslavjevom Jevaljelju, the oldest Cyrillic manuscript in Zeta (the precursor of Montenegro).

Among the many artists who contributed to both religious and secular music, a special place belongs to the poet from Budva, Krsto Ivanovic, the author of numerous librettos which were used by Italian opera composers at the end of the 17th century.

During the 19th century, the Montenegrin coast remained under foreign domination, while its free interior was exhausting itself in war, protecting its borders and independence. In such circumstances, musical culture was reduced to amateur group singing.

Until the Berlin Congress (1878) Montenegro, being the only free country on the Balkan Peninsula, attracted many foreign writers, painters, and musicians. Numerous musical compositions and operas were written, inspired by Montenegro and its independent spirit.

The first music school in Montenegro was founded in 1934 in Cetinje. After the Second World War, music schools were opened in other Montenegrin cities. The Academy of Music, operating successfully since 1980, has attracted professors from the Moscow State Conservatory.

After the son of King Nikola, Prince Mirko Petrovic-Njegos (1879-1918), the most important name in contemporary Montenegrin music is Borislav Taminjzic (1933-1992), whose work was mostly based on Montenegrin folk music, characterized by a small melodic range and static rhythms, but very expressive with texts that are often very poetic. Zarko Mirkovic (b. 1952) is a composer of international stature, high spiritual culture and artistic sensibility. He is the first and for now the only Montenegrin musician who utilizes the complex technological processes of modern electro-acoustical musical media. Another important composer is Senad Gacevic (b. 1962), the youngest composer with distinct individuality, who represents continuity in contemporary Montenegrin music.

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www.montenegro.org Last updated on 6 May 1997