This paper offers an ethnomusicological perspective on competitions of guslars (players of a single-stringed musical instrument gusle predominantly used to accompany the voice of a singer reciting epic poetry), here interpreted as a specific form of public music performance. First competitions were organized between World Wars (1924-1933), afterwards being established in 1971 and since then organized (with a short interruption) in Serbia, Montenegro and the Republic of Srpska. Apart from gusle players and the audience participating in this interaction, these competitions introduced into the focus the very organizers as well. The importance of collectivity as an idea interwoven into epic ethos has become a powerful means of manipulation used by authorities. Their interests have been put forward primarily through the poetic content of new songs. Ideology, though, is not only reflected in the competition repertoire. It is also felt in other forms of public gusle playing practice (such as performances with miscellaneous programme, concerts etc.). The sense of competitiveness, as a type of communicational situation, is far strongly felt in the music dimension. Limited in duration, the performance was reduced to only fragments of songs, which, on the other side, caused a change in gusle playing. The traditional style implied economizing with player’s energy and dramatization tailored to suit the context of long-lasting songs, whereas per-forming of fragments resulted in a more grandiose style aimed at making momentary impression: intensive, vigorous singing in the upper vocal register, using a wide range of expressive devices within short time etc. After studying the competition rules, key formal regulations, and the organization of competitions so far, I discerned that those epic poems have been dominantly regarded as poetry. One of crucial reasons for this is wider communicability of verbal to music discourse, but also more straightforward conveyance of ideological messages through words. Syncretism, which is quintessence of artistic expression in epic poetry, demands paying more attention to the musical component. This artistic expression has always been the domain of players‟ creativity, in contrast to the poetic component which is standardized, fixed, and which a contemporary gusle player is only presenting. The contribution of competition to the evolution of gusle playing practice, especially in regard to its role in the shaping of collective identity, demands reconceptualization of such cultural events in which guslars associations, state institutions and experts would also take part
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