I found the lecture “Building EU Community through Bulgarian Mumming Festivals” given by Professor Buchanan on November 30th to be both fascinating and informative. An Associate Professor of Musicology, Professor Buchanan specializes in Bulgarian music and is also the founder of the Balkan Music Ensemble at the University of Illinois.
Discussing her travels in Bulgaria in March 2011, Professor Buchanan recalled her observations of Bulgarian Mumming Festivals in some small towns. Dressed in elaborate costumes, the mummers wear bells, which can greatly vary in size. I was struck by how complex and decorative traditional apparel is. I am sure that a tremendous amount of time is invested in creating them. While music plays a central role in mumming practice, Professor Buchanan stressed the importance of percussion. Furthermore, an important aspect of these mumming festivals is that they focus on practices of warding off evil which can extend beyond the mummer’s actual dance and music to include bonfires. Additionally, Professor Buchanan discussed how these mumming festivals differed between the eastern and western parts of the country and can involve competitions with other mumming groups in different regions.
Attending this lecture introduced me to an aspect of Bulgarian culture of which I had previously been unaware. I did not realize that these mumming festivals were such an important component of Bulgarian culture, or that such practices even existed. It was interesting to see the strong role that folklore and traditional practice plays in modern Bulgaria. I was surprised that these festivals have survived to the present day. This suggests to me that tradition and making connections with the past is vital to Bulgarians. Professor Buchanan’s lecture was an interesting experience, and it allowed me to understand the importance of music and rituals in today’s Bulgaria.
Ryan Eavenson is a first year MA student. He is particularly interested in democratization, human rights, and European integration in the post-Soviet world. His additional interests include Imperial and Soviet Russian history. He received a AB in History/Russian and East European Studies from Lafayette College in 2010. After completion of his MA, he hopes to find employment focusing on international affairs or continue his education.