Map of the sound landscapes of the Carpathians

Elements of the traditional landscape of the Carpathians include the sounds, noises, instrumental melodies, songs and animal voices associated with shepherding. read more


Indeed, this is a full space of sounds: the voices of birds, sheep, cows, and sheepdogs, local dialect and shepherd calls, songs and improvised instrumental variations played on very interesting shepherd instruments. The second area of the characteristic sounds of the Carpathians are the sound landscapes of small towns. Just like you create photo albums, you can collect and compile recordings which are made with every available device having an audio recording function. In this regard, field trips and hunting for interesting sounds make for a great adventure.

Elements of the traditional landscape of the Carpathians include sounds, noises, instrumental melodies, songs, and animal voices associated with shepherding. The shepherding landscape is not only what you see: the great, open pasture spaces and narrow paths made by sheep, but also the space full of sounds: that of birds, sheep, cows, and sheepdogs, local dialect usage and shepherd calls, songs and improvised instrumental variations played on very interesting traditional shepherd instruments.

            The second area of the characteristic sounds of the Carpathians are the sound landscapes of small towns. Such certainly include the historic Stary Sącz. The tone of the town is provided by the bugle call, the sound of the clock on the church tower, as well as the evidence of its rich and specific history, such as gurgling of the miraculous spring of St. Kinga. All of these sounds can be captured and collected.

            Just like you create photo albums, you can collect and compile recordings, which are made with every available device having an audio recording function. In this way, you are able to design and create sound postcards or obtain a perfect adjunct for photo presentations, or create a personal collection of sound trips. These recordings are deserving of description and systematic collection. After a few trips to compile field recordings, it may turn out that our collection has some very valuable sounds.


Here are some examples of the field recordings of the sound landscapes that you can encounter and make on the Polish and Slovak frontier.


Shepherd sound landscape


Voices of sheep, sheepdogs, birds, sounds from the road.

You can record many interesting sounds by following the herds of grazing sheep.


The melody and sound of the shepherd instrument that is named 'koncovka'.

This is a type of a recorder with no finger holes, which is played by blowing air through the mouthpiece (similar to that of recorders) and covering and sometimes slightly uncovering the escape hole. This instrument, which is a favourite of sheepherders, is one of the most archaic Carpathian flutes. Many can make one by themselves from the branches of elder.


Natural landscape


Bird voices (spring).

To record selected aspects of the sound landscape, you should plan your trips during a suitable time of the year, since what you will hear in the spring is completely different from the sound of the fall. This is much like the observed or photographed landscape.


The sounds of the 'mofetta', the source of carbon dioxide near the village of Jastrzębik near Muszyna.

The mofetta is an interesting place, where carbon dioxide escapes from deep geological deposits. When the gas penetrates the water, it forms silver bubbles, which pop with a characteristic sound, and when the gas escapes directly into the atmosphere, it buzzes and hisses, which is similar to breathing.


Do you have your own recordings? Or maybe you would like to take a field recording trip? We will be glad to have you join us and fill in the map of the Carpathian sound landscapes!

Stary Sącz is a perfect place for an extensive and persistent sound exploration, since its musical traditions date back to earliest times of music in Poland!



The Bogurodzica of Stary Sącz

The legend, some validation of which is battled for by the historians and enthusiasts of Stary Sącz, says that the earliest place of the performance (or even the creation) of the mystical and musically unusual song of the Polish knighthood, Bogurodzica, was the convent of the Order of Saint Clare. This oldest Polish religious song, considered by some as Poland's true national anthem, contains strong harmonics and was used to entice Polish knights towards undertaking heroic deeds. According to Jan Długosz, Bogurodzica was sung in 1410, in Grunwald, as the carmen patrium. To this day, this masterpiece remains a great mystery of our culture and provokes speculations and artistic developments.

            Bogurodzica is a type of prayer song to the Virgin Mary for help, and to Christ to give the people salvation for the sake of John the Baptist. The lyrics of Bogurodzica are considered to be a masterful poem having the properties of a literary masterpiece allied with melic (singing) poetry. The musical layer of Bogurodzica refers to the Greek hymn assumed in eastern liturgy. Its creation is dated between the 11th and 14th centuries, but the 13th century is the most probable.

            The musical sources of Bogurodzica, its liturgical nature and the time of its creation indicate that the Order of Saint Clares of the Hungarian princess Kunegunda and the difficult times of Tatar attacks were the proper place and time for the creation of such a song.


The Psalter of David.

