The Kantele Traditions
by Carl Rahkonen © 1989 All Rights Reserved Back to Table of Contents
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The present study deals with the basic problems of what the kantele is and how it is played, and the more complex problem of the meaning of tradition in our modern world. Among the Finns, the kantele manifests itself as a musical instrument, a motif of folklore, and a symbol of identity.
The structure of the instrument has changed radically over the course of its history, so that today there are many different kinds of kanteles falling into three broad categories: those which have bodies carved from a single piece of wood, those built from separate pieces of wood, and those using a reverse-curve shape to improve the tonal qualities across a wider range. Kantele builders were and are influenced by matters of function, fashion and tradition in developing its structure.
The kantele is played in folk music,
art music and popular music, in a wide variety of styles appropriate to these
contexts. Various groups, and various
geographic areas of
The concept of tradition is as central to folkloristics as the concept of culture is to anthropology. Folklorists and ethnomusicologists may study tradition as the materials, the symbols, and the learning processes of a culture, which produce a dynamic balance of stability and change.
I would like to thank the many
individuals and organizations who helped me with this work. I begin with teachers who steered me in the
right direction, Dr. Joyce Newman, Dr. Alan P. Merriam and Dr. George
List. I thank Dr. Stephen Reynolds for
providing me with valuable bibliographic information and for his congenial
support. I pay tribute to the Finnish scholars
Ilkka Kolehmainen, the first Finn I contacted regarding the kantele; Heikki Laitinen, the greatest expert on the
kantele for liberally sharing his knowledge and reading and correcting an early
version of this work; and Professor Timo Leisiö for his valuable assistance in
my early days in
I would like to recognize the United
States Educational Foundation in
I express my deep gratitude to all the kantele players in every part of Finland who taught me about themselves and their playing: Anu Rummukainen Itäpelto, Anneli Kuparinen, Tyyne Niikko, Ismo Sopanen, Hannu Syrjälahti, Ilona Porma, Arvi Pokela, Veikko Manninen, Viljo Karvonen, Jaakko and Tytti-Leena Laasanen, Hanna Pirhonen, Kari Dahlblom, Onni Kuivalainen, Lauri Kahilainen, Väinö Haapakangas, Lyydia Jakonen, Samppa Uimonen, Daryl Gibb and Matti Kontio. I would also like to recognize the kantele builders who shared their knowledge: Erkki Leskelä, Otto Koistinen, Ossi Heikkilä, Jussi Ala-Kuha, Kaleva Järvinen, Heikki Linjama, Sulo Huotari and Jorma Salminen for sharing valuable information on his father, Paul Salminen.
A special appreciation goes to Hannu
Saha, a scholar and expert kantele player, and to Rauno Nieminen, a master
instrument builder and kantele tradition bearer in his own right, for not only
being my teachers, but also being my friends.
I give greatest thanks to Martti Pokela, a man who epitomizes all the
kantele traditions of
I acknowledge the work of my doctoral committee Professors Austin B. Caswell, Felix J. Oinas, Ruth M. Stone and Chairman Ronald R. Smith for their valuable guidance and assistance throughout. I also recognize Mr. William F. Newton and Dr. Joyce Hakala for reading and making many valuable corrections to the final draft.
I thank Indiana University of Pennsylvania and their Director of Libraries, Mr. Larry Kroah, for valuable support in providing access to darkroom facilities and for printing, duplicating and binding the final version of this work.
I acknowledge the many other individuals whom I may have missed naming above. Please forgive me and accept my heartfelt thanks for your contributions to this work.
Finally, I express my deepest appreciation for my wife, Sharon M. Franklin-Rahkonen, for her valuable assistance during my fieldwork and for her unwavering support over the past six years during the writing and rewriting of this work.
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