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Sociology of Music in Russia in the context of Globalization and National Identity

Micklina N1*, Konson G1, Zorin A2, Slavina E1 and Meleshkina E1

1Russian State Social University, Moscow, Russia

2Saratov State University named after N.G. Chernyshevsky Saratov State Conservatory (Academy) named after L.V. Sobinov, Russia

*Corresponding Author:
Natalia Micklina
Russian State Social University, Moscow, Russia
Tel: +74952556767

Received date: May 06, 2016; Accepted date: June 02, 2016; Published date: June 05, 2016

Citation: Micklina N, Konson G, Zorin A, et al. Sociology of Music in Russia in the context of Globalization and National Identity. Global Media Journal. 2016, S3:16

Copyright: © 2016 Micklina N, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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The article touches upon the main formation aspects of Russian music sociology from the point of “methodological nationalism” and/or “methodological cosmopolitanism” as up-to-date social phenomena associated with globalization process and national identity. However, for more successful development of Russian and foreign music sociology in the context of current global and national problems1, there is a need to intensify international and interdisciplinary research guided by national traditions, artistic and scientific achievements, both occidental and oriental. On these terms through the prism of historical and cultural analysis the article takes a look at the Russian methodology in its vital manifestations. On this basis we make a conclusion that neither methodological nationalism nor methodological cosmopolitanism is typical for the Russian music sociology in general, although such a division reflects the realities existent on a global scale. Staying in the space of European culture and keeping interest in the oriental art and wisdom, the Russian music and music sociology are open to the world, preserving the traditions of the Russian science and philosophy ideas with their aspiration to peace, synthesis, universalism, vitalism, aestheticism, personalism and flexible rationality; every now and then they are attracted by achievements of the West and learn from them in order to further concentrate on their own problems and successes.


Music sociology; Russian music; Globalization; National identity; Methodological nationalism and Cosmopolitanism


Sociology of music is aimed at identifying the peculiarities of music as an art in the society. However, nowadays due to the processes of globalization the question has raised in theoretical sociology: is it legitimate to identify the word “community” with the national state formation, and hence how relevant is the problem of national identity in modern sociological research? But is there any contradiction between sociology having its own subject, aims, tools, and some typical features of different peoples of different countries and regions of the world entering it? [1].

One possible answer to this question was given by A.M. Kuznetsov based on the critical analysis of the “cosmopolitan community” concept by Ulrich Beck [2] in his opposition to methodological nationalism. He came to the conclusion that such a question is a problem of Western European social science: “Because of its radical Universalist nature this discourse, ignoring the specifics of non-European regions, is likely to remain a mostly Western European phenomenon. Moreover, it can soon become another example of “methodological nationalism” from which British and German social theorists have persistently tried to get rid of” [3]. No wonder that the President of the International Sociological Association, P. Sztompka, among real problems of modern theoretical sociology gives priority to the problems of globalization and identity while stressing the particular importance of sociology of art [4]. But how is this problem solved in the Russian sociology of music? And how does the relevant research contribute to modern sociology? Since the variety and complexity of problems of modern sociology have come from the pre-scientific period, we will touch upon some aspects of the so-called pre-sociological phase of music sociology, its long past, which plays the role of “ordinary experience, art impressions and philosophical reflection” [5].

The Primary Forms of Socialization and Emergence of National Identity in the Russian Music and Music Culture

We do not know how the primitive music sounded, but the facts at our disposal can be used and interpreted in different ways. Thus, the research of mammoth bones (they were found during excavation of the primitive parking near the village of Mezin, Northern Ukraine) by a large group of experts allowed to consider them the only complex of Paleolithic percussion the archaeologists found. The bones date back about 20 thousand years old. Thanks to their restoration and writing of a special score based on the Northern ethnographic tradition, the musicians performed a rhythmic melody on the mammoth bones, which, according to experts, can be considered music as it sounded in the Paleolithic era. The sound recording, which was made in 1980 by the Russian company “Melodiya”, is very similar to the well-known examples of ancient African music. It can be an evidence of a common nature and means of musical expression of the primitive ancestors of various peoples of the world. But according to another point of view on this artifact, “the first symphonic music in the history of mankind” appeared in the Ukraine. Therefore, “March on the Mammoth Bones” composed in 2003 by a member of Chernihiv Military Orchestra, with bongos and castanets imitating the sound of bones found in Mezin, is exactly “the oldest music in the world” [6]. What is it: a manifestation of methodological nationalism, cosmopolitanism, or the indicator showing the search of undervalued merits of a nation from the standpoint of ordinary consciousness?