Perhaps the most valuable of the numerous interesting old prints once contained in the convent’s library was the Psalter of Saint Kinga, also referred to as the Psalter of Sącz, translated into Polish from Latin. Legend says that this was done by Saint Kinga. According to her biography, which was written in the 14th century, the founder of the convent had a habit of reciting songs in lingua vulgari (i.e. “in folk tongue”, therefore in Polish) during holidays. Aleksander Brückner, a well-known researcher of old-Polish literature, states that women – who back then were deprived of access to education – did not know Latin, and the medieval translations of Psalters are associated with their needs considering religious literature. A similar genesis is held by the oldest relic of Polish literature, the Florian Psalter from the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries, which was most likely created for Queen Jadwiga.

            Brückner dated the creation of the legendary Psalter of Sącz to the year 1280. Initially, the Psalters covered 150 psalms from the Old Testament, which were created gradually between 9th and 3rd centuries before Christ and were translated and paraphrased in Europe since early medieval times. They gradually entered the composition of the Christian church ritual and the blossoming of their significance falls to the periods of the renaissance and reformation. The author of most Psalms is considered to be King David, and his name is carried by all psalm collections, referred to as Psalms of David.


The Psalters also draw attention to their artistic values, since they are usually rich in illustrations and calligraphies. If fragments of the Psalter of David from the 13th century have actually been discovered in the convent of Saint Clares in Stary Sącz, we are dealing with the first relic of Polish literature!


The subject of any recordings that you make can also be the characteristic local dialect!


Pojadom na Szonc, i.e. Lach folklore and Sącz dialect.


Live Lach folklore is best preserved in Podegrodzie and its surroundings. Podegrodzie is a large and attractively developed village on the route between Stary Sącz and Gołkowice (the location of a bridge on the Dunajec) – Podegrodzie – Nowy Sącz (or Limanowa). You can get to Podegrodzie from Stary Sącz in a half an hour. 

     Podegrodzie is home to many enthusiasts of local culture – they are the ones responsible for the preservation of the Lach dances, music, apparel, embroidery and cuisine. The village is also the home of the Zofia and Stanisław Chrząstowski the Lach of Sącz Ethnic Group Museum. This is the largest museum institution in the Sącz region. It was created with private collections, which were gathered since the 1930s. After World War II, they were made accessible to visitors in a regular village hut. Since 1981, the Museum has been a branch of the Regional Museum in Nowy Sącz and is located in the building of the Communal Centre of Culture in Podegrodzie (Podegrodzie 248, 33-386 Podegrodzie, open Monday to Friday 8.00 AM - 3.00 PM; it is closed on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays and post-holiday days). The museum and the Communal Centre of Culture are famous for their excellent preparation of Lach cuisine and have prepared successive publications and exhibits.

     Despite these efforts, today, the traditional culture is treated like a holiday-only celebration, and – besides certain elements of the female apparel – is not very noticeable. It is different with the Sącz dialect, which remains alive and can be heard everywhere in full, but also in the forms of specific influences, accents or traditional descriptions and names. After the Silesian and the highlander dialects, the dialectologists consider the Sącz dialect as being one of the most alive forms of the Polish language. Besides the words and descriptions associated with the life and work in the mountains, the Sącz dialect holds numerous influences from Slovak, Ukrainian and German.

The traditional language contains such “bloomers” as Bryjów (the common name of Stary Sącz), or bojcyć, which means to gossip. And please do not chichrać (laugh), or someone might prasnuńć (hit) you!


The Polish highland is not only Podhale, Orawa and Spiš, but also the Beskid Sądecki mountain range, which is the land of the Poprad Highlanders.

They are also referred to as the Black (from the black colour of their gunia, a type of cloak made from cloth, as well as their pants) or the Piwniczna Highlanders (from the town of Piwniczna Zdrój). The Poprad Highlanders border the Pieniny and Podhale Highlanders to the west, the Sącz Lachs to the north and used to border the Lemkos to the east. The dialect of the Poprad Highlanders contains many influences from the Lemkos and obviously linguistic remains of the Vlach settlements. Numerous words, which have been (and still are) used on the Poprad are referred to as Carpathianisms. These are words common to the dialects and languages of the nations inhabiting the Carpathians. They include: baca, bryndza, polana, bystrica (bystrzyca) and others. The easiest way to solve the forgotten meaning of the words and recall their pronunciation or discover Carpathianisms is to take a peek into the excellent work of Wanda Łomnicka-Dulak entitled “Matusine słóweczka. Słownik gwary górali nadpopradzkich” (A Mother’s Words. A Lexicon of the Poprad Highlander Dialect), published in 2005, by the Town and Commune Centre of Culture in Piwniczna-Zdrój. The lexicon contains so-called expressivisms, which are words for emotional reference to people. Some of them greatly reflect the personality of the people we encounter: chuchrok, flapcia, hadra, lola, scypica, szubrawiec, sroc, zawatlorz…


Examples of field recordings, i.e. Stary Sącz has a characteristic bugle call, clock beat and the sound of its miraculous spring!


