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TRAN QUANG HAI : Le Chant diphonique Xöömij : origine, styles et phonation

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Le Chant diphonique Xöömij : origine, styles et phonation

tranquanghai

Trân Quang Hai (CNRS, France)

 

Comme les précédents empires de nomades d’Asie Centrale, tel celui des Huns avc Attila, ils commencèrent par soumettre les peuples voisins avant de se lancer à la conquête du monde . Déferlants à maintes reprises sur l’Asie, le Moyen Orient, l’Europe au Moyen Age, et redoutés comme un terrible fléau de Dieu, les conquérants mongols , avec à leur tête le plus fameux de leurs chef, GENGIS KHAN, furent tristement réputés pour semer la terreur et le désastre sur leur passage. Mais ils sont bien moins connus pour leur sens aigu de l’organisation, leur discipline rigoureuse, qui n’ont d’ailleurs pas empêché la désagrégation progressive de l’empire après la mort de Gengis Khan . De cet empire éphémère, la mémoire historique commune ne semble n’avoir retenu, et à juste titre, que le souvenir d’une violenc dévastatrice, au détriment de cette paradoxale tolérance relilieuse srupuleuse et exemplaire qui régnait à la cour du Grand Khan .

 

De cette époque, subsistent les témoignages capitaux de voyageurs, de marchands, d’ambassadeurs de différents pays dont, en Europe, celui de Jean du Plan Carpin, envoyé par le Pape Innocent IV en 1246 aurpès de Gengis Khan ; ensuite celui du frère Guillaume de Rubruck, envoyé par Saint Louis en 1253 ; et , celui du marchant vénitien Marco Polo qui resta 16 ans, de 1275 à 1291, au service du Khan Kubilai, petit fils de Gengis Khan et fondateur de la dynastie Yuan de Chine . Malheureusement, dans les récits de ces grands hommes, peu de renseignements concernent la musique et les musiciens, dont on avait surtout signalé des chants de guierriers et des instruments de musique originaux employés à la cour des Khans . C’est surtout grâce à l’ “ Histoire Secrète des Mongols ”, chronique impériale de cette période, véritable monument de littérature mongole que nous proviennent des informations intéressante sur l’efficacité des chants chamaniques et sur le rôle important des bardes-devins dans le sphère du politique. Genis Khan, lui même, n’hésitait pas à attribuer un rôle politique à son musicien préféré Argasun, de même que le gouverneur mongol de la Perse, Arghun Khan, avait envoyé en 1289 un barde comme ambassadeur auprès de Philippe lle Bel . Ces bardes ou rhapsodes, devenus rares dans la Mongolie contemporaine, sont les derniers détenteurs d’un art séculaire, mais vivant, parvenu jusqu’à nous par la tradition orale .

 

Les Mongols n’utilisaient pas d’écriture musicale pour fixer la mélodie de leurs chants . Cela ne signifie pas, pour autant, qu’il n’y ait pas eu, au cours de l’histoire, de tentative de description de la musique mongole . Très tôt, en effet, des théoriciens de pays conquis se sont intéressés à cette musique et quelques innformations, datant de la fin du XIIIème et début du XIVè siècle, ont été notées en persan, probablement à Samarkand, par Al-Maragi. Dans un de ses manuscrits, il est fait mention de 9 mélodies ou modes mongols (jesun xög). Une autre source, d’origine chinoise, est fournie par Tao Zong Yi qui, au milieu du XIVème siècle, avait identifié 28 modes, de la période Yuan,. Cependant , il est difficile de se faire une idée claire sur la réalité musicalce donnée par ces modes, de même que de définir le lien qui les unit à la musique mongole traditionnelle d’aujourd’hui, fondamentalement pentatonique .

 

Plus tard, vers le milieu du XIIIème siècle, la religion bouddhique et le chergé lamaïque, étaient en plein essor en Mongolie . De même confession religieuse que les Tibétains, les Mongols avaient hérités de ceux ci leur notation musicale manuscrite de certaines cérémonies religieuses . Mais ce système de notation, de style neumatique, appelé dbjangs-jig en tibétain, janjeg (jan-jeg) en mogol, reste très imprécis et se présente plutôt comme d’un aide mémoire . Probablement poussés par le besoin de noter plus précisément la mélodie de certains chants religieux et aussi populaires, quelques lettrés mongols, dont Lusannorovsarav (1701-1768), suivi par Luvsandandarvancig (1776-1827) et Badamdorz (1830-1882) avait élaboré un système original de notation. En reproduisant sur un support écrit touts les cordes de la citharre oblongue jatga de cette époque, ils avaient ainsi défini le cadre d’une portée musicle à 10 lignes. Sinon le rythme, du moins les hauteurs pouvaient ainsi etre clairement notées.

 

Les premières transcriptions de musique mongole dans le système musical européen date du milieu XVIII ème siècle et furent réalisées par Gmelin au cours d’une expédition en Sibérie. Son recueil publié en 1742 contient notamment 4 chants de Mongols Burjat , de l’Empire russe . Une autre publication d’une quinzaine chants bar-jat sont dues, un siècle plus tard, en 1850, au missionnaire anglais Stallybrass, qui les nota de mémoire. Puis, les publications vont se multiplier et s’étoffer rapidemment. En 1880, Pozdnejev publie 60 chants mongols à Saint Peterbsburg ; en 1909, c’est au tourde Rudnev de proposer la notation de 24 chants populaire en 1915 . Le Père belge Van Osst publie un recueil, avec notation musicale, de chants des Mongols ordos de Mongolie Intérieure . Or, à cette époque, vont commencer les premier enregistrements de musique mongole, entre 1906 et 1916, par Anoxin lors d’une expédition de L’institut russe de Géographie en Mongolie occidentale. La collection se compose de 40 cylindres de cire. Ramstedt réalisa également à la même période, en janvier 1909, quelques enregistrements sur cylindre de cire ; ainsi que Vladimirtsov dont la colleciton comporte, pour la première fois, des fragments d’épopées : Bum Erdeni, Dajni-Kjurjul et Zangar, très célèbre ches les Mongols kalmuk

 

Depuis, la liste serait longue s’il fallait énumérer, avec risque d’oubli, tous les auteurs qui se sont, à différents niveaux, intéressés à la musique mongole, en réalisant soit des enregistrements , soit des recueils, ou encore des études, dont les plus sérieuses contributions réelleent disponibles nous sont dues notamment à Haslund Christensen et Emsheimer en 1943, à Kondrat’ev en 1970 et Smirnov également en 1970. Mais il serait injuste de sous estimer l’apport des chercheurs mongols qui, formés pour la plupart par l’Ecole des “ folkloristes ” russes, ont entrepris depuis 1970, l’édition de nombreux recueils de chants et de musique populaire. Les chercheurs de Mongolie Intérieure sont même allés jusqu’à éditer, parmi les nombreux recueils de chants populaires avec leur notation musicale, déjà en circulation. “ Cinq cents chants mongols ” en deux volumes, suivis par un recueil de “ Mille chants mongols ” en 5 volumes .

