Saturday, March 04, 2006

Girl Singers of other lands, and a traffic theory

The big excitement of the day was a trip to hear a Bulgarian Independence Day concert by the "Mystery Girls" - which is what almost everybody calls "Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares" because almost nobody can pronounce that name.

And who decided a Bulgarian group should have a French name, anyway? More mystery?

There were innumerable Bulgarians in the audience and they whistled, shouted, and stamped appreciatively after every number. There were three curtain calls.

This large group of Bulgarian women singing a cappella music, a reincarnation of Philip Kutev's "Bulgarian State Ensemble for Folk Song and Dance," put out its first album in 1987.

I was a member of the Yale Slavic Chorus back in the 1970s and we sang Kutev's wonderful arrangments of Bulgarian folk song, which were already about twenty years old. Thirty years later, my daughter sang in, and directed, the Yale Slavs and they are still singing Kutev's arrangements. Ten of the current Yale Slavs met us at the concert and we sang out on the sidewalk after the show.

I understand time can't stand still, but my gut feeling is that many of the changes made by more recent waves of Bulgarian composers are not for the better. In fact their reworking of the old favorite "Dilmano Dilbero" (a song which sounds rather cosmic but really asks in the first verse: "How do you plant the peppers?" and answers in the second verse: "You push them into the ground"), involving constant random modulations, gave me the same sickening feeling I get riding an out-of-alignment bicycle that keeps slipping gears.

Kind of like this contraband out-of-focus picture I took at tonight's performance.

I guess you can tell I considered some of the innovations a misuse of these wonderful voices. It reminded Melina and me of our old aphorism: "Just Because You Can Doesn't Mean You Should." I'll have to write more about that some day.

I listened to other girl singers earlier today: Las Hermanas Padilla. I love sister groups, and I love Mariachi music. By the way, the most frequent words used in these love songs, besides "love," are "betrayal" and "drunk."

I listened to the Padilla Sisters cd "Mexicanismo" three times as I drove north from Richmond. I loudly sang all the cheerful, predictable bass lines. This was an agreeably mindless and soothing diversion as I navigated the terrifying New York traffic.

Here's my New York City Traffic Theory:
  • Pedestrians of New York have decided: if we pretend the cars don't exist, then they actually don't. Therefore walking in front of them, no matter how fast and vicious they seem, will cause no harm. (Listen to the ancient story of "Tamblyn" for a successful utilization of this theory.)

  • Drivers of the cars, trucks, buses and taxis of New York believe that vehicles comprise a fluid, not a solid. Therefore, any number of vehicles can easily pour through a narrow opening, and a street 1.25 cars wide can accommodate two lanes of traffic.
It is the collision of these two incompatible fantasies which cause this country bumpkin's hair to stand on end.

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At 9:01 AM, Blogger Mirty said...

I love the costumes worn by those singers. I think I'll be a Bulgarian folk singer for Purim.

As for walking in front of cars, my father, who was born in Manhattan, taught me to cross streets this way: Ignore the corners; find a spot in the middle of the block; stride into the street confidently! Cars will stop for you.

Amazing I'm still alive, eh?

At 1:33 AM, Anonymous Kimberly said...

I remember being blown away by the Mystery Girls' album in 1987, and even more so when I saw them perform in Houston several years later.


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