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электронный журнал "Новые исследования Тувы"

Tuvan Scientist Defended Doctorate on Tuvan Music

Tuvan music expert Valentina Suzukei defended Doctorate 'Cultural Historical Roots of Musical Heritage of Tuvans, its Present State and Modernisation in XX Century' and became a doctor in cultiral studies. Her multifacetous study of Tuvan music culture in the XXth century was published in a monography issued in early 2007. The scientist takes a closer look at the Tuvan musical phenomenon, analyses it in the context of the nomadic world perception, gives a full account of the ritual and labour musical practices, songs, instrumental music, Tuvan traditional instruments, makes a survey of both positive and negative consequences of the attempts to 'adapt' Tuvan music to European standards.

Here are abstracts of the above-mentioned work: Tuva is one of the most striking and original cultural centers of the Altai-Sayan region, remarkable for its diversity of musical forms and genres, and for the melodic richness and distinct national color and timbre of its traditional sound production.

Tuva’s rich legacy of instrumental music merits special attention. Beginning in ancient times, the musical culture of the Tuvans has evolved exclusively in the context of a nomadic way of life characterized by specific cultural and economic conditions. The musical tradition of the Tuvans maintained an organic continuity and did not undergo any radical change until the second decade of the twentieth century.

The twentieth century was the first in the entire centuries-long history of the Tuvans to bring about a revolutionary transformation of musical life. This transformation occurred both as a result of the change from a nomadic way of life to a sedentary one, and as a result of the introduction of new musical forms and ideas.

This social transformation had both positive and, to a greater degree, negative results. One of the main reasons for the unpremeditated destruction of tradition, which seriously degraded the foundations of Tuvan culture, was an a priori judgment that it was “primitive.” As a consequence, the condescending treatment of the culture as “undeveloped” or, more precisely, “backward” – stuck in a mere primordial state of existence, facilitated the idea that it was necessary to provide aid for its “rehabilitation.” Thus emerged the idea of “professionalizing” folk music, which became widespread from the first days of the foundation of Soviet power in Tuva.

It is imperative to highlight the consequences of misdirected efforts to professionalize traditional music. One consequence was that folk musicians began to evaluate their own music-making through the unfamiliar standards of academic music, and finding themselves wanting, developed a low self-image. The result of this experience was a mutation not only of instruments but of all the aesthetic-normative bases of the traditional sound system upon which the ethnic “sound ideal” had been oriented. Paradoxically, all of these transformations still have a place in the established educational system of culture and arts at all levels: in music schools, colleges, and conservatories, in institutes and in academies of culture. And this is one of the principal problems in modern systems (ethnic, ethno-artistic) of professional music education for the bearers of traditional culture, which today requires a fundamental review.

In the present day, against the backdrop of the events of the 1990s, which brought a major reconstruction of socio-economic and cultural systems in the post-Soviet republics, there is an urgent need for a re-examination of the gains and losses that have occurred in the ethnic cultures of the national republics of the former USSR.

In the post-Perestroika era a process has begun in the various ethnic republics of the former USSR to return to their own historical roots. These processes have not passed over Tuva. The professionalization of Tuvan music in essence was and is an attempt at adaptation, or more precisely, an attempt at remaking traditional music within the parameters of European classical music theory. The process of professionalizing Tuvan music brought with it an attempt to translate musical instruments and instrumental music from the drone-overtone system of tuning to the tempered tuning system.

However, Tuvan music first debuted on the world stage in its pure, non-professionalized form in records produced by the Moscow Sound Recording Factory in 1934 at the request of the government of the Tuvan People’s Republic (TNR).

Since that time, Tuvan music has commanded massive interest as an extraordinary example of creative human fantasy in the realm of sound. Tuva’s particular achievement in the sphere of musical culture, or more broadly, sound culture, is considered a unique contribution to the evolution of human culture.

Dina Oyun
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