The folklore is recognized as the primary socialization form by means of music all over the world, especially due to the collective nature of its ancient ceremonial forms aimed at achieving harmony with the powers of nature, ensuring optimum standards of life in a family, clan or tribe. The creation, rulemaking and canonization of such music is an achievement of representatives of archaic communities particularly sensitive to sound perception, who because of these and some other talents were considered magicians, healers, shamans, witches able to communicate with the “supernatural forces”. Ritual music of the ancestors of Russians and other nations was created as imitation of the “music of nature”. However, in the Russian folk music the cult of the Great Mother, Mother Earth, personified by Lada, the goddess of love and fertility lasted longer than in the Western European folk music. Subsequent changes to the pagan worship of the gods towards male gods, most likely, changed the nature of the ritual music, echoes of which can be heard, especially in the variety of Russian calendar songs of a strictly ordered annual agricultural circle.

With the adoption of Christianity in Russia and the formation a unified East Slavic state, there appeared an institution of church music, which developed the melody and canons of “znamenny chant”-a unique fusion of the Byzantine system of octoechos and ancient Russian melodic characteristics. Znamenny chant, which belongs mainly to the oral folklore tradition “covers the whole host of human vices by denying them and adds to this “ladder of fall” “the ladder of ascension, which is an assertion of virtue as a way to fight the sin” [7]. Substitution of znamenny chant for part songs in the Orthodox church service was connected with the XVII century Raskol (church schism) and mostly caused not by Western influences, but by “the invasion of the sinful world into the church life” [8].

Russia's turn towards Europe, inspired by the reforms of Peter the Great, led to economic, military, political development of Russia, democratization of the church and public life, growth of the cities, prosperity of the secular art, and then the birth of the national composing tradition. Alongside the existence of various genres of Russian folk songs in the peasant household – as the “concept of national identity” and “encyclopedia of labor and social life of the people” [9] – some genres of the secular music developed, which absorbed both Russian and non-Russian features.

Further Shaping of Russian Identity in Formation and Interpretation of Musical Culture of the Society

Russian composers, adopting the experience and achievements of Western Europe, defended the importance of preservation and development of spiritual foundations of their art. As a result, the lasting values of national and global scale were established. The works of M.I. Glinka, A.S. Dargomyzhsky, M.P. Mussorgsky, A.P. Borodin, N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov, P.I. Tchaikovsky, S.V. Rachmaninoff, A.N. Scriabin, and I.F. Stravinsky presented the brilliant and well-known reflections of the Russian soul and whole spirit of the country, and of all the groups of Russian society to the world. Even under the dictate of the Soviet party ideology, composers addressed not only to social or national, but also to universal themes, and after the Iron Curtain fell down, they actively developed a new European technique, modifying it according to their own ideals and needs. Despite the difficulties of the Soviet and post- Soviet periods, the music of D.D. Shostakovich, S.S. Prokofiev, A.I. Khachaturian, G.V. Sviridov, I.O. Dunayevsky, A.G. Schnitke, E.V. Denisova, R.K. Shchedrin, S.A. Gubaidulina received welldeserved recognition by both the national and foreign audiences.

The first sociological observations of Russian music critics of the XIX century (V.F. Odoevsky, V.V. Stasov, A.N. Serov, G.A. Laroche, Cesar Cui, P.I. Tchaikovsky and N.A. Rimsky Korsakov) described the musical routine of various groups of the Russian society, composers’ social and psychological circumstances, music education issues, and expansion of Russian music both inside and outside the country. Music critics resisted the dominance of Italian and German composers on the Russian stage and prompted Russian composers to reflect national Russian idiosyncrasy in their work. They gave controversial reviews of both Russian and foreign composers. V.V. Stasov expressed their common views on those issues, “I do not mean to put our school above other European schools; that would be both an odd and ridiculous task. Every nation has its great people and great deeds” [10].

