A specialist in the musical styles of Bulgaria, the Balkans, and the NIS (especially Russia and the Republic of Georgia), Donna Buchanan's scholarly interests include music as symbolic communication, music in aesthetic systems, music and power relations, music and cosmology, and music and social identity. Her additional teaching areas include ethnomusicological methodologies, ethnography, Mediterranean traditional and art musics, the musical cultures of indigenous peoples, and Russian and East European classical music, particularly Bartok, Musorgsky, and Shostakovich. Her articles have appeared in major journals of ethnomusicology, musicology, and East European studies. A faculty affiliate of the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center (REEEC) since 1998 and its Director from 2005-08, Professor Buchanan also established Balkanalia, the University of Illinois Balkan Music Ensemble, which performs regularly under the auspices of both REEEC and the School of Music.
Her first book, an ethnomusicological monograph entitled Performing Democracy: Bulgarian Music and Musicians in Transition (University of Chicago Press, 2006, with accompanying CD-Rom), is the result of more than ten years of intensive ethnographic research in Bulgaria, funded by IREX, Fulbright, ACLS-SSRC, Wenner-Gren, and NEH grants. A second, edited volume, Balkan Popular Culture and the Ottoman Ecumene: Music, Image, and Regional Political Discourse (Scarecrow Press, with accompanying VCD), was published in 2007. In 2007 Professor Buchanan began new research concerning Bulgarian music, spirituality, gender, and postsocialism; and music, memory, and the politics of the Armenian genocide among Bulgarian Armenians.
My teaching philosophy is one that, like the field in which I was trained, is inherently interdisciplinary. All of my courses are concerned with conveying what and how musical sound signifies and communicates, in relationship to wider social, cultural, political, economic, and historical contexts. In constructing my lectures I therefore frequently draw upon literature in ethno/musicology, music theory, performance practice, aesthetics, anthropology, religious studies, social theory, gender studies, history, and political science. My teaching emphases include music ethnography; music and cosmology; social theory; musical styles of the Balkans, Eurasia, Russia, and the Mediterranean; the musical cultures of indigenous peoples; and Russian and East European art music, especially Bartok, Musorgsky, and Shostakovich.