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Benjamin Botkin Lecture Series: Texts from the Event Flyers

Music in Bulgaria: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture

by Professor Timothy Rice, Chair, UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology; and President, Society for Ethnomusicology

Image: Book - May It Fill Your SoulIllustrated lecture with numerous audio and video examples

Book signing with Rice to follow

Wednesday, March 23, 2005
6:30 pm
Room 119
1st Floor, Thomas Jefferson Building
Library of Congress
10 First Street, SE
Washington, DC


Music in Bulgaria: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture

By Timothy Rice

Bulgaria, a small country about the size of the state of Tennessee, is located in the southeastern corner of Europe, on the Balkan Peninsula. Its population of about eight million people speaks Bulgarian, a Slavic language written in the Cyrillic alphabet. The majority of Bulgarians, ethnic cousins of other Slavic groups such as the Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, Serbs and Croatians, share the country with minority populations of Roma (Gypsies), Turks, Jews, Armenians, Greeks and Russians. The music of Bulgaria, with its additive meters, powerful women’s voice, homemade musical instruments, and vigorous, intricate dances, has fascinated Americans and Western Europeans for a century or more. Ethnomusicologist Timothy Rice was first captivated by it in the 1960s, when he learned Bulgarian dances at international folk dance clubs as a university student. He made his first research trip there in 1969 and has continued to travel there ever since.

In this lecture, Rice will examine a variety of genres and types of Bulgarian music for what they tell us about the nature of music in general and its importance in people’s lives. Since the 1950s, Bulgarian music has changed its character many times as the nation’s social, cultural, political, and economic life has changed. Rice examines Bulgarian musical performances as “texts” in need of interpretation, as powerful symbols of the state and of opposition to it during the communist period (1944-1989), as ways of negotiating gender roles and kinship, and finally as a means of expressing and debating national identity in the post-communist transition from totalitarianism to democracy. The lecture will be illustrated with numerous audio and video examples.

Rice will be signing two books which will be available for purchase at the lecture:

May it Fill Your Soul is a vivid musical ethnography documenting and interpreting the history of folk music, song, and dance in Bulgaria over a seventy-year period of dramatic change. From 1920 to 1989, Bulgaria changed from a nearly medieval village society to a Stalinist planned industrial economy to a chaotic mix of capitalist and socialist markets and cultures. In the context of this history, Rice brings Bulgarian folk music to life. Combining interviews with his own experiences of learning how to play, sing and dance Bulgarian folk music, Rice presents one of the most detailed accounts of traditional, aural learning processes in the ethnomusicological literature. This work comes complete with a compact disc and numerous illustrations and musical examples.

Music in Bulgaria presents a focused introduction to the rich and varied tradition of Bulgarian music. Taking readers on a tour of the country's musical landscape, it explores ways in which Bulgaria's rural traditions affect the expression and interpretation of its music and examines how Bulgaria's history has influenced its music over many decades. The book also shows how musical traditions have been preserved and have flourished despite the social changes brought about by the post-WWII era of industrialization, modernization, and urbanization. Written in a lively style accessible to both students and general readers, Music in Bulgaria features vivid eyewitness accounts of performances, interviews with performers, and glossaries of Bulgarian and musical terms. Incorporating numerous listening examples and other activities that help readers learn to listen, sing, and dance to Bulgarian music, this volume is packaged with a 70-minute CD containing examples of the music discussed.

Timothy Rice, professor and chair of the UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology, researches the traditional music of Bulgaria and Macedonia. In addition to numerous journal articles and book chapters, he has written or edited four books: Cross-cultural Perspectives on Music (University of Toronto Press, 1982, co-editor); May It Fill Your Soul: Experiencing Bulgarian Music (University of Chicago Press, 1994); The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Vol. 8: Europe (Garland, 2000, co-editor); and Music in Bulgaria (Oxford University Press, 2004). From 1981 to 1984 he edited the leading journal in his field, Ethnomusicology, and is currently serving as President of the Society for Ethnomusicology. He is an ex officio board member of the American Folklife Center.

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