Word and Sound in Mongolian Culture
June 20 - June 29, 2022
10 Days ◦ 3 Instructors
The program will reveal the key ideas of Mongolia’s oral and written literary traditions and sonic art forms. Participants will visit important sites for these traditions and will meet with local musical practitioners and writers in order to understand the context in which the traditions were begun and practiced, as part of the rural lives of nomadic herders and in the urban cultural scene.
This course will introduce participants to the essential ideas of these literary and musical forms and styles of Mongolian culture in the context both of the rural lives of nomadic herders and of the urban literary and musical scene. Mongolia’s culture is deeply rooted in the literature, language arts, and sonic expressions developed over centuries of nomadic herding. While cultural knowledge held in oral traditions such as legends, epics, blessings, various folk songs is expressed in literature, when realized as sound, it is expressed also in genres of music. Even today, the written literature is closely connected to these oral and musical forms, and nomadic identity continues to be seen in the formation of contemporary urban culture. Through this course participant will gain an immersive opportunity to understand how the landscapes and lifestyles of Mongolia are expressed in music and literature.
The course will take place in two main venues outside Ulaanbaatar - initially in Sainshand, Dornogovi province, and then in Töv province. In Ulaanbaatar, participants will first experience how the traditional/nomadic forms of the literary and musical arts are being kept alive, and adapted, in contemporary Mongolia. Participants will then travel in rural areas of Mongolia to gain a greater understanding of the cultural and geographic context that shapes music and language arts in Mongolia.
The region around Sanshand, where the nineteenth-century poet and monk Danzanravjaa (1803-1856) lived, will offer participants the chance to explore the character of Mongolian poetry in his work and in the work of more recent writers. Moreover, the bringing together of singers and poets will show the close connection between poetry and song, both in Danzanravjaa’s work, and in the folk songs of the region.
Moving to Dundgovi aimag, participants will experience some of the traditional oral literary forms and customs, that are used in a variety of nomadic contexts, such as herding songs, prayers, and other cultural forms used specifically in feasts and during celebrations. By incorporating into this practical hands-on learning from invited local singers and herders, participants will be able to experience not only the expressive cultural forms of poetry and music but also traditional aspects of herding life, such as milking, erecting gers, and the making of felt and dairy products.
This is an interdisciplinary course that incorporates aspects of geography, anthropology, folklore, and other disciplines. It includes approximately 40 contact hours, and is designed as a 3-credit course. Students seeking academic credit from their home or other institutions can request a more detailed course syllabus, and are encouraged to contact the course instructors and the institution where credit will be granted to ensure that unique institutional information and process requirements are met.
Participants will engage in site visits, discussions with faculty and guest speakers, and small group sharing sessions that allow for the exchange of ideas. Some evening sessions will be held and will include semi-formal performances (readings of literature in Mongolian and English; musical performances; or opportunities for participants to share the progress of their projects). Moreover, since the course will be based primarily on the experience of Mongolian tradition through direct interactions with local practitioners, we will have frequent contributions from Mongolian poets, singers, and lecturers in both more formal performances and informal sharing of music and stories. The course offers an immersive opportunity for participants to gain a feel for how the landscapes and lifestyles of Mongolia are expressed in music and literature.