The church and convent of the Order of Saint Clares.

Before you enter through the gate of the convent and come from the external courtyard into the twilight of the unusual interior of the convent church with its unique paintings, sculptures and its virtually physical saturation with history and myth, you should take a look at the convent buildings from the direction of the road to Nowy Sącz. The view before us will explain the custom of referring to Stary Sącz as the “Wawel of Podhale.” The golden crowns of the church towers, the great convent buildings on the steep slope and the entirety surrounded with a white defensive wall hiding a grand garden and the convent orchards create the impression of a mighty stronghold.

     If weather permits, you will see the Radziejowa range rise above the convent buildings to an altitude of almost 1300 metres. The size of the convent, its dense architecture and monumentality of the landscape creates an unforgettable impression. On continuing our tour, now you can stand in the square in front of the vaulted gate on the courtyard of the convent. To the right, there is the wooden Szeklerska gate and an intriguing painting on the wall of the convent, as well as a historic building from the times of King John III Sobieski, to the left the medieval buildings of Daszyńskiego street with its shops full of souvenirs.

     You enter the courtyard of the convent through a vaulted passageway in the 17th century, four-storey gatehouse, passing by the house of the chaplain from the year 1605. There is a clock on the tower crowning the gatehouse, which plays a bugle call at noon that has been heard for centuries, according to old, medieval musical records discovered in the convent.


The first convent buildings and the church were likely wooden, and were funded in 1280, by Princess Kinga. The construction work on the brick Holy Trinity Church began sometime in the 14th century (its consecration took place in approximately 1332). Successive work was done during the years 1601 – 1605, when Bishop Bernard Maciejowski ordered the brick version of the convent’s buildings. This work was continued after the year 1617. The destruction caused by the fire of 1764 gave way to serious reconstructions, as well as changes in the form of the addition of an ave-bell and new polychromes. The ave-bell, which is decorated with a royal crown, is a unique product of copper-smithing (it was made from copper and brass sheets and partially cast from metal). It was created in 1777 as a gift from abbess Psurska. The most important part of the convent accessible to visitors is the Holy Trinity Church. This early gothic structure has an extended, five-span body and a narrower, two-span presbytery with a three-sided lock. Inside the church, the ebony baroque pulpit from 1671 with its imaginative decorations presenting the mythical, biblical tree of the Virgin Mary, the vine sprig, and numerous Judean kings, deserves special attention. Furthermore, the richness of the form hides numerous and not completely identified allegories and meanings, which today can only be contemplated with admiration. The Chapel of Saint Kinga with its silver coffin containing her remains is a valuable structure, as are the main altar and the two stucco side altars, designed and built in the baroque style by Baltazar Fontana during the years 1696 – 1699. A particularly valuable and beautiful painting is that of the Holy Trinity, which is entirely sculpted and pressed in a silver sheet. Moreover, the left aisle contains the gravestone of Queen Jadwiga, the wife of Władysław Łokietek. Successive reconstructions of the convent involved great architects, artists and designers, such as Jan di Simoni, Franciszek Placidi, Baltazar Fontana, Feliks Derysarz and numerous others.

     From the beginning of its existence, the convent has remained under the constant care of the local authorities and community, the initiatives of whom drive continuous renovations and restorations of the convent buildings. The most recent work in the convent took place in 2010 and covered, among others, the extensive renovation and conservation of the church tower crowning and convent roofs – the work is currently continuing.         


The miraculous spring – can  it heal by listening to it?

For several hundred years, the Spring of Saint Kinga has been known for its miraculous power. There are dozens of reports of healings with this very water.

     During the canonisation process of Saint Kinga, the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints declared the healing of Professor Marian Starczewski a miracle. This great chemist, lecturer at the Silesia and Warsaw Universitites of Technology, who originated from Stary Sącz, was healed from a strong purulent inflammation of the appendix by way of sipping the miraculous water. No one should be surprised by the great interest in such a small watercourse with such a rich history and miraculous properties.

     The miraculous spring, which is accessible to visitors, is located near the walls of the convent (on the well-marked Saint Kinga’s Tract) and is currently encompassed with a neat stone case and a metal pipe.


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