Retuning Culture: Musical Changes in Central and Eastern Europe

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Mark Slobin
Duke University Press, 1996 - Music - 310 pages
As a measure of individual and collective identity, music offers both striking metaphors and tangible data for understanding societies in transition—and nowhere is this clearer than in the recent case of the Eastern Bloc. Retuning Culture presents an extraordinary picture of this phenomenon. This pioneering set of studies traces the tumultuous and momentous shifts in the music cultures of Central and Eastern Europe from the first harbingers of change in the 1970s through the revolutionary period of 1989–90 to more recent developments.
During the period of state socialism, both the reinterpretation of the folk music heritage and the domestication of Western forms of music offered ways to resist and redefine imposed identities. With the removal of state control and support, music was free to channel and to shape emerging forms of cultural identity. Stressing both continuity and disjuncture in a period of enormous social and cultural change, this volume focuses on the importance and evolution of traditional and popular musics in peasant communities and urban environments in Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, the former Yugoslavia, Macedonia, and Bulgaria. Written by longtime specialists in the region and considering both religious and secular trends, these essays examine music as a means of expressing diverse aesthetics and ideologies, participating in the formation of national identities, and strengthening ethnic affiliation.
Retuning Culture provides a rich understanding of music’s role at a particular cultural and historical moment. Its broad range of perspectives will attract readers with interests in cultural studies, music, and Central and Eastern Europe.

Contributors. Michael Beckerman, Donna Buchanan, Anna Czekanowska, Judit Frigyesi, Barbara Rose Lange, Mirjana Lausevic, Theodore Levin, Margarita Mazo, Steluta Popa, Ljerka Vidic Rasmussen, Timothy Rice, Carol Silverman, Catherine Wanner


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I have not read this book, but in researching the folklore of Bulgarian folk songs, I was surprised and delighted to find that this book provided the translation of the haunting Bulgarian song- Mari Maro- that I had only recently heard via YouTube. Having heard the song, I then went looking for information on Bulgarian folk songs in general and Mari Maro in particular. On page 214, the subject book has the actual lyrics of the song in Bulgarian and English. The book outlines the background of the song which is about the rape and kidnaping of a young girl at the hands of invading Muslims.
The most beautiful rendition of the song is by the Bulgarian group "Irfan" (check out the youtube at:, or type in Irfan Mari Maro into google).
Watching the video of the Irfan female vocalist Vladislava, I was able, with the book’s aid, to follow the vocalist as she sings the lament. The band’s use of original instruments of the period makes for some beautiful listening. The book’s translation, brings the folk story alive.
I plan to purchase the book for the history given the current threat from radical Islam that the west is facing. Forewarned in forearmed.


MARKSLOBIN Introduction
MICHAEL BECKERMAN Kunderas Musical Joke and Folk Music
JUDIT FRIGYESI The Aesthetic of the Hungarian Revival Movement
BARBARA ROSE LANGE Lakodalmas Rock and the Rejection of Popular
ANNA CZEKANOwSKA Continuity and Change in Eastern and Central
MIRJANA LAUSEVI The Ilahiya as a Symbol of Bosnian Muslim National
Music and Change in Soviet
STELUTA POPA The Romanian Revolution of December 1989 and Its
TIMOTHY RICE The Dialectic of Economics and Aesthetics in Bulgarian
DONNA A BUCHANAN Wedding Musicians Political Transition and
Roma Gypsies of Bulgaria
MARGARITA MAzo Change as Confirmation of Continuity As Experienced
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About the author (1996)


Mark Slobin is Professor of Music at Wesleyan University.

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