My name is Aksenty and this publication project comes at a significant time for me. The beginning of 2017 marked exactly 12 years since I started purposefully studying the vargan, and 9 years since I began to perform in public and organize initiatives associated with this instrument (concerts, lectures, and educational events, both local and international).
During this time I explored many different playing styles, tried thousands of instruments made by vargan makers from around the world, and used every opportunity to improvise with players from across the globe. It was this lively exchange, with tens and hundreds of representatives from a variety of traditions and genres that helped me to form my ideas about jew's harp music as an art form. Thanks to this experience, I also understood that the perspectives on and approaches to the jew’s harp were much broader than the capabilities of any single person or styles of playing. With this understanding I came to the realization of this project.
Three years ago, I began systematizing all this experience into an in-depth study of the capabilities the jew’s harp, entitled Fundamentals of Vargan. The first version of this work was published in 2014, in the format of summarized training exercises. These notes, along with more recent materials, are available in the public domain.
Now this work has moved to a new level: my training materials have become a self sufficient training manual, which is now ready for publication. Over the past two and a half years I have repeatedly revised many sections of this learning system, by putting them into practice and discovering new details, thanks to feedback from those who have attended my courses and lectures. This work has also been informed by my ongoing study of various related topics, including acoustic, spectral analysis, phonetics, and the theory of sensations.
There remain some final steps towards my goal. With your participation, the completion of this project will result in the publishing of a completely updated and redesigned version of Fundamentals of Vargan. Detailed information about the book and the publication process are provided below. In addition, you can watch a short video by Franz Kumpl, President of the International Jew' Harp Society, (an organization that unites jew's harpists from dozens of countries) and learn more about my work and this project. The video is in English, with Russian subtitles.
English Edition of Fundamentals of Vargan
With support of Danmoi.com, the major partner of the English edition, and Michael Steinbach and Petr Jasinčuk, who inspired me to do this project, the English version of Fundamentals of Vargan will be prepared at the same time as the Russian version. One of my primary goals is to ensure the English edition is of truly high quality. That is why I plan to work with both an interpreter, and an the editor who is well-oriented in the subject of jew's harp music. Deirdre Morgan has agreed to help me with this.
Going into this project, I have already raised half the cost for translating and editing of the text. With your help, I hope to raise funds to fully cover these expenses and improve the quality of the publication. Now each ordered copy of English edition of Fundamentals brings me closer to this goal.
Fundraising for both the English and Russian editions takes place on the Russian crowdfunding platform Planeta.ru. If you've used services like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, you will quickly understand how the platform works.
The main goal of this book is to give readers the most extensive and detailed presentation of the jew's harp’s possibilities, and help them to accelerate from simply copying playing techniques to consciously honing their own performance skills. Starting with fine motor skills and finishing with the work on musical constructions and tone colours, it is possible to reach the deepest level of improvisation and composition.
The broader goal of this work is to encourage players to develop a personal approach to playing the jew's harp. The jew's harp's musical spectrum is very diverse, and we can expand the borders of technical and aesthetic excellence together through the emergence of new individual styles of playing. I'm working on Fundamentals with the hope of inspiring musicians with the desire to change and expand the existing notions of jew's harp music.
How to identify if you are able to open new horizons in jew's harp music? It is very easy! If you are interested in playing the jew's harp, you are already that person.
Structure of the book
The book uses a practice-based system which organizes playing techniques into six major categories. Each chapter explores the fundamental aspects of a particular group of techniques, all of which may be used in conjunction with each other.
New topics, such as expanded guidance on controlling double overtones, breath focusing, timbral textures, a step by step study of a four-octave overtone range, and structural improvisation as a method of of creating compositions, will be also described in detail. The updated version will also include high-speed double-sided striking techniques, and a technique for playing two jew’s harps simultaneously. Special attention will also be given to related topics, such as spectral analysis of jew's harp music, precise control of the muscles that are involved in sound extraction, and other important details.
Publication and its configuration options
The book is planned to be published in September 2017. It will be approximately 250 A5 pages with color illustrations (the exact format and length of the publication depends on the success of the project on Planeta.ru). Also it will have the following additions:
Multimedia applications (audio, video, etc.) in two formats: in web-quality as a link on file and in high quality on a flash drive.
Set of diagrams of the overtone scales for different jew's harp tones (about 20 A4 pages) and a poster (A3) with the updated universal circle diagram of "Overtone Architecture". The original version is available in the public domain, but the updated version is recommended for total immersion in the subject.
“Techniques Builder” board game: a set of special tokens for drilling exercises based on random values. Exercises like this help to speed up the training of the individual techniques, find new creative twists, and learn how to connect musical patterns. This method of playing is a sure way to have fun in the company of other players, and test each other's skills. This is the an optimized and modified version of the one published in 2014.
Fundamentals will be published in different option packs:
The following perks are available as a special offer:
Aksenty will give a presentation and training course in any location in the world
Professional Jew's harps "Leader 85 mm" made by Sergey Pyzhov are among the perks of the project
If the project reaches 50-99% of its goal
We'll have to economize!
Preparation of the final version of the book: working on the new chapters and editing the old materials
Working on diagrams and illustrations
Recording and processing of audio and video materials
Publication of the book, ordering flash drives, printing applications
And, of course, Planeta's commission and taxes
If the project reaches 100-150% or more
The more successful the fundraising and the more "Special Offers" perks sold, the more items from the following list will be realized!
Schematic profiles of articulatory gestures can be supplemented with MRI images for accurately imparting the nature of particularly complex movements
The book can be published in durable hardcover, plus it will be possible to improve the readability of the text by increasing the text size and the number of pages
Audio and video materials can be extended with bonus musical materials recorded in studio quality, and flash drive design can be made memorable and enjoyable
It makes sense to publish diagrams from the "Overtone Architecture" series with in a special folder
“Techniques Builder” can be produced in a carton box with a suitable design (instead of the budget option with a plastic bag). Game pieces can also be produced in a high-quality and durable form
Bonus chapter about the history of the Russian vargan and archaeological finds in western Russia
Unlocking perks with exclusive rare jew's harps
I'm extremely grateful to the first contributors and all those who help spread the word about the Fundamentals of Vargan project. Active development of the project will release more time for work on the publication.