Статья 'По следам русских ученых Тувинской народной музыки' - журнал 'PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal' - NotaBene.ru
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PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal

Following the Footsteps of Russian Tuvian Folk Music Scientists

Kyrgys Zoya Kyrgysovna

Doctor of Art History

Chief Researcher, International Academy "Khoomei''

667000, Russia, Republic of Tyva, Kyzyl, Lenin str., 7, room 204

Other publications by this author

Ondar Bady-Dorzhu Vladimirovich

Director, GBU RT "International Academy “Khoomei”

667000, Russia, Republic of Tyva, Kyzyl, ul. Lenin 7,, 7, of. 2nd floor

Other publications by this author










Abstract: This article aims to highlight the significance of song folklore recordings when documenting the scientific heritage of the first scientists and researchers of Tuvan musical folklore—A. N. Aksenov and E. V. Gippius—during the period 1927 to 1965. The methodological basis consists of the principles of historical continuity, objectivity, a holistic approach to the analysis of the history of the development of traditional Tuvan vocal music and the prospects for its development. The study of folk music is inextricably linked with the development of professional art. Currently, the works of visiting Soviet composers, melodically associated with Tuvan folklore, are practically not performed in the repertoire of concert programs of creative collectives of the city of Kyzyl. One of the main obstacles to their further application is the absence of these works in the curricula in music educational institutions. The issues of the prospects for the use of preserved sources in the digital archive of the Academy "Xөөmei" are analyzed. The question is raised about the need to create a single institutional repository of works and materials on the work of Russian specialists, musicologists, and scientists who studied the musical culture of Tuvinians in the Soviet period. Modern Tuvan musical folklore was largely based on the results of Aksenov's research, whose activities served as the main reference point for the study of Tuvan folk music and contributed to the flourishing of Tuvan musical art in Tuva.


Aksenov, Gippius, Katanov, ethnomusicology, Tuvan khomei, performing traditions, Tuvan folk music, researchers of Tuva, scientific biography, scientific archives

The creativity of Russian specialists in Tuvan folk songwriting occupies a significant place in the musical culture of Tuva. In the 1940s and ‘50s, representatives of the Soviet intelligentsia played a great role in developing Tuvan musical theater and creative teams of poets, writers, composers, actors, and researchers. Their musical heritage left a bright page in the development of musical creativity and scientific musicological thought in the Republic. It made a major scientific contribution to the study of the national art of Tuvans and neighboring peoples of the Altai-Sayan region.

In addition to composing, they have carried out a large number of works on musical transcriptions of traditional Tuvinian music recordings. Unfortunately, the musical side of Tuvan folk songs and throat singing, particularly in Tuva itself, remains out of research attention. The melodies of the songs of folklore melos are transmitted by the inner ear, subjectively, by the compositional method. The very problem of the method of fixing the spectrum of special, timbre-colored, overtone, in fact, sounds in the entire audible range of throat singing in the linear notation of the pan-European tradition of the musical system continues to be debatable.

Let us name the names of researchers—A. N. Aksenov since 1943, E. V. Gippius since 1927—who laid the foundations for future research of Tuvan folk music and folk songs of Tuva. Tuvan folk songs are extremely interesting and, at the same time, difficult genres of this singing tradition among the people, especially the Tuvan throat singing of khoomei, which can be attributed to ancient times, having a certain musical structure, a strictly developed poetic form. Traditional choruses existed in Tuvan folklore in the pre-revolutionary period, songs and choruses—further yry and kozhamyk, and songs that folk singers constantly formed from the stage. The collection and recording of Tuvan folk songs were carried out in pre-revolutionary Russia. Since 1889, N. F. Katanov recorded and published more than four hundred and eight Tuvan yry and kozhamyk. The composer A. N. Aksenov began to engage in extensive and purposeful research of song folklore in the Soviet era. He created creative portraits and analyzed the features of the musical language, the specifics of the interpretation of genres, and the problem of staging performances in the studio theater. Thus, the beginning of the musical and scientific research of yra and kozhamyk, which existed among the people in those years, was laid. Aksenov's activity in Tuva began in the 1940s when he was seconded by the Committee for the Arts under the SNK of the USSR at the request of the TNR Government for one year to Tuva for creative and musical-pedagogical work. To train personnel in theatrical art, as there were no professional specialists in Tuva in those years, Aksenov was engaged in teaching and taught theoretical subjects at the musical theater school of the city of Kyzyl (at that time, it was called "studio theater"). "The teaching of musical disciplines was limited to elementary theory, solfeggio, choral singing, training on folk musical instruments and classes in an orchestra created from these instruments by conductor R. G. Mironovich" [1, p. 225].

