Dot.Demarche

Talking to myself about foreign policy, US politics, technology, &c.

High Culture in Central Asia

The nicest maintained building in town is the White House, the somewhat modernist executive building in the center of town. However, a close second was the Philharmonic Building, where we heard the Chuy Chamber Orchestra play (Chuy is the oblast or province that Bishkek is in.)

I don’t know much about music, but I was very impressed by their performance. They did a repertoire of some well-known stuff and also a good percentage of pieces written by Kyrgyz composers.

In opposition to the blue-haired battalions that are the only people that are typically seen in American concert halls, there was quite a mix of ages, and even the young kids seemed to be really digging it. The combination of the obvious love of the group and the well-maintained status of the building spoke of the high regard classical music seems to be held in here. Similarly, one of my coworkers (a computer dude my age) burnt me a CD of his favorite music- all classical

To cover the visual end of the sensory spectrum we also got to the Fine Arts museum in Bishkek. It was, er, fine, but not very exciting. Small collection of paintings to look at and a collection of small old ladies looking at you. Most of their art was from the Soviet era. A psychoanalyst could make a lot out of it; very grim, sombre impressionist pieces without a recognizable human face, apart from some portraits of Important People I’ve never heard of. Things got a lot more lively in the post-soviet period, and that gallery had the only paintings I really enjoyed.

The cutest part was a room dedicated to their hero, Manas. “The Manas” is a folk epic akin to those of Homer, chronicling the exploits of a larger than life dude slaying dragons and such. The room is full of paintings on the subject, as well as a beautiful series of dramatic black and white woodcut prints. I’ll have to write about this storytelling aspect of Kyrgyz culture at some point, because it’s really fascinating and quite charming.

And winning the Weird Award of the day: they have a small room full of replicas of famous works of art from ancient Greece, medieval Europe, Assyria, and Napoleonic France. Go figure.

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