Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)
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The study of folk music from the Balkan countries proves to be a long and complex area of study, since the access to sources, scores and literature is quite limited. Distribution of accurate information in regards to Balkan folk music is of significant importance because it would provide a global opportunity for promotion and education on this topic. Without documented research, inaccurate presentations of Balkan music could cause an overall disinterest in this genre.
The original and alluring aspects of this style of music lie mostly in its meter. Moreover, it contains three fundamental metric structures: regular, asymmetric, unmeasured and their combinations. The melodic structure of Balkan folk songs does not portray complexity and it reflects the poetry which is generally uncomplicated. The three primary sources that highly influenced the evolution of folk melodies are oriental scales, church modes, and conventional scales from Western Europe (only towards the end of the nineteenth century).
The music composed in the Balkan countries is divided into three categories: works based on reflecting folk music; works that reflect the neo-Classical esthetic; works that reflect more “modern” practices, such as twelve-tone and serial music.
Composers such as Vlastimir Nikolovski and Alexander Vladigerov base their emphasis entirely on traditional folk themes, which is the main inspiration of their repertoire.
Sonata for piano Op. 28 by Vlastimir Nikolovski (also known as Folklore Sonata) was composed in 1965 and features three movements which are inspired purely by Macedonian folklore. Every movement in this sonata refers to the essence of Macedonian culture by incorporating typical folk songs and dances.
The first movement of the Sonata Op. 28 is based on a Macedonian folk dance called Teshkoto, which translates as “The Hard One.” This dance is an essential part of the culture in the country, and it originated in 1950. The second movement, Tazacka, which means “Sorrowful”, is inspired by a Macedonian ritual lament that was practiced mainly during the first and second World Wars. Tazacka differs from the other two movements and portrays a freer and more improvisatory character. The last movement, “Tanec” (Dance), incorporates a famous Macedonian folk song called Ogreala Mesecina or “The Rising Moon.” Vlastimir Nikolovski distinctively accentuates certain beats which are associated with the cheerful shouts of the people. Asymmetrical rhythms are densely assimilated in this Sonata, which is a significant part of Macedonian folklore.
Another example by the same composer is the Toccata for piano. This composition is comprised of two main parts. The first one has a standard form and shares the same properties as other toccatas composed by famous composers such as Sergei Prokofiev and Aram Khachaturian. However, in the second part of the piece, Nikolovski emphasizes a traditional folk melody in the right hand, imitating the phrasing of zurla-solo instruments that are extensively used in traditional Macedonian music practice. Furthermore, the left hand replicates Tapan (a traditional Macedonian percussion instrument) and sustains a steady rhythm, usually irregular (5/8, 7/8, 11/8, etc.).
Dilmano, Dilbero Variations for Piano Op.2, composed by Bulgarian composer Alexander Vladigerov, is an excellent example of a typical folk tune transformed and varied in numerous contrasting ways, such as use of jagged rhythms, pure jazz harmonies, and virtuosic piano techniques. In order to exploit a variety of rhythmic characteristics of Bulgarian folk music, Vladigerov alternates time signatures frequently throughout the entire piece. In some sections, he even does this in every single measure, creating a unique texture that is typical for Balkan folk music.
On the whole, studying a style of music that is culturally distant can be a great experience, but also a challenging task at the same time. The process requires research and analysis of the style. As previously stated, the sources that elaborate on this topic are extremely limited, creating challenges for non-native musicians. I am providing a document that will elaborate on the origin and characteristics of folk melodies composed in Macedonia and Bulgaria, along with analysis of folk elements in Sonata for Piano Op. 28 and Toccata by Vlastimir Nikolovski, followed by Dilmano Dilbero Variations for Piano by Alexandar Vladigerov.
Alexander Vladigerov; Compositional techniques from the Balkans; Folk Music from the Balkans; Folk Music in Classical repertoire; Piano; Vlastimir Nikolovski
Daskalov, Dejan, "The Synthesis of Balkan Folk Tunes in the Music of Vlastimir Nikolovski and Alexander Vladigerov" (2018). UNLV Theses, Dissertations, Professional Papers, and Capstones. 3238.