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SONIC ICONS OF BULGARIA
Volume Two

Miloyka

The Bulgarian has never been notable for a deep feeling of religiousness, even less so for having been seized by some kind of fanaticism. Characteristic of him is a feeling for the reality. The anonymous authors have, in the folk stories and in the folk songs, as well as later on in the professional art, described their heroes as being a person, who talks with God and is at the same time having his feet firmly on the ground. His dialogue with Heaven is full of respect and at the same time full of doubt: co-existing are the trust and the good-humoured banter. Not characteristic of him is also any kind of fetishism. It may most porbably be for this reason that the images of the saints, painted in the Bulgarian churches, do very often not conform to the canons. Painted in the frescoes and on the icons are not images of super-beings, bur representations of human beings, offered to whom are prayers, but expected from whom is a response as well. The church of Boyana (built in 1259) near Sofia is one of the examples of a breaking of the canon, having thus become a forerunner of the Renaissance.

"Sonic Icons" is the name I have given to these series of composer's songs, inspired by our folklore, because my attitude to the musical sources is similar to the Bulgarian's attitude to the images of the saints, painted in the Orthodox churches. When one stands facing them, he is teeming with a feeling of reverence, but this has nothing to do with the fanatic fetishization, which would deprive the religion of its most valuable role: to inspire confidence and to fill one with faith and hope, thanks to which the life has its continuation. Likewise, my connection with the sacred things of our folk culture is also full of restpect, but devoid of any idolatry. In the song examples, which I have selected, I have found that store which stimulates the composer's creative work. And this is one of the ways for the tradition to retain its vitality through renovation.

The title song in this album bears the female name of Miloyka. This song must surely exist also in other versions, different from the one sung by Dimitrinka Karpouzova. But what this Shopp woman-singer did bring out of her rich repertory has inspired me to "narrate" in my turn my musical continuation of "Miloyka". I have abided by the restrained style of that region, in which even the rousing dramas of the love and of the infidelity find expression not in outbursts, but in trickling tears, in a some kind of a withdrawn, but awful sorrow. The other one, the prim and playful gait of the man from that area, is mirrored in the song "Nothing's Higher than Vitosha" - a feast of the Shopp diaphony.

The sentimental "A Dream I've Had" is one of the examples of a composer's song, which is composed by adhering to established proportions and to a type of expression which are typical of the respective region. In spite of the popularity of the theme, both the music and the lyrics are my own. This adherence to established standards I perceive as being one of the links between the one-time authors, who have remained anonymous, and the contemporary composer. And here now one may ask the heretical question: What, actually, is the authentic creative work? And if we did treat the latter with excessive care, not even touching it with our own sensitivity, would it not prove to be some day only a stem with no fresh-growing branches?

"Miloyka" set the ball rolling and folded in this album got songs with a deep meaning, with enchanting plots or such that have the character of a parable. But alongside them are also "Motley Chest", "Let Dew Fall", "Bagpipes Are Droning" – miniature impressions, whitch make a sui generis triptych. In it I have preserved the singularity of the region of the Rhodope Mountains and have turned to the polyphony, whitch has proved to be the most suitable in this case formula for the unfolding of the plastic core.

The possibility of cover-versions suggests that the folklore is a resistant matter. One can, like from a vein of gold, roll out of it a sheet and model it. Whether a new and unique jewel would come out of it, or just a production-line plaster figurine, depends on the modeller's skill. But the vein remains always a gold one.

Quite often the pedantic adhereing to what we are used to call authentic turns out to be a fruitless approach, whereas the breaking of the canons proves to be enriching, even brings out the lucky new idea or chance. While I was turning over the pages of the impressive collection "From the Timok to the Vit" of Vassil Stoïn (the best-known Bulgarian musicologist), I found a song from the area around the town of Belogradchik. It attracted my attention with its sin­­gularity - the presence of a diminished fifth - an almost never found interval in the Bulgarian folklore. It was upon it that I formulated my proposition about the development of the song "Protekla e voda bregovita" ("Streaming Down Is the River") - a song with vast sonic spaces and with a dramatic intensity. I had completed reading the song when I cast a glance at the "Errata" list in the same book. It turned out that the diminished fifth was actually an ordinary perfect fifth. This lucky-and-comic story I would say is a parable about our attitude to the folklore: what we do often fetishize as an inviolable "genius of the anonymous creator" proves sometimes to be only an unintentional departure from the canons which, in its turn, may sometimes lead to finding new ways. What, then, is more fruit-bearing: the poetic attitude to the traditions of the past, or the normal attitude to them as to their being a part of the process which has its present and its future?

It is precisely this openness of the Bulgarian song to the world and, perhaps, to different eras as well, including those which are still to come, which suggests my own approach to it: the song is the icon, before which I do bow. It is at the same time a personification of that remote, gifted and anonymous creator, with whom I would not miss the opportunity to enter into a dialogue, to apostrophize him and even to argue with him.

This album is a mirror also of today's performer: a personality, who has undertaken the no easy task of being a guardian of the tradition and, along with that, of being a mediator between past epochs and the present. Elena Apostolova, Hristina Lyutova, Virginia Ovcharova, Mariana Pavlova, Ilyana Georgieva, Snejana Borisova, Dimitrinka Karpouzova, Lyudmila Radkova, Krasimira Karabasheva, the piper Dimitar Todorov and the percussionist Stoyan Yankoulov-Stundjy, along with all the other instrumentalists, are treating the folklore as a language which, in the course of time, gets richer. Thanks to them the tradition is not an archaic and inviolable masterpiece, but a value, capable of expressing today's sensitivity as well. With these master-musicians we have together been treading the road from the finding of the natural little grain to its modelling into a live and multidimensional matter, reflected in wich is the experience of those who had lived before us, and also our own outlook upon the world. They say that the best icons are those which never let you out of their sight, however you might change your point of view at them. The songs, collected here, reflect the change of my aspect angle to the folklore in the course of a decade. A constant in this change has remained the respect for the tradition. And this has made me feel more free still in my dialogue with it.