P.A. Florensky once made a characteristic comparison of life to a “continuous streak of dissonances” which turn into consonances “via friendship”, as only “in friendship does social life get its sense and reconciliation” [11]. As an ideal illustration of public order, the Russian philosopher talks about the heterophonic style of Russian folklore polyphonic songs, which unlike the homophony of the early modern period and the polyphony of the Middle Ages, has reached “full freedom of all voices, their “merging” with each other, as opposed to submission” [12]. The unity of a Russian choral song is “achieved by mutual understanding of performers, but not by the outer frame”, and by improvisation, each performer “links” the common cause, the latter representing “an endless ocean of emerging feelings” [12]. This “choral principle”, or “theocratic synarchy”, as opposed to Western imperialism and democracy, “Slavophils thought to make a basis of Russian publicity” [12]. That has been the eternal Russian ideal of society, which, just as the Russian folk song, functions as a translator, reproducer, and regenerator of the foundations of the Russian culture and identity. However, heterophony is common for other folklore traditions, as it can be seen in the works by I.M. Jordania, R.A. Imameeva, S.V. Kosyreva, J.V. Pyartlas and other Russian scientists.

Russian Methodology of Musical Sociological Analysis

The basics of classical methodology

In the pre-Soviet period, B.L. Jaworski developed a unique theory of “modal rhythm” based on understanding musical language as the logic of sound movements, the latter caused by the law of universal gravitation and mutual transitions of stability and instability. They are common to the natural, music and social spheres [13]. This “first and only attempt to construct a general theory of music in the music world” on the basis of a universal principle, which allows to interpret all elements of musical form as symbols of various experiences, helped music sociology a lot [13]. The first People’s Commissar of Education, A.V. Lunacharsky agreed with that assessment of the theory of modal rhythm and considered it as the closest one to Marxist theory and, therefore, important for the development of music sociology, pedagogy and practice. In the theory of modal rhythm he saw a “deep philosophical and sociological idea” that moved the “gravitation center from physics to psychics”, “which obeys the public”, as well as an opportunity of objective, scientific sociological research of properties of musical thinking, musical ideas and style [14]. Lunacharsky himself contributed a to music sociology music by highlighting the role of music as an art, and the significance of its leading representatives for organization and development of human consciousness, public and private life [15].

The importance of B.V. Asafiev’s sociological views, expressed in his intonation theory [16], consists in a musicalsemantic interpretation of the evolution of European music and the “European mode”, where every interval bears a “certain emotional and meaningful tone” and appears an “intonation barometer of the era and style”. From this point of view, Asafiev estimates Russian folk songs and works by Russian and Western European composers. According to Asafiev, social consciousness creates oral, changeable “intonation vocabulary”, which is the main condition for the existence of music providing for communication between the composer and listener and insight into the meaning of pieces of music, where “thoughts and feelings of a social class, caste etc. (up to the smallest social groups) are summarized” [16]. Intonation crises which arise in times of social changes are overcome by re-intoning – re-evaluation, rethinking, synthesis of old and new intonations in a new semantic context. Excessive subjectivity, saturation of a composer’s language with new intonations either shortens the life of his works or takes a longer time for their public recognition.

Emphasizing the importance of Asafiev’s definition of the role of music in preparing “social shifts” which change people’s outlook and create a “new society”, V.G. Lukyanov draws attention to other achievements of the Soviet musicologist. It was Asafiev who introduced the concept of music sociology, outlined its task, and, as opposed to M. Weber, emphasized the important role of music in its subject area. He came up with a better solution to the problem of relationship between music and public life than Adorno; he uncovered the process of music perception before L. Meyer [17]. Asafiev’s criticism of the “sold out composers”, “manufacturers for the vulgar taste”, transforming intonation vocabulary “into mess for consumption” and damaging the aural memory of the public [16], is of immediate interest. That is why Asafiev paid a lot of attention to the issues of music education, enlightenment, historical and cultural development of the composer, performer and listener.

In the context of sociology looked upon as a “bourgeois science” Asafiev touched on the basic issues of music sociology which were discussed in Russia up to the end of the XX century, including those covered in the works of A.N. Sochor, who was committed to establishing the problematic field of music sociology as an independent branch of knowledge, or V.I. Zack who based his views on “the obvious and clear statement that a song does not exist outside its use. Although a song can be performed onstage at concerts, its life is unthinkable without endless reproductions performed by people both together and alone or in a circle of close friends. Therefore, the actual use of a song has become an integral part of its artistic nature [18].

