From my about section and an introduction to the purpose of this blog:
It was recently suggested to me that I start a blog as a way to practice expressing my thoughts and such. In the past I tried starting things like this but quickly deleted them out of insecurities. I was very self conscious about how others would view my writing and the content. This is very indicative of other aspects of my life. Little by little I am working towards being more confident and losing that fear of how others view me. Part of those first steps are this blog. Through it, I hope to regain the confidence and build up the self-esteem that I once had as a musician, and hopefully have those qualities transfer over to other parts of my life.
As for what I will be writing about, it will probably vary, but I’d like to articulately give you an idea:
I like music.
Prolly going to write about it in some way.
Cause I like it.
Now onto the stuff.
I would like to dedicate this first real post to my friend, who I will refer to as M. M has remained a very close friend of mine through difficult trials and encouraged my decision to create this blog. M recently traveled to Mongolia this past summer and I have been waiting very long to finally share this with them and anyone who will listen.
As with many of my musical discoveries, I first found Khusugtun through aimless browsing of YouTube. I can’t remember the exact circumstances but I know that once I heard them, I was captivated. Khusugtun, an ensemble from Mongolia, utilizes traditional stringed instruments, the morin khuur (horse headed fiddle), ikh khurr (a bass morin khuur), and the yoochin (dulcimer like) and pairs them with an African djembé. The mixture already produces a richly balanced blend of tones driven rhythmically by the djembé, however, arguably the most compelling factor of Khusugtun’s performance is their employment of overtone and throat singing.
In my experience with overtones, I slaved for hours to produce them on the saxophone, exercising my range. In larger ensembles it’s always a pleasure to hear overtones as a product of tight and precise intonation within the group. Never did I imagine hearing the sounds I heard from Khusugtun being produced by the human voice. It was also surprising to see how prominent it was. I could see how in other musics this could be a fun little gimmick but with this music, the throat singing and overtone techniques take center stage.
The basic premise of overtone singing, or “thin whistling overtone singing” as it’s referred to in the accompanying video, is to produce two tones at once with the voice. From my understanding, this is done by manipulating the air that travels across the vocal cords from the lungs. The result is both a higher pitched melodic drone, that resembles a heavily effects laden stringed instrument, along with a bottom bass voice that really complements the upper quite nicely. When added to the rest of the ensemble, the eclectic blend of sounds conjures up images of the vast Mongolian landscape and its unique culture, just as the music of classic American Western films paints adventures in the old country.
While all of the more traditional instruments play a huge part in acting rhythmically, it’s interesting to note how the morin khuur is used more for its texture. The timbre of the instrument suggests it could carry the main melodies but that role is reserved primarily for the yoochin and of the course, the voice. What types of interesting things do you notice?
Take a listen: (I’ve added particular times and notes to share)
3:38- Music starts- Tes Golyn magtaal
- Praise for the river Tes
- The beggining throat singing is almost chant-like but the introduction of another overtone voice adds another melodic layer.
5:34- Toroi Bandi
- Story of a Mongolian hero that stole cattle from the rich and gave them to the poor.
- Also notice the orcehstral musician in the background finally smile at 8:23.
- Composed more recently, praises the Mongol people’s history
- Accelerando at 11:10 powerfully driven by djembé and ikh khuur