Last weekend, I joined some friends for a trip to the Irving Art Center’s Genghis Khan exhibit. The further we progressed through the exhibit, the more it seemed it would never justify its $12 admission price. It had very little on display, and what it did have was mostly modern. Just when I was about to give up on the exhibit altogether, I heard some live music begin. Intrigued, I ran around the corner to find a beautifully decorated room containing some very nice pieces (all still unrelated to Genghis Khan without a significant stretch of the imagination), and these two musicians performing:
I was immediately enraptured by this new type of fiddle, as well as confused by the way it was stopped.
The instrument is called a Morin Khuur and is considered a national instrument in Mongolia.
The morin khuur is generally tuned to Bb and F. The strings are stopped by pushing them to the player’s bow arm (generally the right). The knuckles are used with the first and second finger, while the pads are used with the third and pinky. When stopping the right string with the pinky, the finger goes under the left string.
Keep in mind that, it seems, nearly all Mongolian music is inspired by horses!
Until now, most of my exposure to Mongolian music has been throat singing, of which I am not a big fan. It seems like that is only one aspect of Mongolian culture, on which westerners seem to focus (likely because it is so different). However, it seems there is a lot more to this ancient society’s music.
I will leave you with this. However, watch this site as I will soon post an entire concert of Mongolian music.
And, for what it is worth, the final room, which contained over a half dozen Mongolian instruments on display and (re-)introduced me to Mongolian music, made up for the exhibit’s otherwise less-than-stellar content.