At that time, folk instruments included in orchestral sound were partially preserved after political repression in the TNR at the turn of the 1920s and 1930s, some in their traditional form, even "reconstructed by a talented Tuvan master Olchimey, who used for this purpose a valuable collection of Tuvan folk musical instruments collected in the studio" [1, p. 226]. He worked with folk artists who had not lost their connection with their native nomads, where they were from. One of the most important things Aksenov managed to do during his work in the Tuvan theater studio was create a real folklore community. Along with teaching, Aksenov paid great attention to the popularization of musical folklore, being a permanent consultant to the Committee for the Arts under the Council of Ministers of the TNR. As Aksenov writes [1, p. 225] in his research, up to that time, he had not been engaged in musical and folklore work and was not even prepared for it. He had friendly relations with Tuvan poets and writers who assisted him in recording the words of Tuvan songs and introduced him to the way of life, ethnography, and Tuvan folklore, genres of Tuvan song art, and the content of songs. His first teachers in song folklore were Tuvan writers, poets, and scientists: S. Saryg-ool, S. Purby, A. Kalzan, and A. Palmbakh—one of the founders of the Tuvan alphabet. Especially in his memory remained the writer S. Saryg-ool, the author of many poems, as a versatile, educated, gifted poet, as Aksenov writes about him in his afterword. He was surprised by the lively, irrepressible interest of beginning Tuvan writers, artists, and poets in the life, everyday life, and culture of their native people. For example, he also noted the observation of the playwright Viktor Kok-ool, whose mother was a shaman. Aksenov constantly mentions the names of artists widely known throughout Tuva, Maxim Monguzhukovich Munzuk (actor in the main role of the movie Dersu Uzala) and his wife Kara-kys Nomzatovna Munzuk, originally from Tanda Hoshun. She was famous as an outstanding performer of Tuvan folk songs, thanks to which she was lucky enough to get a brief but succinct description of herself: "Kara-Kys Munzuk has not only an amazingly beautiful voice and a pronounced performing personality, she has an excellent command of the Tuvan folk singing style, and is a true master of folk song art" [1, p. 228]. Valuable samples of folk songs and folk instrumental music were reported to him by the studio Nikolai Olzey-ool, Ondar Kombu. Until now, the nicknames of the skilled singers with whom A. N. Aksenov worked have remained in the people: "Yrlaar Maadyr-ool," "Yrlaar Kombu," "Khomeileer Soruktu," who possessed a high baritonal tenor of a soft timbre, skillfully owning a virtuoso style of varying song tunes. Such keen observation and education of the researcher, love of art, singing, and life of other people cannot but admire. The most active collectors of Tuvan folk songs in the 1950s and 1960s were actors, especially writers, and composers. Thus, the beginning of collecting and publishing Tuvan folk songs was laid.

For Aksenov, the studio theater was primarily a creative laboratory for studying artists' performing techniques and styles known in Tuvan musical folklore. With his students, he taught how to master vocal and instrumental folk performance by learning from recognized masters of classical art. With all the originality and specificity of national traditions of folk music on its melodic richness, he managed to create real masterpieces that do not fade over time, in which the finest fleeting moods in the presented palette of musical and expressive means have acquired new unique outlines.

Aksenov spoke with special gratitude to his scientific supervisor E. V. Gippius for his invaluable advice, constant help in his work, and familiarization with Tuva, a beautiful land with amazing music.

