Old World Meets New: Shepherd’s Flute from the Former Yugoslavia

Grade Level
6-8, 9-12


“Pastiriska pesma” (Pastoral song) (video)
Recorded: Detroit, Michigan, August 5, 1938
Performers: Stefan Trivanovich, shepherd’s flute


Activity 1: Introducing the Instrument

  1. Students view the video of Stefan Trivanovich playing a pastoral song.
    Q—What instrument is Mr. Trivanovich playing? (end-blown duct double-flute, traditionally played by shepherd’s while tending sheep. Trivanovich likely brought the instrument and/or the knowledge of how to play it from his hometown of Glina, Croatia (in the former Yugoslavia), where he was born on a farm. **Lomax called it a svirale (SVEE-rah-lay), perhaps a local term for dvojnice (DEVOY-neet -ah), an end-blown flute with two bores, or two cylinders—the right with four finger holes, the left with three finger holes—so the performer can play two notes at one time. Svirale more commonly refers to a single bore flute, but this instrument clearly has two bores. For photos and more about the dvojnice, see the Grinnell Collection Musical Instruments Collection
    Q—How many notes to you hear at one time? (two, because the instrument has two separate bores, each with finger holes)
    Stefan Trivanovich playing his flute.
    Stefan Trivanovich playing his flute. Still image taken from Alan Lomax’s color film footage, shot August 5, 1938, Detroit, Michigan.

Activity 2: Close Intervals

  1. Teacher leads a discussion on student reactions to the tune Mr. Trivanovich played. Likely it will sound “different” if not “out of tune.” Introduce the concept of culturally different ideas of what is pleasing and beautiful.
  2. Teacher introduces/reinforces the term “interval” or the distance between pitches as a way for students to hear this piece.
    • The tune has close intervals (**seconds), which are a common characteristic of music from the Balkan Peninsula in the former Yugoslavia. (Locate this region on a map.) **The recording actually uses intervals not part of the Western even-tempered scale (between a major and minor second) but for clarity, the lesson focuses on Major seconds.
    • In this tradition, close intervals are enjoyable to perform and listen to.
  3. Most students who have grown up listening to mainstream popular music in the U.S. are not exposed to close intervals. Popular music here, for example, uses thirds much more often than seconds.
  4. Students experiment with intervals. Suggested ideas follow:
    • Sing/play two notes separated by a Major third. **Using two recorders for this activity would more closely approximate the sound of the dvojnice.
    • Sing/play two notes separated by a Major second
    • Sing/play a Major scale in parallel thirds (second group of students begins after first completes the first two pitches)
    • Sing/play a Major scale in parallel seconds (second group of students begins after the first has sung their first note)
      Q—Which is easier to do? (teacher emphasizes again that we all grow up in particular musical cultures. Thirds are more common in the music of some cultures; seconds are more common in others. To the performers/listeners of that culture, both are enjoyable to hear and perform.

Activity 3 : Migrating Music

  1. Teacher provides a brief biography of the performer, Stefan Trivanovich.
    • Raised on a farm in the former Yugoslavia
    • Ethnic Serbian born in Croatia
    • Emigrated to the U.S. in 1910
    • Worked as a steel chipper (likely in a steel mill, or in a foundry associated with Chrysler’s (now demolished) Jefferson Avenue Auto Plant, located near the Clairpointe neighborhood)
    • When recorded by Lomax, living in the predominantly Serbian neighborhood of Clairpointe at the northern border Detroit near the Detroit River. The neighborhood was close to the Chrysler plant.

    Q—How might his life have changed since coming to Detroit? (urban/rural contrasts) Q—Why do you think he continued to play his flute? (part of his culture, reminder of his home and his youth, enjoyment, etc.)

  2. Students brainstorm individually or in small groups about the following questions, as appropriate: 
    • What music did you bring with you to remind you of where you’re from?
    • If you moved from where you live now, what music would remind you of home?
    • Why is it important to you?
  3. Students share their chosen music, perhaps as a video, a radio story, or class exhibit.

Activity 4 : Ethnic Music in Your School, Community, Region, State

  1. Teacher points out that Stefan Trivanovich was performing outside of the local Serbian hall, site of social and cultural activities for the local Serbian community.
  2. Teacher invites someone from a local folkloric dance group, ethnic music group, ethnic organization or ethnic hall to the class. Students prepare questions to ask the visitor about what traditions or customs from his/her homeland are continued in the U.S. Use the “That’s A Good Question” worksheet as an aid (see below).
  3. Alternatively, students identify the different cultural backgrounds represented in their classroom, school, or in their community, region, state. Students map the locations of specific neighborhoods or communities where a particular group or groups predominate.
  4. Students research ethnic halls, neighborhoods, or organizations (past or present) in their community. Topics could include general history, music, festivals, and/or food events. Results could be presented as an exhibit or photo story, featuring student photos and captions about buildings/events/performers in their neighborhood or community.


That's a Good Question

1. Write down a folklore topic that interests you.


2. What do you know about this topic right now?


3. If you were to ask questions of someone about that topic, what would you want to find out? Write down at least three things below:

a. _________________________________________________________

b. _________________________________________________________

c. _________________________________________________________

4. Now write questions beginning with these words that ask for the information you want to know.

When __________________________________________________________

Who ____________________________________________________________

What ___________________________________________________________

Where __________________________________________________________

Why ___________________________________________________________

Which __________________________________________________________

How ___________________________________________________________

Good! You made a great start. Now write as many more questions as you can. Remember to begin your questions with “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “why,” “how,” and “which.” Now you are ready to try interviewing!

(That’s a Good Question adapted from 4-H FOLKPATTERNS Youth Programs, Cooperative Extension Service, Michigan State University Museum, copyright 1991, Michigan State University Board of Trustees. These materials may be copied for purposes of 4-H programs and other nonprofit educational groups.)

Explore more musical instruments from Eastern Europe in the Alan Lomax Collection of Michigan and Wisconsin Recordings : diple, gusle, duduk, cymbalon (alternative spelling is “cymbalom”), tamburitza

For more 1938 Serbian recordings from Detroit, use the search term “Serbia” in the Alan Lomax Collection of Michigan and Wisconsin Recordings

Learn more about the dvojnice at the Grinnell Collection Musical Instruments Collection

Background information on Stefan Trivanovich drawn from James P. Leary, Folksongs of Another America, Field Recordings from the Upper Midwest, 1937-1946 (University of Wisconsin Press, Dust to Digital, 2015).

Film footage excerpted from Alan Lomax Goes North, ”The Most Fertile Source,” a documentary film edited by James P. Leary and Guha Shankar using Alan Lomax’s 1938 silent color film footage. The complete film is included in Folksongs of Another America.

Special thanks to Yvonne and Bill Lockwood and to Carol Silverman, for providing background information used in this lesson.

Lesson Plan by Laurie Sommers
With generous support from the NEA