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.

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Gardenhead said...

Great stuff Jim. Have you heard Jeff Mangum's (Neutral Milk Hotel) field recordings? It really is brain expanding hypnotic stuff

patricksaintpatrick said...

very nice
daniel johnston was pretty good last night pity u weren't there.
i was impressed by scout niblett and jad fair

cletus_buckley said...

that mp3 link was for stardust and not the bulgian folk thingamejig

Astonishing Sod-Ape said...

Thanks Cletus - I've just fixed the link now.

And thanks to Patrick and Gardenhead. Nice to hear feedback! I'll look for those field recordings now. There's a NMH tribute night coming up, isn't there?