According to Aksenov, gifted musical youth from different regions of Tuva were gathered in the studio theater: folk singers and instrumentalists are living carriers of folk song art. During his work, he became increasingly familiar with Tuva, and soon he had the opportunity to see and feel all the delights of the ethnographic life of its people. He traveled for artistic service with concerts of the acting team to the districts of Tes-Hem, Erzin. The more he looked at the surrounding nature, the more Tuva conquered him with its beauty. He recalled with excitement how one day after a concert in a field camp, during one of the concerts in the open air in the steppe in the village of Moren, a local older man approached him and asked to perform at the end of the program. He turned out to be well-known throughout Tuva—an outstanding performer of solo two-voice throat singing khomei, Kyrgyz Soruktu. In 1934, the Moscow Recording Factory recorded several throat singing pieces from his voice on gramophone records. Having an absolute hearing, Aksenov immediately notified the performance of Soruktu. As Aksenov describes the performer Soruktu: "The manner of his performance is distinguished by the amazing clarity, strength, and purity of the melodic sounds, which he never breaks, but flows in a continuous stream. He takes the basic ostinato sound of throat singing softly, sonorously, in a timbre reminiscent of a bassoon in a low register. The composition of the musical pieces he performed impresses with the chiseled form; he is a true master, a virtuoso" [1, p. 227]. The musical transcriptions of his performance were presented in the monograph under № 66, 69, 70, 73, 66 ( b) [1, p. 173, p. 177, p. 179, p. 186, p. 223]. Not having a recording device with him, without the help of which the musical fixation of throat singing is almost impossible. Nevertheless, he recorded the voice of Soruktu Kyrgyz and "an excerpt of one of the pieces he performed." As Professor E. V. Gippius [2] writes in the preface to the book Tuvan Folk Music: "Aksenov was an excellent master of notation of sound recordings. He had not only a strikingly accurate and subtle hearing but also the ability to sensitively grasp the finest shades of nationally peculiar forms of folk music, its fret and rhythmic structure." All his works were provided with subscript translations into Russian and information about the informants from whom the texts and singing were recorded.

A series of articles on Tuvan music reflected the breadth of Aksenov's scientific outlook. His extensive encyclopedic knowledge of the music of different peoples allowed Aksenov to repeatedly act as a reviewer of theatrical orchestral works. His reviews were never formal. They were the first to express many of the scientist's ideas, which are of great interest and relevance today.

He wrote a number of cycles: "Tuvan Rhapsody for Orchestra," "Music for the Tuvan circus group." A number of works on Tuvan folk themes by Aksenov were written in 1943–1944, music for a theatrical production in the Tuvan People's Republic "Tuvan dances," "Twelve Tuvan songs for voice and piano" [4–5]. Music for the chronicle-documentary film about Tuva "Beyond the Sayan Ridge" 1953–54, etc.

In addition, having outstanding technical knowledge and abilities (his father and brother were Soviet scientific engineers), Aksenov was quite knowledgeable of radio engineering; he was one of the most famous Soviet amateur short-wave artists, which also proved useful for the practice of his musical and folklore work; according to his confession, he had copies of all musical and folklore recordings of the Kyzyl radio [3].

The results of his scientific work in Tuva were presented at scientific and practical conferences, the ideological inspirer and permanent leader of which was an outstanding scientist and ethnomusicologist of world renown, Prof. Gippius. In the publication of the book Tuvan Folk Music, Gippius acted as a supervisor, editor, and author of the preface when Aksenov, unfortunately, passed away early after a serious illness. In 1946, in parallel with teaching at the Conservatory, Gippius resumed research work at the Institute of Ethnography of the USSR Academy of Sciences. Propagandizing the best samples of Russian folk songs in the pre-war years, he also collected and researched Tuvan folk songs, such as "Kaigamchyktyg International" (Marvelous International), "Ulug-Hem" (Great River) and others recorded earlier with his wife Z. Ewald with the voices of Tuvan students O. Mandaraa and S. Serekey. These materials remained in district artists' amateur songs repertoire for a long time. In 1983, the musical community celebrated Gippius' 80th birthday, in connection with which a scientific conference was held at the Leningrad Institute of Theater, Music and Cinema, where many of his friends and students gathered—one of them was his student Z. K. Kyrgyz—Tuvan researcher and ethnomusicologist. This was the last scientific forum with the participation of a scientist.

To date, it is necessary to continue a comprehensive study of the methodology of Aksenov's research, the folk song art of Tuvinians in interrelations with geographical, historical, ethnographic data, the peculiarities of the way of life and lifestyle of nomadic pastoralists, labor processes, customs of the people. The observations of Aksenov and Gippius contain information concerning the differences in the musical folklore of the Altaians, Khakas, as well as the related features of the music of the Tuvans with other Turkic peoples.

In the fundamental work of Aksenov, "Tuvan Folk Music," the chapters are ordered by structure and united by a common orientation. His experience in the study of melodics, rhythmics, and traditional forms of Tuvan folk songs covers 1) characteristic melodic turns and forms of melodic movement; 2) modal forms of Tuvan music; 3) determination of the features of Tuvan versification, the ratio of the rhythm of verse and melody, the main musical and stylistic patterns, the rhythmic organization of traditional and modern Tuvinian songs; 4) identification of new features of Tuvian song folklore that developed during the Soviet period, and its genre differentiation and systematization; 5) about the song and folk art "yrlar" and "kozhamyk" and their research tasks; 6) information about Tuvan traditional instruments and their distribution by the middle of the twentieth century.

