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tv   DW News  LINKTV  May 5, 2016 2:00pm-2:31pm PDT

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(male narrator) one of the most universal of all human pursuits is the creation of music. [lilting flute music] from birth to death, music defines, describes, and accompanies us on our journey through life. (man) music is like food. every human being needs food, but everybody eats different food. [rock music] food that americans eat is really strange to people in other parts of the world. some of the food that other people eat would make an american sick to his stomach. but everybody needs food. [sticks clacking] [cultural music montage]
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what is music? well, from a scientific point of view, it's the organization of sound. [classical music] (woman) it's a language without words, and the reason for language is to communicate and the reason for music is to communicate. (woman) depending on what you want to express, it can be hundreds of different things.
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(man) music is the essence of the creator, the entire universe. in my case, it's the sounds that i make with my violin. there are people who go, "that's not music." music is music if someone thinks it's music. you can't put it in a box and say, "this is music." it's all these wonderful abstract things brought together. you can think about it and rationalize it and express it and explain it. that's all afterwards. it gets you on an emotional level first. (narrator) while music seems to exist in every human society, its meaning and role differ from culture to culture.
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but the physical laws of sound are universal. at the root of all sound is vibration. [bell tolling] not only the root of all music is vibration, but in some sense, perhaps, the root of everything is vibration. everything is moving all the time. the earth is moving. the sun is moving. on the earth, the waves are beating against the shore. everything which is, is vibration. in order to have a sound, you need a physical object which vibrates, whether it's a cello or a speaker in a radio, you need a medium to carry that vibration. typically, it's air, and finally we need an ear, an ear drum, and a brain to turn it into something that's meaningful to a human being. [flute plays] the simplest sort of sound is called a sine wave,
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and i can display that sound on an oscilloscope. of course in nature, nothing is so simple as that. there isn't just one sine wave happening at one moment. actually, there are many sine waves all adding and subtracting. when you listen to a sound, when you listen to a musical note, you hear several things. [flute music continues] you hear the basic note, but you also hear some overtones that are generated. (man) the overtone series is really quite simple. behind every acoustically generated tone, there is a series of other tones which are happening simultaneously, and this series of tones extends above what we call the fundamental tone, and what we call the fundamental tone
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is usually the tone we can identify and sing back. ♪ silent night, ♪ holy night, (shapiro) when you begin to talk about the notes of music, you have to talk about different parts to those sounds. every musical sound has four parameters. it has its pitch, and we've been looking at pitch in terms of the frequency of the sine wave or the fundamental. it has its pitch-- how high or low is the sound? it has its amplitude-- how loud or soft is the sound? it has its timbre-- how complex or simple, how many overtones go into making up this sound, and what is their relationship and proportions? and it has its duration-- how long does the sound last? if i, as a composer, write a piece, it's decisions about those four parts of each note
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that really determine which note goes where, how long it is, how high it is, how it relates to the other notes. and now we're really talking about music more than about sound per se. [orchestra plays] (narrator) in western societies, people define music in terms of its basic structural elements: melody, rhythm, timbre, harmony, and texture. however, not all cultures see music in this way. (brown) most cultures around the world-- there's no word for music. our word music comes from the greeks, and it's something that's used in european culture, and it's used in arabic culture. so of course there's no word for melody, for rhythm, for harmony, for texture, for chord, for any of the other terms that we commonly use
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in the united states and europe to talk about music. but if you want to make comparisons across cultures, you need some kind of terminology to use. (narrator) a melody is a succession of pitches. it can be composed like the melody of a song, or it can be improvised like a solo in a jazz performance. rhythm refers to the time element in music such as the steady pulse of australian aboriginal clapsticks. rhythm can also be free without a regular beat
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like the solo shakuhachi music of japan. [resonating, airy pitches] timbre is the tone color of a musical sound. the same pitch sounds different when it is played on different instruments. this is because each instrument has its own unique timbre. harmony refers the simultaneous sounding of two or more notes. [ensemble playing early music] composers of western classical music have developed
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a detailed harmonic system rooted in the musical practices of medieval europe. texture is the way all of these elements are combined into a musical fabric. textures can be complex, like the overlapping rhythms of a west african drumming ensemble... or as simple as the sound of a single human voice.
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we can analyze and compare different musics by looking at their basic elements, but music itself also exists as an element in the cultural life of every society. (levin) the environment can influence music in both conscious and unconscious ways. for instance in the west, the argument has been made that a lot of the dissonant music that arose at the beginning of the century was a result or a reaction to the noisiness of industrialization, and the dissonance of modern civilization-- that it was a reflection of social dissonance, in a way, in sound. [dissonant orchestra music]
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(slobin) if we use the word environment to relate to music, we're talking about two things: a physical environment and a social environment. in the case of highlander people in bosnia singing together, the two are pretty much inseparable. (narrator) in a mountainous region of bosnia herzegovina close to sarajevo, a sheep herding community has developed a unique singing style known as ganga. this genre, which is primarily sung outdoors in groups, closely reflects the conditions and life style
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of the highlander commity. in bosnian highlander culture, specifically in mt. bjelasnica, people will spend a lot of time outdoors since it's the herding culture. they will spend a lot of time up in the hills all alone looking down into the valley. and if somebody's passing through the valley, they certainly want to be heard. [singing ganga] it is very important to conquer that space with your voice. in terms of finding a genre that will carry the furthest, it's definitely a genre called ganga. and this particular type of singing is characterized by very close harmonies, so voices are close
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to each other and they somehow acoustically clash off of each other, but that enables the sound to travel further. when i first got to medlo fair, which is the occasion on the mountain when everybody gathers in one place and the singing happens everywhere, it's just absolutely astonishing. but when i first got there, i was somewhat frustrated because that was my first really independent field work, and i really wanted to get nice recordings and wanted to get nice cuts, and it was just impossible. for a while, i was running around from one group to the other. you could never tell when is somebody going to sing.
