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13: Any recommended reading about Tuva?


This article is from the Tuva FAQ, by Kerry Yackoboski kerryy@nortel.ca with numerous contributions by Bernard Greenberg, Bernard Dubriel, Alan Shrives, Kevin Williams, Albert Kuvezin, Dr Oliver Corff, Mike Vande Bunt, Ralph Leighton, Masahiko Todoriki, Alan Leighton, Ken Simon, and Sami Jansson.

13: Any recommended reading about Tuva?

Send your suggestions. Here's what I've found.

1 - Tuva or Bust! Ralph Leighton. W.W. Norton, 1991.

The canonical work. Describes Feynman and Leighton's
decade-long struggle to reach Tuva. Semi-related works
are ``Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!'' and ``What
Do You Care What Other People Think?'', both by Richard
Feynman (with Ralph Leighton).

2 - Journey to Tuva

Otto Mänchen-Helfen, extensively annotated and
translated from German to English by Alan Leighton.
Ethnographics Press, University of Southern California,

Available from Friends of Tuva. A great book detailing
the visit of a Westerner in 1929. Contains an appendix
about present day Tuva and a map.

3 - Nomads of Eurasia Natural History Museum of Los Angeles
County University of Washington Press, 1989.

* This book accompanied the museum exhibit "Nomads: Masters of
the Eurasian Steppe" in 1989-1990. Great pictures and text.

4 - Nomads of South Siberia Sevyan Vainshtein, translated by
Michael Colenso Cambridge University Press, 1980.

Wow. The detail is impressive as the author examines
Tuvan nomadic life.

5 - In Search of Genghis Khan Tim Severin, Arrow Books, 1992.

The author joins a horseback expedition to trace the
steps of Genghis Khan from Mongolia to Europe in 1990.
An intriguing foray into the life of the modern
Mongolian nomad, with many details that may frighten
prospective visitors to the region.

7 - The Peoples of the Soviet Far East Walter Kolarz, published
by Frederick Praeger of New York, 1954.

8 - The Tuvan Manual John Krueger, available from the Mongolia
Society, 322 Goodbody Hall Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
47405, USA.

An indispensable work that includes a primer on the
area and culture, lessons on how to read and speak
Tuvan, a Tuvan to English glossary, and several samples
of Tuvan text. An extremely valuable book that is worth
double the price (about $20). A word of caution; the
only Tuvan I know to have seen the book commented that
"no one uses those words anymore".

9 - Ancient Traditions: Shamanism in Central Asia and the
Americas Edited by Gary Seaman and Jane S. Day. Published by the
Denver Museum of Natural History and the University Press of
Colorado, 1994.

Based on the proceedings from ``Nomads: Masters of the
Eurasian Steppe,'' Volume 4 of the Soviet-American
academic symposia in conjunction with the museum
exhibitions. The one chapter devoted to Tuvan shamanism
is by Russian ethnographer Vera P. Diakonova.

10 - The Lost Country: Mongolia Revealed Jasper Becker. Hodder &
Stoughton, 1992. ISBN: 0-340-57978-1

Written by the Asia correspondent of the Guardian
newspaper, who visited Mongolia and surrounding
countries several times in 1989-90. Includes are
chapters on Buryatia and Tuva. Plenty of personal
observation as well as background history.

11 - The Last Disco In Outer Mongolia Nick Middleton. Onon, 1992.
ISBN: 1-85799-012-9

About the travel experiences of a British student who
visited Mongolia in 1987 and 1990. He observes the
changes that have taken place between his two visits.

12 - Recherche experimentale sur le chant diphonique Hugo Zemp
and Tran Quang Hai. Cahier de Musique traditionnelle,
4,p27-68,Atelier d'ethnomusicologie, Geneve, 1991.

The most thorough analysis of Tuvan, Tibetan, Mongol
and Altai styles. Plenty of sound spectra representing
excerpts from a variety of songs, including cuts from
the Smithsonian Folkways CD. [BD]

13 - Structural, aerodynamic and spectral characteristics of
imitated Tibetan chanting. Aliaa Ali Khir, M.D. and Diane
M.Bless, Ph.D. Proceedings of the 21st symposium of The Voice
Foundation. Philadelphia, June 1992.

A study on ``the underlying physiological adjustments
of this unique phonetary mode''. For those with high
interests in acoustic and physiological details. The
subject under study was an American male, not a Tibetan
monk. The study suggests aphonic patients may benefit
from Tibetan chanting, as it requires minimal mean flow
rates. It quotes and agrees with previous authors
(Smith, Stevens, Tomlinson 1967), that Tibetan style
may be due to ``two modes of oscillations, one at the
normal frequency and another at some ``ill-defined''
low frequency that synchronized to every pulse of the
higher frequency''. It rules out glottal fry as the
source of the low note, which I believe is an error.

