Sveta Troitsa (or the Church of the Holy Trinity) was built in Bansko, Bulgaria, between 1810 and 1850. During this time, the Blagoevgrad Province remained under Turkish rule, and the founders of the church could only build it through a combination of diplomacy and heavy fees payed to the Turks. The four bells heard in these recordings were cast in 1855 by the Veleganovi brothers, who inscribed the name of the Turkish sultan on them so that they would not be thrown from the tower.
Reading through R. Murray Schafer’s The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World (1977, Destiny Books) the other night, I came across his discussion of church bells. He describes the church bell as a signal delineating the boundaries of a human habitation, as well as bringing its occupants together:
The most salient sound in the Christian community is the church bell. In a very real sense it defines the community, for the parish is an acoustic space, circumscribed by the range of the church bell. The church bell is a centripetal sound; it attracts and unifies the community in a social sense…
These bells were recorded on the rainy morning of 27 December, 2009–a setting which somehow reminds me of Yasushi Utsunomia’s incredible recordings of the concerts he organized in the Koukiji temple in Japan during a damp summer afternoon (Kougezan Koukiji – The Live [11th] Final Hyakusenmansyuuraku, 2002 Horen Records). And true to Schafer’s words, these bells reside directly in the middle of the acoustic space of the town–no efforts were made (or were even possible) to separate the sounds of the bells from the life both within the church and outside its walls. Why should life stop just because I want to record something?
In the first track, we hear two klepalo (solid idiophones) played by Ivan Todorov Hadjipopov (wood) and George Lazarov Pitsin (metal). Ivan Hadjipopov then plays a solo on the four church bells in the second track, followed by George Pitsin in the third. The overtones heard during these solos defy description, and only the sounds of the town and the church-goers sporadically remind you that what you are listening to actually occurred on Earth. The final track is a solo played by Boris Ivanov Hadjipopov, and then we return to the rain…
The entire session was recorded in a single, continuous take, using two DPA 4060 capsules (mounted in my trusty Latvian mink-fur ushanka) and a Sound Devices 722 recorder, standing in the courtyard below the bell tower. My gratitude goes to Boris “Bobi” Hadjipopov, who organized the occasion, and to Elena Kaludova for her translation (and so much more). Photo by lite.
The entire collection can be downloaded as high-quality MP3s at: http://macumbista.net/files/sveta_troitsa.zip
These recordings can be shared and reused under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.