Studio Music…What’s On?


"Modern Art" The Rippingtons
“Modern Art” The Rippingtons

Like many artists, I listen to music when I’m working in my studio. What I choose depends on my mood, the time of day and the day of the week…I tend to crank up the rock and roll on Friday afternoons (Terry and the Pirates is a favorite or anything else with my Guitar God John Cippolina). My default, however, is a playlist I call Chill Music, set to Shuffle. Here’s most of who’s on it, in no particular order:

Karunesh (New Age)

The Rippingtons (Smooth jazz)

Craig Chaquico (Smooth jazz)

Peter White (Smooth jazz)

Sting (well, you know…)

John Adorney (Smooth jazz)

Darshan Ambiant (New Age)

Vickie Logan (New Age)

David Arkenstone (New Age)

Brad Jacobsen (Smooth jazz)

Davol (New Age)

Degi (Mongolian violin traditional songs)

Nightnoise (Celtic)

Minstrel Streams (New Age)

Marc Antoine (Jazz)

Kenny G (Jazz)

Yanni (New Age)

Shastro (New Age)

Nils (Jazz)

I went through iTunes, listening to the samples and picked individual songs that fit the theme. Some artists, like The Rippingtons, Karunesh and Sting, I’ve got whole albums. I also sometimes hear something on our cable Soundscapes channel and jot down the artist and song.

If I want to liven things up I have playlists for mellow rock, the 1960s, road music and individual musicians like Mark Knopfler, John Mayer and Fleetwood Mac. There’s also one for “new” Celtic, which includes Peatbog Fairies, Kila and Shooglenifty. I also like Celtic music from singers such as Enya and traditional groups like Clannad and Nightnoise.

I have LOTS of music from Mongolia, brought back on CDs and downloaded into iTunes. That ranges from traditional music like khoomii (throat singing) and morin khuur (horsehead fiddle) to neo-folk (Altan Urag, Altan Orgil, Khishigten), pop music (A Sound, A Capella, Camerton, Nomin Talst, Bold), rock (The Lemons, Madness), classical composers like Jantsannarov and the man who, if anyone, is the heart and voice of Mongolia, Javkhlan.

What kind of music do you listen to while you work? Let me know in the comments!





“The Cranes”- a Poem by Mend-Ooyo Gombojav


I haven’t posted any Mongolian poetry in quite a while, too long, actually. I remedy that today with a favorite of mine by Mongolia’s preeminent living poet, Mend-Ooyo. I came across “The Cranes” for the first time in his poetic and magical account of growing up on the steppes of Daringanga in southeastern Mongolia “Altan Ovoo” or “Golden Hill”. I have the good fortune to be one of his friends on Facebook. When he posted the poem a few days ago I asked if I could share it with my friends and he was kind enough to give me permission.

The black-faced cranes referred to in the poem are demoiselle cranes, as shown above in a photo I took last year, which can be seen in many parts of Mongolia.

(The ballad of cranes)
by G.Mend Mend-Ooyo Gombojav

The black-faced cranes excitingly
Flapped their wings and flew in Mongolia every spring.
They landed by fluttering their blue beards
Where they wished to do.
They joined in pairs
In this spacious in steppe
They exhausted in long flight
To come to their habitual place.
Birds habituated to the local people
Year by year.
They laid two spotted eggs near the animal farmers.
And hid their eggs in this place
As they deified the human beings.
Who knows it.
They venerated the virgin steppe
Which was habitable and safe for them.
They did not suspect
When they laid their eggs
There is a maxim.
If you cast your shadow
Over newly laid eggs.
It spoiled eggs.
But someone overlooked
The custom of his own place.
And pocketed these eggs.
And came to his home without a hitch
Two poor cranes trod on the pool of rain-water
And plumed their feathers as if without wings
And summered there alone.
When autumnal wind rumpled their plumes
Two cranes approached a farmer
Who took their eggs.
There was a toddler with bells in his shoes
Who was toying in a long distance from his home.
No adults heeded it.
The toddler crowed to catch these cranes.
The cranes gradually kept their distance
From the farmer’s home.
The toddler chased them,
And did not fathom it.
As his mother’s breast felt a rush of milk
She called her toddler thrice.
There was no sight of the toddler.

