A Soundtrack to Mongolian History

Franck Billé, University of California, Berkeley

Lucy M. Rees, Mongolian Film Music: Tradition, Revolution and Propaganda. London: Routledge, 2015. 210 pp. $110 (cloth).

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In her recently published study, ethnomusicologist Lucy M. Rees recounts the evolution of Mongolian film music, from the establishment of the country’s film industry as a vehicle of propaganda in the early socialist era to the release of the latest international productions, such as Khadak (2006), The Story of the Weeping Camel (2003), and The Cave of the Yellow Dog (2005). An in-depth analysis of the genres, structures, and melodies of Mongolia’s filmic landscape, Rees’s book also extends to the historical context and social reception of the most important films in that country’s history and is thus more than a mere compendium of cinematic works. Rees presents a narrative of Mongolian history from the perspective of film music, with each introduction of instruments, techniques, and harmonies representing a particular turn in the cultural transformation experienced by Mongolia over the course of the twentieth century. Each chapter is dedicated to a specific period of the country’s history and is constructed around a particular case study—one personality or one film—that played a defining role in that period...