A “Folk” Fusion Sound and New Age Vocal Timbre


Shamanic Sounds and the Mongolian Balladsong (changdiao)

In global context (theory), “world” music aka New Age associates with three aspects of sound manipulation: modal harmonies (all sorts of parallel 4th and 5ths at any point in the scale, which is itself without key; consonant sound (lacking in the tension-release dynamic of post-medieval W music; and insistence (non-interruption) of a fixed anchor-tone or tone stack, loosely denoted as “drone”. To which (in prairieland song) one must add: (1) an elaboration of sliding notes or vibratos skirting the drone sound but returning to or reaffirming it and (2) an extension of the undersound via mathematical harmonics to produce a kind of upstacked oversound, best known as throat-singing (humai hoomai) anchored deep in the glotal passage and topped over by mid-voiced or even jews-harp overtone.

Though “throat-harmonics” have never spread beyond herdcountry of N and W China (Mongol country), they DO anchor in a specific shape of terrain: open (without echo and replete with “carry): and as well associate with another aspect of New music that has been taken up by followers inside and out this venue, a veneration of outdoor, a plein air musicking, often articulated by a single, remotely seated performer (or standing ballad-singer) – though again, the sound of the sky uninterrupted by roof or crowd, has more often than not had to be synthesized, reinvented through studio synthesis using blocking undersound (drone!) and of course (usually unconvincing) MTV to suggest this kind of non-auditorium.

From which practice emerges another notion of tianlai voice/sound: i.e. that it suggests infinite distance, sourcing beyond visibility of the deliverer.
This particular derivation accounts for the frequent description of flatland-Mongolian balladsong (changdiao) as mournful, or lonely, or sorrowful, skewed toward the telling of sad memories. Hard to deny, but I suspect there is a second aspect to this soloizing: a kind of folkreligious or even shamanic “talking” to the Invisible, which must be done shielded from quotidian deciphering or literal overhearing.

The remote- or solo-sung song or fiddle as prayer figures directly in prairie land lore, even practical management, in that it allows communication with animals not capable of language and easily confused or alarmed by group rituals

Such a notion borne out in “remembered” story is the subject of a moving narrative associated with an outdoor song+fiddle performance in Wushen, (Ordos), foregrounded by a current time duet featuring 乌云陶高斯 (Wuyuntaogaosi, ballad-songstress) and 孟克那苏 Mengkenasu, horsehead qin master, whose song “The lonely (lost) camel” sets the narrative in train. Let us see how Dadawa reports it:

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