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Do They Sound Like Bells or Like Howling Wolves?

Interferential Diaphony in Bistritsa- An Investigation into a Multi-Part Singing Tradition in a Middle-Western Bulgarian Village


Gerald Florian Messner

This study represents a thorough investigation of a polyphonic vocal village tradition in Bistritsa, Bulgaria. Outsiders describe the narrow intervals of these songs as being «maximally rough», while the singers themselves experience their performance as smooth, beautiful and pleasant. Almost identical polyphonic traditions can be found in places sometimes thousands of kilometers apart. This inquiry is carried out within a very broad and comparative context, whereby historical sources, the origin of different constituents and etymologies as well as electronic sound analysis are taken into account. The results are stunning and ever more relevant – and not just for ethnomusicologists: The babi or grannies of Bistritsa and their songs have been inscribed on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Mankind in 2008.


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& Logo: Grafik-Design Atelier Reiter Printed with financial support of the University of Vienna, Raiffeisen Zentralbank Österreich AG (RZB) and the “Verein der Freunde des Instituts für Musikwissenschaft” Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Messner, Gerald Florian. [Schwebungsdiaphonie in Bistrica. English] Do they sound like bells or like howling wolves? : interferential diaphony in Bistritsa : an inve- stigation into a multi-part singing tradition in a middle-western Bulgarian village / Gerald Florian Messner. pages cm. — (Vergleichende Musikwissenschaft ; Band 7) Translation of: Schwebungsdiaphonie in Bistrica. Translation of thesis (doctoral—Vienna, 1976). Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 978-3-631-62910-9 1. Folk songs, Bulgarian—Bulgaria—Bistritsa (Sofia)—History and criticism. I. Title. ML3602.M513 2013 781.62'91811—dc23 2013020420 ISSN 0941-7370 ISBN 978-3-631-62910-9 (Print) E-ISBN 978-3-653-03292-5 (E-Book) DOI 10.3726/978-3-653-03292-5 © Peter Lang GmbH Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften Frankfurt am Main 2013 All rights reserved. Peter Lang Edition is an Imprint of Peter Lang GmbH. Peter Lang – Frankfurt am Main · Bern · Bruxelles · New York · Oxford · Wien · Warszawa All parts of this publication are protected by copyright. Any utilisation outside the strict limits of the copyright law, without the permission of the publisher, is forbidden and liable to prosecution. This applies in particular to reproductions, translations, microfilming, and storage and processing in electronic retrieval systems. This book is dedicated to the singing (Bâbi), the women of Bistritsa, the keepers of this precious tradition who were the focal point of this study and who in 2008 have been inscribed by UNESCO on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity...

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