Some attempts by Soviet ideologists to proclaim the creation of a united nation – the Soviet people – did not prevent Asafiev, Sochor and other music theorists from referring to music of other peoples living both in and out of the USSR, although external relationships with fellow scholars were very limited. Today, in connection with the “border opening” and a significant increase of the role of mass media, Russian and foreign music sociologists pay a lot of attention to pop and rock music of the younger generation, which often has an international, cosmopolitan character. However, we will concentrate on a concept which is more consistent with the topic of this article.

Complete analysis

When in early 1930s complete musical analysis, wider related to other aspects of life, was introduced, it became a major achievement in national science. As a method, aimed to study scientific truths, it took a special place in history of basic methodology, considering that holism, originally synonymous with existence, was a key concept in epistemological knowledge of the world. It gives some general characteristic of the studying object (or objects): "integration, self-sufficiency, autonomy of these objects, their opposition to the surroundings, connected with their inner activity. It characterizes their qualitative diversity, caused by peculiar functioning and development patterns” [19].

It means that for understanding the integrity of object or phenomenon one should keep in mind the dialectic cooperation between two different tendencies: intergratedness and differentiation. In the studies of the founders of this method (V.A. Zuckermann, L.A.Mazel. I. Y. Rizhkin) the complete analysis was based on the interaction of musical theory and esthetics, where multitude style phenomena unite by common idea [20]. Mazel was especially interested in organic integrity of musical work and revealing new qualities of the artistic unity, Rizhkin – in problems of revealing and developing in music the art image, that finally interprets in connection with ethic idea2. As he fairly supposed, using this working out of the theoretical basement of musical science one can “reveal any essence of any art work.

The complete analysis method outlived its epoch: using and at the same time studying the methodology of complete music learning lasted for more than 70 years3. And if taking into account the apprentices and followers of those who began this method, then using such analysis will continue nowadays.

Zemtsovsky theoretical system

A new theory of I.I. Zemtsovsky, who devoted many years to studying Russian folk music, is based on the concept of “melosphere” as a kind of religion, “communication of a human with eternity” [21], where there is a place for eras, countries, nations, classes, families, lifestyles and composers’ personalities. At the same each composer turns to his own mystery and tradition [22]. Folklore, as an oral tradition and the “foremother” of all traditions, equates their individual and collective types, especially at the level of outstanding creative personalities. Each tradition, creating “text generation laws” that are vital for the normal existence of the society, has the most stable elements, comparable to values, types of intonation and articulation, socio-semantic potential of traditional genres. They are all subdued to the mechanism of useful generation and useful result – to the principle of the “infinite variance” which makes it possible for all living creatures to exist [22].

Zemtsovsky distinguishes four basic types of Traditions (FRISH) which are in the permanent process of formation. They can be read by one another and contain the whole diversity of artistic traditions. They are: F-tradition (folklore with all its branches), R-Tradition (religious art), I-Tradition (individual tradition of an artist), and SH-Tradition (show tradition - pop music, circus, cinema, television etc.). In F and R-Traditions there are many things which avoid researchers’ attention, but their study is possible due to I-Tradition that is more subject to analysis and certain universal laws, as each great artist creates own copy of folklore, own world, own religion, mythology, and even show tradition. “Keeping in mind” the relationship between all Traditions gives a “reliable reference point for the artistic world of modern people and the humanity” and “not only helps to define “one’s own” Tradition, but also to get a sometimes unexpected clue to it, which may be hidden within another Tradition”[22]. The essence and mechanics of all Traditions are in transition, retelling, reincarnation, and reintoning, which capture all the milestones of personality formation in respective communities, all music types, genres and forms of self-realization of a person and a “collective, community, tradition, folklore” [22].

Zemtsovsky specifies these statements in the analysis of typological features of the “long” lyrical songs on an “available to us Eurasian scale”, which became possible because of the experience of studying the Russian “long” song – “the climax of melodic development not only in the framework of Russian folklore, but also on the international scale” [23-27]. Zemtsovsky correlates the long lyrical song with the image or reflection of the spiritual formation of the Homo Lyricus who is able to be understood and loved “far beyond the territory of an ethnic or social group” [27]. Although examination of such lyrical songs “does not eliminate the relevance of them being studied by nations, territories, estates and historical periods”, these songs are a “phenomenon essentially international”, residing “in two homelands at once: their national (ethnic, regional) and universal melospherical one”, where “in some mysterious way all the masterpieces of human genius arise and continue to live forever” [27].

