Bulgarians

Odd to think there’s a whole country of them. Well, I mean, I’m sure there’s not a whole country full of them who can sing like Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, but still… the music is fascinating. It was when I went to see them perform at Grace Cathedral on May 28th.

I couldn’t tell you exactly where we sat (as Lynae decided to come at the last minute), it’d be the front row of the back section (apse?), carefully behind the singers… my architectural jargon isn’t up to spec. Nor could I try and easily explain how I became interested in this specific musical niche, the convoluted methods that I useta employ finding listening material. I can’t even tell you what I heard… not would I care to try and learn (then explain) what modal scales or dissonant harmonies are.

I found a recording that might possibly clarify. At right, the group sings one of our less sophisticated American folk songs. The harmonies are totally off, aren’t they? Not off, just… odd. They’re of a different logic. The mentality is different. Sitting there, listening to song after song and having a different internal experience each time, I envisioned mountain landscapes where women signal to each other over vast distances. The microtonalities made sense, because doesn’t a nuanced emotion deserve expression as much as a powerful one?

Dressed in their traditional outfits for the first half, they were a little too precious. I waved at one of the resting soloists and she waved back—just in time for me to bashfully turn my head. These were Bulgarians! How many times had I listened to them on my iPod on the subway? And here they were in their delightful little Bulgarian costumes! The second half was much better for me; dressed in formal blackwear, coven-esque, it became only about the music and less about the novelty of having an ethnic experience (for an ethnic group, I might add, that I’ve personally checked in to stay at a hostel where I worked).

It was surprisingly immersive; songs were in a different scale for hours afterward. It was a joyful way to break out of that subway. It made something which had become just “one more thing I’m into” and made it “something I’ve done.” It was a good thing to spend fifty bucks on.