 

Parmi toute la richesse de l’art vocal des Mongols, qui ne se limite pas à des répertoires de chants populaires, un genre vocal bien singulier, a retenu plus particulièrement l’attention des chercheurs occidentaux depuis une trentaine d’années : le XOOMIJ ou chant diphonique. Mais le mystère du chant subsiste. Comment se fait il en effet, qu’un chanteur maîtrisant parfaitement cette technique, arrive à faire disparaître, par endroit, son bourdon vocal ? Cette acrobatie vocale si particulière est originaire de la chaîne montagneuse de l’Altaï, à l’Ouest de la Mongolie. Il représente l’un des trois volets d’une émission vocale, unique à cette région de Mongolie, placée très en arrière de la gorge et qui est commune à l’exécution du répertoire de chants épiques dans le style xajlax et à la pratique de la flûte verticale cuur .

 

 

 

TERMINOLOGIE

 

Le chant diphonique est un genre vocal très étonnant et difficilement classable. Sorte de polyphonie à une voix, le chant se compose d’un bourdon continu et d’une ligne mélodique faite pas des harmoniques supérieurs du fondamental .

 

Depuis qu’il retient l’attention des spécialistes et des chercheurs, ce phénomène vocal a reçu un grand nombre de dénominations . En français, il est connu sous le nom quasi généralisé de “ chant diphonique ”. Mais il est appelé également “ chant biphonique ”, “ chant diphonique solo ”, même “ voix guimbarde ” “ voix dédoublée ”. Plus récemment est apparue une nouvelle expression “ chant harmonique ”, et plus tard “ chant de gorge ”.

 

Dans les ouvrages de langue anglaise, le terme de “ overtone singing ” s’est imposé sur celui de “ throat singing ”. Mais on trouve aussi “ two voiced songs with no word ”, tandis qu’en allemand il est surtout défini comme “ kehlgesang ”, “ rachengesang ” ou encore “ zweistimmingen sologesang ”

En russe, l’éventail des expressions rencontrée est auss étendu “ col’noe dvuxgolosnoe enie ”, “ gorlovogo penija ” qui ont été traduites en anglais par “ boule voice singing ” et “ larynx singing ” ; aussi “ sol’nogo dvuxgolosnogo ” “ gorlovogo penija ” ou bien “ sol’noe mnogoglosnoe overtonovoe enis ” et “ gortannoe penie ”

 

Le terme mongol qui désigne ce genre vocal est XOOMIJ , littéralement “ gorge, pharynx ”. XOOMIJLOKU signifie “ faire le xöömij, chanter diphoniquement ”, et XOOMIJCIN , chanteur de xöömij ” .

 

L’expression de “ voix guimbarde ” a été signalée par Trân Quang Hai. Selon Roberte Hamayon, le xöömij représente une imitation par voix seule de deux instruments : la flûte “ limbe ” et la guimbarde “ aman xuur ” . La question du rapprochement de la guimbarde et du xöömij rest fondamentale dans la mesure où la guimbarde est associée à des pratiques chamaniques car l’on sait que le chaman utilise sa voix de façon extraordinaire, avec des recherches de timbre intentionnel . Mais , jusqu’à présent aucun texte, aucun témoignage ne mentionne un chant exécutant un chant diphonique durant une séance chamanique.

 

Du point de vue musicologique, le jeu de la guimbarde ne peut être assimilé à celui du xöömij et inversement . Ce sont des technique de jeu différente et la maîtrise de l’une ne donne as aussi facilement accès à l’autre, bien qu’il est toutefois plus difficile de pratiquer le xöömij que la guimbarde . Par contr, le rapport entre la guimbarde et un type d’amission vocale diphonique pratiquée chez les Bashkirs, l’ “ uzlau ” a été suggéré par Lebdinski . L’auteur ajoute que le terme bashkir pour la guimbarde est “ kurai ” et, pour le chant diphonique “ tamak kurai ” , que l’on serait tenté de traduire par “ guimbarde laryngale ” . Cette métahore présenterait un intérêt certain dans la mesure où elle met l’accent sur l’aspect instrumental de la voix dans ce genre vocal .

 

Cette comparaison avec la guimbarde a été ensuite reprise pour le xöömij mongol par Vargyas, mais au niveau de la fonction du résonateur buccal dans la formation des harmoniques.

 

Les Touvins d’Asie Centrale connaissent aussi la guimbarde et différents types démissions vocales diphoniques (sygyt, khoomei, borbannadyr, ezengileer, et kargyraa) . Ces émissions se différencient entre elles selon des critères musicaux, tels que la hauteur de la tonique, la structure mélodique du sifflement harmonique, le mode d’introduction du chant . Les Touvins regroupent l’ensemble de ces techniques sous le vocable KHOOMEI . Mais contrairement au xöömij mongol, le KHOOMEI des Touvins exhibe une nette tendance à matérialiser un marquage rythmique par des pulsations glottales, qui rappellent le jeu de la guimbarde . Rien de tel dans le xöömij mongol.

 

ORIGINE DU XOOMIJ

 

L’origine du xöömij est encore aujourd’hui une énigme . Est il lié à des pratiques chamaniques dans lesquelles il puiserait sa source ? Ou bien n’est il que pur divertissement musical, dénué de connotations religieuses, comme l’affirment souvent les chanteurs mongols ?

 

Il est clair que le chant diphonique est peu diffusé en Mongolie et que sa pratique reste rare et surtout régionale . De plus, il existe différents niveaux d’acquisition de cette technique vocale . Ce qui nous appelons ici xöömij correspond à la maîtrise la plus achevée de cet art vocal qui apparaît comme une sorte de sifflement laryngal diphonique .

 

Ceux qui pratiquent ce type de chant sont des Mongols “ xals ” pratiquement tous originaires de l’Ouest du pays, et plus précisément de la province de Tchandmani . Cependant, on rencontre aussi la pratique u xöömij dans la région de Uvs, par les chanteurs E. Tojvgoo et Z.Sundui notamment . Ils commencent à apprendre le xöömij très tôt, en général vers l’âge de 7 ou 8 ans dans le cadre d’un enseignement institutionnel, mais tout simplement par tradition orale, dans le décor naturel de la steppe.

 

Au début de l’apprentissage, les enfants commencent à émettre sur les voyelles mongoles un timbre provenant de l’arrière gorge. Puis ils font avec leur main droite ou gauche des mouvements secs et réguliers devant leur bouche entr’ouverte. Ces mouvements ont pour but de renforcer les harmoniques émises et, ainsi, d’aider à l’émission diphonique . Cette technique particulière s’appelle “ baiybaldaqu ” (information fournie par le chanteur Yavgan d’Oulan Bator)

 

Le musicologue mongol Badraa a recueilli une légende d’origine du xöömij dans laquelle il est question d’une rivière montagneuse .

“ L’Ijven dont la chute d’eau pure et cristalline du haut d’une falaise abrupte vient frapper les rochers en contre-bas et produire ainsi des sons très mélodieux . C’est en essayant d’imiter cette musique que les gens ont appris à chant le xöömij ” . Il cite une autre légende dans laquelle l’Ijven n’est pas une simple rivière mais “ la fille du Maître de l’Altaï ”.

“ L’Ijven voulait rejoindre le lac Zaiysan mais ce dernier refusa de la recevoir, prétextant que ces eaux n’étaient pas profondes. Alors, l’Ijven offensée, alla trouver son père Altai lui demandant une eau plus abondante pour accomplir son désir . Son père bienveillant lui attribua 5 affluents grâce auxquels ell put enfin se jeter dans le lac ”

 

LES STYLES DE XOOMIJ EN MONGOLIE

 

Traditionnellement il existe 6 styles de xöömij :

1.Amany xöömij : xöömij de bouche

2.Xamaryn xöömij : xöömij de nez

3.Xolgojn xöömij : xöömij de gorge

4.Ceezijn xöömij : xöömij de poitrine

5.Xondij xöömij ou Xevlijn xöömij : xöömij profond

6.Xarkiraa xöömij : xöömij grue

 

Ce système classificatoire s’opère autour de zone de vibrations et de résonance, qui attribue une couleur timbrique spécifique à chaque type d’émission .