Separating the two Eurasian ethnic types: Central-South- Russian-East-Ukrainian and Central-Kazakh, Zemtsovsky refers them neither to Western European, nor East Asian types, as their song melos has the quality of symphonism, which Asafiev defines as symphonic formation of an artistic idea, its melodic growth as a “whole given in the movement of the creative existence” [28]. The Russian long song can be studied from both inside and outside the Russian tradition, but with an extensive use of wide covering materials, “international approach” and comparative analysis [27]. It should also be borne in mind that in Russia the tradition of a solo long singing was picked up by composers – genii of lyrical melos whose work, revealing its oral nature, achieves the main thing – the ability to rise above self and routine. “When singing opens the sky, everything on earth moves to the background, and a person obtains the irreplaceable inner freedom and truly spiritual aspirations. Homo Lyricus is free by definition, his invisible target being above the words and melody, his target being Heaven itself” [27].

A certain bias of Zemtsovsky’s theory towards methodological cosmopolitanism, apparently is not only due to development of the author’s ideals and needs, but also due to the next turn of Russia to Western values and to the whole world. However, this concept continues the tradition of Russian artistic, scientific and philosophical thought, which is characterized by deep religiosity, aestheticism, universalism, personalism, vitalism, internationalism, which all are combined with the interest to the intimate and dear, aspiration for peace, synthesis of the rational and irrational. This tradition is most clearly manifested in the Russian literature, art, works by Russian religious philosophers of the late XIX – early XX centuries, and, as seen in music sociology, it managed to preserve its features even under the totalitarian Stalinist regime.

Lev Vygotsky's Psychology of Art

Speaking about the types of sociological analysis of music we should not reject analytic methods of adjoining sciences, especially psychology of art. Herein a unique method is defined, created by the outstanding Russian psychologist L. S. Vygotsky. Its main point is the detection of the art works's inner conflict, based on the interaction of different layers of human consciousness and original “counter-feeling” (Vygotsky's term), thus goes the development of any work of art. Using the plot and topic concepts, the scholar defined two mutually exclusive composition directions: striving for goal and deviation from it. The first direction is quite visible, external. It presents the plot line, that is an event or a structure of events [29]. The second direction - inner one, codified, fogging the aim striving – combines into the plot line, where the topic gets the author's interpretation. The conflict between the plot and the topic lines generates drama locking. This approach to the noted phenomenon allows to see the artwork, on one hand, the original psychophilosophema. In its center there is a man with its feelings. And on the other hand, it helps to find answer to the fundamental questions of axiology of art: what is its psychological essence, how ethical and esthetical reasons correlate [26]. In reasoning his method the scholar bases on Karl Marx's statement: “if a form displaying and the essence of things coincide, then every science should be named excessive” [30].


To summarize our observations over the formation of different types of sociological analysis, we note that all of them were deep and far-reaching. Having these qualities, they went beyond purely national traditions in terms of both their significance and relevance, in spite of their Russian origin. (Obvious examples of international music sociological activity include works by Zemtsovsky, who moved to the United States in 1994, or B. Zak, who moved to New York in 1991.)

B. Jaworski, with the support of the People's Commissar of Education A. Lunacharsky, attempted to build the “General theory of music” based on understanding of all the elements of the musical form as symbols of different experiences. An important place in his research he gave to development of the categories of image and tone.

B. Asafiev continued his studies in the mentioned categories and introduced his own concept to musicology – symphonism. Asafiev linked typical intonations in music with the sociological image of a human being. Having studied intonation in connection with intellectual and emotional qualities of a person in the context of the environment and introducing the notion of intonation in musicological practice, Asafiev, as noted by G. Konson, “brought Russian musicology to a high scientific level, which helped reveal the necessary goals of music analysis: identifying something more meaningful than structure, form and music characteristics” [26]. In his works, “integrative and essentially diverse trends merged into one, which reflected in the analysis of image bearing motivicintonational system subordinated to ethical conception”.

