A documentary about cultural Mongolian music and its relation to the legitimacy of nomadism.
In preparation for going to Mongolia I was lucky to connect with a man named Greg Simmons who has become somewhat of a mentor. He told me a story about recording a group of old men singing a prayer in a village in the foothills of the Himalayas. When he returned a year later to make a better recording, they would not sing the prayer again because the man who had led the prayer had died. They explained to him that the old man ‘held’ the music and could only pass it on to his son. He gave them a copy of the previous recording. When he returned 2 years later to that village, they sang the prayer for him. He commented that, “I guess that passing on a recording of the old man who 'held' the music was the next best thing to him passing it on himself, and they were able (or allowed?) to sing it again.”
While Mongolian nomadic cultures are certainly different than the culture of that village, the story is still pertinent to Mongolian music because a similar situation is occurring. Mongolia is becoming increasingly industrialized and, young men and women born as nomads are moving away from this lifestyle. As a result nomadic musical traditions are in danger of becoming extinct as quickly as a generation from now. Their music and their stories need to be heard and told now before it's too late. I am going to Mongolia to film a documentary about cultural Mongolian music and its relation to the legitimacy of nomadism.
Watch and listen to some performances of the music that I will be filming and recording:
- Khoomi, which is Mongolian throat singing. This video shows the different types of khoomi.
- Khoomi with Topshur a two-stringed instrument that is plucked or strummed. It is similar to a lute.
- Morin khuur a two-stringed, bowed instrument often referred to as a "horse head violin". This particular piece combines traditional and modern styles.
The documentary will deal with topics including nomadism, environmentalism, industrialization, cultural conservation and specifically musical conservation, as well as the construction of “wilderness” as an idea. It will be comprised of musical performances, and interviews with professional musicians, music students, monks, nomadic people of all ages, professors, economists, historians, miners, industrialists, and more. While a certain bias is always inherent in creating a documentary I aim to let Mongolians tell their own stories without manipulation. I want to capture stories that have already happened, but have been left untold and contextualize them with scholarly analysis from all angles.
By supporting this project, your support would fall into two different categories. First, my own personal exploration as a recording engineer, producer, documentarian, adventurer, and someone interested in different cultures' relationships with music and wilderness. Second, you would be helping to showcase and preserve musical traditions and culture that could become extinct sooner than people realize without action.
Røde Microphone Manufacturers out of Australia has already lent me all the microphones I need to complete the project. Additionally, I have the support of teachers and professionals who are continually giving me advice and constructive criticism. Now, I need your help to make this all happen. I need money to buy audio, video, and lighting equipment as well as cover post-production costs. Specifically I will be buying a DSLR camera and lenses, a field mixer, microphone cables and stands, rechargeable batteries and solar battery chargers, as well as other miscellaneous items.
I’m not particularly religious, but in Peter Matthiessen’s Snow Leopard he reflects that, “God offers man the choice between repose and truth”. I’m interested in asking difficult questions in an attempt to understand larger truths that aren’t easily discovered. This project is something that I believe in and that I think has the potential to educate, inspire, and benefit a lot of people. Work with me to make it happen.
Thank you for taking the time to look at my Kickstarter and in advance, thank you for your support.
To see examples of my work visit my website.
Here are some pictures of the places I will be going to (All these pictures were taken by Rachael Diniega):
Risks and challenges
- Aside from this campaign I have been working with Loyola University in New Orleans (where I go to school) to have them support this project financially. I am currently working with both the Music Industry program within the Music and Fine Arts College and Loyola's Honors program, which I am a part of. Additionally I plan on investing my own money into the project. That being said this campaign will account for the majority of the money, which is why it is so important.
Learning the Equipment
- I am doing this campaign now so that I can have everything I am going to use by late December or early January. I leave for Mongolia February 24th, so that will give me at least two months to practice with the specific gear and software I am going to use before I get to Mongolia. By the time I leave I will have had plenty of time to trouble shoot and will be very familiar with the exact pieces of equipment that I will be using.
Finding Contacts in Mongolia
- I will be studying abroad in Mongolia with the School for International Training (SIT). Their program, based out of Ulaanbaatar (Western spelling Ulan Bator) is very well established meaning they have a lot of contacts there. As part of the semester we stay with a nomadic tribe for about two weeks, visit monasteries and temples, see and interact with Mongolian musicians, and a lot more. In addition to the coursework built into the semester I will have a month at the end of the semester to do nothing but focus on my documentary and am hoping to stay longer if possible. During that time I will be able to live wherever I want and have access to transportation, which will be provided by SIT. Right now I plan on living with a nomadic family for that period of time. My own initiative combined with SIT's support will make it possible for me to film the people and places I need to film.
- (30 days)