 

FONCTION DE LA PHONATION SELON LE CHANT DIPHONIQUE MONGOL

Le rôle réduit des voyelles lors de la production de sifflement diphonique montre que les résonateurs, bien qu’ils aient leur qualité timbrique propre et qu’ils agissent comme de véritalbes filtres, réduisants ou renforçants des sons harmoniques, ne sont pas les seuls éléments participant à la mise en place de la seconde voix . Le problème semble se situer davantage dans la partie antérieure de l’appareil phonatoire, au niveau du larynx, c’est à dire de la production de la voix. Le larynx a une fonction respiratoire, phonatoire et sphinctérienne ou de valve . Il est formé par deux sphincters glottiques appelés “ cordes vocales ” et “ fausses cordes vocales ”. Il s’agit en réalité de plis musculaires tapissés de muqueuse qui réalisent des mouvement de rapprochement et d’éloignement très rapides .

 

Le chanteur lui même localise la production du sifflement diphonique au niveau du larynx, lorsqu’il parle de “ resserrement ”. Il est donc très intéressant de pouvoir étudier les comportements phonatoire glottiques qui produisent ce type d’émission.

 

La méthode la plus simple d’observation du larynx consiste à utiliser le miroir laryngoscopique de Garcia . Garcia était à la fois chanteur et professeur de chant qui , en 1855, réussit à voir le larynx grâce à un petit miroir de dentiste correctement orienté sur la luette, et en l’éclairant.

 

En inspiration ou respiration, les cordes vocales, qui sont de couleur blanche et nacrée, se séparent et laissent entrevoir la trachée. Au moment de l’émission phonatoire, les cordes se ressèrent et se mettent en vibration l’une contre l’autre. Tout ce mécanisme est commandé par le cerveau et contrôlé par les centre de l’aution. On a aussi observé que la dimension des cordes vocales varie avec l’âge et en fonction du sexe. De 14mm à 21mm pour les femmes, elles passent de 18 à 25 mm pour les hommes .

 

La question est de savoir comment se comporte l’ensemble du larynx lors d’une émission diphonique. Or, dès 1975, des recherches furent entreprises par le musicologue CERNOV et le phoniâtre MASLOV sur le chant des Touvins, comparable, sur le plan des études spectographiques, aux productions du chanteur SUNDUI . Cernov et Maslov mentionnent les résultats danalyses acoustiques réalisées par Banin et Lozkin sur le chant diphonique des Touvins. D’après ces derniers, le bourdon vocal peut se situer dans une fourchette de 60 à 220 Hz et le sifflement (ou la voix formantique) entre 2000 et 3000 Hz . A titre de comparaison, le chanteur Sundui émet un bourdon entre 78 et 156Hz, le sifflement laryngal entre 1400 et 2480 Hz .

Ces chercheurs utilisèrent différentes méthodes d’investigation : radiographie aux rayons X, tomographie, cinématographie et laryngoscopie indirecte. Les résultats de leurs travaux parurent sous forme de plusieurs articles en russe . Les examens laryngoscopiques, répétés sur plusieurs chanteurs touvins (parmi lesquels D.Otchir, V. Soyan et V. Mongoush en 1976), montrèrent que leur appareil vocal ne comporte pas d’anormalité de caractère anatomo-physiologique. Cependant, au moment de l’émission diphonique, les chercheurs ont observé le phénomène suivant :

1963 L’épiglotte et le cartilage aryténoïde se resserrent plus étroitement

1964 Les fausses cordes vocale (ou bandes ventriculaires) particulièrement développées musculairement, se rejoignent et forment un étroit canal dont l’ouverture, de 1,5 à 2mm est entourée de mucosité sur le dessus .

L’ensemble du larynx, en émission diphonique, se contracte : le pied de l’épiglotte s’abaisse vers le cartilage aryténoïde et les bandes ventriculaires se rejoignent ne laissant qu’un étroit passage circulaire. Les cordes vocales deviennent, du coup, invisibles. Pour observer leur fonctionnement, une tomographie frontale aux rayons X fut réalisée et a permis de constater que les cordes vocales restent accolées et les bandes ventriculaires se contractent pour former un étroit couloir.

Cette tomographie permet nettement de voir que, lors d’une émission de chant diphonique, le larynx réduit le passage de la colonne d’air à deux endroits : d’abord au niveau des cordes vocales qui produisent le son fondamental, puis les bandes ventriculaires se resserrent et créent une cavité de résonance dans la chambre des ventricules de Morgagni d’où sort un sifflement de haute fréquence sur une harmonique du son fondamental ; le registre de ce sifflement étant en relation étroite avec le volume de cette chambre. Le sifflement est ensuite modulé par les qualités résonantes du pharynx, de la cavité buccale et de la région nasale .

Cela ne signifie pas que le dispositif ainsi mis en place reste statique. Tout se passe comme si le chanteur faisait disparaître son bourdon à certains endroits par l’émission d’un sifflement laryngal. Cette disparition du son fondamental, lisible sur les sonagrammes, pose le problème de la source sonore. Les fausses cordes vocales sont elles à ce point resserrées qu’elles peuvent se substituer aux cordes vocales et produire du son par sifflement ? ou bien forment elles une sorte de filtre puissant capable de filtrer jusqu’au son fondamental des cordes vocales ?

Pour les phoniatres russes, la source principale provient des cordes vocales, mais il aurait été tout de même intéressant d’en avoir la confirmation par une laryngoscopie qui aurait eu le mérite de montrer si les cordes vocales vibrent réellement lors de l’émission du sifflement laryngal, particulièrement dans ces passages où le bourdon disparaît.

 

Un bref aperçu sur le chant diphonique mongol pour montrer qu’il y a une lègère différence entre les styles mongols et ceux des Touvins .

 

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“Vocal & Instrumental of Mongolia” ,

Topic, World Series TSCD909, Londres, Grande Bretagne, 1994.

“Jargalant Altai/ Xöömii and other vocal and instrumental music from

Mongolia” ,

Pan Records PAN 2050CD, Ethnic Series, Leiden, Hollande, 1996

“ Virtuousos from the Mongol Plateau ”.

World Music Library. King Records. KICC 5177

“ Mongolie: Chamanes et Lamas (Shamans and Lamas) ”

Ocora Radio France C560059, Paris.

Mongolia: Living Music of the Steppes

“ Mongolia: Traditional Music ”.

UNESCO Auvidis D8207

JOLENE CREIGHTON : Overtone Singing: The Science Behind Singing Multiple Notes At Once (VIDEO)

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Overtone Singing: The Science Behind Singing Multiple Notes At Once (VIDEO)

Image credit: Pinoy

This video has been making the rounds recently. It’s a neat little example of a thing called “overtone singing,” which is also known as “throat singing.” When you first hear it, it may seem like it must be a talent that is only granted to a rare few, but it is actually a technique that nearly anyone can learn. As singer Anne-Maria Hefele states, “overtone singing is a voice technique where one person sings two notes at the same time.” This is accomplished by manipulating the placement of your tongue and the shape of your mouth. Such manipulation produces a low note and a high note.

