Thursday, March 3, 2016
Franke Institute for the Humanities
1100 East 57th Street
Since 2009, the Bulgarian multimedia project “Balkansky,” a collaboration between graphic designer-photographer Ivo Hristov and graphic artist-composer Ivan Shopov, has released two concept albums of electronic dance music, Kuker (2009) and Orenda (2012), on the independent recording label Kuker Music, with accompanying music videos and artwork. As their titles suggest, both albums draw extensively upon nature worship, Christianity, and other belief systems, particularly apropos the mid-winter and springtide Bulgarian mummers calledkukeri or survakari and the bells that are their sonic spiritual weapons. Drawing upon ethnomusicological fieldwork conducted with mummers, artists, bellmakers, and musicians between 2008 and 2013, Prof. Buchanan’s paper explores how Balkansky has cultivated and artistically repackaged key symbols and imagery of older calendrical customs and agrarian rites, communicating them back to the Bulgarian public in a contemporary popular culture format that reveals the artists’ cosmological manifesto for social change.
Donna A. Buchanan is an Associate Professor of Music and Anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she teaches courses in ethnomusicology and the musical cultures of the Balkans, Russia, and Eurasia. She is the author of Performing Democracy: Bulgarian Music and Musicians in Transition (University of Chicago Press, 2006) and two edited collections: Balkan Popular Music and the Ottoman Ecumene: Music, Image, and Regional Political Discourse (Scarecrow Press, 2007) and Soundscapes from the Americas: Ethnomusicological Essays on the Power, Poetics, and Ontology of Performance (Ashgate, 2014). Her scholarly interests include the implication of music in cosmology, sound ecologies, and relations of social power and identity.