The polyphony is a musical expertise, a singing practice – involving several musical parts – very much alive in the Pyrenees Gascon, that is to say in southern Gascony , in Pyrénées-Atlantiques ( Basque Country and Béarn ) and Hautes-Pyrénées 1 , ( Bigorre )

Polyphony in the Gascon Pyrenees is inscribed on the Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in France 2 .


If polyphony is a practice known in various parts of Europe and the world, in the Pyrenees Gascon, oral and written testimony already attested in the late xviii th century 3 . Since the end of the 1960s, polyphonic singing has invested new spaces of sociability: festivals, concerts or local evenings, competitions or vocal games .


Polyphonic singing is general in the Gascon and Basque Pyrenees appearing as soon as the singers are at least two and aggregating to the circle all those who wish it. It usually appears in collective contexts: on the singing of hymns in the church; conviviality of meals, meetings at the café; around refreshments on holidays or sports meetings … 1

Polyphony is a musical and human construction 4 . From a pre-existing song, the singers find an acute part and / or a low part from precise but implicit musical rules transmitted from generation to generation by imitation.

However, human and contextual factors are equally important. The musical physiognomy of polyphony varies in fact according to the singers’ physiological capacities, their complementarity, their number; according to the consumption of alcohol, the emulation or the excitement of the moment.

Festival “Tarba en canta”

In Tarbes ( Hautes-Pyrénées ) has been held every year since 2010, in June, the polyphonic festival “Tarba en canta” which brings together several thousand people each year in a friendly atmosphere. This international festival invites groups from Southern Europe to exchange in the heart of the city with the actors of regional polyphony 5 .


Notes and references

  1. ↑ a and b Son d’Aquí the site of Occitan intangible cultural heritage in the Aquitaine region , ” The Pyrenean polyphony ”  [ archive ] , on (accessed September 24, 2015 )
  2. ↑ ” Inventory sheet of Polyphony in the Gascon Pyrenees ”  [ archive ] , on Ministry of Culture and Communication (accessed 24 September 2015 )
  3. ↑ Jean-Jacques Casteret Polyphony in the Pyrenees Gascon: tradition, evolution, resilience , Paris, L’Harmattan,, 374 p. ( ISBN  978-2-336-00821-9 )
  4. ↑ Son d’Aquí the site of Occitan intangible cultural heritage in the Aquitaine region, paragraph Human and musical construction , ” The Pyrenean polyphony ”  [ archive ] , on (accessedSeptember 24, 2015 )
  5. ↑ ” TARBA IN CANTA | Tourist Office of Tarbes »  [ archive ] , on (accessed July 20, 2016 )


  • Castéret, Jean-Jacques, Polyphony in the Gascony Pyrenees: Tradition, Evolution, Resilience , Paris, Harmattan, Anthropology and Music, 2013, 367 p.
  • Castéret, Jean-Jacques, “The Royal VIth Tone’s institutions of transfer: Multipart singing and education in the traditional western Pyrenean society”, in Lujza Tari-Miháltzné and Pál Richter, Proceedings of the 3d symposium of the ICTM Study Group on Multipart Music 12 -16 September 2013 , Institute for Musicology, Research Center for the Humanities, The HungarianAcademy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary, 2015.
  • Castéret, Jean-Jacques, “In Quest of Communion: The Dialogic of Multipart Singing” in AHMEDAJA Ardian (ed), Local and Global Understandings of Creativities: Multipart Music Making and the Construction of Ideas , London Contexts and Contents , Cambridge ScholarsPublishing, 2013, p.  42-59
  • Castéret, Jean-Jacques, “Western Pyreneanmultipart: a trans-historicalapproach” in MACCHIARELLA Ignazio (ed), Multipart music: a specific mode of musical thinking, expressive behavior and sound , Udine, Nota, 2012, p.  347-365 .
  • Castéret, Jean-Jacques, “Cultural listening and enunciationcontexts in Pyreneanmultipartsinging” in AHMEDAJA Ardian (ed.), European voices II, Cultural listening and local discourse in multipart singing traditions in Europe , SchrisftenzurVosksmusik, Band 22, Vienna, BoehlauVerlag, 2011, p .  39-52 .
  • Castéret, Jean-Jacques, “The Alpha and the Omega of Polyphony: Communities and Territories of Pyrenean Vocality” in MOREL BOROTRA Natalie, Musiker – Cuadernos de Música , EuskoIkaskuntza-Society of Basque Studies, San Sebastian, 17 – 2010, p.  287-308 . [1]  [ archive ]
  • Castéret, Jean-Jacques, “The logic of the cantèra: forty years of experiences of safeguarding the Pyrenean singing”, The Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in France , Study Days of CIRIEF 2009, [2]  [ archive ]
  • Castéret, Jean-Jacques, “The meaning of polyphonic constructions in the Gascony Pyrenees”, in CHARLES-DOMINIQUE Luc and DEFRANCE Yves (eds.), Proceedings of the International Colloquium , Nice-Sophia-Antipolis University, Paris, L’Harmattan, Ethnomusicologie and musical anthropology of French space, 2008 ‘

Sound Publications

  • Polifonia, Gascony Pyrenees (Béarn, Bigorre, Bas-Adour), Toulouse / Pau, Occitan Center of Music and Traditional Dance Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées / Occitan Institute, CD 007, 2007.
  • Hestau de Siros: 40 years of the Siros Festival , Pau, Siros Bouts Dou Biarn, CD 001, Agorila, 2006.
  • Multipartying on the Balkans and the Mediterranean , International Symposium, March 11-13, 2005, Institut für Volksmusikforschung und Ethnomusikologie, Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien, (7 titles published in the CD).
  • Vocality in the Mediterranean countries , La Napoule Foundation / Nice-Sophia-Antipolis University, Modal, FAMDT, 2001. (5 collection titles published in the CD)