The low note is known as the “fundamental, ” and it is the usual tone of the voice (when preforming overtone singing, this low note sounds like a sustained drone or a Scottish bagpipe). The high note sounds like a resonating whistle.

At first glance, overtone singing might not seem like it involves any physics, but it’s actually firmly linked to this Science (at least in the Western world). Piero Cosi, senior researchers at the Institute of Cognitive Science and Technologies, states that overtone singing made its way to the West thanks to an American physicist known as Richard Feynman (one of the father’s of quantum mechanics). When tracing its history, Cosi asserts that, “Throat-Singing has almost entirely been an unknown form of art until rumours about Tuva [which is a is a federal subject of Russia] and the peculiar Tuvan musical culture spread in the West, especially in North America, thanks to Richard Feynman, a distinguished American physicist, who was an ardent devotee of Tuvan matters.”

According to William R. Corllis, many birds can also produce simultaneously two tones that are not harmonically related. Notably, these birds have a special double-barreled organ, which is called the “syrinx,” that enables them to preform this feat. In humans, the process works a little differently. Jim Cole, over at Spectral Voices, notes that, for overtone singing, performers start by following these simple guidelines:

To begin singing high whistle-like overtones, the sides of the tongue are curved upward and held nearly against the upper premolar teeth – creating a seal with the roof of the mouth all the way around (with a small opening for air to pass).  To try this yourself, sing “errrr”  For higher overtones, move the tongue forward. Vowel sounds and lip shapes are important in fine-tuning the harmonics.  The lowest harmonics are emphasized with tight “oo” sounds, while increasingly higher harmonics can be heard as vowels change through “oh…awe…ah…ay…ee,” and everything in between.

Cosi breaks down the science, “the tongue is raised so to divide the vocal tract in two main resonators, each one tuned on a particular resonance. By an appropriate control, we can obtain to tune two separate harmonics, and thereby to make perceptible, not one but two (or more) pitches at the same time.” In the below video, Hefele demonstrates how to do this, and what it should sound like when you are doing it correctly. Of course, it should be noted that Hefele has been training for years (she has been studying the technique since 2005), so you shouldn’t expect results like this any time soon. (The most amazing parts occur around 3:25).

WATCH: Overtone Singing—Singing Multiple Notes At Once

READ NEXT: NASA Records The Sounds of Space

http://www.fromquarkstoquasars.com/overtone-singing-science-behind-singing-multiple-notes-video/

BRUCE MANAKA: Learning Overtone Singing for Accessing the Higher Self

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Learning Overtone Singing for Accessing the Higher Self

The following techniques are guidelines to help you get the feel and sound of the high, medium and low register overtones. Once you are familiar with the sounds and comfortable in creating the overtones, you will discover your own techniques and unique sounds to explore. These techniques should in no way strain the vocal cords. In fact, the quality of the voice and breathing capacity should improve with practice. Have fun with the techniques! Remember, no forcing or straining. The overtones come when you are deeply relaxed!

Higher Register: the harmonics sound similar to high whistling.

  • Tip of tongue behind the upper front teeth
    Make small movements with the lips and tongue to get the overtones vibrating.
  • EE as in “year”
    Listen especially during the transition between the “y” to “ee” sound, and then from “ee” to “rr” sounds.

The listening part is most important. Take note of how the sound changes with very slight movements in tongue position. Experiment with volume (low to high). The EE sound corresponds to the spiritual eye and crown centers. Pay attention to these areas as you practice.

It is also important to note that you are already creating harmonics with your voice. This is what makes your voice unique. The techniques you are learning are just ways to tune into and magnify certain notes or “partials.”

Mid Register: the harmonics sound like ethereal flutes.

  • OH as in OM
    Lips slightly round and tongue flat on bottom of mouth and slightly pulled towards back of throat. Visualize small grapefruit expanding the space in the mouth. The sound of OH corresponds to the root chakra (at base of spine), giving a sense of grounding and connection with Earth energies.
  • UU as in “you.”
    With slightly round lips, sing UU and then move the tongue slightly and slowly forward. Listen to the changes in harmonics. Repeat. Again, experiment with volume. The sound of UU corresponds to the throat area, the seat of creativity and expression.

Lower Register: The harmonics sound guttural (similar to Tibetan Buddhist chanting). The lower register can also sound like low notes of a flute or like someone blowing sideways on the opening of a bottle. The harmonics are produced in the back of the throat in general but can also be produced throughout the mouth with practice.

  • OH as in “OM”
    Relax the throat and open up the back of the throat and nasal passages. As you tone the sound of “OH” create a cavity in the mouth (visualize the grapefruit) and push air out through the mouth and nasal passage. This takes a bit of practice. Experiment with going back and forth with pushing air out mostly through the mouth and then a combination of through the mouth and nose.

Sound of motor: with lips closed (no air going through), make the sound of a motor (kind of like a sawing sound) high in the nasal cavities. When you get this sound, try opening the mouth to add overtones from the expanded space.

In practicing the upper, middle and lower range harmonics, keeping the nasal passages open and allowing some air and vibration to pass through this area is a great help in producing the harmonics. In the beginning, however, it may not feel natural and so to get a feel for this, practice with mouth closed for a little while. Hum through the nose and listen to each of the aforementioned sounds.

With time and practice you will learn to hear a wide range of harmonics and will begin to project greater energy in sounding out different overtones at the same time. You will then be able to create your own unique combinations of overtones that will help you towards a greater sense of well being and balance.

Have fun with your practice and let me know how you are coming along.

Bruce Manaka

http://www.manakastudios.com

https://accessingyourhigherself.wordpress.com

https://accessingyourhigherself.wordpress.com/2009/03/06/learning-overtone-singing-for-accessing-the-higher-self/

CAROLE PEGG : Mongolian Conceptualizations of Overtone Singing (Xöömii)

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http://www.soundtransformations.btinternet.co.uk/khoomiipeggconcepts.htm

Mongolian Conceptualizations of Overtone Singing (Xöömii)

By Carole PEGG

Radik Tülüsh and Carole Pegg

Mongolian conceptualizations of overtone singing (xöömii)

By Carole Pegg

Return to carole pegg main page

Based on fieldwork in western Mongolia during 1989 and 1990, this paper relates Mongolian xöömii or overtone singing to its social context and to the cognitive world of the performers. It looks at secular performance contexts, theories of origin, legendary/historical development, recent transformation into an art form, traditional training methods and transmission, Mongolian classification of xöömii, and its relationship with nature and shamanism. A brief overview is given of previous non‑Mongolian perspectives, which have either concentrated on acoustical and physiological analysis of the sounds themselves or have made claims that overtone singing is a “magical voice technique” causing spiritual and physical healing. The latter is contrasted with the Mongolian belief that, although consumption of the sounds may be beneficial, the production of xöömii is potentially harmful to the body.

I    INTRODUCTION

The term “overtone singing” (see note 1) refers to an extraordinary vocal technique in, which a single performer simultaneously produces up to three separate voca1 lines, which can be clearly distinguished by listeners. There are several types of “overtone singing”, but most involve the sounding of a fundamental drone, whilst producing a flute‑like melody by reinforcing a series of chosen harmonics or partials of that fundamental. This phenomenon has been embraced in the West by two groups of people who view it with very different perspectives. On the one hand, there are those who assume that it is linked with ancient religious practices and beliefs, with powerful forces within the universe, that it may be used for meditation or for magical healing. On the other hand, there are those who are curious to understand how one person can physically produce such sounds, and musicologists and others have carried out a considerable amount of research on this over the last ten years. But little has been done to relate the phenomenon to its social context or to the cognitive world of the performers. This has been partly because of the inaccessibility of those Central Asian areas where it occurs and partly because of the orientation of the researchers. This paper attempts to augment these previous perspectives with indigenous ones gained during fieldwork undertaken in Mongolia during 1989 and 1990. It contextualises Mongolian overtone singing in geographical, historical and societal terms and considers the culture bearers’ own conceptualisation of musical sound. It also illustrates the use of xöömii in secular contexts in Mongolia, considers its relationship with religion and points to the potentially harmful effects of the production of these sounds on the body.

