Christian Mason (*1984) Tuvan Songbook
[2vl,va,vc] 2016/2020 Duration: 19'
World premiere of the original version: London/UK, May 10, 2016
World premiere of the string orchestra version: Clermont-Ferrand/France, October 8, 2020
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It was the practice of Khöömii (throat singing) – following several workshops with Michael Ormiston – that first attracted me to Tuvan music. Composing this “Songbook,” the first in a series commissioned by the Ligeti Quartet, I took the chance to reflect on compositional questions around transcription and arrangement of existing music, and frequently found myself asking: where is the boundary between the source material and the new substance? Of course the relationship varies from piece to piece, and moment to moment: sometimes we seem to glimpse the pure source, but most of the time there are differing degrees of distance, working towards or away from it. This new version for string orchestra corresponds closely to the original quartet version, with an additional part for double basses.
The traditional Tuvan songs that I have transcribed and recomposed are all known to me from the Ay Kherel CD The Music of Tuva: Throat Singing and Instruments from Central Asia (2004, Arc Music). According to the notes from that CD, this is what the songs are about:
1. Dyngylday: “If you have come on a horse in blue, it doesn’t mean that you are the best. My heart tells me something else: my sweetheart doesn’t have such a beautiful horse, but he is my darling.”
An alternative interpretation from Alash Ensemble (alashensemble.com): “The word dyngylday is a nonsense term with no translation. The song makes good-humored fun of somebody for being a good-for-nothing.”
2. Eki Attar (“The Best Steeds”): “The horse is the basis of our life. It is a magic creature. Even its step is full of music and rhythm. You may not be a horse rider, but when you hear this song you will always remember horses.”
3. Kuda Yry: “This wedding song glorifies the strength of the groom and the beauty of his Horse.”
4. Ezir-Kara (‘Black Eagle’): “This was the name of a horse, who became a legend through his remarkable strength and speed.”
It is not just overtones that abound here: there are galloping rhythms aplenty, and though I am no horse rider I tried to keep the horses galloping in my imagination while composing these pieces.
Christian Mason (with quotes from Ay Kherel and Alash Ensemble)
|2. Eki Attar|
|3. Kudy Yry|