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Monday, August 18, 2008

Khoomii classification

I was reading excerpts from a book called Where Rivers and Mountains Sing by Theodore Craig Levin and Valentina Süzükei:
Taken from here
Found some interesting stuff about Tuvan and Mongolian throat-singing and the classifications. I especially like the concept of liquid khoomii.
From the book (I omitted and changed some parts):
In the Altai region, an intersection of environment and culture, herders from a variety of tribal and clan groups intermingled and shared techniques of representing the powerful forces of their natural environment in sound.

Regarding styles of khoomii: distinctive features of vocal production perceived as differences of style by local musicians and listeners may be imperceptible to outsiders. Mongolian khoomii offers a good illustration of the diverse ways in which khoomii has been taxonomized and metaphorized in the Altai region.

While Tuvans describe styles of throat-singing by the sounds they are said to represent: for example, sygyt (whistle), kargyraa (wheeze), ezenggileer (stirrup) and barbangnadyr (rolling), some Mongolian singers have used taxa rooted in anatomy. Tserendavaa, of Chandmani sum, who worked out his scheme with the help of Ulaanbaatar based musicologist Badraa., divides khoomii into seven categories: uruulin (labial), tagnain (palatal), bagalzuurin (glottal) , khamarin (nasal), khoolooin (throat), tseejni (chest cavity) and finally khosmoljin (a combination of all of the above) . Tserendavaa distinguished these varieties of khoomii from kharkhiraa, which in his view should be classified separately because it is not a melodic style.

Sengedorj , the throat singer from Hovd, was skeptical about the proliferation of styles proposed by Tserendavaa. “Nose khoomii doesn’t really exist. It’s a variant of palatal khoomii. And chest khoomii shouldn’t be a separate category. All breathing is from the chest.” Sengedorj devided Mongolian throat-singing into three broad categories: khargaa- a light form of kharkhiraa used in Buddhist temple rituals, kharkhiraa- good for accompanying the tsuur and also for reciters of oral epic; and finally shingen khoomii (liquid khoomii), which he described as a Mongol-Altai style. The style’s name provided an apt description of the loud and lubricious melodies he produced with harmonics.

Sengedorj’s poetically named liquid khoomii represents a personal interpretation of the timbral model at the root of all throat-singing, yet it closely resembles the performance style of other Mongolian khoomii singers while differing noticeably from throat-singing typical among Tuvans. An accultured listener can easily distinguish Mongolian khoomii from Tuvan khoomei purely by the timbral and dynamic qualities of the sound and also by the tendency of Mongolian throat-singers to reproduce flowing pentatonic song melodies using harmonics.
A post about Tserendavaa's classification here

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