II     GEOGRAPHICAL DISTR IBUTION OF OVERTONE SINGING

1  Turko‑Mongol peoples

Overtone singing is found predominantly amongst the Turco‑Mongol peoples of Southern Siberia and Central Asia. In addition to Mongolia, it is found in Tannu Tuva, an autonomous region of Russia which lies just north of western Mongolia, and amongst neighbouring peoples such as the Bashkirs (Garcia 1840; Lebedinskii 1962:147‑49), Khakassians and the Gorno altai/Mountain Altai (Aksenov 1964). Lamas in the dGe‑lugs‑pa monasteries of Gyume and Gyottö in Tibet were trained from the age of twelve for tantric ritual performance to produce sounds which have been called ” xöömii” (Smith and Stevens 1967:211), but the harmonics or partials are not produced with the intention of creating melodies as in Mongolian xöömii.

2  South Africa and India

Isolated examples have been found in other parts of the world. For instance, the women and girls of the Xhosa people of South Africa perform overtone singing (umngqokolo) during which three tones simultaneously produced by one person are clearly audible (Dargie 1991:39). Umngqokolo ngomqangi, a technique where only two lines are audible (fundamental and overtone), is explained by one performer as originating in the Xhosa boys’ habit of impaling a large flying beetle called umqangi on a thorn and then holding the desperately buzzing insect within the mouth. Umqangi is also an alternative name for the umrhubhe mouth bow, and it is suggested that the umngqokolo ngomqangi overtone technique and narne were derived frorn the bow either directly or via the unfortunate insect (ibid.). The single example (note 2) recorded in Rajasthan is thought to be imitating either the satara double flute or the jew’s harp (Zemp and Tran 1989 F). (note 3)

3 Mongolia

In Mongolia, prior to the destruction of the monasteries by the communists during the 1930s and 1940s, the chanting of Buddhist monks was pitched very deep, and overtones would also sometimes occur, although apparently with no intention of producing a melody. The lama Ven Luvsangshirab (who had been training to become a lama prior to the Revolution and in 1990, because of the new freedom, had been reinstated) dismissed this as a sound which, although impressive, only “resembled” xöömii (IN). Amongst the Mongols, xöömii performance was a secular activity which was considered by the lamas to be “without respect” (xdndtei bish). Despite the claims in 1967 of the Hungarian musicologist Vargyas (D) that xöömii was “still fairly common among male singers, especially in Eastern Mongolia”, the tradition of secular overtone singing belongs to the Altai mountain region of western Mongolia.

My own fieldwork was undertaken in the three provinces or aimag which lie along the Altai mountain range‑Uvs, Xovd and Bayan Olgii‑and contain many different yastan. (Note 4) The majority of Mongols belong to the XaIxa, but there are 22 other yastan in Mongolia, mostly living in the west. An aimag is divided into administrative units called sum, each occupied predominantly by one yastan. I investigated the xöömii tradition in each aimag.

  1. Uys aimag.(note 5) Situated in northwest Mongolia, immediately south of the border with Tannu Tuva, this aimag is occupied by three yastan, the Bayad, the Dörvöd and the Xoton. Overtone singing is rare amongst the Dörvöd and Xoton but has a strong tradition amongst the Bayad. Opinions vary about whether the Bayad had their own xöömii tradition or whether they took it from the Urianxai in Tannu Tuva. (note 6)  It is 85‑year old Düüdei’ s belief (IN) that the Bayad in the border sum of Tes copied the Urianxai. This however was disputed by Byambadorj (IN), a knowledgeable Bayad in charge of the Ulaangom Museum.

He pointed the relationship between ?// (cannot readt the text badly photocopied) an epic performance. He suggested that since the Bayad had a strong epic tradition it was likely that xöömii was also indigenous, In Byarribadorj’s opinion, the influence between the two groups of people was mutual, arising from (instant interaction between the Uriarixai and Bayad in pre‑Revolutionary Mongolia). Many of the Mongols in the seven sum which lie along the border with Tuva intermarried with the Urianxai and gave children to families across the border (Piiveen IN). They also traded with each other, and some of the Urianxai xöömiich (xöömii performers) settled in Uvs.(Note 7) Certainly the xöömii tradition was strong among the Bayad in the 1930s. Jamiyan, who was a teenage Bayad herder in Tes sum at that time, recalled that almost everyone could perform xöömii (IN). Later, in the 1950s and 60s, the media also began to aid the dissemination of xöömii and its different styles, reaching yastan which previously had no known tradition of it. For example, 40‑year old Dörvöd Tseveen copied Tuvan xöömii performers whom he beard on his radio whilst herding as a boy in Ölgii sum, Uvs aimag.

  1. Xovd aimag. Xovd aimag is divided from Xirijiang, (note 8) an autonomous region of northwest China, by the Altai mountains in the south and southwest and lies to the south of Uvs aimag. Xovd is divided into seventeen sum in which ‘live six different yastan.(note 9) The people of Chandman’ sum, who are XaIxa, believe that Mongolian xöömii originated there (note 10) Certainly, Chandman’ sum is the source and centre of xöömii revival in Mongolia and of its transformation into a cultural “art form” (see below). But xöömii is also found amongst other yastan in Xovd aimag‑for instance, among the Torguud and Urianxai in Bulgan sum, (Tsoloo IN), the Bayad and Dörvöd in Uvs aimag (as described above)‑‑and also among the Tuvans in Tsengel sum, Bayan Ölgii aimag.

iii. Bayan Ölgii aimag. Bayan Ölgii aimag lies in the extreme northwest of Mongolia. On its western border the Altai Mountains separate it from China and in the north from Russia. To the East lie Uvs and Xovd aimags. In Bayan Ölgii aimag are three yastan: Tuvan, Urianxai and Kazak. The Tuvans, who live in Tsengel sum, say that they originated in that area and spread out from there to present‑day Tannu Tuva (Magsar IN). (note 11) Now there are less than 1,000 Tuvans. (???cannot read from photocopy) population are Kazak. In “the old time” when the Tuvans herder yaks and lived in the high mountain there were many xöömii perfromers  as thers are now in Russia (Magsar ) The Kazaks also perfrom xöömii

The majority of Mongols are semi‑nomadic pastoralists who, despite political changes, have led a virtually unchanged lifestyle since the time of Chinggis Xaan. They continue to live in round felt, easily transportable tents called ger, to lead a semi‑nomadic life within a prescribed (note12) area in accordance with the wealth of pasture, and to use the animals they herd for their own subsistence needs. Chinggis united the Mongol tribes in the thirteenth century, founding a great empire which eventually encompassed the whole of China and spread as far west as the Black Sea. When Mongolia succumbed to Manchu rule in the sixteenth century, the aristocratic princes (xan) and noblemen (noyon) retained their position of dominance within Mongolian society, although they remained answerable to the Manchu Emperor and paid tribute to him (apart from a ten‑year period of autonomy beginning in 1911) until the communist‑inspired revolution of 1921. In pre‑revolutionary Mongolia, when Lamaism was strong, xöömii was used in everyday contexts despite the disapproval of the lamas, who did not like people to indulge in such secular activities.

