Video NewsSilk Road radioPostcards from the road Maps
Tile Design
Music & Artists

Silk Road Ensemble members rehearse a new musical work at a commissioning workshop.

© PETE CHECCHIA

Collaborative process
Silk Road Ensemble members rehearse a new musical work at a commissioning workshop at Tanglewood Music Center. Retreats and workshops provide an opportunity for Silk Road Ensemble members to develop music for a wide range of instruments.


Morin khuur

© TARA TODRAS-WHITEHILL

"In 2000, we played for the first time a piece the Silk Road Project had commissioned from a Mongolian composer named Sharav. The Mongolian musicians we were working with brought me a wonderful gift of a morin khuur, and were kind enough to teach me how to play it. I feel a special kinship with it now. I love its soulful sound, and the English translation of morin khuur is "horse-head fiddle." In Chinese, my name, Ma, means "horse."

- YO-YO MA

Morin khuur

orig. Mongolia  With its name translating to "horse fiddle" in Mongolian, the morin khuur is instantly recognizable by its distinctive carved horse-head pegbox. The tuning pegs on either side are known as the "horse's ears." The instrument’s two string and bow are traditionally made of horsehair, although they are now often made of synthetic material.

The morin khuur plays a prominent role in Mongolian music and culture. It is used to accompany folk singers and, less frequently, as a solo instrument and in small ensembles. Traditionally, the people of Mongolia are nomadic herders, and the morin khuur's evocative shape and ability to imitate the sound of neighing horses reflect the importance of the horse to Mongolian national identity.


Hear the instrument
Morin khuur sound clip »


Morin khuur players
Yo-Yo Ma


Other string instruments
Cello
Contrabass
Erhu
Harp
Kamancheh
Kayagum
Oud
Piano
Pipa
Ruan
Santur
Tar
Viola
Violin


Other Mongolian instruments and traditions
Urtiin duu (longsong)