The aim of this chapter is to present the most important Kyrgyz folksong types, groups, classes and styles. My attempt was to proceed from simpler to more complex forms; the motivic twin-bar structures are followed by single-core or two-lined constructions and those that can be retraced to them, and then come the four-lined constructs. Within a group I usually list the tunes in the rising order of cadences.

I considered the number of syllables, which is usually closely related to the length of a musical line, in the systematization as follows: the typical Kyrgyz folksong line has 7, 8 or 11 syllables, but within a tune the 7- and 8-syllable lines may alternate and may often become extended. Within similar melody outlines I did not differentiate between songs built of 7- and 8-syllabic lines. The tunes with definitely longer, usually tripodic 11- and 12-syllabic or extended 8-syllabic sections are in a separate group but attached to the 7- and 8-syllable group of similar melody outline and cadences.

I gathered in separate groups the tunes moving on Aeolian and Ionian scales. I did not separate the tunes with pentatonic traits from the diatonic ones, for in Kyrgyz folk music there are negligibly few distinctly pentatonic melodies. The Caramazan tunes are at the same time treated separately for their peculiarly structured lines conveying religious contents.

Together with the two-lined tunes (AB) I present the other two-core melodies in which the successive variants of one line is followed by the successive variants of the other line (e.g. ABB, AAB, AAAB, ABBB AABB, AABBBB…). In the system of tunes I subsume the melodies of AB|CB scheme which pause – or even terminate – on the closing note in the middle of the tune under the double-core or two-lined tunes. But the ones that can be schematized AB|AC are put among the four-lined tunes because they remain suspended at the end of the second line.

In the following I present my classification of Kyrgyz folk music to acquaint the reader with the major Kyrgyz tune types and their musical relations.

The tunes are arranged in five blocks of different size and significance:

1) Twin-bar tunes: tunes skipping on the G,-C bichord, tunes rotating around the middle note of trichords, the Bekbekey group and Phrygian tunes, tunes of descending or hill-shaped first lines, and tunes with a down leap at the end of the lines;

2) Tunes of Major character : one- and two-lined laments and related tunes; two-lined tunes with (5), (6), (7) and (8) main cadences and their four-lined kin, as well as “real” four-lined melodies;

3) Tunes of Minor character: one- and two-lined laments and their relatives; tunes with (4) and (5) main cadences, four-lined tunes, and tunes with valley-shaped, ascending or undulating first lines;

4) Aeolian and Ionian Caramazan tunes, and

5) Tunes of domed structure.

I use the following scale degrees and pitch designations.

Degrees and pitches

Let us have a look at each block, illustrating the most important groups by a characteristic type each.