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Grant number: FEL-257885-18

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Donna A. Buchanan
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (Urbana, IL 61801-3620)

Bells in the Music and Culture of Bulgaria

Preparation for publication of an anthropological study of bells in Bulgarian culture.

Throughout the world, belief systems are apprehended, enacted, and sustained through musical and non-musical sounds endowed with uncommon power and meaning. In Bulgaria, the shimmering resonance of ringing metal is one such acoustic phenomenon. An NEH fellowship would support the completion of my book, The Girl in the Bell: Audible Cosmologies of Bulgarian Belief. Informed by extensive fieldwork with musicians, mummers, and bellmakers conducted from 2007-17, this study explores the pivotal significance of bells in Bulgarian expression, whether as artistic and historical objects, gendered instruments of music-making, belief, and politics; or aural metaphors of musical beauty and world view. I argue that bells, which figure in shepherding, ritual, monuments, heritage displays, and expressive media of all sorts, are powerful sonic indices linking the cosmos, place, time, and nature in a Bulgarian ecology of sound as intrinsic to past pastoral lifeways as to the current national ethos.

Project fields:
Ethnomusicology; Folklore and Folklife; Music History and Criticism


Research Programs

Total amounts:
$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
8/1/2019 – 7/31/2020