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The Dartmouth
June 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Professor Ted Levin brings musical world to classroom

Music Professor Ted Levin is providing Dartmouth with a unique glance at the world of music and ethnomusicology -- a world that has motivated a fascinating life and has inspired all of his students.

Levin's life has been characterized by extensive travel and diverse musical interests. Trained from a young age as a classical pianist, he quickly moved on to a wider variety of instruments and cultural study.

As a teenager, "I went over the fence into folk music ... which has led to long excursions into non-Western folk music," explained Levin.

One of Levin's major interests has been the Tuvan throat singers, who are known for their remarkable ability to sing two notes concurrently. Hailing from the Tuva region of Siberia, these groups have hosted Levin and have been important subjects in his study of ethnomusicology.

In the past six years Levin has brought three such groups to campus, including the Huun-Huur-Tu from Siberia in a concert that delighted the College community this winter.

Levin's life has been marked by his amazing talent as a musician and the experiences this talent has brought him.

He has recorded for the Grateful Dead, after Mickey Hart asked him and other throat singers to provide a sample of his work.

He has produced 15 of his own CDs, both instrumental and throat singing. Performing with his Harmonic Choir, Levin recorded a song in 1983 that eventually was used in the hit movie "Dead Poets Society."

In 1987, Levin helped to co-produce a Billy Joel tour of Russia when the Soviet Union was getting its first taste of Western style under Mikail Gorbachev's policy of glastnost.

In addition to these accomplishments, Levin is a master of many musical styles. He plays two types of bagpipe, the sitar, the dutar and the piano, just to name a select few.

After finishing a fellowship with the National Endowment for the Humanities six years ago, Professor Levin headed for Dartmouth. He calls the College and the Hanover community an "ideal place" for his music and writing; often coordinating with the Hopkins Center in bringing performers such as the Huun-Huur-Tu to Hanover.

Throughout his time at Dartmouth, many feel Levin has enriched both the music department and the cultural horizons of the school.

"The music department has had the goal of bringing a multicultural aspect to Dartmouth for a long time, and he has made great contributions to that," Music Professor Max Culpepper said.

As Levin understands it, his role as an instructor is to expose his students to as many different musical trends as he can. Ideally he would like to be able to bring his students with him to see all that he has experienced, but instead he has to "bring the world into the classroom."

Which is one of the reasons his students hold him in such high regard.

"His class is really interactive, he brought lots of guest speakers, performers and intellectuals into our class ... we did a Russian folk wedding with all the singing, which was a great experience," said Matt Heerde '98, who took Levin's Music 41: Music, Ceremony, Ritual and Sacred Chant.

Levin will be leading a Moroccan Foreign Study Program next year, with 15students expected to attend. Levin feels that stimulating interest in his field is harder than for a scientist. While a biologist can show a student all of the wonders of his study in the lab, Levin must take his students out to see different musical cultures first hand. The purpose of the Moroccan trip is to do just that.

All of Levin's students feel that his outside experiences are what makes him such a remarkable man to learn from.

"He's one of those guys who's been everywhere and done everything ... his wealth of knowledge is outstanding," said Andy Butterworth '99, who took his freshman seminar with Levin.

Levin's aim is only to provide his students with an ecletic sample of what the world, especially the broad non-Western world, has to offer in terms of "living musical traditions."

"I think of myself as a restaurant chef who goes to the market every morning to see what is fresh... and then I bring it back to the classroom," Levin said.