Where Rivers and Mountains Sing

Where Rivers and Mountains Sing

Sound, Music, and Nomadism in Tuva and Beyond
Theodore Levin and Valentina Süzükei
Distribution: World
Publication date: 11/15/2010
Format: Paperback 41 b&w photos, 5 figures, 32 color photos, 2 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-22329-6
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Winner, 2007 ASCAP Deems Taylor Bela Bartok Award for Ethnomusicology

Theodore Levin takes readers on a journey through the rich sonic world of inner Asia, where the elemental energies of wind, water, and echo; the ubiquitous presence of birds and animals; and the legendary feats of heroes have inspired a remarkable art and technology of sound-making among nomadic pastoralists. As performers from Tuva and other parts of inner Asia have responded to the growing worldwide popularity of their music, Levin follows them to the West, detailing their efforts to nourish global connections while preserving the power and poignancy of their music traditions.

Author Bio

Theodore Levin is Professor of Music at Dartmouth College and author of The Hundred Thousand Fools of God: Musical Travels in Central Asia (and Queens, New York) (IUP, 1997).

Valentina Süzükei is Senior Academic Officer of the Tuvan Institute for Humanities Research in Kyzyl, Tuva. She is author of three books on Tuvan music, including The Musical Culture of Tuva in the Twentieth Century (in Russian).


“With a combination video DVD and music CD, this book takes readers on a journey through the rich sonic world of inner Asia, into a world of traditional music.”

“Entertaining, fascinating, and well written, it depicts important issues in the globalization of indigenous music.”
 — Marjorie Mandelstam Balzer, Georgetown University

“Thanks to his wonderful innate taste, his tremendous linguistic skills, and his curiosity and passion to share what he discovers, Ted Levin has given us a window into a world of traditional music we might never otherwise know.”
 — Yo-Yo Ma

“A vivid picture of music in inner Asia today—both the ancient traditions and the way they're rubbing up against the modern world. . . . After reading this immensely readable and thought-provoking book, you'll never listen to throat singing the same way again.”
 — Simon Broughton, editor, Songlines and Rough Guide to World Music

“No other writer could extract such a melange of philosophy, acoustics, and aesthetics from one man's vocalization over a running stream—or report with such canny insight on how that individual must negotiate his life as a 'star' in the West.”
 — Michael Church, BBC World Service

“This is a perceptive book and a comfortable read. . . . [Levin] beautifully presents his central ideas regarding the spiritual and ecological music making in Inner Asia with enchanting and captivating storytelling. . . . A welcome addition to reading this text is the accompanying CD/DVD, which includes musical examples illustrating the stories and further draws readers into the telling of his story. These audiovisual examples not only function to help in understanding the book itself but are useful for class teaching on Inner Asian music.”
 — Asian Music

“Always readable, with issues and ideas presented in an immediate style, rich in personal vignettes and ethnographic detail, and brought to life by the fabulous double-sided DVD/CD, Where Rivers and Mountains Sing is a gift for teachers and students. Winter 2009”
 — Ethnomusicology

“This is a complex, informationally-dense book that fits well into recent trends towards aural phenomena.October 15, 2008”
 — Nina Fales, Journal of Folklore Research

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Table of Contents

On Language and Pronunciation
Dramatis Personae
1. Finding the Field
Road Warriors
Reinventing Tuva
2. The World Is Alive with the Music of Sound
Musical Offerings
In a Cave
Natural Reverb
3. Listening the Tuvan Way
Timbre-Centered Music
Throat-Singing: The Ideal Timbral Art
4. Sound Mimesis
Mimesis and the Power of Representation
Hunters: The Earliest Sound Technologists?
Ludic Mimesis
Sound Mimesis and Spiritual Landscape
Sound Mimesis as Narrative
The Mimesis of Mimesis
Mimesis as Cultural Memory
5. Music, Sound, and Animals
Animal Spirits
Signaling and Singing to Animals
Listening to Animals
Animals in Music
"Animal Style" Art and Music
6. An Animist View of the World
Huun-Huur-Tu at Home
Epic Dreams
Shamans and Champagne
The Spirit of Manas
Women Are Not Supposed to Do This
The Ondar Phenomenon
Postlude: Appropriation and Its Discontents
Key to Selections on Compact Disc
Key to Selections on DVD

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