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World Music & Traditional Folk Music

Opera Boston is a professional opera company dedicated to offering engaging musical productions of outstanding quality that connect audience and performer. Opera Boston presents innovative repertoire choices and important but rarely performed works. Opera Boston enriches the community through inventive outreach and education programs and by keeping opera affordable.

Opera Boston will be presenting the world premiere of "Madame White Snake" an English language, Western opera version of the beloved Chinese legend of the White Snake.  In conjunction with the opera, we are creating a curriculum for grades 4 - 6 about the Legend of the White Snake, Western Opera and Chinese Opera.  The curriculum is being provided free of charge.
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30,000 year old ivory flute found in Germany is the oldest instrument. PDF Listen to it

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The Thai Elephant Orchestra CDs of elephants in the Thai jungle playing specially designed musical instruments. The elephants improvise the music themselves.

Doc Tate Nevaquaya, the Comanche flutist, has reconstructed a nearly extinct music for wooden flute -- one of the few solo instruments in American Indian music -- through musicological research. And Lawrence (Teddy Boy) Houle, the Ojibway fiddler, plays tunes that reflect the French and Scottish music brought by colonists; what has survived is an Ojibway approach to tone, phrasing and ornament

  • Learn to make your own whistle from a willow branch.
  • The traditional "Hawaiian" nose flute (actually played in a number of other places) is a true woodwind, with finger holes, a fixed-note scale, and a proud history. The other version, often sold as a novelty, is microtonal, like a kazoo or slide whistle, and uses the slightly open mouth as a resonating chamber for pitch changes. The Vancouver Noseflute Ensemble performs on the latter type, and has one of the lowest thresholds of entry of any musical group around.

Jaw's Harp
There are many other instruments in the world, especially folk instruments, that make use of formants to produce their special sound. One of the most famous is the Jew's harp. It's also been called the "jaw's harp" or "jaw harp", apparently for reasons of political correctness. But it seems it had nothing to do with 'Jews' or 'jaws' at all in the first place; Webster's says it comes from the Dutch Jeugdtromp 'youth/child's trumpet', though it's now called mondharp 'mouth harp' in Dutch. Here are pictures and short descriptions of the Jew's harp; the second page gives the word for Jew's harp in several languages:
Go to the following page and click on 'Hroong Jew's harp' from Vietnam for a more exotic kind of Jew's harp music. Also try the 'Dav dav bamboo tuning fork', an instrument using the same principle to produce its twangy sound.
Here are sound samples of many different kinds of Jew's harps, including the 'morsing' and 'morchang' of Rajasthan, India

Buffy Sainte-Marie, a Native American protest singer popular in the 60s and 70s, uses the mouthbow in several of her songs. The mouthbow has a sound similar to that of the Jew's harp, and it works in the same way. Here is a pdf file with instructions on how to make your own mouthbow.

A new (2005) CD of mouthbow music by salmon fisherman and folk musician John Palmes from Juneau, Alaska, has since come out - in fact inspired by Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Ground Hog"; here is an NPR report on Mouth Bow: Small Voices: If Jew's harp and mouthbow music is your kind of thing, try some of these MP3 and .wav files.

Tuvan throat singing (Khoomei
Formants are exploited not only in talking and in instrumental music, but also in singing. Of course we are hearing formants whenever a vowel sound is sung. But some national groups have developed a method of singing a melody line (the fundamental frequency) while at the same time producing a different melody at a higher pitch with formants. The most famous of these are probably the Tuvans of Tuva, Siberia in the former Soviet Union. They have performed on tour worldwide, so you may have heard of them. Their CDs are not too hard to find in music stores. This article from the September 1999 issue of Scientific American, entitled "The Throat Singers of Tuva", will tell you all about khoomei, or Tuvan throat singing (there is also a Mongolian version of this singing style called xöömii): Here is a tutorial on YouTube on how to do formant singing


A giant wooden xylophone (reportedly over 1mile long) in the middle of a forest. Which made up individual notes of Bach's Cantata 147, aka "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desire."


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