Category Archives: TED LEVIN

TED LEVIN & MICHAEL EDGERTON : THE THROAT SINGERS OF TUVA

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http://metafactory.ca/ANT305/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Levin1999SciAm_tuvan_throat_singing.pdf

F rom atop one of the rocky escarpments that criss-cross the south Siberian grasslands and taiga forests

of Tuva, one’s first impression is of an unalloyed si-
lence as vast as the land itself. Gradually the ear habituates

to the absence of human activity. Silence dissolves into a

subtle symphony of buzzing, bleating, burbling, cheeping,

whistling—our onomatopoeic shorthand for the sounds of
insects, beasts, water, birds, wind. The polyphony unfolds

slowly, its colors and rhythms by turns damped and rever-

berant as they wash over the land’s shifting contours.
For the seminomadic herders who call Tuva home, the
soundscape inspires a form of music that mingles with these

ambient murmurings. Ringed by mountains, far from major

trade routes and overwhelmingly rural, Tuva is like a musi-

cal Olduvai Gorge—a living record of a protomusical world,
where natural and human-made sounds blend.
Among the many ways the pastoralists interact with and
represent their aural environment, one stands out for its

sheer ingenuity: a remarkable singing technique in which a

single vocalist produces two distinct tones simultaneously.

One tone is a low, sustained fundamental pitch, similar to

the drone of a bagpipe. The second is a series of flutelike

harmonics, which resonate high above the drone and may

be musically stylized to represent such sounds as the whistle

of a bird, the syncopated rhythms of a mountain stream or

the lilt of a cantering horse.
In the local languages, the general term for this singing is
khöömei or khoomii, from the Mongolian word for “throat.”
In English it is commonly referred to as throat-singing. Some
contemporary Western musicians also have mastered the
practice and call it overtone singing, harmonic singing or
harmonic chant. Such music is at once a part of an expres-

sive culture and an artifact of the acoustics of the human

voice. Trying to understand both these aspects has been a

challenge for Western students of music, and each of us—
one a musical ethnographer (Levin), the other a composer

with an interest in extended vocal techniques (Edgerton)—
has had to traverse the unfamiliar territory of the other.
Sound Mimesis
I n Tuva, legends about the origins of throat-singing assertthat humankind learned to sing in such a way long ago.
The very first throat-singers, it is said, sought to duplicate

natural sounds whose timbres, or tonal colors, are rich in

harmonics, such as gurgling water and swishing winds. Al-

though the true genesis of throat-singing as practiced today is

obscure, Tuvan pastoral music is intimately connected to an

ancient tradition of animism, the belief that natural objects

and phenomena have souls or are inhabited by spirits.
According to Tuvan animism, the spirituality of mountains
and rivers is manifested not only through their physical shape

and location but also through the sounds they produce or can
80 Scientific American September 1999 The Throat-Singers of Tuva
VOICE OF A HORSE in Tuvan music, the igil—played here
by Andrei Chuldum-ool on the grasslands of southern Siberia

(also above)—is a two-stringed upright fiddle made from
horse hide, hair and gut and used to re-create equine sounds.

Sound mimicry, the cultural basis of Tuvan music, reaches its

culmination in throat-singing.
THE THROAT SINGERS OF TUVATesting the limits of vocal ingenuity, throat-singers can create
sounds unlike anything in ordinary speech and song—carrying two
musical lines simultaneously, say, or harmonizing with a waterfall
by Theodore C. Levin and Michael E. Edgerton

http://metafactory.ca/ANT305/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Levin1999SciAm_tuvan_throat_singing.pdf

Theodore C. Levin and Michael E. Edgerton: THE THROAT SINGERS OF TUVA

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Theodore C. Levin and Michael E. Edgerton: THE THROAT SINGERS OF TUVA

TED-LEVIN

Ted Levin

LEVIN-3-MICHAEL-EDGERTON

Michael E.Edgerton

Testing the limits of vocal ingenuity, throat-singers can create sounds unlike anything in ordinary speech and song—carrying two musical lines simultaneously, say, or harmonizing with a waterfall

From atop one of the rocky escarpments that criss-cross the south Siberian grasslands and taiga forestsof Tuva, one’s first impression is of an unalloyed si-lence as vast as the land itself. Gradually the ear habituatesto the absence of human activity. Silence dissolves into asubtle symphony of buzzing, bleating, burbling, cheeping,whistling—our onomatopoeic shorthand for the sounds ofinsects, beasts, water, birds, wind. The polyphony unfoldsslowly, its colors and rhythms by turns damped and rever-berant as they wash over the land’s shifting contours.For the seminomadic herders who call Tuva home, thesoundscape inspires a form of music that mingles with theseambient murmurings. Ringed by mountains, far from majortrade routes and overwhelmingly rural, Tuva is like a musi-cal Olduvai Gorge—a living record of a protomusical world,where natural and human-made sounds blend.Among the many ways the pastoralists interact with andrepresent their aural environment, one stands out for itssheer ingenuity: a remarkable singing technique in which asingle vocalist produces two distinct tones simultaneously.One tone is a low, sustained fundamental pitch, similar tothe drone of a bagpipe. The second is a series of flutelikeharmonics, which resonate high above the drone and maybe musically stylized to represent such sounds as the whistleof a bird, the syncopated rhythms of a mountain stream orthe lilt of a cantering horse.In the local languages, the general term for this singing iskhöömeior khoomii,from the Mongolian word for “throat.”In English it is commonly referred to as throat-singing. Somecontemporary Western musicians also have mastered thepractice and call it overtone singing, harmonic singing orharmonic chant. Such music is at once a part of an expres-sive culture and an artifact of the acoustics of the humanvoice. Trying to understand both these aspects has been achallenge for Western students of music, and each of us—one a musical ethnographer (Levin), the other a composerwith an interest in extended vocal techniques (Edgerton)—has had to traverse the unfamiliar territory of the other.Sound MimesisIn Tuva, legends about the origins of throat-singing assertthat humankind learned to sing in such a way long ago.The very first throat-singers, it is said, sought to duplicatenatural sounds whose timbres, or tonal colors, are rich inharmonics, such as gurgling water and swishing winds. Al-though the true genesis of throat-singing as practiced today isobscure, Tuvan pastoral music is intimately connected to anancient tradition of animism, the belief that natural objectsand phenomena have souls or are inhabited by spirits.According to Tuvan animism, the spirituality of mountainsand rivers is manifested not only through their physical shapeand location but also through the sounds they produce or can80Scientific AmericanSeptember 1999The Throat-Singers of TuvaVOICE OF A HORSE in Tuvan music, the igil—played hereby Andrei Chuldum-ool on the grasslands of southern Siberia(also above)—is a two-stringed upright fiddle made fromhorse hide, hair and gut and used to re-create equine sounds.Sound mimicry, the cultural basis of Tuvan music, reaches itsculmination in throat-singing.