A consideration of some Mongolian perspectives on xöömii will assist in greater understanding and help to distinguish differences in the way in which Mongols and some Westerners view it.

III    MONGOLIAN PERSPECTIVES

1 Performance contexts

1 Herding

Xöömii was popular amongst the Urianxai and Bayad camel herders and the Bayan Ölgii Tuvan yak herders. For instance, Mangiljav, a 48‑year‑old Bayad, camel herdsman, is a fine xöömiich who used to perform whilst looking after the herds as a child. He learned from Setsen, his avga (uncle on father’s side), and recalled how his uncle’s xöömii could be heard over a great distance, an ability which was much prized. The Bayad Jamiyan, for instance, recalled People who could be heard over a distance of three kilometres (IN)  The Tuvans in Bayan Olgii aimag used xöömii to “call” yaks ‑ a function which may be connected with this great value placed on carrying power.

2 The ger

In pre‑revolutionary Mongolia, xöömii was also performed within the ger, the round felt tent which was the standard home of the nomadic Mongols. Düüdei (IN), for example, recalled how, during her childhood in Tes sum, Urianxai camel‑herders came from Tuva to gather Sea Buckthorn (Note13) berries, which they used for medicinal purposes and which only grew in Tes sum. Bringing with them many camels and much baggage, they often spent four or five days in her father’s ger, during which time they performed xöömii She noted that before performing they would always repeat the following couplet:

Altai tsantai jurtentei

Amban noen zaxirgaatai. (note14)

suggesting that, in contrast to the lamas’ attitude, the people did treat the performance of xöömii with respect. It is possible that this short introduction was an “offering” to the Altai mountains in much the same way that Altain Magtaal / Praise Song to the Altai Mountains was always performed by the Uriarixai before the rendering of an epic.

3 The noyon’‑s nair / nobleman’s celebration

Jarniyan (IN), born in 1924 in Tes sum, recalled how the noyon JaJin Gün would invite the best bii (Note15) dancers, two‑stringed spiked fiddle players (ixelch) (note16) longsong singers (urtyn duuch) and xöömii performers to his ger to entertain distinguished guests. Xöömii performers, however, were not usually invited to the herders’ own nair (celebrations), to local nair held by the noyon or to a nair held officially (alban yusoor).

4 Chigee uulaax / to cause to drink fermented mare’s milk (note17)

This term was used for a collective celebrations forming part of the wedding ritual known as “seeing off the bride”; it was the only herders’ celebration at which xöömii was performed. Over several days the bride‑to‑be would be invited to the ger of different relatives, accompanied by two xia (note18) and someone whose function was to carry her gifts. She had to wear a special hat and to cover her face with a scarf. Inside each ger she would be offered special meat to eatsheep’s breast, adjoining meat and roasted fat‑and a nair would be held at which, as above, dancers, fiddle players, long‑song singers and xöömiich would perform.

2 Theories of origin

The people of Chandman’ sum believe that xöömii explain its origin in several ways.

1 Nature and the supernatural

The Performance of xöömii and the claim that Chandman’ is its place of origin is attributed to the unusual natural features of this sum: the mountains, lakes. rivers and birds. This “natural origin is also linked, however, with the supernatural or magical.

The geographical features of Chandman’ sum are unusual in Mongolian terms in that it is surrounded on three sides by mountains and lakes. Its western border is formed by Lake Xar Us Nuur in the north and two high mountain ranges, Zuun Jargalantyn Nuruu and Xuremtiin Nuruu. The eastern border is formed by two lakes, Xar Nuur and Dargin Nuur. The two largest lakes, Xar Us Nuur and Xar Nuur are connected in the north by a much smaller lake, Dalai Nuur, and by a river called Chono Xaraix. To the south lies semi‑desert.

Birds. It is claimed that several birds produce xöömii ‑type sounds. For instance, the usny buxI bittern (Note19) keeps its head under water in the lake and produces a sound which can be heard a saaxalt (note20) away (Sengedorj IN). The crane (togoruu), said to live for 3,000 years, also has a distinctive call which, when heard, is considered a portent of long life (Bolorma IN). The noise produced by the wings of the snow cock (xoilog), widespread in Mount Jargalant as well as on the lakes, is said to be very like the sound xöömii. Xöömii is sometimes referred to as the ‘voice’s echo” or “bird’s echo”.

Mountains. The mountains stand alone in the steppe, seperated  from the main Altai massif. The people of Chandman’ sum stress that the sounds heard in the mountains have a special quality, and those who live on Mount Jargalant often discuss the variety of sounds which they hear. For example, they say that sounds are different in the morning from the evening because of a difference in the flow of air (agaaryn ursgal), that common sounds such as rain sound quite different in the mountains, and that there is a particular kind of echo which enables a noise to be heard four or five am (note21) away (Tserendavaa INa).

Mount Jargalant also has a special power. It is said to be able to “hold” the very strong winds which come from the west before releasing them into the steppe below. Sometimes the wind is “held” for four to five hours (Sengedorj) sometimes 24 hours (Tserendavaa INc) and sometimes for as long as three days. During this time the mountain drones or makes a hollow sound (dungenex). The people in the steppe below are thus warned of the impending wind and able to make preparations to meet it. Old people credit the same power to the lake as well. They say that Mount Jargalant and Lake Xar Us Nuur ” attract and digest the sound of the wind” (tataj sleingeex). Batchuluian (IN), a horse herder who lives on the steppe between the mountains and the lake, talked of a musical communication which is set up between the two. His father, a very good xöömiich born 100 years ago, told him, “Our mountain and lakes speak to each other in musical language, and that is why people living between do the same.” His father added that the music had a beneficial effect, which explained why the horses there are bigger, the cattle very good and so on.

Rivers. In addition, the mountains contain many rivers and waterfalls, which produce different combinations of sounds according to the types of stones over which they run. On the peak of Mount Jargalant is a small river‑itself an unusual phenomenon‑which is said to produce good sounds. Once again, though, the explanation in terms of nature is elaborated to include the magical. A particular river is cited as the origin of xöömii ‑ the River Eev‑and this has “magical” properties.            For the peoples of western Mongolia, the River Eev has become a symbol of the “old time” before the Oirad (western Mongols) settled east of the Altai mountains. Identification of its exact location varies. (Note 22) Although everyone knew of it, I never met anyone who had personally seen this river. In old times , Urianixai people used to say that they wanted to drink the water of the River Eev before they died. For all of the yastan in western Mongolia it remains a powerful symbol. Opinions differ about whether it was a river or a stream, but all agree that it made particularly unusual sounds as it trickled or ran over stones. Chuluun used to perform a melody on his morin xuur (note23) Called “The River Eev”(note 24) or “The flow of the River Eev” producing xöömii at the same time. He said that this melody represented the sound of the River Eev which was connected with the origin of xöömii and with the playing of the tsuur. (note25) Xöömii said Chuluun is an interpretation of the sounds of the River Eev in the mind of the xöömiich.

The sounds of this river also had a magical effect. They lured animals to the water to drink but then bewitched them, causing them to fall in (Margad IN, Tserendavaa INb). They also had the power to entrance people. For example, the tale was told of a young girl who went to the river to get water: once she heard the melody of the river she remained there all day, forgetting her mission (Tseveen IN). Samdan (IN) maintained that people born by the River Eev became very good singers and very beautiful people.

