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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Globalization, Nationalism and Cultural Translation in Bulgarian Folk Singing
by Stankova, Maria Vassileva, Ph.D., New York University, 2019, 213; 10980796
Abstract (Summary)

The connections between globalization, nationalism, cultural translation and music-making in Bulgaria have long been subjects of active discourse within state agencies, urban musical institutions and many individual musicians and scholars deeply invested in the political energies that music possesses. One result of the musical and political forces affecting Bulgarian folk singing was the development of a new type of polyphonic vocal music that transformed premodern village music into a hybrid modern genre.

This dissertation explores how Bulgarian singing practices were modernized by Bulgarian and Western artists, what happened when these practices entered into global flows (in the form of choral singing), how they have influenced nationalism in Bulgaria, and how American singers have perceived and transformed them.

The dissertation analyzes the imbrication of globalization and nationalism in Bulgaria, and explores the ways in which these phenomena shaped Bulgarian folk singing. I bring theoretical discourses of globalization, nationalism and cultural translation into conversation with ethnographic examples and examine the ways in which these discourses influence contemporary and past music-making.

My analysis encompasses the broad modernization of Bulgarian folk songs in the 20th century, as well as changes that have taken place in this decade. I attend to Bulgarian musicians' experimentation with Western genres, as well as to the global proliferation of Bulgarian folk singing, its existence outside the national borders of the country and its multifaceted transformation in the world music, world fusion, and movie soundtrack markets in the West. My focus on the Ensemble for Folk Songs at the Bulgarian National Radio (EFSBNR, later called "Le Mystère Des Voix Bulgares"or "The Mystery of Bulgarian Voices") reflects my desire to analyze in detail how the folk song, and the choral folk song in particular, spread globally, and what problems were encountered in the process. Problems of representation and marketing are examined with regard to the ethical aspects of economic power and the gender ideologies that molded "Le Mystère…". Furthermore, I examine how the practice of Bulgarian folk singing, once globalized, has returned to Bulgaria as a force that helps shape its national identity. Finally, aspects of cultural translation are examined through the story of Americans singing Bulgarian choral music. I draw upon my personal experience as a professional singer in Bulgaria and the United States to explore how and why American performers of Bulgarian music have constructed new meanings through singing choral music from a distant place.

These transformations and practices of Bulgarian folk singing give an insight into the richness and complexity of the Bulgarian voice as it has coalesced in the decades since the country's modernization. The dissertation presents Bulgarian music both as rooted in older, local traditions and in 21st century cultural flows. By providing situated insights into the interrelationship between globalization, commoditization, and musical praxis, the dissertation contributes to the theoretical fields of identity studies, voice studies, affect studies, and gender studies, as well as to the disciplines of ethnomusicology and anthropology.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Daughtry, Martin
Commitee: Beckerman, Michael, Kapchan, Deborah, Moloney, Mick, Samuels, David
School: New York University
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 80/08(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Music
Keywords: Bulgaria, Ethnomusicology, Folk, Globalization, Nationalism, Singing
Publication Number: 10980796
ISBN: 978-1-392-00439-5
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