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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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4.5 Article 173 73 Reprint from Ethnomusicology XXV/3, 1981: 433-466. 357 358 359 360 361 362 363 364 365 366 367 368 369 370 4.6 Article 274 74 Reprint from The World of Music XXXI/2, 1989: 3-48. 371 372 373 374 375 376 377 378 379 380 381 382 383 384 385 386 387 388 389 390 391 392 393 394 395 396 397 398 399 400 401 402 403 404 405 406 407 408 409 410 411 412 413 414 415 416 4.7 Some Prelusive Remarks In the course of field research that I conducted in Indonesia and Papua Niugini, I was able to publish two monographic studies dealing with the apparent interfe- rential diaphonic traditions on Manus Island (Papua Niugini) and in Eastern Flores (Indonesia). These studies support the claim for the existence of signifi- cant similarities and interrelationships between these forms of Interferential Dia- phony and those of the Balkans and of other areas. At this moment these inter- relationships can only be explained from a morphogenetic-field-theory point of view (Sheldrake 31987). Finally, it should be remembered that it was actually the Austrian Guido Adler, who, as early as 1909, first drew attention to the existence of similarities between these polyphonic forms performed thousands of kilometres apart from each other.75 75 In 1977 the University of Washington published a dissertation by Timothy Floyd Rice, Polyphony in Bulgarian Folk Music. Both of us worked independently in Bistritsa in the same period. Although he does not address the problems...

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