Music in the Balkans


This book asks how a study of many different musics in South East Europe can help us understand the construction of cultural traditions, East and West. It crosses boundaries of many kinds, political, cultural, repertorial and disciplinary. Above all, it seeks to elucidate the relationship between politics and musical practice in a region whose art music has been all but written out of the European story and whose traditional music has been subject to appropriation by one ideology after another. South East Europe, with its mix of ethnicities and religions, presents an exceptionally rich field of study in this respect. The book will be of value to anyone interested in intersections between pre-modern and modern cultures, between empires and nations and between culture and politics.
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Biographical Note

Jim Samson. Emeritus Professor of Music, Royal Holloway, University of London. He has published extensively on Chopin and Liszt, and on analytical and aesthetic topics in 19th and 20th century music. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and holds the Order of Merit of the Polish Ministry of Culture.

Review Quote

“Jim Samson’s Music in the Balkans is breathtaking. Its scope, theoretical sophistication, interdisciplinary breadth, and synthesis of a vast range of literatures, histories, and musical styles is unparalleled within recent scholarly literature on the Balkans.” Roland Clark, Eastern Connecticut State University, in Balkanistica 29. " Music in the Balkans fills a huge void in the scholarship on art music of southeast Europe and will equally serve native scholars in and outside the region. While Balkan composers' achievements should not be overstated, as Samson warns, their integra-tion into the European music canon is long overdue. This book shows the way." Ljerka V. Rasmussen Tennessee State University in Slavic Studies 73/4 " Music in the Balkans is an important book that, like its subject, defies easy categorisation. Ambitious in its scope, the book repeatedly crosses ethnic, national, religious, historical and disciplinary boundaries in what amounts to an idiosyncratically structured yet comprehensive historical treatment of the transmission, development and interaction of a wide range of musical traditions and repertories—sacred and secular, agrarian/traditional and urban/popular, Christian, Muslim and Jewish, Ottoman and western art in South East Europe. Samson displays sensitivity both to commonality and difference as he casts light on a region ‘visited by musical styles whose centres invariably lay elsewhere’ (662) as its peoples have been affected over time by migration, imperialism, nation-building, displacement, religious change and modernisation. What emerges is a Balkans characterised by various forms of mediation conducted at levels ranging from the individual to the trans-national that he conveys through references to ‘bridges’ and states of being ‘in between’ or ‘in transition’. Samson's synthesis of vast quantities of information about demotic, liturgical, popular, art and ‘popular art’ traditions of music in the modern state of Greece is exemplary in its coverage and critical discernment." Alexander Lingas, City University London, in Ethnomusicology Forum, Volume 24, Issue 1, February 2015, pp.134-136 "Samson successfully combines academic discourse and a fresh and unobtrusive personal approach, especially in polemically sensitive areas. He should be given credit for not avoiding the sensitive questions regarding the Yugoslav „wars of succession“ from the 1990s. The book as a whole is magnificently erudite, broad-minded and coherent. Music in the Balkans is indeed a brilliant achievement that will certainly prove to be indispensable and inspiring for both scholars in Balkan studies and interested laymen, and will no doubt be hard to surpass.“ Melita Milin, Principal Research Fellow, Institute of Musicology, Serbian Academy of Sciences, in Musicology volume 16. "The book’s task is ambitious, and its intentions important: to provide an account of art music, church music, popular music and traditional music in the Balkans which will identify ‘patterns in the cultural history of the region as a whole. [...] The strength of Music in the Balkans is that it places all examples into the longue durée [...] The aims and scope of Music in the Balkans mean that research libraries with serious interests in the region should not be without this book." Catherine Baker, University of Hull in European History Quarterly, 2014, 44. (full review text: "The highly innovative potential of this volume, searching for commonalities and not for differences in Balkan music history, cannot be valued enough. The extensive and complete list of references (mainly in Western European languages) on 31 pages is worth alone buying this book. The book will surely have a lasting and positive impact for all following studies on Balkan music for two reasons: firstly, the attempt to look beyond the East-West dichotomy as translated into music, and secondly, the visionary call for a denationalisation of music history." Eckehard Pistrick in Anthropological Notebooks XIX/3 (2013) "This book is a monumental contribution to musical scholarship; the depth and range of the final product is astonishing. The book is divided into five parts, of which the first, ‘Balkan Geographies’, endeavours to explain something of the hugely complex micro-geographies of the region, beginning with a discussion of the Jewish presence in Sarajevo and covering ethnic groupings and movements particularly in the former Yugoslavia and Greece. The second, ‘Historical Layers’, cuts the cake vertically, discussing such complex interrelationships as that between Byzantine chant and Ottoman music (‘A Makam-Echos Culture’), the beginnings of modernism, and the phenomenon of Yugoslavism. ‘Music in Transition’, the third part, deals with the consequences of modernism, the impact of nationalism and includes specific contextualized case studies. The fourth part, ‘Eastern Europe’, deals with the Communist period, and the political situation in Greece. The fifth and final part, ‘Global Balkans’, gets to grips with the maelstrom of confusion that has characterized the region’s post-Communist history. Conclusions might be thought perhaps impossible, but Samson does not shrink from trying to pull all the threads together in his substantial final chapter, ‘Endgame’. ‘There is’, he says, ‘a narrative of emancipation, but there is also a narrative of homecoming, of roots. There is a strong current drawing this region inexorably westwards, but there are eddies, undertows, that pull it back constantly to the East.’ This neatly enshrines the complexity, the paradoxical quality and the astounding richness of the Balkans so well presented in this outstanding book." Ivan Moody in International Record Review, April 2014, pp. 78-79 "A many-voiced world of opinion and thought is opened up. This work is unprecedented in its compass, and its insights apply far more broadly than its remit." Kim Burton in Songlines 98, p. 82 “a hugely significant contribution to our understanding of this region's culture.” Adrian Thomas, Cardiff University "Eίναι η συσσώρευση έγκυρων πληροφοριών, η σοφή και ευέλικτη ερμηνεία τους, βασιζόμενη σε αντιμαχόμενες αισθητικές, κοινωνιολογικές και πολιτικές θεωρίες, και σε βαθιά γνώση της μουσικής ιστοριογραφίας, η μουσική ευαισθησία, η κατανόηση της πολιτιστικής ατμόσφαιρας, η ακρίβεια, η καθαρότητα και η πυκνότητα της έκφρασης." Καίτη Ρωμανού in Пολυφωνία volume 24 (2014), pp. 136-144

