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Three Girls Sing a Sutartine

By Amanda Oosthuizen.




A Sutartine is a Lithuanian multipart song sung by women, comprising multiple melodies of three to five pitches, which often run in parallel seconds. These songs are nearly extinct and are listed by World Heritage in their List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.


You hear the voices in the sheltered quiet before the storm, when time pauses and for a while the world is remote. You hear a driving, overlapping dissonance like the ringing of bells on aSunday. At first you think it’s the pounding of your heart, the panting of your breath, the churning of the river preparing to break its banks. You stand in the street. The sound comes from an old warehouse, derelict.

As if a switch has been flicked, the rain pelts the ground, quickly creating pools and bouncing almost to your knees. Lightning flashes. You run. You know that the river is not far behind and that you must keep ahead of it.

You push the door and slip through. It’s in darkness except for the golden glow of a lamp in a chalky circle that holds three girls, standing apart but mouth to mouth, frowning. They sing in low voices, three strong winding melodies that chase each other, and tell of plaiting wreaths of rue, long hair pulling, of rings that hurt the fingers –songs remembered from their grandmothers.

Outside the thunder rumbles and rolls. You wait in the shadows. The girls weave their melodies between the cracks, snaring the booms. Water trickles beneath the door so you climb onto a stack of pallets, out of the singers’ sight but also so as to keep your feet dry.

The voices sing of transformation, turning a life from chaos to harmony, the songs journey in musical circles that cleanse your spirit with their winding spirals.

And then the warehouse door creaks, rips off its hinges, crashes to the floor and in hurtles the river.



Amanda Oosthuizen’s stories have been found online, in print, in galleries and in Winchester cathedral. Her prize-winning Litro/Poland Bruno Schulz story was displayed on the London Underground and she is a joint winner of the 2010 Kate Betts Memorial Prize. A series of poems inspired by artist, Lucy Ash, is currently on display at OxArts gallery, Bampton, UK.

The Creation of The World (1905/6) is by the Lithuanian symbolist painter and composer Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis and is part of a cycle of different images, all of which bear the same name.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, October 25th, 2016.