Nobody knew it.
All the members of the farmer family and his neighbours
Raked through the vast steppe.
They did not find their toddler
Even a fellow of his small boots.
They did nor fathom that
There was a deal of toddler
With the eggs.
Nobody knew it.
There was a flight of cranes
Were honking over the farmer’s gher*
Was it a shadow or tear?
There was a stain on the boiling milk
In the pot over a fire.

Translation by
Nymjavyn Dorjgotov

*gher –the Mongolian nomad’s tent; or house – yurt

I’ve Arrived In Mongolia! International Children’s Day In Ulaanbaatar


2icd International Children’s Day isn’t celebrated in the USA that I know of and suspect most Americans have never heard of it. It’s the exact opposite in Mongolia where it’s a big, big holiday. I just happened to be in Ulaanbaatar, having arrived a day earlier, and spent over two hours at Chinggis Khan Square, taking photos and thoroughly enjoying the day-long celebration.

Here’s a selection from the over 400 images I shot:




The WildArt Mongolia Expedition, Part 14: The Incomparable Gachen Lama Khiid

The old temple
The old temple.

I had first come to Gachan Lama Khiid on my two-week camping trip in 2010. I had never heard of it and was completely enchanted. So when the idea was floated about taking a different route back for at least part of the return to Ulaanbaatar, I thought of coming back and sharing this place. No one knows about it, really, not even many Mongols. If you google it, my previous post from 2010 is pretty much what comes up.

I think the old temple, the only structure besides the main gate which was left after the destruction of the monasteries in the late 1930s, is one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen. This time we were able to talk to the lamas and a staff person who live and work and worship there and learn more about it. A new temple has been built and we were allowed to enter and take photos in it and also the old temple.

The old temple is badly in need of restoration. One side is so unstable that it is propped up with timbers. There are a large number of exquisite works of art on the walls, most of them in need of attention. One can see areas of wood rot in parts of the structure. The monks came up with a restoration plan and sent it to the appropriate government ministry two years ago, but have not yet gotten a response. I promised them that I would see what I could do. This post is partly to keep that promise, but I will also be following up once I’m back in Mongolia this June (there was no time left last year and the monks are almost impossible to contact due to poor mobile phone reception). I documented as much of the damage as I could and have posted some of those images here as reference and to show some of what needs to be done. Honestly, this place should be on the list of World Heritage Sites.

A final note: The monastery is not set up for visitors. I’m not sure what facilities are available in the soum center nearby. If you go, plan to have everything you need and be respectful. Namaste.

We arrived after dark and it was very cold. And going to get colder as we were up in the Hangai Mountains almost due north of Bayanhongor. People were found and we were not only given permission to camp right on the monastery grounds, but allowed the use of one of the outbuildings for cooking and eating. The next morning we emerged to morning light that cast a magical glow on the temples…