Mazel, I. Rizhkin and V. Zuckermann used the method of complete analysis to study practically all known musical literature. On this basis in their works they formed own concepts due to which the works were connected by ideological ties. In terms of undertaken in 1930s fundamental state transfer of the educational structure from the old system of “musical forms” to the subject of “musical works analysis”, the method of complete analysis seems to be epoch-making [26].

A. Sochor developed the problematic field of music sociology as an independent branch of knowledge, explored the culture of popular genres, outlined their classification, where he distinguished between mass-concert and massspectacular genres, mass-household and mass-ritual, and mass-decorative, to which he referred the music playing “during production at work” (“functional”), as well as in parks, trains, restaurants and other places of broad communication” [31].

B. Zack studied the phenomenon of the Soviet song in connection with its musical and sociological problems.

I. Zemtsovsky identified four basic types of traditions, which absorbed all the vital spheres of human activity: folklore with all its branches, religious art, individual artist tradition, and show tradition.

Vygotsky’s method, based on two different approaches to the same psychological process, which gives an opportunity to reveal inner and external sense of the artwork into its dialectic contradictions that fastened the transfer from descriptive science to explanatory one.

Without the above mentioned Russian theories the development of such a modern branch of knowledge as “music sociology” would hardly be possible.


As a result of our review of the problem of interaction of principles of globalization and identification in the Russian music sociology, we have come to the conclusion that it includes three components:

- The development of national music (including the role of national folklore), absorbing characteristic modern processes from music all over the world;

- Scientific and theoretical analysis based on a Russian paradigm-developed academic method of learning, enriched by new achievements of science from all over the world;

- Spiritual content in the development of music itself and evolution of analytical thought, because nowadays music industry shows evident signs of crisis, as do many other fields of art. B. Medushevsky wrote about that, “The music of Christian civilization keeps a limitless potential of eternal renewal of life. They are not in demand today. They have lost their significance because of the spiritual decline in performing and theoretical interpretations, due to the loss of sense of human life on Earth. The fault is on votaries of serious music, musicologists who ran away from the battlefield (because establishing the good in a society does not go without acts of bravery and getting over ridicule courageously). The more important is to go back to doing what you must do. For the education of generations for eternity is our only work on Earth” [32,33].


The interaction of global and national processes in the Russian music sociology, rejecting methodological nationalism and methodological cosmopolitanism, which at the same time contradicts neither one nor the other, is an indication of the essential diversity of the modern society and its reflective expression in the course of development. Based on the problematic experience of social life and learning, the tradition under examination forms a certain ideological guidance system making it possible to understand the variability of the historical and cultural process in its dialectical relations of discreteness and continuity, setting original Russian conceptual artistic standards for the artistic world view.

The tradition of combining global and national processes in the sociology of music is particularly important now because of the current growth of national spirit of Russian citizens, as well as ongoing efforts of political and economic isolation of Russia. These circumstances require Russian scientists to intensify international contacts and update international and interdisciplinary research which would unite sociology of religion, sociology of music, art, emotion, morality, turning, education, and law. This kind of activity will contribute to the development of positive aspects of globalization and national identity in Russia and other countries of the global community.


The article is written with the funding from the Russian Fund for Humanities in the context of research studies: "The philosophy of music at the border line of the XIX and the XX centuries within the framework of up-to-date problems”, the project № 13-33-01021. The authors of the following article extend appreciation to the colleagues from the RFH who contributed a lot in providing the research.

1 In his research A. Soshnikov mainly dwells on the problem of dialectical connection between “methodological nationalism” and/or “methodological cosmopolitanism” phenomena on the vast scale of theoretic interpretations of national realities conceptualization and society globalization. He describes the XXI century as a period of "not only cosmopolitanism, but also nationalism which stands as a specific response to the global unification" [1].

2 So far as the Rizhkin admitted the complete analysis Mazel “aimed to apply to denomination of the whole entire musical phenomenon, that contains both meaning and shape, the essence and expressive means that conveys it, along with the specific course of such embodiment” [23].

3 In the works of its founders the complete analysis was first used in the Zuckermann's article about Rimskiy-Korsakov's opera “Sadko” [24], and recently in Rizhkin's work about melos developing from inflexion. [25] For more see: [26].