Centres of Polyphony


Bulgarian traditional polyphony is one of the best known in the world, reaching the commercial music market in the 1980s and involving popular mega-star artists and producers (like George Harrison). Of course, it was mostly the superb arrangements of Bulgarian composers that became extremely popular (and not the original unarranged traditio al songs), but the Bulgarian traditional singing style with dissonant seconds and the cutting open style of singing was the crucial element and the real star in the great success of Bulgarian traditional polyphony in the 1980s. spite the international success and the status of a national musical symbol, the tradition of vocal polyphony is spread through only a relative estern quarter of the country. Thereforen Bulgarian polyphony is one of the best studied in the world by several generations of Bulgarian ethnomusicologists. Starting from the end of the 19th century, when the traditions of vocal polyphony were brought to the attention by Angel Bukoreshtliev, and then in 1925, when Vasil Stoin wrote about the possible Bulgarian origins of two-part singing in Europe (at that time almost none of the other Balkan polyphonic traditions were known) Bulgarian ethnomusicology went a long way and rightfully boasts an array of important works on Bulgarian traditional polyphony (Kaufman, 1963, 1968; Katzarova-Kukudova, 1962; Kaufman, Todorov, 1967, Stoin, E., 1970. Earlier part of Bulgarian scholarship was reviewed by Barbara Krader (1969). Heavily supported during the Communist regime in Bulgaria, the polyphonic singing style with dissonant seconds became a symbol of national music in Bulgaria, although in recent “post-communist” years the popularity of other genres (for example, wedding instrumental ensembles) has increased and the popularity of choral polyphonic singing, devoid of state support, somehow dropped (Rice, 1994). One of the possible reasons for this could be the fact, that de ly small part of Bulgaria – in the Southw 107 the tradition of polyphonic singing does not represent the majority of the population of Bulgaria.

The “polyphonic corner” of Bulgaria (the Southwestern part of the country) is traditionally divided into four regions: Pirin, central-western Bulgaria, Velingrad, and the Pazardjik-Ihtiman region (for slightly different regional division see Rice, 1977, 2003). Drone polyphony leads throughout the polyphonic traditions. The drone is usually performed by a few singers, and the melodic line is performed by a soloist (or soloists). Most of the polyphonic songs are performed by women. The men’s tradition of voca polyphony is known from x. 45. Bulgaria, Pirin. (Kaufman, 1968:90, #123) l the village Nedelino in Rhodope Mountains. Men mostly play instruments at weddings and, as professionals, have a good income (unlike the singing women). Antiphonic performance is very widely spread. Maybe the best-known feature of Bulgarian songs is their sharp dissonant sound, based on the frequent use of dissonant intervals (particularly seconds). Here are some examples from the Pirin region, where the rhythm can be free: E Ex. 46. Bulgaria, Pirin. (Kaufman, 1968:75, #92) A different character is present in central-western Bulgaria. This region is better known been examples of threepart singing recorded in “Shop Region” (see the last Bulgarian example). Another traditio r publications as two-part singing, was discovered and studied independently by Gerald Florian Messner and Tim Rice (Rice, 1977; Messner, 1980). Katzarova-Kukudova (1962) studied three- and four-part polyph as the “Shop Region”, or “Shopluka” in Bulgarian. The art of clashing seconds is brought to its highest point here, and the rhythm is usually relentless. Although most Bulgarian polyphony is based on two-part singing, there have n of three-part singing, known from earlie ony elements when two antiphonic groups merge together. Here are few more polyphonic examples from Bulgaria: Ex. 47. Bulgaria. (Kaufman, 1968:15, #42)

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