In search of sound

On November 28, 2023 (Tuesday in the Regional Ethnographic Museum – Plovdiv was opened the exhibition “In Search of Sound” .

Organized by the National Centre for Alternative Communication “We Hear You”, in collaboration with the ethno photographer Assen Velikov. Together they are realizing a unique series of five separate musical photo shoots, featuring non-professional models with different hearing deficits and live music by professional performers of Bulgarian folklore.

The photos were taken in five picturesque places around the country for 6 months: with a Rhodope bagpipe in Koprivshtitsa (performed by Ivan Balabanov, head of the Petko Voyvoda bagpipe ensemble), with a kaval in Old Plovdiv (performed by Ivan Peychev, DFA “Philip Kutev”), with a bagpipe in the village of Krushovitsa, Elin Pelin municipality (performed by Denitsa Hristova, DFA “Philip Kutev”), with tambura in the village of Svezhen, Plovdiv municipality (performed by Christian Tsviatkov, folk quintet “Teodosii Spasov”), with drum in the village of Yavrovo, Plovdiv municipality (performed by Genadi Rashkov, folk quintet “Teodosii Spasov”).

The eight models posed in folk costumes from different ethnographic regions, some of the costumes are from the personal collection of the photographer Assen Velikov.

“We invited non-hearing people who we have known for years or were highly recommended to us for the photo shoots. We decided to shoot according to the number of participants and the professional commitment of the musicians. Sometimes the model and the musician were from the same native region, and this predetermined the costume from which ethnographic area the photo shoot would be. Despite the lack of a preliminary scenario, the participants very quickly got into the role, knowing what they had to do, and all we had to do was to ask them to test their sensations without and with a technical tool, close to the instrument, by touching it or the performer” – said the organizer of the exhibition Christina Tchoparova, a journalist with many years of experience and chair of the association NCAC “We Hear You”.

The goal behind the “In Search of Sound” initiative is to have models – all with varying degrees of hearing impairment – interact with musical instruments and examine how, and in what ways, they respond to the sounds, rhythms and melodies of live, immediate sound. The photographs featured in the exhibition have captured exactly this interaction and testing of acoustic capabilities by people who are partially or completely deaf.

“The idea of a photo exhibition appeared as a natural consequence of this musical experiment. Each photo session tells a story that can be made into an exhibition of its own. When selecting the photos for this one, however, Assen Velikov and I were guided by a completely different idea – the shots were not supposed to tell stories but to show the captured emotional moments of the overall search for sound. It was worth showing all this to the general public because of the cause behind the experiment and our belief that music as a healing tool can be the key to awakening “sleeping” acoustic nerves in people with hearing loss,” Tchoparova said.

The twenty-one panels from the photo exhibition “In Search of Sound” will be on display in the lounge of the Regional Ethnographic Museum until 31 January 2024.