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COLLECTION Identifier: AWM Spec Coll 102

Kalmyk traditional music collection, 1990-2002.


This collection contains original ethnographic field recordings by Ghilyana Dordzhieva in audio and video formats. The call number range for audio cassettes is AWM SC 12096 - 12141, and for DAT cassettes is AWM DAT 300 - 312. The call number range for video is AWM V 11670 - AWM V 11675.


  • 1990-2002.

Conditions Governing Access

Recordings are currently being processed and documented. Digital versions of selected recordings will be available in this finding aid in the future.


2 linear feet

Ghilyana Dordzhieva's collection of field recordings highlights the musical traditions of the Kalmyks. The recordings were made in 1990-2002 in Elista and Iki-Burul'skiy, Priyutninskiy, Yashkul'skiy, Komsomol'skiy, Kaspiyskiy, Yustinskiy, Sarpinskiy, Ketchenerovskiy, Gorodovikovskiy, Oktyabr'skiy, Maloderbetovskiy districts of the Republic of Kalmykia, as well as in the Astrakhan region, and in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. The collection includes sound recordings (audio cassettes and DAT tapes), and PAL format (Hi8 and Mini DV) video cassettes. The languages represented are Kalmyk and Russian.

The Republic of Kalmykia (part of the Russian Federation) is located on the vast steppes to the west of the Volga River and the Caspian Sea. At the beginning of the 17th century Oirat tribes migrated here from Central Asia (Dzungaria), and between 1630 and 1724 they formed the Kalmyk Khanate.

The Kalmyk language belongs to the Mongolic language family. According to UNESCO's Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, the Kalmyk language is designated as "definitely endangered." According to the Russian census of 2010, there are only 80,500 native language speakers out of an ethnic population of 183,000 people. The Sovietization of the Kalmyks, including the tragic deportation of the entire people in 1943, and their isolated settlement in Siberia until 1957, led to the destruction of the traditional way of life. Another factor leading to the decline of the Kalmyk language was the primary role given to the Russian language in the educational system.

These field recordings preserve the voices of the last traditional singers and musicians, mostly women born before 1930. The focus of Dordzhieva's fieldwork is Ut Dun (Long Song) – the most representative vocal style of the Kalmyks. These songs are characterized by specific rhythmic and modal systems, and peculiar timbre. The researcher recorded local melodic versions of the epic, historical, religious (chastr), festive (söngin), wedding (uulüldg), calendar (Tsagan Sarin dun), and lyrical songs.

Compared to Ut Dun (Long Song), the Akhr Dun (Short Song) style is rhythmically and melodically ordinary and less complex. Traditional instrumental melodies were performed on two-string Dombra and Saratovskaya harmonica. Dance tunes are the most striking and distinctive genre of Kalmyk music. The collection also includes folk versions of Buddhist prayers, and rare recordings of the Crane Dance and Milk Songs (songs to encourage livestock to feed their newborn). Additionally, there are many interviews commenting on the context of musical performance .

Biographical Note

Ghilyana Dordzhieva is an ethnomusicologist, and a researcher of traditional music of the Kalmyks and Western-Mongols (Oirats). Her focus is on collecting and studying Ut Dun (Long Songs). From 2000 till 2006 she worked as an assistant professor both at the St. Petersburg Conservatory and the St. Petersburg State University of Culture and Arts. In addition to lecturing, she served as a Senior Researcher at the St. Petersburg Centre for the Folklore and Ethnography.

She received her MM and Kandidate Degree (PhD) from the St. Petersburg Conservatory (Russia), where the eminent Russian ethnomusicologist Anatoly Mekhnetzov supervised her doctorate course. At the Special Music School of the St. Petersburg Conservatory, she studied piano, organ and music theory.

In 2006 she became a resident of Boston MA, working as a researcher and educator at "The Traditional Song Project". Since 2010 she has collaborated with the Archive of World Music at Harvard University. She was also a depositor and annotator to the EVIA Digital Archive project (2008) in Bloomington, IN.

