INTRODUCTION TO MONGOLIAN ART, FOLK TRADITION AND MUSIC

By D. Shandagdorji, P. Khorloo, N. Zantsannorov

 

I have extracted the relevant sections regarding Music from this article on the web:

 

MONGOLIAN FOLKLORE TRADITIONS

 

Among oriental nations Mongolia is famous for its rich folklore tradition. Heterogeneous genres of folklore such as ancient myths, proverbs, sayings, good wishes, blessings, tales. Epics which depict the happiness. yearning and wisdom of the people have been inherited by our people and passed down orally, from generation to generation, since time immemorial. Even in the primitive stage of development during the struggle with nature and the domestication of wild animals, labour songs, and verses and melodies on livestock breeding emerged and came down to our day, evolving in accordance with our cultural development. It is a history of thousands of years of herdsmen's long, drawn-out songs, verses and melodies related to herding horses, fencing sheep and other national peculiarities, melodious and eloquent verses, proverbs, tales and epics integrated into present day life. While Mongolian folklore was passed down by word of mouth in pre-literate times, the parallel development of oral and written traditions of folklore has entered a new stage in this period of national script, as is evident from contemporary stories, epics, proverbs, and benedictions.

 

MONGOLIAN HEROIC EPICS

 

Epics are a classic genre of Mongolian folklore. They are rooted in epic songs, which depict the velour of courageous heroes of the 1Oth century, and in the 12th and 13th centuries they flourished and large epic songs and long verse epics were created. In this, Mongolia was distinguished among Asian countries, and the epics "Geseriada" and "Jangar" ranking with supreme world poetry such as the "Illiad" and "Odyssey" of Greece, and the "Mahabharata" and "Ramayana" of India, were created. In the development of epics the ideology of the emperor Genghis Khan's state had great impact and played an important part in revealing the powerful and heroic events and aspirations of the steppe nobles.

The inheritance of the Mongolian people's epic has become more and more enriched, and epics such as "Bum Erdene", "Khan Kharankhui", "Daini Khurel" and "Dsul Aldarkhan" which depict the prosperity of the people, were created and handed down to the people of present-day Mongolia by contemporary reciters of epic songs like Jilkher and Parchin. Their successor, epic-teller B. Avirmed, has recited epic literature in our day and for this merit he was awarded the 1991 State Prize of Mongolia.

 

MONGOLIAN FOLK SONGS

 

The Mongolian folk song is one of the most ancient forms of musical and poetic art of the Mongols. History books recorded their wolf-like melodical singing in the time of the Hsiung-nu, Mongolian folk songs could be classified according to function as songs of everyday life, ceremony and dancing. As for their genre they are divided into lyric melodies, narrative songs for performing art, response songs, tragic melodies, humorous and festive songs. There are two basic forms: short songs and long songs. Short songs are more popular and have short tunes, sharp rhythm, originality and vivacity, and are connected with daily life and activities, and combined with beautiful decorations. But the Mongolian long song is of the classic genre, in philosophical style, evocative of vast, wide spaces. It also demands great skill and talent from the singers in their breathing abilities and guttural singing techniques. There are in Mongolia a number of already-established schools of Mongolian long song in certain local regions. According to its scale and composition, Mongolian long song could be classified into 'lesser long songs', 'long songs' and 'majestic long songs'.

 

MONGOL KHOOMI

 

Mongol khoomi is a musical art to be delivered with the help of a guttural voice and specific way of breathing. It can be regarded as musical art - not exactly singing but using one's throat as an instrument. Professional khoomi performers are only found in certain areas with a certain tradition and geographical location. The Chandmani district of Kobdo aimag (province) is the home of khoomi. A number of well-known khoomi performers of Mongolia were born there.

One tone comes out as a whistle·like sound, the result of locked breath in the chest being forced out through the throat in a specific way, while a lower tone sounds as a base. The style of khoomi can be distinguished, according to the direction of the air breathed out, from deep in the lungs. For example:

-Harhireaa khoomi: under strong pressure of the throat, the air is breathed out while a lower tone is kept as the main sound.

-Bagalzuuryn (laryngeal) khoomi: locked breath is exhaled while being pressed close to the larynx.

-Tagnainy (palatine) khoomi the locked breath is exhaled while being pressed close to the palate.

-Hooloin (guttural) khoomi: the locked breath is exhaled past the end of the tongue.

-Hamryn (nasal) khoomi: the locked breath is let out through the nose.

In fact, khoomi is an art of not only single but double throat singing, in which both upper whistle and lower tone are included. Rendering of a song vocally, combined with lower sounds and whistle, produces polyphonic singing.

Khoomi is the specific and classic genre of Mongolian traditional music.

 

MONGOLIAN FOLK INSTRUMENTS

 

Since their origin, Mongolian folk instruments have long been developed, evaluated, improved and enriched through historical links with musical instruments of other nations in Asia. Mongolian folk instruments can be divided into eight groups according to the material of which they are made such as metal, bamboo, stone, clay, etc.

They also could be classified as wind instruments - bishguur, limbe, buree and so on; stringed instruments -khuur, khuuchir, biwa and tobshuur, python- skin instruments, and drums of different sizes and shapes.

Five of the folk instruments - morin khuur, shudraga, limbs, khuuchir and yoching - are usually considered to comprise the classic quintet. The morin khuur, a two-stringed lute with a wooden sound box and scroll carved in the form of a horse's head, is the instrument that comes closest to expressing the deep feelings of the Mongolian heart. The shudraga is a three-stringed lute with a circular wooden sound-box covered with skin. Khuuchir is a two-stringed spike fiddle with a skin-covered body, and yoching is a board zither.

 

Return to main Mongolian Music page