Friday, July 25, 2008

Voice precognition

A short piece about singing

III: in which we fly over Bulgaria

Here's something truly magical: Bulgarian folk song. The clarity of expression and intensity of feeling are nothing less than breathtaking, and the scales and harmonies are so gorgeous, they can make you forget your surroundings. These are country women who were chosen for the astonishing quality of their voices and their ability to produce intricate, shifting close harmonies. Powerful, spine-tingling stuff. Apparently, their music was sent into space as part of a Voyager mission.

Here's the phenomenal "Kalimankou Denkou (The Evening Gathering)":

MP3: Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares - "Kalimankou Denkou (The Evening Gathering)"

(buy the album)

And here is a 1990 performance from US television (songs: Ergen Daido, Polegnala E Todora, Oh Susanna) :

An introduction from Wikipedia:

The Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir is an internationally renowned World Music ensemble that blends traditional six-part a capella repertoire with modern arrangements. It is most recognized under the recording name "Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares." First created as the "Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir" in Bulgaria in 1952 by Philip Koutev, "the father of Bulgarian concert folk music," the choir is now under the direction of Dora Hristova. Koutev also created and conducted the Ensemble of the Bulgarian Republic in 1951.

Singers are chosen from country villages for the beauty and openness of their voices, and they undergo extensive training in the unique centuries' old singing style. Influenced by Bulgaria's Thracian, Ottoman and Byzantine history, their music is striking in its use of diaphonic singing and distinctive timbre, as well as its modal scales and dissonant harmonies (abundant second, seventh, and ninth intervals).

Though the choir became widely known when the trend-setting English alternative record label 4AD released a pair of anthology albums in 1986 and 1988 with the now famous title Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, their recordings date as far back as 1957. The first pressing of the Voix Bulgares album was the result of fifteen years of work by Swiss ethnomusicologist and producer Marcel Cellier and was originally released in 1975 on his small Discs Cellier label. Ivo Watts-Russell (founder of 4AD) was introduced to the choir from a third or fourth generation audio cassette lent to him by Peter Murphy, singer from the band Bauhaus. He became thoroughly entranced by the music, and tracked down and licensed the recordings from Cellier. The group has since performed extensively around the world to wide acclaim and were honored with a Grammy Award in 1989 for their second album.

Three prominent soloists of the group have also performed together as the Trio Bulgarka, notably on the Kate Bush albums The Sensual World and The Red Shoes.

In 1992, the choir divided into two: one for radio, one for television. Bulgarian television signed a contract with the one half, which is the Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir; the other half organized itself as a collective, and now performs as "Angelite - The Bulgarian Voices."

I'll leave it at that for the moment. Enjoy.

Zemanta Pixie

Monday, July 7, 2008


Welcome. Ah, I see you brought flowers. How kind. I'll be glad you came.

I: in which the protagonist begins by making an uncharacteristically lengthy statement of intent, in the vain hope that the reader will take a minute to read it

The narcissistic tooth-pull of personal webpages is all-too-familiar to anyone who's used the internet in the last fifteen years. Let's face it - 99% of them are of less interest to the discerning adult than the pebble which currently sits between the grooves on the sole of my shoe. Where's the passion? The originality? The basic literacy skills?

If you asked me to give a reason for the existence of this blog, I'd say that there are aspects of my outlook on life and its attendant agonies and ecstasies which I'd like to articulate, in an effort to map the stranger, colder or lovelier territories which exist on the fringes of the mind (well, mine at least). There'll be art and music and links to related writings and all the usual sensory crisscross which you've come to expect from modern life, and I'll attempt to tie all these strands into a somewhat palatable whole. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll glance at the clock and politely make your excuses.

Verbal onanism, self-indulgence, the pitiable wail of a fractured mind - call it what you will. At the very least, I would like to present a reasonable approximation of Life As I See It, without being insufferable, irrelevant and ignorant, and thus permanently reverse the polarity of the internet. Or something. One thing's for sure - every post will contain a link to download music which has burrowed into my brain and deposited something pure and true and wonderful.

With each keystroke, I seem to stumble further into some unfolding sentence, treading aimlessly over virgin ground, swinging a lantern in the dusklight. I don't quite know where I'm headed, but I'm sure it'll become clear with time. to begin? I suppose I could pluck something from the uppermost shelves, something which resonates, something with the scent of melancholy, the ring of awful and elegant truth. After all, you're stepping into my head, and you've already wiped your feet on the doormat without even being asked.

I know...let's start with a picture. Everyone likes pictures.

Something I made. There will be a lot of art on this blog, and it'll all bear the unique imprint of my soul.*

Well, this post has exhausted its potential. I'll do another one tomorrow - a flashier, more interactive, more emotionally fulfilling and (crucially) shorter post.

Thanks very much for reading. Do come back. There will be something new every few days and I'd like to hear your thoughts.

* imprint can be found on reverse of picture