Preserving Culture at Women’s Audio Mission

Aug 1, 2011 6:35 PM, By Matt Gallagher

WAM Engineers Record and Mix Traditional Mongolian Music


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photo of Ulziisaikhan Lkhagvadorjv, Jenny Thornburg, Terri Winston, Orgilsaikhan Chimeddorj

At Women’s Audio Mission, from left: Ulziisaikhan Lkhagvadorjv, engineer Jenny Thornburg, WAM founder Terri Winston, and Orgilsaikhan Chimeddorj.

In April, San Francisco–based non-profit Women's Audio Mission (WAM), dedicated to the advancement of women in music production, recorded a trio of master Mongolian musicians for a full-length album release, with funding from the Alliance for California Traditional Arts. Known as Nutgiin Ayalguu, which means “native melodies” or “melodies from home,” the trio comprises Orgilsaikhan Chimeddorj (aka Ogo), Ulziisaikhan Lkhagvadorjv (aka Ulzii) and Otgonbayar Chunsraikhachin (aka Otgo). WAM founder and chief engineer Terri Winston oversaw the tracking sessions with engineer Jenny Thornburg, while Thornburg mixed the album at WAM with Chimeddorj in May. Michael Romanowski completed mastering at his facility in early June; a release date for this album is pending.

While in the U.S., these three Mongolian musicians have educated audiences about their country’s culture, traditions and history, which have been passed down for generations through the music they play. Winston met Chimeddorj when he enrolled in her studio recording class at the City College of San Francisco, and she discovered the music as he demonstrated a Mongolian instrument called the Morin Khuur during a practice recording session. Winston became enamored with the music and recognized the importance of recording it as a means of helping to preserve Mongolian culture for future generations.

In the following Q&A, Winston details the evolution of the Nutgiin Ayalguu project, as well as the recording techniques that she and Thornburg devised, and shares its value as a reciprocal educational experience for the students of WAM and for the musicians.

What initiated the full album project? How did it come together?
It came together in stages. At City College of San Francisco, the Morin Khuur player, Ogo [Chimeddorj], shows up with this horse’s head fiddle, and I thought, “Wow, that’s really interesting.” When he played it, I was just totally blown away. He explained [that] this is the national instrument of Mongolia, and that song is a tradition that’s passed down orally: “That’s how we pass down our culture.” [Later] I was working on a film and I thought, this [instrument] might be cool in a part of the soundtrack, and it might be good if Ogo came over to the Women’s Audio Mission studio and just did something for fun. Originally it was just going to be Ogo, and then he said, “Well, I have a couple of friends, and one is this master throat singer.” And I [said], “Yeah! Bring them over!”

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