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COLLECTION Identifier: AWM Spec Coll 98

The Eduard Alekseyev Fieldwork Collection of the Musical Culture of Yakutia, 1957-1990.


This collection contains original field recordings by ethnomusicologist Eduard Yefimovich Alekseyev. The recordings were made in various regions in Russia, and primarily represent the musical culture of the Yakut (Sakha) peoples, as well of Crimean Tartar and Ukrainian peoples.


  • Creation: 1957-1990.

Conditions Governing Access



1 collection (Original deposit: Sound recordings (22 acetate and polyester audio tape reels, 7 VHS PAL videocassettes); one folder of original reel boxes with notes in Russian.)

The collection includes sound recordings (22 acetate and polyester audio tape reels), 7 PAL VHS videocassettes, and one folder containing the original reel boxes with notes written in Russian.

The collection includes recordings of traditional music made from 1957 through 1990. The majority of the audio and video footage of the collection is devoted to the Sakha (Yakut), an indigenous people from the Sakha Republic of the Russian Federation, formerly known as the Yakut ASSR (Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic). Sakha (Yakutia) is the largest sub-national entity in the world, and is a circumpolar region, half of which lies above the Arctic Circle.

The recordings primarily represent traditional religious and ritual cultural expressions which have survived in spite of Soviet ideology. Included are various types of rites, such as shamanistic ceremonies of purification and epic songs that precede hunting or fishing. Some of the recordings were made in situations intended to reconstruct traditional circumstances. The majority of the recordings were created in a fieldwork setting, but some were made during concerts, and at festival events of Ukrainian people in Kiev, and of Crimean Tatars in Simferopol. The languages represented here are Yakut, Evenk and Russian. It is important to recognize that from the 1960s through the 1980s, publication of materials about the rituals of indigenous cultures were suppressed, due to the Soviet policy of the times. From that perspective, the recordings within this collection are particularly valuable.

The Yakut genres primarily represented are the olonkho (epic); ohuokhai (round dance); and the shaman ceremony as it is performed by well-known, regional performers and singers. Notably present are early forms of heterophony or multipart improvisational singing as part of the traditional round dances (ohuokhai). There are also examples of music played on the khomus (jaw harp), diungiur (shaman’s drum), and other musical instruments; recordings of an Evenk (Tungusic indigenous people of Northern Asia) shamaness; and music of Russians in Yakutia, who began to settle in the area in the 17th century.

Note to Users: The names of performers, geographical locations, and subject headings used have been standardized according to the OCLC authority file, when found. Eduard Alekseyev has determined the transliteration style for the original language terms and names used within the body of the finding aid. The OCLC subject term "jew's harp music" refers to what should properly be called "jaw harp music."

Biographical and Historical Note

Eduard Yefimovich Alekseyev (1937-2021) was a Yakutian-born ethnomusicologist who conducted fieldwork for forty years in different regions of the former Soviet Union, with a focus on the musical cultures in Siberia. He is well-known as a researcher of traditional music, and for his work on the theoretical problems of mode and melodic scale, intonation, timbre, and notations. In addition, he studied the sociology and psychology of musical perception.

From 1972 until 1992, he served as chairman of the All-Union Folklore Commission of the Union of Soviet Composers. He has also served as Director of the Department of the General Theory of Folklore at the State Institute for Art Studies (Moscow).

He received his Kandidat Degree (Ph.D.) and Doctor of Science degree in Ethnomusicology from the State Institute of Art Studies (Moscow). At the Central Music School, he studied piano and music theory. He later graduated from Moscow Conservatory, where his scientific adviser was the theoretician Leo A. Mazel. Не had the post doctorate course at the State Institute of Art Studies (Moscow) under the guidance of ethnomusicologist Viktor M. Beliaev.

Eduard Alekseyev is the author of more than 100 publications in Russian, including such books as A Study of the Origins of Modality with Regard to Yakut Folk Songs (1976), The Pitch Nature of Primitive Singing(1986), Folklore in the Context of Modern Culture (1988), and The Notation of Folk Music: Theory and Practice (1990). He resided in Boston, Massachusetts since 1997 until his passing on March 10, 2021.

System of Arrangement

  2. Subseries 1. Olonkhosut (Yakut epic singer) Vasiliy Osipovich Karataev
  3. Subseries 2. Yakut Folk Singer Prokopiy Egorovich Sleptsov
  4. Subseries 3. Yakut Folk Singer Mikhail Gerasimovich Sorov
  5. Subseries 4. Yakut Folk Singer Ilia Mikhailovich Kutanov
  6. Subseries 5. Yakut Folk Singer Ustin Gavrilievich Nokhsorov
  7. Subseries 6. Yakut Folk Singer Yegor Trofimovich Leveriev
  8. Subseries 7. The Traditional Yakut Round Dance of Ohuokhai
  9. Subseries 8. Miscellaneous Genres and Examples of Yakut Traditional Music
  10. Subseries 9. Festivals in Yakutia
  11. Subseries 10. Traditional Music of Evenk People
  12. Subseries 11. Traditional Music of Even People
  13. Subseries 12. Traditional Music of Russians in Yakutia

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The original deposit of 22 reels and 7 videotapes was acquired by the Archive of World Music, Harvard Music Library, in 2008. Additional audio reels and videotapes were acquired in 2009 and 2010, and will be processed and added to the finding aid over time.

Related Materials

----. 1969. Iz i͡akutskogo muzykalʹnogo folʹklora. 1 sound disc, analog, 33 1/3 rpm, stereo, 12 in. Moscow: Melodii͡a, [1969?]. Program notes in Russian (Cyrillic) by Ė. Alekseyev on container. Held by the Archive of World Music, AWM LP 12077

Alekseev, I., et alia, editors. 1988. Vargan (Khomus) i Ego Muzyka : Materialy I Vsesoi͡uznoĭ Konferent͡sii, 1988 g. I͡Akutsk: Edinyĭ nauchno-metodicheskiĭ t͡sentr nar. tvorchestva i kulʹturno-prosvetitelʹnoĭ raboty Ministerstva kulʹtury I͡Akutskoĭ-Sakha SSSR, I͡Akutskiĭ in-t i͡azyka, lit-ry i istorii SO AN SSSR, 1991. Held by EKL Music Library, ML1087 .V74 1988

Processing Information

Processed by: Donna Morales Guerra, Ghilyana Dordzhieva and Peter Laurence, in consultation with Eduard Alekseyev

Finding aid encoded by Donna Morales Guerra and Peter Laurence

Alekseyev, Eduard, 1937-2021. The Eduard Alekseyev Fieldwork Collection of the Musical Culture of Yakutia, 1957-1990. A Finding Aid
Archive of World Music, Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library Repository

The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library is the primary repository of musical materials at Harvard. The Music Library’s collecting mission is to serve music teaching and research programs in the Music Department and throughout the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In addition, it supports the musical needs of the broader Harvard community as well as an international scholarly constituency. We collect books, musical scores, serial titles, sound recordings and video formats, microforms, and rare and archival materials that support research in a wide variety of musical disciplines including historical musicology, music theory, ethnomusicology, composition, and historically informed performance practice, as well as interdisciplinary areas related to music. The special collections include archival collections from the 19th, 20th and 21st century.

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