2 Historical and legendary time

There is no firm evidence to suggest a date for the origin of xöömii in Mongolia. Historical documents refer to musicians, 300‑strong court orchestras and singers, but xöömii is never mentioned. One of the earliest apparent references to overtone singing appears in Serruys’ translation of a sixteenth‑century Chinese document, containing a description of songs which have “beaucoup de sons de la gorge et des levres that is, “many sounds from the throat and the lips” (1945:153). Another clue, perhaps more definite, occurs in a sixteenth century French poem which seems to describe overtone singing (Anvers 1520, cited in Leothaud 1989).

J’ay veu comme il me semble,

Ung fort homme d’honneur,

Luy seul chanter ensemble

Et dessus et teneur

I saw, it seems to me

A strong man of honour

Singing together with himself

Both above and below. (Note26)

And three centuries later, in a paper given in 1840 to the French Academy of Sciences, Garcia referred to the solo two‑part singing of the Bashkirs (OP.Cit.).

This lack of documentation is possibly because the elevation of overtone singing (and of Mongolian traditional music generally) into an “art form” postdates the Communist Revolution of 1921, when the “music of the people” became imbued with special value and found support from “people’s power” ,Tserendavaa INb). Cultural centres were included in the small group of Administrative buildings placed at the centre of each sum, and local traditional music performers were enlisted to give concerts. The theatres built in each aimag centre drew their artists from those who performed at the cultural centres.

For the people of Chandman’, the origin of xöömii lies in a legendary time when Bazarsad used to perform at nair (celebrations). The xarxiraa xöömiich Margad, now 50 years old, recalled that when he was a boy the old people used to talk of Bazarsad of Chandman’ sum, who lived in ancient times. They described him as being very tall and strong (chadaltai) and a very good wrestler.

When horseman Dashdondob was five years old in 1923, he heard that Bazarsad was the first to perform xöömii in Chandman’ (IN). It was said that he performed türlegt or xosmoljin xöömii a combination of long song with different xöömii techniques, and that when he performed this kind of xöömii well, the spirits of the land and waters came to listen to him (Tserendavaa INc). Although no‑one has actually met or heard Bazarsad, it is affirmed that none will match his skill. By contrast, people did know Chimiddorj, who performed three‑voiced xöömii and Togon Chulum the man who is credited with beginning a new stage in xöömii development.

3 Development of xöömii as a cultural art form

In pre‑revolutionary Mongolia, the performance of xöömii was a secular tradition which had been passed down from generation to generation but was in decline (Sengedorj IN). Old people in Chandman’ sum attributed this to the predominance of Buddhism saying that the disapproval of the lamas caused an interruption in xöömii  development. The Bayad in Uvs aimag still consider it to have declined, since at present only two or three young people can perform it (Jamiyan IN). The new development in the history of xöömii came from Chandman’ sum in Xovd aimag through individual xöömiich

1 Chandman’ Xöömiich

Togon Chuluun was a XaIxa Mongol born in the 1890s who, in addition to performing xöömii whistled, played the tsuur and excelled on the morin xuur  Before the Revolution, he often used his skills when travelling with a camel train to secure himself food and lodgings in ger along the route. There is some disagreement about whether Chuluun learned overtone singing from the declining tradition in Chandman’ sum and later improved his performance whilst in military service in the West Border Guards, or whether he learned the skill whilst in the Guards. In any event, it was Chuluun who, in 1930, first demonstrated xöömii as a “folk art” (Tsambaa IN). He had many pupils, including the now well‑known xöömiich Tserendavaa. These pupils developed xöömiii into a national “art” form capable of winning many medals in folk competitions.

Tsedee is the man accredited with the introduction of xöömii to the rest of the country. He lived on the lakeside and learned xöömiii from Chuluun. In 195? Tsedee joined Xovd Theatre, becoming the first professional xöömii perforner in Mongolia. In 1954 Xovd Aimag Musical Drama Theatre (Xovd Aimagiin Kogjimt Dramyn Teatr) visited the capital, Ulaanbaatar, to present a (dekaden (note27); or ten‑day) concert, and Tsedee became the first person to perform xöömiii there. Xöömii was subsequently officially recognised as a professional “art”. After Tsedee, Sundui joined Xovd Theatre.

Sundui is considered to be the founder of what has been termed the “modern classical form” of xöömii (Tserendavaa INb). He is said to be unique among xöömii performers in that he can produce half tones, rather than the usual full tones. (Note28) He can perform classical European melodies by composers such as Tchaikovsky and Bizet (Batzengel 1980:52) and is able to make vocal leaps over wide intervals (Sengedorj IN). He has a high technical level of xöömii performance, can produce “a scale using four vowels” (gammalax dorvon egshig: Tserendavaa INC) (note29) and is thought to be a possible match for the legendary, Bazarsad.

Sundui’s main attributes are said to be: xevliin bagtaamj sailai / having good storage capacity in the stomach; duuny xooloi saitai / having good throat sounds; and mash ix tamirtai / having great physical strength.(note 30)

Sundui later joined the State Folk Song and Dance Ensemble (Ulsyn Ardyn , Duu Bujgiin Chuulga) in Ulaanbaatar and has now retired. He has  many pupils, among them Sengedorj, who is now with the Xoyd theatre, and Tserendavaa.

Najid Sengedorj has no formal musical education but joined Xovd theatre in 1975. He learned xöömii in Chandman’ at about age five, performed xöömii  in the tenth Festival of Young People and Students and has since travelled widely in Eastern Europe.

Ganbold, currently with the Ulaanbaatar Ensemble, is also from Chandman’ sum. He is able to perform a scale (gammalax) on more vowels than Sundui (Tserendavaa INc). Since he is still a young man, it is thought that he will become very good.

Tserendavaa is a truck driver and a skilled musician. He performs many types of song, including western Mongolian long songs (urtyn duu) and praise songs (magtaal, and plays the horse‑head fiddle (morin xuur) and two‑stringed plucked lute (tovshuur). Together with Badraa, he has identified seven types of xöömii (see below), teaches xöömii in the school in Chandman’ sum and has now begun to teach foreigners in Ulaanbaatar.

2 Training methods and transmission

Performers and teachers of xöömii in the West are largely unaware of the physical problems which its performance can precipitate, stressing only its potential beneficial effects. I was specifically requested by Mongol performers to alert practitioners to the dangers and to attempt to enlist scientific aid in understanding and counteracting the problems. In Mongolia, the performance of xöömii is surrounded by rules and regulations.