The main differences in his work on Tuvan folk songs are 1) During the entire first period of study, Tuvan folk songs were recorded not in the village, but in the city, while mostly not from ordinary Arats but from subtle connoisseurs and lovers of songs from among the Tuvan intelligentsia; 2) The melodies of ancient songs were recorded in the style the urban population performed them, and not in the villages; 3) It should be noted that the first collections demonstrate a theoretical understanding of the original national form of the songs and the presence of a chanted verse of a long Tuvan song, with all the characteristic features, with repetitions, word breaks, inserts of individual connecting particles, etc.

In general, it is difficult to overestimate the importance of Aksenov's work collecting and studying Tuvinian musical folklore. His musical recordings of traditional songs were submitted to the Shchepkin VTU Music Fund at Gippius' request; at that time, the degree of their readiness for publication left much to be desired, as there were no relevant theoretical specialists on Tuvan music. Besides this, the lack of funding significantly hindered his case study and legacy. It should be recognized that the work of the first musicologists of Tuvan singing and two-voice has not been studied deeply enough, and attention has not been paid to Russian scientists who contributed to the development of the actor's profession in the cultural life of Kyzyl during the war and post-war years of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, there are white spots in many sources, which indicates an irreparable loss of data in the early materials of these researchers.

All of the above factors certainly influenced the formation of a new artistic consciousness in Tuva in those years. Folk songs with a new thematic content, conditioned by the general trends of that time, met the requirements of the situation and the adaptation of society to Soviet realities and, as a result, reflected folklore's ability to quickly transform and respond to events in folk life.

1. Aksenov, A. N. (1964). Tuvan folk music: materials and research. In A. N. Aksyonov (Ed.) & E. V. Gippiusa (forward) [Tuvan folk music]. – M.: Music. p. 238.
2. Gippius, E. V. (1964). Editor’s preface Tuvan folk music. In A. N. Aksenov (Ed.) Tuvan folk music, (p.7).
3. Aksenov A. N. (1959). Tuvan folk songs for vocal accompanied by piano. Soviet Composer, p. 39.
4. Aksenov, A. N. (1960). Tuvan folk music. Soviet Composer, 4. pp. 111–121.
5. Aksenov, A. N. (1959). Suite on Tuvan themes of folk songs for the orchestra of Russian folk instruments. Muzgiz, p. 48.
6. Bernandt, G. B., YAmpol'skij, I. M. & Aksenov, A. N. (1978). Soviet Composer & Musicology, 1, p. 19.
7. Karelina, E. K. (2005). To the question of the development of the musical and cultural tradition in Tuva in the period of modern history. In E. K. Karelina (Ed.), Education culture and humanitarian studies of Eastern Siberia and the North at the beginning of the twenty-first week. Proceedings of the International Scientific Symposium. Ulan-Ude: VSGAKI, pp. 5–10.
8. Kyrgys, Z. K. (1992). Tuvan song culture of Tuvan people. Kyzyl: Tuv. kn. izd., p. 17.
9. Mongush, A. D-B. (2009). Tuvan song folklore: manuscripts. Novosibirsk, pp. 121–154.
10. Music encyclopedia. (1973). 1, p. 83.
11. Musical encyclopedic dictionary. (1991). p. 23.
12. Orekhovaya tajga: Tuvan folk song. (1971). In A. Aksenova (Ed.) Taiga Full of Cedar Nuts, pp. 90–93
13. Suzukej, V. YU. (1989). Tuvan folk instruments. Kyzyl, p. 7.
14. Aksenov, A. N. (1998). Ringing tenderness. In A. N. Aksenov (Ed.) Music of the Peoples of Northeast and Central Asia. Ulan-Ude, pp. 43–64.
15. Malkoc, T. & Celik, S. (2020). Khoomei singing style in Tuvan Turks. Eurasian Journal of International Studies, 8 (23), 58–74. https://doi.org/10.33692/avrasyad.735271

