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Permanent Exhibition at the Folk Music Museum

The museum currently houses a permanent exhibition spread over two buildings, inviting visitors to experience the joy of music making.

Wind Instruments

The permanent exhibition presents folk wind instruments within the context of two themes of traditional culture: shepherding and multipart singing (sutartinės). Shepherds once played a variety of reed pipes, traditional flutes (lamzdelis), whistles and other simple instruments while herding their animals. Alongside the musical instruments, you will see a photo of a cow that came to listen to a shepherd playing some music. The shepherds knew that their music appealed to the animals. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what kind of music a cow would come to listen to? You can hear it in the museum.

Folk music tunes played on panpipes and birch trumpets sound quite different from the music played by shepherds. Much like traditional multipart singing, this type of music has retained the archaic sound that was so valued by people in ages past. It is a shrill, enchantingly attention-grabbing and dissonant sound. You will have an opportunity to enjoy this sound and be transported to another time or even another world in the wind instrument section of the museum’s permanent exhibition.

And don’t forget the sutartinės karaoke! Singing a sutartinė, following a recording by an experienced performer, is really easy and interesting. No need to prepare in advance: right here in the museum you will learn how to sing a few simple sounds that will blend into the overall piece. It is an experience full of discovery and self-improvement.

The Zither

To what is perhaps the most important Lithuanian folk instrument, the zither (kanklės), there has been dedicated an entire separate section of the museum’s permanent exhibition. Here you can learn every intricate detail about the Lithuanian tradition of playing kanklės, and explore samples of kanklės from various ethnographic regions. Kanklės come in many different forms (having between 4 and 20 or even more strings). Across Lithuania’s different ethnographic regions, kanklės have features that are characteristic only of a particular local region. Not only do the instruments themselves differ (shape of the body, number of strings, decorative elements), but there also exist different styles of playing them. The history of the kanklės in the 20th century is also quite fascinating: at the beginning of the century, with the growth of Lithuanian national consciousness accelerating, several interesting phenomena took place in national music. Kanklės became increasingly popular and, simultaneously, underwent various transformations: kanklės with more strings and decorated with national ornaments and symbols were introduced. Young people learnt to play kanklės and formed ensembles. The museum exhibits not only old specimens of these instruments, but also those made in the middle and second half of the 20th century. The exhibition also features kanklės produced in diaspora.

Besides listening to video and audio recordings of various types of kanklės played by traditional performers, and taking part in a quiz, visitors are equally offered an opportunity to touch the traditional old kanklės, replicas of the museum’s antique exhibits.

Traditional Dance

Would you like to experience having a good time in a different way? The way that our grandparents used to do when they were young? Visit the interactive space, entitled ‘Traditional Dances’. Did you know that in the past, nobody in the villages danced the kind of Kepurinė that we see on the stage today? The elements of Kepurinė danced on stage are impressive, but they are only meant for the stage. n reality, Kepurinė used to be danced more lightly, requiring no special talent or physical training. Much in the same way that today’s club-goers go dancing, Kepurinė was not danced for the sake of beauty or nationalism, but simply in order to have a good time. So, just relax! In this interactive space, you will find three games: ‘Dance’, ‘Play’, and ‘Feel the Rhythm’.

During the ‘Dance’ game, you will learn how to dance two traditional dances with the help of virtual dancers. Believe us, they are exceedingly good!

The ‘Play’ game invites you to improvise. How would you like the music to sound? You select the instruments, and the musicians play them. You don’t like the sound of drums? Just tell them to stop. It is all in your hands. And when you have played around enough with the sounds, you can also take a test on how well you can recognise different musical instruments just from the sounds they make.

The ‘Feel the Rhythm’ game may help you with discovering a new talent. You’ll have to strike the tambourine. Of course, to make it harder and more interesting, you can try to keep up with real musicians. Try to beat out the rhythm the way they do.

Clamours, Lightning Bolts, Night Owls, and Black Horns

Post-folklore is a broad genre of music that has emerged by combining folklore with other musical genres. In the late 20th century post-folklore music festivals began to be organised, featuring a number of varieties of this genre (folk-rock, folk-metal, popular folk, electronic folk and others). The popularity of such festivals shows that folklore remains important in the minds of modern people.

The exhibition presents five post-folklore festivals that have a proven track record of continuity: Suklegos (‘clamours’), Mėnuo Juodaragis (‘black-horned moon’), Kilkim žaibu (‘let’s soar with a lightning bolt’), Jotvos vartai (‘the gates of Jotva’) and Saulėtosios naktys (‘sunny nights’). The exhibition features paraphernalia and photographs from these festivals, revealing the uniqueness and evolution of every single one of them.

Visit the exhibition and feel the true atmosphere of a music festival!

Music-making at Churches, Schools, and in Homes

Imagine a cosy little wooden church in the Lithuanian countryside in the mid-19th century. Entering it, you hear the sounds of great church music. Without a large and expensive organ, what else might produce these sounds? In the museum’s second building, a 16th-century house, you will encounter instruments used in the churches of villages and towns, as well as in schools and manors. The largest part of the exhibition consists of old pedal harmoniums. id you know that harmoniums, though visually resembling small organs or pianos, are actually closer to garmons? Make sure you find out why when you visit the museum. We promise you unexpected discoveries!

Alongside the old harmoniums, the exhibition also displays instruments made in later periods, such as pianos and electronic organs.

On display, you can also find a collection of old gramophones. Music by Kipras Petrauskas, Antanas Šabaniauskas, Petras Biržys (Pupų Dėdė), and other famous performers and composers, made into special gramophone records, would often be played on such gramophones – manufactured all over Europe – in Lithuanian homes during the interwar period and later.

On the first floor of the castle tower, visitors can experience Kaunas Castle’s unique virtual reconstruction, which not only takes them back to the beginning of the 15th century, allowing them to take a tour around the castle in those times, but also to interview Grand Duke Vytautas, the castle’s elder Jonas Sungaila, and the renowned Flemish traveler and diplomat Ghillebert de Lannoy.

In the castle’s stylised dungeon, visitors can get a first-hand experience of medieval chains or have their picture taken in front of the Pillar of Shame, used to punish criminals between the 16th and 19th centuries in Western Europe. used to punish criminals between the 16th and 19th centuries in Western Europe. The castle’s ghost also resides here, in the castle’s dungeon, where a video projection is accompanied by the haunting sounds of clanking guns, neighing horses and much more.

On the third floor of Kaunas Castle Tower, you can view the city from an angle you have never seen before On this floor, you can also become the first ones to see the Museum’s new exhibits: the New in the Museum single-exhibit display is updated every few months.

Late Traditional Music Instruments

The first thing you will notice when you visit this exhibition is a large collection of garmon-type instruments. These include a wide variety of differently constructed garmons, bandonias, concertina, accordions and other instruments.

Did you know that garmons, beloved by folk musicians, are new to Lithuania compared with other musical instruments? In the 19th century, the garmon was a great innovation! It is a loud, practical and manoeuvrable instrument. Naturally, it was not cheap. Let us just try to imagine how luxurious this display would have looked to someone of that time.

Alongside the garmons, there are also violins, basolias, and dulcimers. All of these instruments are widespread not only in Lithuania, but also in other nations, and some of these instruments entered rural music from classical music. Some of them were introduced in Lithuania earlier, others later, but in the late 19th and early 20th centuries BC these instruments became so popular that, for a while, they even displaced the old Lithuanian instruments, such as kanklės or panpipes, from traditional live folk music.