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B. Sharav and the Making of a Mongolian Choral Idiom

Joe Lerangis

ACMS Virtual Speaker Series, 2022

B. Sharav and the Making of a Mongolian Choral Idiom


In a 2015 interview with D. Turmunkh for HiFi Records, the late Byambasurengiin Sharav stated that his composition of his first choral orchestral work to garner international recognition, Zambuu Tiviin Naran, was rooted in a desire to explore a musical Mongolian origin story, namely that of urtyn duu. Yet throughout the whole cantata, no recognizable urtyn duu melodies exist. In a 2019 interview with Nandintsetseg, director of choral activities at the Mongolian State Conservatory, she stated that urtyn duu served as the basis for choral music in Mongolia, but in a 2012 interview, N. Jantsannorov claims that Russians in the mid-20th Century were driven to the point of exasperation trying to teach western choral music and notation to the first choirs established at the Ulsiin Tuv Teatr, saying that Mongolians had to first forget their urtyn duu traditions if they were to retain any type of choral pedagogy in the Russian style. The conflict between the depth of group singing as bedrock for Mongolian society and how traditional singing styles have or have not influenced notated, hybridized art music bears deeper investigation. Lerangis' examines the development of choral music in Mongolia and tracks the use of urtyn duu in specific works by Sharav, using a close musical analysis of the scores to trace the influence of the genre and of Mongolian singing styles more broadly in Sharav’s writing. In Zambuu Tiviin Naran (1981), the “origin story” is highly abstracted and can be tracked through an unorthodox progression from pentatonic sound worlds to chromatic saturation and maximalist polystylism in the vein of two of Sharav’s compositional influences, Schedrin and Schnittke, and a type of “call” or uria duudlaga that appears throughout the piece. In Chinggis Khaan Bat Orshig, the use of pentatonic pitch collections that begin to rotate on a musical axis and reference the Mongolian numerology surrounding sets of three and nine in key areas is in service to a broader message of Chinggis Khaan as a messianic figure in Mongolian history.



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