Table of contents

List of Illustrations List of Maps Introduction Part 1. Balkan Geographies Chapter 1 Exodus Sarajevo: little Jerusalem Two peninsulas: the Sephardic diaspora Singing the community: music of the Sephardim Opening out: themes and developments Chapter 2 Ecologies Music and place Ringed by mountains: the Oaş Country On the voice: the Dinaric Alps and other mountains Deep in Šumadija Chapter 3 Displacements Investing in place Migrations: Serbs in a Habsburg world Trading places: Greece and Anatolia Tallava rules: Kosovars in Macedonia Chapter 4 Ecumenes In the minority All together in Vojvodina Orchestrating Thrace Chapter 5 Centres All in the family: mapping Montenegro Finding the centre: people and traditions East - West Part 2. Historical Layers Chapter 6 A Makam-Echos Culture Grand narratives Byzantine reflections Ottoman canons Chapter 7 Eastern Recessions Allahu Ekber Coffee break Turning West Chapter 8 Infrastructures Littoral Balkans: Venice and the Adriatic Mitteleuropa: the reach of the Habsburgs Reciprocities: modernising the peripheries The Principalities and beyond Chapter 9 Nations The first steps Two nations The Berlin Balkans Yugoslavism Chapter 10 Inspirers Building the pyramids: reflections on high culture Greeks …. …. and other agents Either/or: reflections on modernism Part 3. Music in Transition Chapter 11 Mixing It Discourses of transition Nuts and bolts: elements of popular music On the record: surveying the legacy Chapter 12 Join the Club Following the leader: Manolis Kalomiris Drawing the circle: the Greek National School Another way: the failure of Greek modernism Chapter 13 Moderna Garlands: Stevan Mokranjac One people, three names: the first Yugoslavia Late arrivals: Croatian modernisms Parallel tracks: Bulgarian advances Transit to Prague Chapter 14 Serbo-Croat Who owns Slavenski? From the Balkans … …to the cosmos Chapter 15 Placing Genius A tempting comparison: locating George Enescu Closing in: Enescu’s journey Wider again: in the modernist canon Part 4. Eastern Europe Chapter 16 The Curtain Descends Left, right…. In extremis: the singular case of Albania Administered music: performing communism Composers on message Chapter 17 Diverging Paths Traffic with Moscow The acolyte: Bulgarian bridges The zealot: Albanian austerities The maverick: Romanian renewals Chapter 18 Another Try Politics versus culture: the second Yugoslavia The dark decade: mainly Serbia In from the cold: mainly Croatia, a little Slovenia, and back to Serbia Catching up: other republics Chapter 19 Birthright of the People Orchestras: classicising traditional music Newly composed folk music Simulacra: wedding music and more Chapter 20 One Got Away Popular art music: Theodorakis at large Art music: modernism is official Popular music: rebetika and beyond Part 5. Global Balkans Chapter 21 All Change Brave new world Another Balkans: the diasporic imagination Composers in exile Chapter 22 Conservation Who needs classical music? Has modern music really grown old? Where have all the folksongs gone? Chapter 23 Balkan Beat Heroes Reinscribing Yugoslavia Divas Greek mythology Chapter 24 On Boundaries and Events In theory Greece and its neighbours Music partitioned … … and not quite partitioned Chapter 25 Endgame Degenerations Generations Balkan ghetto: the story of Kosovo Are we there yet? Glossary Bibliography Index


All those interested in the relationship between culture and politics in South East Europe, as well as academics, students and lay readers with an interest in music history.