The old temple
The old temple.
The surviving gate
The surviving gate; a new enclosure is being built around the complex.
Stupas with the river in the background.
The "kitchen"
The “kitchen”. Soyoloo, our cook, and Tseegii, our guide, making breakfast for everyone.
Entrance to the "kitchen"
Entrance to the “kitchen”.
Corner detail
Corner detail showing the delicate fretwork.
Blue elephant
Blue elephant.
Blue guardian
Blue guardian.
Carved and painted lotus
Carved and painted lotus.
Doorframe carving
Doorframe carving.
Corner animal and bell
Corner animal and bell.
Schematic of monastery before most of it was destroyed.
Schematic of monastery before most of it was destroyed.
Sign over door in three languages: Tibetan, Mongol bichig script, Chinese
Sign over door in three languages: Tibetan, Mongol vertical script, Chinese.
Buddhist symbol set of deer and wheel over door
Buddhist symbol set of deer and wheel over door. It is said that the first creatures to come to the Buddha when he sat under the Bodhi Tree to teach were two deer.
Timbers supporting one corner of the old Temple
Timbers supporting one corner of the old Temple.
Wall painting.
Wall painting.
Wall paintings.
Wall paintings.
Old temple interior.
Old temple interior.
Main altar in the old temple.
Main altar in the old temple.
Wall paintings.
Wall paintings.
Lama throne.
Lama throne.
Altar figurines.
Altar figurines.
Wall paintings.
Wall paintings.
Wall painting of the monastery in the winter. This one was everyone's favorite, including me.
Wall painting of the monastery in the winter. This one was everyone’s favorite, including me.
Door panel painting at the interior entrance to the old temple. Also a favorite.
Door panel painting at the interior entrance to the old temple. Also a favorite.
Altar in the new temple.
Lama throne in the new temple.
Ritual objects.
Ritual objects.
Temple bowl
Temple incense offering bowl.
The main altar in the new temple.
The main altar in the new temple.
Another view of the altar.
The right side of the altar.
A very old lock and keys.
A very old lock and keys.
Monk showing us a ceremonial staff.
Monk showing us a ceremonial staff.
Old table with stunning lacquer work.
Old table with stunning raised lacquer work.
Old door latch.
Old door latch.
The old temple.
The old temple. Unfortunately, we had to leave before the sun got to the front. But at the link above there’s a photo of it in full light.
The new temple.
The new temple.



Mongolia Monday- It’s National Naadam Time In Mongolia!

Procession into the naadam stadium with the official State horsetail standards
Procession into the Naadam Stadium with the official State horsetail standards

Serious preparation and packing for my next trip to Mongolia has officially begun. I’ll be doing my pre-trip gear review Very Soon Now.

In the meantime, coming up this weekend is one of the biggest holidays in Mongolia, the annual Naadam. I got to attend it in 2009 and hope to again sometime, maybe next year. It’s when the very best competitors, both horse and human, are featured in The Three Manly Sports- horse racing, wrestling and archery. Ulaanbaatar pretty much closes down on Friday afternoon. Some head to the countryside to get away from the crowds and craziness, but thousands join in the celebration.

Here’s the post I did about my Naadam experience a couple of years ago: Enjoy!

Mongolia Monday- Explorers and Travelers: Beatrix Bulstrode on Mongolian Bactrian Camels

beatrix bulstrodeFirst in 1911 and again in 1913, an intrepid British woman, Beatrix Bulstrode, traveled in and through Mongolia. The result is one of the great travel classics of all time “A Tour in Mongolia”. I’m only 78 pages in and have already found enough material for 3-4 blog posts. She was a wonderfully droll writer in the the English tradition, coming up with unforgettable phrases like “desperately unsportsmanlike” to describe her Finnish missionary traveling companion’s offer to throw a number of Chinese out of an inn to make more room for Mrs. Bulstrode. She refused for the reason stated above, and so  joined them and nine or ten Mongols either sleeping on the raised heated bed the Chinese call a k’ang or tucked into every available corner.

These days, tour companies like the one I work with, Nomadic Journeys, uses camels for cross-country trekking trips.
These days, tour companies like the one I work with, Nomadic Journeys, use camels for cross-country trekking trips. They carry all the baggage, tents, food and even a ger for use as a kitchen and dining hall.

As she headed north out of Kalgan up onto the Mongolian plain and the Gobi, she passed camel caravans going south. She had a wonderful ability to pick up information and write about what she saw in a vividly compelling way. Here is her description of the bactrian camels:

“The staying power of camels is proverbial. The caravans in Mongolia march from twenty-five to twenty-eight miles a day, averaging a little over two miles an hour, for a month, after which the animals require a two weeks’ rest when they will be ready to begin work again. Their carrying powers all the same do not bear comparison with the ox-cart. The ordinary load for the Bactrian, or two-humped Mongolian, camel is about 2 cwt. For riding purposes, though despised by the horsey Mongol, a good camel may be used with an ordinary saddle for seventy miles a day for a week in spring or autumn without food or water. The points of this particular species are a well-ribbed body, wide feet, and strong, rigid humps. The female camel is pleasanter to ride and generally more easy-going than the skittish young bull camel, who in the months of January and February is likely to be fierce and refractory. I have heard it said that if a camel “goes for you” with an open mouth, you should spring at his neck and hang on with both legs and arms until some one renders you timely assistance and ties him up. Generally speaking, however, they are not savage. They make as though to bite, but seldom actually do. The female might, in fact would, try to protect her young; and the cry of a cow camel when separated from her calf is as pathetic as that of a hare being run down by the hounds.”

My first time on a Mongol bactrian camel. Western Mongolia, Sept. 2006
My first time on a Mongol bactrian camel. Western Mongolia, Sept. 2006

There will be more excerpts by Beatrix in the future. Stay tuned.

Mongolia Monday- “A Shepherd Boy” By Purevyn Khorloo

Herder boys, Khan Khentii Mountains, August 2011
Herder boys, Khan Khentii Mountains, August 2011

I haven’t posted any Mongolian poetry for awhile and thought that since the Mongols just celebrated their New Year, Tsagaan Sar (White Moon), which also means the turning of winter towards spring, that I would post a poem about a herder boy doing his job despite the snow. Country children are sent out to watch over the goats and sheep at a very young age, even in the winter when the temperatures can be below freezing even during the day. But when the lambs and kids are born, they are often brought into shelter, sometimes right into the ger.

The Shepherd Boy

In a broad and luminous sky
Suddenly a snow-cloud came winging by
Overcasting the sun
And bringing a windy storm

Swathes of scented grass
Were spread over an old herder’s fence
And a tiny shepherd boy left
His many lambs and kids to suck

When the frosty snow-flakes began to fall
From the frosty-white clouds
His blazed twin lambs
And his playful blue kids

Were put into a warm stall
to be fed with delicate grass
The shepherd boy was a good master
Who looked after them through that cold winter

Not one tiny kid was lost
Instead all of them grew up
Pleasing old and young
Playing happily in the pen.

From “Modern Mongolian Poetry”, State Publishing House, Ulaanbaatar, 1989

Mongolia Monday- Explorers and Travelers: Owen Lattimore On The Buying And Selling Of Sheep

Sheep for sale by the road during the National Naadam, 2009
Sheep for sale by the road during the National Naadam, 2009

This excerpt is taken from “The Desert Road to Turkestan” by Owen Lattimore, published in 1929. It is his incredible account of traveling with a camel caravan from a point west of Beijing to Urumchi in present-day Xinjiang, far western China. Highly recommended and on my short list of Best Travel Books Ever.

Sheep for sale in Hovd, western Mongolia, 2006
Sheep for sale in Hovd, western Mongolia, 2006

“Sheep buying is done by the Mongol usage. There is first a bargaining for quality – small sheep, good sheep, or pick of the flock, at different prices. It is usual to agree that good sheep are in question, at so much per head. The Mongol turns them out by the score, which he says are good. The buyer disputes this with scorn, making the Mongol change as many of them as he can. When at last the goodness of the herd as a whole has been admitted, the Mongol plunges among the sheep, seizes one, and cries “This is it!” “Not so, says the buyer; “it is the worst of a poor lot.” The buyer here is in the right, for I never saw a nomad, whether a Mongol, Qazaj, or Kirghiz, who failed to tackle the worst sheep with speed and skill. The Mongol protests and argues, but after awhile he seizes another; the argument begins afresh, but after several have been rejected the buyer in the upshot gets the mathematically average sheep from a mathematically average lot, the whole deal, with words and antics, having taken from half an hour to half a day.”

Flock of sheep and goats, at my driver's ger in the mountains north of Tsetserleg, 2011
Flock of sheep and goats, at my driver’s ger in the mountains north of Tsetserleg, 2011