Theodore C. Levin and Michael E. Edgerton: The Throat Singers of Tuva
A Tuvan Singer
A Tuvan Singer
SINGERS OF TUVA
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
by Theodore C. Levin and Michael E. Edgerton
Theodore Levin (ethnomusicologist)
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Theodore Levin is professor of music at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. He is an ethnomusicologist, earning his undergraduate degree at Amherst College and obtaining his Ph.D. from Princeton University. Levin has focused his research on the people of Central Asia, including a recent research trip to the Altai Mountains to study Tuvan forms of music. Dr. Levin began studying Central Asian forms of music in 1974. Since then, he has written 2 books, including 100,000 Fools of God: Musical Travels in Central Asia (published by Indiana University Press in 1999). He chronicled his journey to Tuva in his most recent book, Where Rivers and Mountains Sing (published by Indiana University Press in 2006).
100,000 Fools of God: Musical Travels in Central Asia- Levin’s first book, this chronicles his return to Central Asia. Levin records information about the peasants; such as the stories they kept alive through music, the actual music itself, how they dealt with Soviet rule, and even the shaman healers that use music to heal the sick. This book has a wealth of information pertaining to Central Asia folk customs and the evolving post-soviet culture.
Where Rivers and Mountains Sing- This is Levin’s second book that takes the reader once again on a journey through Central Asia. Levin begins the volume by chronicling his experiences with a Tuvan throat-singing group. He vividly explains and details the Tuvan people’s ideas about nature and animals, and how their music reproduces the sounds and actions of those animals. The idea of tradition is also brought up frequently, especially in the case of the throat singers. The world is embracing them, and Levin details the effects of the popularity on the performers and the traditions.
Theodore Levin: The Hundred Thousand Fools of God, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana (USA), 1999, ISBN 0-253-21310-X
Theodore Levin (with Valentina Süzükei): Where Rivers and Mountains Sing: Sound, Music and Nomadism in Tuva and Beyond, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana (USA), 2006, ISBN 0-253-34715-7
Smithsonian Folkways: Bukhara: Musical Crossroads of Asia
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On the Silk Road with Professor Ted Levin
The Silk Road, the ancient network of trade routes linking Asia with Europe, winds its way through Dartmouth this winter, thanks to Theodore Levin, chair and professor of music and the Parents Distinguished Research Professor in the Humanities.
levinTed Levin (Photo by Joseph Mehling ’69)
Academic and impresario: Levin, an expert ethnomusicologist who has produced sound and video recordings for the Smithsonian, identifies himself as both. He is also the former executive director of Cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project, which was created to promote the study of the cultural riches of the Silk Road’s people and places. “I like doing the two together, both scholarship and musical production. The combination is good for my teaching-it brings the world into the classroom,” he says.
Levin’s syllabus for his winter term course “The Silk Road” includes guest lecturers from Dartmouth’s departments of anthropology, geography, history, religion, theater, and Asian and Middle Eastern languages and literatures (DAMELL). The course, says Levin, considers the Silk Road and its cultural legacy from a profoundly interdisciplinary perspective.
An activist as well: A consultant and advisor to both the Aga Khan Music Initiative in Central Asia and the Soros Foundations’ Open Society Institute, Levin champions the role music and musicians can have in preserving and revitalizing traditional cultures. He continues to be instrumental in bringing musical artists to Dartmouth, including Brooklyn Rider, a string quartet that grew out of the Silk Road Project and that often collaborates with “world music” musicians. Among them is Japanese shakuhachi virtuoso and composer Kojiro Umezaki, a 1993 graduate of Dartmouth’s M.A. program in digital musics. Brooklyn Rider and Umezaki are artists-in-residence at the College in February, and premiered a Dartmouth-commissioned piece by Umezaki.
silk roadStudents in Levin’s course “The Silk Road” remove bandhani cloth from indigo dye. Master dyer Joan Morris (foreground) of the theater department guided the students through this ancient Indian method of textile patterning. “They are getting, literally, a hands-on experience of the sort of goods traded along the Silk Road,” she says. From left: Elizabeth Kemp ’11(hidden), Evelyn Fisher ’11, Emma Frankel ’12, and Samantha Kaplan ’09. (Photo by Joseph Mehling ’69)
Digital revolution: The impact of the digital revolution on the world’s music, says Levin, is on two fronts. First, the Internet is transforming accessibility; listeners now have access to music from anywhere in the world. Equally important, musicians can have access to an enormous potential audience. Second, digital tools empower creative work in sound, “giving access to musical creativity,” Levin observes, “without the need for arduous training. Dartmouth’s music department is poised at the cutting edge of these changes. We’re forging links not just with digital movements in the humanities, but also with engineering, computer science, psychology, and cognitive neuroscience.”
By KELLY SEAMAN