Bill Paley (mycroftca) wrote,
Bill Paley

next essay for World Music

Concerts performed by musicians of traditions different from that of their audiences show the listeners the roots of their culture. This was quite apparent in the Huun Huur Tu concert in their selection of pieces, and in the moments of explanation to help the audience appreciate the intentions of each piece. The music emulates the sounds of the Tuvan world: the winds sweeping across the steppe, or being torn by the mountains; the sounds of racing horses; the shifting of grasses in the breeze as night falls. In my experience of World Music, I often do not understand the language of the singer, and must understand their intent by the music itself and how it makes me feel to hear it, ignoring the words, and listening to the voices as only an instrument, and not the bearer of information. This is especially apparent in Tuvan throat music, as the sounds that are made do cause my mind's eye to fill with the vistas of their lands. It is clear from the video of the concert that members of the audience were reacting to the music's tone and its emotional content with smiles, and dancing in their seats. One example that especially impressed me was at approximately 10:30 on the video of the concert. The beat and background music paints the musical picture of horsemen trotting across a landscape in very great detail. The stringed instruments do a wonderful job of sounding like neighing horses. The percussion instruments do well at sounding like hoofbeats. This and the other pieces were filled with positive energy. The music which started at about 1:10:00 gave an intense feeling of nature as day slipped into night. The final piece of music made me think of traveling, whether by horse or train matters not. I connected with the drive of the musicians, and I was transported to their world.

This translation is imperfect. I didn't connect with all of their works in this concert. Two of the works in the middle portion of the concert did not evoke mental images. They did remind me of ambient music, and I found myself relaxing, listening to those sections. Contrariwise, a recurring melodic line in several of the pieces reminded me of the theme musics of John Ford Western motion pictures of the past. This connection was easy to make in my mind, with the culture of western America dependent on the horse just as the Tuvan culture was, though the Americans were colonizing, and building infrastructure, while the Tuvans were living a more simple and mobile life. On the other hand, most such movies dealt with cowboys, a nomadic culture in itself, dealing with herding of cattle, rather than yaks. Is this an example of convergent evolution, a similarity of response to music, or is it due to cross-cultural contamination? Perhaps John Ford is popular in Mongolia?
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