I walked by this statue of Lenin yesterday morning.


Over the next six hours I heard two different stories of prostitution in the shadow of Lenin, (one a hilarious story of a Finnish tattoo artist who was mugged while picking up a Russian prostitute which is a bit elaborate for me to recap here) and a third person tell me the punchline : "Lenin was put there to watch over the prostitutes."

I had some time to kill before meeting with some musicians so I went to the Choijin Lama temple, which is really in the heart of the city. It is one of the few that was destroyed by the communists, in aprt because it was already a museum at the time. Quite a beautiful spot. The wall in front was built to keep out the evils of the Manchus coming up from the South.


The inside of the temple is filled with some seriously terrifying Buddhist imagery, including a ceiling of flayed bodies and decapitated heads, and some silk tapestries of the same.


I spent the rest of the day with a morin khuur played named Milo who seemed to know absolutely everybody in the city. In short order I met all of the major composers (Juntsannorov and Iderbat, to start), throat singers, and morin khuur players who were walking around, hanging around the Palace Theatre, or in morin khuur shops. It is not unusual to see people carrying morin khuur around the city in all directions, of all ages. Milo is studying with B. Togtokhjargal, the 2nd ranked morin khuur player in Mongolia, who in turn studied with the top ranked player in the Mongolia. I am to see Togtokhjargal playing tonight and very much looking forward to that.

Here is Milo playing with Iderbat sitting next to him. Milo plays old timey long songs, and after each one Iderbat complimented his playing, it was quite impressive.



Iderbat really had presence, he projected authority and mastery just sitting and speaking, it is hard to relay it but was a palpable feeling while talking to him,

The role of composers of morin khuur music is something I am going to be exploring in greater detail while I am here. I ate with Munkh-Erdene and some other anthropologists from the National University of Mongolia last night and he insisted very storngly that there are no musical sustainability issues in Mongolia given the institutional structures for training the young, and it certainly is clear that there are no lack of players or venues or shows.

One of the really interesting things that emerged from dinner was a comment from David Sneath, (who is perhaps the most prominent Mongolia expert in the world and of limitless interest) regarding the soundscape of the nomadic life, which has not been really captured and studied in the same way that musical expression has. He described his experiences living with nomads and the sounds. What was really interesting was his descriptions of the sounds made to horses was different from Munkh-Erdene, who grew up in the country in a different region. So the soundscape of daily life and its regional variants seems simply fascinating, and definitely something to think about for a future project here.

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