Traditional Mongolian Music.

I did this for school intally, but I figured I would share it with you guys. I have text versions of each link on my blog. Copy and paste if you want to listen to the examples. I hope you guys like it. I have a bit of Mongolian in me, so I wanted to know more. 

 I’m going to do the music of Mongolia. I’m going to focus on their instruments and older aspects of their music. I’m going to touch a bit on throat singing and long songs. Mongolian music uses the major pentatonic scale. They use a similar system that the Chinese do. Some of their instruments were somewhat Chinese inspired, that being the Zithers. Mongolia is a contained culture and in their traditional music there is no bleed over from western musical tastes. There music tends to be very loose with the actual rules of it. They don't strictly adhere to the pentatonic scale and often wonder off a bit. I noticed that they don't play instruments together very much. Each instrument is mostly self contained.   

Their throat singing is very interesting. They sing using a drone tone they produce while putting a higher melody on top. There are different ways to do this. The texture they have is very gravelly and it almost sounds like there is some vocal fry present. The often have their mouths opened very wide when they are doing this. There are not many rounded tones.  This is basically turning a monophonic human voice into homo/polyphonic one. It’s kind of amazing that human voices are this flexible. The long song is also an interesting thing they do, but before that here’s a video of Mongolian throat singing.

Long songs are a traditional art form where they sing long drawn-out notes, rhythms, and words of course. They have very little structure and allow singers to improvise. That are thought to have originated 2,000 years ago from herders working the land singing songs while they did so.  Did I mention that their culture is consumed with horses? They even sing about them. There long songs remind me of Arias from Opera or the long melismatic singing of the church. Although the notes they hit are different the drawn-out ness just reminds me of their similarities. They use the pentatonic scale as their main keys that they hit, but I’ve noticed some microtones in there. Their mouths are wide when they do long songs as well. There are very little rounded notes. They slide between different notes and I’ve noticed some action with the larynx. At times it almost sounds like the are about to yodel.   

Here’s an example of the long song.

Evidently the major theme that I keep encountering in Mongolia is Horses. A lot but not all their instruments incorporate horse hair. This is because the material is in abundance because of herding horses but also they are obsessed with horses in general. In America the most widely used/important instrument is the guitar, but in traditional Mongolian music it is the Morin Khuur. 

This is what it sounds like.

This instrument has two strings and is often called a fiddle. It has similar bow action to that of a violin. This instrument is also fretless. The top of the instrument will sometimes have horse heads carved onto them. This is more prevalent in older Morin Khuurs. Usually this instrument is played alone, played during attending to the horses, but sometimes people dance to it. The Morin Khuur is usually played alone (as far as instrumentation goes) at ceremonies and played to the horses. They also play the instrument while tending to horses to entertain themselves. There's an entire genre of music dedicated to taming animals in Mongolia. The genre is called tat laga. They did this because in ancient times they thought music had magical qualities. Their lives are consumed with horses in the rural and traditional areas. There are many different groups in Mongolia, but the way they traditionally lived before urbanization usually across the board incorporated horses some how. It’s really the thing that Mongolians really advertise a lot besides their throat singing. 

The Morin Khuur is the main star of the show, but there’s more instruments than just that. Zithers, Curved clarinets, flutes, oboes, a bass version of Morin Khuur, and random string instruments that don't have a definitive name in English but do have Mongolian names. The two zither's they used are Yatga and Yoo. A few string instruments Shanz and Huuchir. The Ikh Khuur is the bass Morin Khuur. The oboe is Bishguur and the curved clarinet is called Ever Buree. The flute they use is called a Limbe and there’s a random Bamboo instrument called the Khel Khuur.  If you notice their instrument names most have a very strong R sound on the end. I just find it cool and maybe it’s due to the materials used or how their language works. 

The Yatga has 12 strings and is plucked. Here’s a video of the Yatga performed.

Mongolia’s nomadic culture no doubt shaped the instruments they used. The most popular instruments for their traditional music are all portable the largest instrument they carry is the Zither. Their lifestyle also encourages close bonds with family and they really like wine. I found this out by trying to find my information in the first place. The subjects differ from place to place and often they sing about stories or emotions. A lot of their music is dedicated to the horses or taming animals. It’s very tied to the land. In practice the major pentatonic scale is just a guideline and I’ve seen a lot of tone and pitch shifting in their music. There’s really no definitive music theory. Nonetheless, their music is very cool and complex while being simple and easy to understand. Performing their music is an entirely different animal, but listening is not as complex as in Indian or western classical music. The music is intent on being more emotional and as an expression or extension of themselves. 

Works cited: 

Bertrand Linet, Diphonic Mongolian Song. Youtube, February 13, 2012. Retrieved from 

Shangyien, Mongolian Yatga Performance.mpg. Youtube, August 25, 2011. Retrieved from 

Thenormanizer, Mongolian Long Song. Youtube, April 23, 2007. Retrieved from 

Unesco, The Traditional Music of the Morin Khuur. Youtube, September 28,2008. Retrieved from 

"Mongolian Music,", Off The Map Tours, retrieved from 

"Style," Mongolia's Music, retrieved from

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