The Central Eurasian Studies Society’s annual conference convened a riveting panel hosted by the Mongolian Society on October 21, delving into the diverse musical and artistic legacies of Mongolia. Prof. Uranchimeg (Orna) Tsultem from the Herron School of Art + Design at Indiana University introduced the much-anticipated session.
Irmuun’s Eye-Opening Research: Ms. U. Irmuun presented her meticulous examination of the imperial portraits of the Yuan Dynasty. With a keen eye for Mongolian aesthetics, Irmuun contrasted these portraits with the ones from the Song and Ming dynasties, focusing on the unique features the Mongolian craftsmen brought to life. Through her in-depth analysis, she elegantly underscored how Mongolian cultural influences subtly but significantly differentiated the Yuan Dynasty’s portraits from its predecessors.
Whisnand’s Personal Journey: Whisnand, an independent scholar hailing from Los Angeles, drew the audience into a personal narrative. He shed light on a beautiful collection of early 20th-century photographs taken by his great-grandfather. While piecing together his ancestor’s travels and interactions, Whisnand shared a captivating anecdote about Buick motor cars’ expedition in 1915. With attendees leaning forward in intrigue, the presentation was more than just historical analysis—it was a walk down family memory lane.
Sharav’s Musical Brilliance: Prof. Joe Lerangis took attendees on a sonic journey through the choral-orchestral works of B. Sharav. Lerangis presented a compelling argument about how Sharav’s compositions became instrumental in cementing Mongolian cultural identity through sound. As Lerangis played snippets and illustrated with musical scores, the echoes of Mongolian traditions resounded in every note, making Sharav’s blending of Western and Mongolian styles even more evident.
Kuklina’s Climate Insights: Dr. Vera Kuklina’s segment was a stark reminder of the pressing concerns of our time. Her multi-faceted research in Mongolia touched upon the effects of climate change on the land and its nomadic communities. Drawing parallels between Mongolia and Arctic regions, Kuklina emphasized the need for sustainable engineering solutions and reiterated the significance of local knowledge in understanding the intricate tapestry of climate-induced changes.
Post presentations, a lively Q&A session ensued. Peter Marsh’s commendation for Lerangis’s exploration of Sharif’s work stood out, hinting at a broader conversation on the blending of Western and Mongolian musical styles. Another attendee’s question on migration patterns due to climate change resonated with the recent global discourse on environmental justice.
The evening drew to a close, but the panel’s insights lingered. From the delicate brushwork of a Yuan dynasty portrait to the climatic challenges faced by modern-day Mongolian nomads, the discussion spanned centuries yet felt eerily connected. It was a reminder that art, culture, and environment are intricately woven into the rich tapestry of Mongolian history, and understanding one often requires delving into the others.