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To the journal "PHILHARMONICA. International Music Journal" the author presented his article "In the footsteps of Russian scientists of Tuvan folk music", which conducted a study of scientific papers devoted to the study of Tuvan musical culture. However, the title of the article is incorrect from the point of view of stylistics and irrelevant to its content. In fact, in the article the author gives an overview only of the scientific activities of the musicologist A.N. Aksenov (although the bibliographic list includes the works of other authors). The author should clarify the wording of the title of his article. The author proceeds in studying this issue from the fact that the work of Russian specialists in Tuvan folk songwriting occupies a significant place in the musical culture of Tuva. In the 40-50s of the XX century, representatives of the Soviet intelligentsia played a major role in the development of the Tuvan musical theater studio and creative teams of poets, writers, composers, actors, researchers. According to the author, their musical heritage left a bright page in the development of musical creativity and scientific musicological thought in the Republic, made a major scientific contribution to the study of national art not only of Tuvinians, but also of neighboring peoples of the Sayano-Altai region. At the same time, the author acknowledges that the work of the first musicologists of Tuvan singing and two-voice has not been studied deeply enough, attention has not been paid to Russian scientists who contributed to the development of the actor's profession in the cultural life of Kyzyl in the war and post-war years of the XX century. In many sources, the author notes the lack of data, which indicates the irreparable loss of early research materials. In addition, as the author notes, the musical side of Tuvan folk songs and throat singing, in particular, in Tuva itself remains outside the research attention. The melodies of the songs of folklore melos are transmitted by internal hearing, subjectively, by the compositional method, and the very problem of the method of fixing the spectrum of special, timbre-colored, overtone, in essence, sounds in the entire audible range of throat singing in the linear notation of the pan-European tradition of the musical system continues to be debatable. A deeper study and analysis of this issue constitutes the relevance and scientific novelty of the study. The theoretical basis of the research was the works of such art historians as A.N. Aksenov, E.K. Karelin, A. D.B. Mongush, Z.K. Kyrgyz et al. The methodological basis of the work is biographical and bibliographic analysis. The purpose of the study, according to the author, is to review the scientific activities of scientists who have devoted their research to the study of Tuvan ethnic music. In the article, the author provides information on the traditional musical culture of Tuva, the peculiarities of folk works and performing style. The author pays special attention to the facts of the biography of the Soviet composer and musicologist A.N. Aksenov, who initiated the musical and scientific research of the genres of the Tuvan song tradition yrlar and kozhamyk. The author describes his research and teaching activities in the Republic of Tuva since the early 40s of the twentieth century, as well as his role both in stimulating the collection and publication of Tuvan folk songs of Tuva, and in founding the studio of the Tuvan theater. In the article, the author presents a detailed overview of the scientific and compositional activities of A.N. Aksenov. The author noted his musical works "Tuvan Rhapsody for orchestra", "Music for the Tuvan Circus group" music for theatrical productions, for the chronicle-documentary film about Tuva "Beyond the Sayan Ridge". The author also analyzes the fundamental scientific work of A.N. Aksenov "Tuvan folk music", created under the guidance of the famous ethnomusicologist E.V. Gippius. Based on the results of his research, the author concludes that it is necessary to continue a comprehensive study of the research methodology of A. N. Aksenov, the folk song art of Tuvinians in interrelationships with geographical, historical, ethnographic data, peculiarities of everyday life and way of life, labor processes, and customs of the people. The special importance and significance of the research of A.N. Aksenov and E.V. Gippius, in the author's opinion, lies in the fact that they contain information concerning differences in the musical folklore of the Altaians, Khakas, as well as related features of Tuvan music with other Turkic peoples. It seems that the author in his material touched upon relevant and interesting issues for modern socio-humanitarian knowledge, choosing a topic for analysis, consideration of which in scientific research discourse will entail certain changes in the established approaches and directions of analysis of the problem addressed in the presented article. The results obtained allow us to assert that the study of the traditional musical culture of a certain people is of undoubted scientific and practical cultural and art criticism significance. The obtained material can serve as a basis for further research within the framework of this issue. The material presented in the work has a clear, logically structured structure that contributes to a more complete assimilation of the material. This is also facilitated by an adequate choice of an appropriate methodological framework. The bibliographic list of the study consists of 15 sources, which seems sufficient for the generalization and analysis of scientific discourse on the subject under study. The author fulfilled his goal, received certain scientific results that allowed him to summarize the material. It should be stated that the article may be of interest to readers and deserves to be published in a reputable scientific publication after the specified flaw has been eliminated.
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