THE THROAT SINGERS OF TUVATesting the limits of vocal ingenuity, throat-singers can create sounds unlike anything in ordinary speech and song—carrying two musical lines simultaneously, say, or harmonizing with a waterfall

http://www.uvm.edu/~outreach/ThroatSingingArticle.pdf

Ethnomusicologist Ted Levin lectures on musical and cultural diversity

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Ethnomusicologist Ted Levin lectures on musical and cultural diversity

The Lawrentian Staff·Uncategorized·April 9, 2010·2 min read Kristi Ruff

Ted Levin is a fascinating man. Upon my entrance into Shattuck 156 on Tuesday night for the “Ethnomusicologist as Cultural Entrepreneur” lecture, I was struck by an imposingly tall professor who is not only an expert on East Asian musical tradition and the process of finding, recording and transmitting these types of music, but who is also equipped with an arsenal of languages readily at his disposal for translation and communication purposes.
This outstanding capacity for not only getting to know the musicians with whom he works but also for immersing himself in the language and culture of these artists amazed all who attended his presentation. Though I was momentarily distracted by his Dumbledore-like appearance, Levin lectured about the magic inherent in the cultural diversity between musical traditions around the world, not wizardry.
Professor Levin, a friend of the beloved “Didgeri-dean” of the conservatory, Brian Pertl, currently holds a post at Dartmouth, but spends the majority of his time abroad. For those conservatory students who are interested in, fascinated by or completely obsessed with world music and ethnomusicology, well, you certainly missed out.
Beginning with a brief summary of his international adventures and musically related exploits, Professor Levin’s lecture focused on the process of “amplifying the voices of musicians who need to be amplified, because they’re being drowned out by more popular, westernized music; documenting [musical traditions] that need to be documented before they are erased.”
He detailed his work with the Aga Khan – the spiritual leader of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims – who created a trust in 2000 to “support the efforts of Central Asian musicians and communities to sustain, further develop, and transmit musical traditions that are a vital part of their cultural heritage.”
Levin made it very clear that this line of work requires not only passion, but also an ability to find donors and collaborators to help make it happen. It is, in essence, a lot like being a salesman: one must have a detailed plan of how to make everything work and be able to sum up that plan in a report of just a few succinct bullet points.
Another issue that directly follows the issue of finding funding for such projects is that of cultural translation. “Different cultures have different musical languages,” noted Levin, and one of the toughest obstacles to overcome is the gap between those languages.
He gave one fascinating example of an artist named Alim Qasimov, one of the foremost Azerbaijani artists in the mugam style of vocal music. Through one of Levin’s projects, Qasimov collaborated with the famed Kronos string quartet.
This effort was quite the undertaking, recollected Levin, because Qasimov’s music is completely improvised and western tradition is written and entirely note-based. As the Azerbaijani artist put it, “Here they fix the music in notes… me, I am free.
In order to produce a successful performance, each of the different artists had to find a way to translate and integrate parts of the other’s musical tradition. Professor Levin was able to aid this process by serving as a translator.
Ted Levin’s unique experiences and broad knowledge base make him an excellent resource for any student looking to get involved in the vast, ever-expanding field of ethnomusicology. He was extremely generous with his time after his lecture. Levin answered many questions about how to best get started in the field, noting, “You really just have to put your foot out there.”
He also answered questions about issues associated with licensing and other logistics once successful projects have been completed and just generally clarified what an ethnomusicologist does: “A real ethnomusicologist learns to see through [the musicians’] ears and eyes” in order to help facilitate cultural connectivity.
To anyone interested in the field, I would highly recommend emailing him or visiting his webpage to view his currently available works at http://dfd.dartmouth.edu/directory/show/36.

https://www.lawrentian.com/archives/101795

“Why Music Matters:” Theodore Levin delivers the 24th Faculty Presidential Lecture

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“Why Music Matters:” Theodore Levin delivers the 24th Faculty Presidential Lecture

9,115 viewsMar 1, 2012564ShareSaveDartmouth 70.8K subscribers Theodore Levin, Arthur R. Virgin Professor of Music, presented the annual Faculty Presidential Lecture on Tuesday, February 28. His lecture, entitled “Why Music Matters.” Stay Connected to Dartmouth on: Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/Dartmouth Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/Dartmouth Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/Dartmouthflickr