14 - Sons multiphoniques aux instruments a vent Michele
Castellango Rapport IRCAM, 34|82. Paris, France.

Wind instruments, not just voices, can play multiple
sounds. The trombone, the flute, the oboe, bassoon and
bass clarinet are examined in that respect. Defined as
: ``l'entretien d'un son stable percu comme un
accord'', multiphonic instrumental emissions are
compared to vocal overtone singing. ``Si l'on renforce
l'intensite de certaines harmoniques, ceux-ci peuvent
etre percu isolement et former une melodie
independante. A un instant donne, on percoit alors deux
hauteurs. C'est le cas du chant diphonique, de la
guinbarde et de l'arc musical ou l'on a dailleurs
souvent deux ou trois melodies formantiques en

N.B In previous years, Michele Castellango and Trang
Quang Hai have worked together on a number of
occasions, trying to pin down the nature of biphonic
singing. [BD]

14 - Theorie physiologique de la musique Hermann von Helmholtz
Editions Jacques Gabay Paris, 1990.

The Bible of acoustics and music, from the well known
19th century Heidelberg university professor. First
edition in French: 1868.

When we sing overtones, we behave as Helmholtz
resonators, amplifying certain harmonics in the note we
sing. We do so by slightly changing the volume of air
contained in our vocal tract or by changing the surface
of the aperture of our mouth. Helmholtz shows us that
in matters of resonance, there are no other variables
at play than volume of air and surface of aperture.

Following up on Helmhotz I hypothesized that whenever
three notes were distinctly heard in a given style
(i.e. Kaigal-ool Khovalyg singing in khoomei style) one
was amplified using the tongue as a means to vary the
volume of air, one was amplified using the aperture of
the mouth. Both field observations of professional
Tuvan singers and personal practice seem to verify
this. [BD]

15 - Tuvan Folk Music A.N. Aksenov Asian Music IV, 1973

I've been unable to confirm the existence of this book,
or even find out what language it has been published
in. It was listed as one of several books being
auctioned by a specialist in antique books.

16 - The Choomij of Mongolia: a Spectral Analysis of Overtone
Singing R. Walcot Selected Reports in Ethnomusicology 2, 1974

17 - The Land In The Heart Of Asia Vladimir Semenov and Marina
Kilunovskaia Bronze Horseman Literary Agency (1995) 70-52 Olcott
Street Forest Hills, NY 11375

$22, 112 pages, 72 color illustrations. Bronze Age,
Neolithic, and Scythian artifacts from excavations in

18 - Unknown Mongolia: A Record of Travel and Exploration in
North-West Mongolia and Dzungaria Douglas Carruthers Hutchinson &
Co., 1914.

``Unknown Mongolia'' is an enormous two-volume tome
based on British geographer Douglas Carruthers'
20-month journey and mapping expedition through what is
now Tuva and Mongolia. The first volume is almost all
about Tuva. Carruthers was literally charting uncharted
territory. The stated intent of the journey was as a
geographic expedition. Carruthers set out to map the
territory and investigate its geology, flora and fauna.
The result is a fascinating and highly informative
account, written in the somewhat overblown, erudite
manner typical of the aristocrats who were members of
the Royal Geographic Society.

Despite his understandably "Orientalist" approach,
Carruthers for the most part manages to avoid the
judgmental condescension of many other British
explorers. His account of the indigenous people and
their ways of life is sensitive and respectful, and his
painstaking attention to detail is rendered more with
refreshing candor and wide-eyed wonder than with the
bored skepticism of some of the other British travel
accounts of the period. It's informative, entertaining,
readable, and full of vivid geographic and ethnographic
detail. [Review by Brian Donahoe.]

Booksellers list a 1994 edition of this book (ISBN
8120608577) with a price in the $40 (US) range - much
better than the rare 1914 edition.

19 - Open Lands: Travels Through Russia's Once Forbidden Places
Mark Taplin Steerforth Press, 1998, ISBN 1-883642-87-6

In 1992, when the doors to formerly forbidden areas of
the Soviet Union were opened, Taplin visited seven
newly accessible cities and regions. One chapter is
devoted to Tuva; the chapter is an interesting read,
the highlight being his run-in with Mongush
Kenin-Lopsang. Taplin has an eye for detail and
provides generous descriptions of the situations he's
encountered; his Tuvan chapter doesn't include much on
aspects of Tuvan tradition or day-to-day life but does
provide much insight on the legacies of the Soviet

20 - Books by Lev Nikolayevich Gumilev (1912-1992)

Several Russians have reported that they first became
interested in Tuva through the works (in Russian) of
this author. Some titles of interest are "Hunnu in
China" "Ancient Turkic people".


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