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Learning a song

This is not the post I have been planning to do "next" (that one will still take some time, because video-editing will be required),  But I just stumbled on this interesting little piece in what I've been working on lately as I try to complete my inventory of all my recordings to date.

Draginovo, Velingrad region, Bulgaria
Draginovo, Velingrad region, Bulgaria

It is 1994, and we are in Dragínovo (near Vélingrad), with our old friend Kéra Kičilíeva (see my very FIRST post on this blog, "Come sing for these Americans!"). This time, "we" is myself, my husband Dick, and our good friend Pat Iverson, with whom I'd been singing for some years.

I already knew this particular song, but I was looking to  understand the details of both parts better.  So I want to share with you what I recorded in 1994.  But before you jump in, let's talk about what you'll hear, because almost all the conversation is in Bulgarian.

First Kéra and I sing a few verses of the song, me singing the lower part.  (This was not a "proper" recording session, with a proper "beginning": we begin not at the beginning of the song, but on the second verse, actually in mid-word.  Thank you, Dick, for realizing it would be good to record this....)  Then we stop, and I try to clarify how the drone (the lower part) should 'move': should it slide down gradually (as I've been trying to do), or should it just jump cleanly to the lower pitch?  (Evidently Kera didn't understand my question, because she verbally preferred that it slide, but when she sings that lower part next, she makes a clean jump.)  We sing a few verses again, in the same configuration, and I try to do what I thought she asked me too (not very successfully!)

We stop again; Kera says we are singing it in the old way, not the new way.  She suggests we sing it a third time with her singing the second part, "so we can hear the way she sings the second part".  This is actually a bit mixed up...I'm not used to singing the top part—and I screw up, so she takes over singing that, while I try to do the second part with a clear break, the way I just heard her do it.  It sort of falls apart at this point, so I suggest that when we go later to Sârnítsa, where her sister Albéna lives, Kera and Albena can sing it for me, and it will be clear.  (This does happen, I'll put that in here too.)  There's some interesting commentary at the end—about variations—that I won't try to translate (the very end is in English).  But I was pleased to note that I had already developed the thought that I express at the end, about the connection between what we call "ornaments" and the (physical phonetic features of) words, and even the meaning.

Паюнче свири (Pajunče svire), learning session

Now listen to Kera and her sister Albéna singing the same song, a few hours later:

Паюнче свири (Pajunče svire), Kera and her sister Albena

Albéna Kisjóva and Kéra Kichilíeva, 2005

And finally, you can read the text (a very sad one!) and the translation here.





3 thoughts on “Learning a song

  1. helen

    I love this most recent post.. we can really hear you learning how the words influence the singing. I hope others listen too.


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