Composition and characteristics of instrumental music

The composition of a traditional folk band in the vicinity of Tomaszów Lubelski depended on the instruments available and thus varied over the years. The oldest instruments were aerophones, such as clay whistles, piskawki (made from a blade of grain or grass), willow cones (made from a strand of bark), wooden whistles, ocarinas, ligaves (used mainly to herd cattle or as a signal during Advent). For an exceptionally long time, until the beginning of the 20th century, a natural-sounding tool was used, namely a leaf (of birch, cherry or lime tree), which in our area was part of the band1. Later, chordophones appeared, which due to their louder sound and greater melodiousness, they gained great popularity and were used both by bands and individual musicians for a long time. The chordophones in our area include octavo (the original form of a violin or a relic of a medieval instrument), violin (the most popular in our area), Biłgoraj bitch (grooved instrument, played with fingernails), bass (three or four strings) and hurdy-gurdy (used by grandfathers). The last group of instruments included in the original composition of the band are membranophones – membrane drums (the so-called sieve or hoop drums), equipped with buzzers and a wooden baton, which were present earlier, and two-membrane drums, equipped with a czynel and a baton with a leather end, which appeared with the development of the instrumental composition of bands.

The oldest and most popular composition of a band in our area is the combination of a violin and a rim drum. With time, a second fiddle was added to the line-up, which made it possible to introduce a second, and basses were also used. Unfortunately, bands very often had to move around (especially for weddings, which were the basis of the musicians’ income), so basses, as a large instrument, were not often used. A sudden development in the composition of bands took place after World Wars I and II when musicians returning from the army brought with them harmoniums, clarinets and trumpets. The introduction of louder instruments also increased the frequency of the cymbal drum.

The popularity of bands in our area was so great that there were at least several in each village. They were hired for weddings, dances, and other holidays during some farm work. One example is cabbage chopping, which was usually done by three people holding a cleaver in each hand and chopping to the rhythm of an oberek. If they made a mistake, there was a risk of hitting a neighbour and knocking others out of rhythm. Therefore, this work was accompanied by musicians, who helped to keep the rhythm. Electronic music pushed out folk bands at the end of the 20th century.