Morin Khuur, a two stringed fiddle figures prominently in the nomadic culture of Mongolia. String instruments adorned with horse heads are referred to by written sources dating back from the Mongol empire of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The fiddle’s significance extends beyond its function as musical instrument, for it was traditionally an integral part of the rituals and everyday activities of the Mongolian nomads.
The design of the morin khuur is closely linked to the all – important cult of the horse.
The instrument’s hollow trapezoid shaped body is attached to a long fretless neck bearing a carved horse head at its extremity. Just below the head, two tuning pegs jut out like ears from either side of the nick. The soundboards is covered with animal skin and the strings and bow are made of horsehair. The instrument’s sound is produced by sliding or stroking the bow against the two strings. Common techniques include multiple stroking by the right hand and a variety of left hand fingering. It is mainly played in solo fashion but sometimes accompanies dances, long songs (urtiin duu) mythical tales, ceremonies and everyday tasks related to horses. To this day, the morin khuur repertoire has retained some tunes (tatlaga) specifically intended tame animals. Owing to the simultaneous presence of a main tone and overtones, morin khuur music has always been difficult to transcribe using standard notation. It has been transmitted orally from master to apprentice for many generations.
The Urtiin duu or “Long song“ is one of the major forms of Mongolian singing. The other one is called Bogino Duu or “short song”. Urtiin duu as a rutial form of expression associated with important celebrations and festivities holds a special place in the Mongolian society. It’s performed a weddings house warming, celebration of a child’s birth, branding of foals and other social events woven into the life of a herder Urtiin duu can also be heard at the naadam, annual celebration of the independence of Mongolia where the “The manly sports” featuring wrestling, archery and horseracing take place.
The urtiin duu is lyrical chant with an extremely wide vocal range of a free composition. Widely believed to have originated 2.000 years ago the Urtiin duu has been recorded in literary works since the thir – teenth century. A rich variety of regional styles has been preserved until today and performances as well as contemporary compositions still play a major role in the social and cultural life of nomads of Mongolia. Classical themes of Urtiin duu are typically praise of nomads virtues and experiences, motherland, mothers, beauty of the birthplaces and lastly, praise for the horses.
Mongolian Khuumii or throat sigiing has 4 ranges.
During singing two simultaneous tones, a high and a low one are produced with the vocal cords. It is a rare skill that requires special ways of breathing. Khuumii is considered as an art form and not exactly a singing but using one’s throat as an instrument.