Ghilyana Dordzhieva is an author of publications in Russian, including book KALMYK UT DUN: THE STORY OF ONE PLOT (2018) and articles "Kalmyk Chastr Un Dun: Archaic features in poetry and tunes" from International Scientific Conference on "Cultural Communication and Relations between Mongolia and Tibet" China, Qinghai Henan Mongolian Autonomous County, 2017.7.21-23, pp. 113-139; "Kalmyk Ut Dun with short tunes" from Voprosy Ethnomusicology, Moscow, 2016, pp. 68-79; "Long Songs of the Tsagaan Sar Festival" from 'Clement V. Kvitka and Actual Problems of Ethnomusicology', Moscow Conservatory Research and Publishing Center, 2009, pp. 307-321; "Rhythmic Organization of Kalmyk Long Songs" from 'Rhythm and Form: A Collection of Articles' from the Rimsky-Korsakov Saint Petersburg State Conservatory, ed. N. Afonina and L. Ivanova, St. Petersburg, 2002, pp. 139-153, and others.

System of Arrangement

The collection has been organized into two series:

  2. Subseries 1. Kalmyk Republic, 1990
  3. Subseries 2. Kalmyk Republic, 1991
  4. Subseries 3. Kalmyk Republic, 1992
  5. Subseries 4. Kalmyk Republic, 1993
  6. Subseries 5. Kalmyk Republic, 1994
  7. Subseries 6. Kalmyk Republic, 1996
  8. Subseries 7. Kalmyk Republic, 1997
  9. Subseries 8. Kalmyk Republic, 1998
  10. Subseries 9. Kalmyk Republic, 2000-2001
  11. Subseries 10. Kalmyk Republic, 2002
  13. Subseries 1. Western-Mongol Peoples, 1992

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The original deposit of 13 DAT cassettes, 46 audio cassettes, 5 Hi-8 and 1 MiniDV videocassettes was acquired by the Archive of World Music, Harvard Music Library, in 2010.

Related Materials

Dordzhieva, Ghilyana. 2001. Tsahan: Masterpieces of Kalmyk tradition music. 1 sound disc, digital, 4 3/4 in. St. Petersburg: Kailas. Field recordings by Ghilyana Dordzhieva in Kalmykia, Russia, 1990-1997. Program notes and partial song texts in Kalmyk (Cyrhillic script) and English inserted in container. Held by the Archive of World Music, AWM CD 15013.

Non-Russian folk traditions, disc 4: Anthology of Kalmyk folklore. Institut russkoi literatury (Pushkinskii dom) 2000, 1973. Multiple languages. 12 sound discs, digital, 4 3/4 in. St. Petersburg, Russia: Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkinskii Dom, Russian Academy of Sciences); New York, NY: Norman Ross Pub. Held by the Archive of World Music, AWM CD 14979.


Note to Users: The names of performers, geographical locations, and subject headings used have been standardized according to the OCLC authority file, when found. Ghilyana Dordzhieva has determined the transliteration style for the original language terms and names used within the body of the finding aid.

Processing Information

Processed by: Peter Laurence in consultation with Ghilyana Dordzhieva

Finding aid encoded by Peter Laurence

Dordzhieva, Ghilyana. Kalmyk traditional music collection, 1990-2002: A Finding Aid.
Archive of World Music, Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library Repository

The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library is the primary repository of musical materials at Harvard. The Music Library’s collecting mission is to serve music teaching and research programs in the Music Department and throughout the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In addition, it supports the musical needs of the broader Harvard community as well as an international scholarly constituency. We collect books, musical scores, serial titles, sound recordings and video formats, microforms, and rare and archival materials that support research in a wide variety of musical disciplines including historical musicology, music theory, ethnomusicology, composition, and historically informed performance practice, as well as interdisciplinary areas related to music. The special collections include archival collections from the 19th, 20th and 21st century.

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