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they're just standing there. and suddenly, somebody just breaks into a song, and i would not even get a chance to click my record button. and then suddenly, it occurred to me this is really what is attractive about this type of singing. it's not there to be performed. it's there to express something. (narrator) another singing style which reflects highlander culture is called becarac. (lausevic) in patriarchal highlander culture, men and women do not sing together.
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singing is a very important part of courtship rituals and people will start singing at a very early age, but not in public. they will sing out in meadows. they will sing up in the hills. they will sing away from the adults. so it often happens that, for example, a group of girls, when they feel ready for courtship and for marriage subsequently, they will suddenly one night decide to start a song in the village. and it's almost like an initiation rite. the becarac that we sang is called "shining star," and i can tell you the story of how i first encountered that particular becarac.
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it was a fairly cold but extremely clear summer night. they're these girls that start singing, "shining stars, does any of you know "where my darling is tonight? "shining stars wandering through the sky, on the earth, my darling and i." these girls were singing about the boyfriend or potential boyfriend of one of the women that started the song. and i've been looking at them and in this environment where you are really surrounded by nothing but the stars. it suddenly made so much sense and became so clear, this connection that people find with what is closest to them.
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and in that case, it was the stars. and also this fact that there is nobody else that you can ask but the stars was somehow very poetic and in a way, very symbolic of their experience of the environment. (narrator) just as music is an integral part of culture, it may be intimately linked to the natural world. and in many cases, it is perceived as a powerful bridge to the supernatural or divine. (levin) in tuva, music has always served as a medium through which people
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implace themselves in landscapes, in soundscapes. tuvans are animists. that is, they believe that the world is inhabited by spirits and that humankind can make contact with those spirits, can make offerings to them by imitating the sounds of the places or the things in which those spirits live. hoo, hoo, hoo hoo, hoo, hoo tuvans love to imitate sounds. the reason they do this is because they believe that by imitating some sound, they can literally implace themselves-- put themselves in that being or thing. merroooo maew, meooowwww
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(levin) tuva sits on just the northwest border of mongolia. politically, it's part of russia. it's a small place and its people have always been herders. they herd sheep, yak, goats, and when you live all of the time with animals, you develop a very close relationship with the animals. and so there's actually many forms of music that are used to interact with animals. they're part of the environment. horses occupy a central place in the life of tuvans and there's a lot of music that's also related to horses in different ways. first of all, the instruments-- they're made of horses. the igil for instance, the two string fiddle, is made from the skin of a horse,
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which is on the head of the instrument. the strings are made from horse gut. the bow is made from horse hair and, in fact, a lot of the music that's performed on that instrument is about horses. there's a legend about a horse that dies and goes to heaven. and the owner of the horse hears the voice of his beloved animal coming to him from the heavens. and the horse tells him to build this instrument, the igil, and to play a tune. and that when that tune is played, he will come down from the heavens. and so tuvans listen carefully to the sounds that are all around them in their natural environment, and they imitate these.
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in some cases, they imitate them very precisely and that's a kind of imitation that i would call iconic imitation. and in other cases, the imitation is aesthetically processed, aestheticised. for instance, if you hear a crow and you make a crow sound, that's iconic imitation. but if you hear water, it's hard to make a sound that's exactly like water. and what they do is that they kind of fantasize on the sound of water. and they use this remarkable technique that's become known in the west as throat singing, to imitate the sound of water for instance. and not only to imitate it but to interact with it. traditionally, what singers did was to stand by a stream
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or sit by a stream and sing to the spirit of the stream. and our work in tuva is an attempt to capture this whole relationship between humankind and the natural world through this kind of music. in throat singing, which the tuvans call khoomei, and it's also called overtone singing in the west, what you're doing is selectively amplifying harmonics which are naturally present in the voice, and thus singing two pitches at the same time-- a fundamental pitch and a harmonic pitch. and i'll try to demonstrate that. [singing sample]
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this tuvan throat singing, the imitation of natural sound, i think represents a window into the dark deep past of music maybe back to the very origins of music. how did music begin? that's a big question and there is very little evidence around. but i think that this case of tuva perhaps provides some evidence of how music began. and i think it might have begun as a way of people interacting with natural sounds in just the way the tuvans do. you can see them moving for instance from these literal imitations
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to this more aestheticized artistic interpretation of a sound. you also see the dawn of the artist, because an artist is someone who has to have a kind of subjective sense of him or herself as an artist, of someone who is not simply literally imitating or reflecting what you hear, but processing it, making it one's own-- making it one's own artistic property in a way. and that's what they do.
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[low-pitched gong] [chanting] [airy flute plays] [folk violin plays] [light rock music] [singing ganga]
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funding for this program was provided by the annenberg/cpb project.
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catherine n.: it is not :00 p.m. in paris. you are watching "live from p.m. in- it is 9:00 paris. you are watching "live from paris." a new mayor for london, among a host of other elections being held all around the u.k. forces reporting a raid on a camp that is near the turkish border. we will bring you the latest.


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