Now I am well ensconced in some UB luxury so I have a chance to post on Nunal.

Kind of unexpectedly and maybe even unfairly ensconced, I must say. Lap of luxury. The ACMS set me up with a brand new apartment belonging to one of the ACMS staff's friends, who just got the place and hasn't even moved in yet! It is a really nice place with all new and modern stuff, nice kitchen, and even high speed internet. Though there is no shortage of internet cafes around here, they seem to be at least on every block, many of them free wireless.

I was expecting something quite a bit less polished so this was a nice surprise.

This apartment is on the 10th floor right next to the Central Sport Palace (ther owner is a judo coach at the center) and very near the ACMS office and the National University of Mongolia, and about a five minute walk to Suhbaatar Sqaure. Perfect location, in other words. The view out the living room window is of the mountains south of the city, with a nice view of the Chinggis Kahn carved (or maybe inscribed?) on the hillside. (Click on the picture to see if better)



The weather here is unbelievably perfect. The morning was cool and soft, the afternoon very sunny and quite hot, though if you step into the shade it is very comfortable since the air is so dry. Really perfect for walking around, which is what I did all afternoon after giving my talk (a three hour session, so I have earned my keep a bit at least).

Here are a couple of pictures of Suhbaatar Square, check out the sky, unbelievable.




I'll take more and better ones and post them later.

Turns out the red ger in the Zanabazar museum is not actually a red ger, it is a galley called 'red ger'. But it was still great to get to talk there. And it was stylistically a ger, as so many dwellings here, no matter how modern. There is a spatiality to the ger that is replicated into all other living arrangements, and I have been told that even the most seemingly modern and stylish Mongolian adheres in some ways to traditions regarding spatiality and directionality. The great line I was told was "even Miss UB the trendsetter wears the marmot tail." This was the case of a very fashionable woman who was told by a shaman to wear a marmot tail and did so under her clothes.

My talk was sponsored by the Jamtsyn Badraa Foundation, which is named for a famous Mongolian ethnomusicologist who also happens to be the grandfather of my research sponsor here, Tsetse Bator. The audience was a mix of academics and other professors and I gather some people who are involved with the Arts Council of Mongolia. I particularly enjoyed talking with Oyuntsetseg, an ethnomusicologist specializing in the Mongolian long song. It was a lot of fun to get to talk about these topics with a bunch of interested people here.

I talked about the impacts of globalization on musical cultures, the sustainablity theory for music pioneered by Jeff Todd Titon, the possible applications and implications of it in cultural and political terms, the relative value of the Intangible Cultural Heritage designation, and other topics. Tsetse amazingly translated it all into Mongolian which is something that always amazes me, and even more so given the multi-syllabic jargon that I at times do employ when talking about this stuff.

Actually this is a great time to be considering the impact and meaning of Intangible Cultural Heritage since China just had throat singing declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of China in Inner Mongolia. As you might imagine, this did not fly well here in Mongolia.

I have a slightly better opinion of Intangible Cultural Heritage than does Titon, though I appreciate his critique that it introduces static definitions and some elements of falsity into dynamic and alive musical traditions. But I think if used as a catalyst rather than an endpoint the designation can have value. We don't have recognize it in the US but if we did I think it could have a real galvanizing effect on some of the organizations that is study in the states.

The second half of my talk was more concrete, thinking about sustainable music in terms of old time and conjunto music, and then also talking about migrant music a bit. This stuff was completely new to everybody--and I had musical examples and also played some myself--so I am sure it was a hell of a lot more interesting.

I spent the latter half the day exploring. UB is surprisingly compact, though not really walkable since the sidewalks are in very rough shape in a lot of places, or just dirt in others, and crossing the street is quite honestly terrifying. Mongolians plunge right in, walking between cars, little kids in tow, and no fear whatsoever. Cars don't stop or slow down for pedestrians, everybody gets across frogger style.

Here is a sidewalk, with open manhole. In the back you can see one of the newest buildings, a very dramatic arched buidling called the Blue Sky Tower, it isn't open yet. This is leading to a bridge over a dry riverbed that i have been told people sometimes bring their animals to graze at even in the middle of the city.


UB is laid out with two circles, with the outside of the larger circle the ger districts which ring the city.

This is a great city to be in if you are into decayed landscapes. which I am. This city is definitely decayed in parts. Even this brand new building I am in has chunks knocked out of the plaster walls and the edges of the marble stairs already. There are large garbarge piles around too. Other buildings have lots of wear too, but decades of communist rule, an unforgiving climate, and underdevelopment while grappling with the impact of neo-liberalism actually make none of this a surprise.

Check out the park at the foot of Suhbaatar Square. This is the center of UB at the foot of its most prominent official feature.




Here is a shaman's blue ger I walked past today. There was a bear skin in front of it thrown over a pile of stuff, for someone reaosn I didn't take a picture of it but will since I am sure to pass it again.




There are actually some very modern buildings and many new ones, and there is construction all over the place.

The streetscape seemed very forbidding my first day when I went out upon waking up, but only a day later I've learned to organize the spaces a bit better. There are many fewer big glass store fronts that are so common elsewhere, just walls and doors and maybe a small window, so at first it is more difficult to grasp what the places were.

I'll go take some pictures of what I mean, at the moment I have just wanted to get my bearings and also hit the ground running since my time here is so short.

Yesterday I stepped out of the hotel I stayed in for the first night and walked a few blocks before coming on a conservatory mobbed by people in front, all carrying morin khuurs (the horse headed fiddle, pronounced 'mern hor') and getting reqady for a recital. Since I am here to study music making, this was a definitely a big dose of dumb luck. Even better, in front was a garrulous American happily talking to all around him in fluent Mongolian and also carrying a morin khuur. He was rushing off somewhere but we will be neeting later. This all seemed very auspicious, especially within the first hour of my walking around, so I have high expectations about what is to come.

Here is the school:


One of the things you read is that Mongolians are not interested in forming lines, and my limited experience has definitely shown this to be the case.

Anyway, a few rambling impressions. The first thing most Mongolians I have spoken with say is "are you planning to get to the countryside?" which I do hope and plan to do. I am really excited to have so much more time to explore here and outside UB insofar as possible, but also already realizing that three weeks is not even enough to scratch the surface here.

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