Learning and performance. Emic theories stress that the training period for the performance of xöömii should be lengthy, preferably beginning in childhood (Tserendavaa INb, Sengedorj IN). Childhood should be a period of “learning”, with “performance” reserved for one’s maturity. For instance, Tserendavaa began learning at age nine but did not “perform” until age 25. Traditionally, learning was by example and imitation. Tserendavaa recalled his first, childhood experience of xöömii, which was to have an enduring effect. The arrival of the xöömiich at his home had left a strong impression in his mind. One evening a “white‑haired, bearded old man rode up on a greyish horse which shone like silver (buural), looking for two lost horses.” The man, later discovered to be the xöömiich Chulutun, spent three nights in the family ger. During that time Tserendavaa listened to his xöömii and learned from him to play the horse‑head fiddle bought for Tserendavaa by his father. Tserendavaa became a xöömiich to repay his debt to this man. Since 1981 Tserendavaa has taught xöömii to children in Chandman’ secondary school. His method is to define which type of xöömii the pupil is naturally attempting, then to give individual advice according to this chosen type and the stage the child has reached. His main teaching method is demonstration. Tserendavaa pointed out that the difficulty in working with children is that they drift between different types. He emphasized the need to learn the general rules of performance and then choose the specific kind. Aids are sometimes used to acquire a “good xöömii voice”. For instance, a cup is held to the mouth to provide an echo,  (ayagaar devex; lit. to fan by means of a cup), or a pupil is made to xöömiilox against the wind (salkiny ogsuur xöömiilox).Once a “good xöömii voice” is acquired, these devices are no longer necessary. Traditionally xöömii has been performed only by men, but Tserendavaa has begun to teach women. The few women in Mongolia who can xöömiilox have all been taught by him.

Physical problems: Can you wrestle? Chuluun stressed that xöömii is a difficult art demanding self control, endurance and great strength. As an illustration of the strength needed, Tserendavaa described how the legendary Bazarsad’s hair used to stand on end when he performed. He compared the strength needed with that required for wrestling, pointing out that both Bazarsad and Sundui, the two most renowned xöömiich, were also famous wrestlers.The ideal age for wrestling is 25‑ the peak of male human strength. Unless the performer has this strength and the other qualities outlined by Chuluun, xöömii; performance is believed to be harmful for the body. Tserendavaa stressed that physical problems associated with xöömii performance needs to be the object of intense scientific research. His own experiences illustrate some of the problems which may occur. As a child, he injured his larynx (tovonx batsrax) while learning and couldn’t swallow for some time. He has also often broken blood vessels. He advised eating a good meal before performance. In 1982 Tserendavaa took part in a concert in Ulaaribaatar for the Twelfth Trade Union Congress and had not eaten. He felt hungry during the concert and, when he was producing high overtones, he lost consciousness. He needed an operation for broken blood vessels near his eyes and was advised to give up xöömii‑but he says that he is unable to do so. He is now 35 and has been “performing” for ten years. Over the last two years he has been performing more often and has begun to have more problems. Because of the strength and power demanded by its performance. xöömii becomes more difficult with age. After age 40, the technique may survive, but there is a loss of the necessary power. Tserendavaa stresses that achieving a “true xöömiii voice” requires overcoming many bad physical effects. His advice is that men should not perform it in advanced years.

Davaajav, a tseejiin xondiin/chest cavity xöömiich, noted that, although xöömii performers are generally also good singers, it becomes increasingly difficult to sing well because of physical changes which occur in the throat. From his own experience, he supports the view that the performance of xöömii affects the body, and he agrees that a person cannot perform xöömii over in extended period of years. Amateur xöömii performers are, he said, able to perform for longer because of the infrequency of performance.

Women. The performance of xöömii by women is a recent phenomenon. Those who do perform are young and are pupils of Tserendavaa.. Xöömii is considered particularly bad for women’s health, so there are strict rules associated with its performance (Badraa IN, Tserendavaa INc). Women should not begin to learn before the age of 17 or 18 and should only be active Xöömiich between the ages of 20 and 24. They may continue to perform until age 30 if they are not married. Once married, however, they should not continue, and after childbirth they are believed to be unable to perform well.

4 Mongolian classification of  xöömii

  1. Uyangiin xöömii/melodic or lyrical xöömii

Overtone singing styles vary in Mongolia according to historical period, ethnicity and the ability of the individual performer. For example, XaIxa xöömii styles differ from Kazak and Tuvan styles. Different yastan have their own ways of describing the same types of xöömii. For instance, the xelnii ug style referred to by the Bayad xöömiich Mangiljav as being the most popular in Tes sum when he was a child in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s is performed with the xöömii situated at the back of the tongue or in the throat (IN) and is called by the XaIxa bagalzuuryn xooloin xöömii / throat xöömii. Some yastan, however, have types of Xöömii peculiaronly to their group. Tseveen, a 40‑yearold Dörvöd from Olgii sum, demonstrated two such styles: the Urianxai style of xöömii known as xargia (Note31) in which he cupped his hand to his mouth, and shudniii xöömii/tooth xöömiii as performed by the Kazaks. Purev, a 34‑year‑old Tuvan from Bayan Olgii airnag, used the term xöömii to refer to the very low pitched biphonic sound which he produced, but when using melodic overtones deriving from a drone pitched in a higher register denied that it was xöömii. When demonstrating the sounds produced in “the old tme”, Purev growled impressively from deep in the chest, using the very low fundamental AA,(note32) and referred to it as xargaraa.(Note33)

The attempt by the Mongols to classify styles is fairly recent and has been completed most effectively in relation to the Xalxa of west Mongolia. The XaIxa  xöömiich Tserendavaa pointed out that until the folk music specialist Badraa came to Chandman’ sum in 1982 to produce a film called “Mongolian Xöömii”, he had realised that he used different positions of the tongue, lips and so on but had not conceptualised the differences. He subsequently held many discussions about xöömii classification with Badraa, and the conclusions they reached were incorporated into the film, which won a prize in the International Telefilm Festival. During a tour of England (note34) in 1988, Tserendavaa identified and demonstrated the different categories of Mongolian xöömii as follows.

  1. uyangiin xöömii /melodic or lyrical xöömii:
  2. uruulyn / labial xöömii
  3. tagnain /palatal xöömii
  4. xamryn/  nasal xöömii
  5. bagaIzuuryn, xooloin / glottal, throat xöömii
  6. tseejiin xondiin, xeviiin / chest cavity, stomach xöömii
  7. türlegt or xosmoljin xöömii / xöömii combined with long song (Note35)

The sixth type is a combination of speaking (xelex), singing (duulax), humming (ayalax), long song (urtyn duu) melodies and all five melodic types of xöömii. Tserendavaa developed this style, having heard that the legendary xöömiich Bazarsad could perform this combination, and calls it türlegt xöömii (note36). Researchers in Ulaaribaatar have named it xosmoljin xöömii. Tserendavaa, demonstrated the style by performing “Widespread Happiness” or Jargaltai Delger, (note37) using the more restricted range of the west XaIxa variant of the melody rather than that used by the central XaIxa.

Tserendavaa noted that the most difficult types of xöömii to perform are nasal xöömii and türlegt xöömii. Both of these are characterised by much -chinex ‑blood rushing to the face. Nasal xöömii is difficult, he said, because it is necessary to create a powerful flow of air by forcing it through a small channel. Since türlegt xöömii includes elements from all other kinds, it is also very difficult. He needed ten years to master türlegt xöömii, which he first demonstrated in the United States in 1987. In 1988 he won a gold medal at the National Folk Art Competition in Ulaaribaatar performing türlegt xöömii accompanying himself on the morin xuur (horse‑head fiddle).

  1. xarxiraa

Tserendavaa also identified a style of xöömii known as xarxiraa, which he compared to the sound of a “rippling waterfall” (note38) He was however unable to Demonstrate it, since it requires a deep, powerful voice.(note39) The  relationship between uyangiin (melodic) xöömii and xarxiraa has been the source of some dispute among Mongol performers and academics. Traditional music researcher Badraa and the xöömiich Tserendavaa classify them separately, a division which is maintained in categories of performance at folk art festivals (Bawden 1991 OS). Badraa (IN) suggested that xarxiraa lacks the overtone melody (uyangiin isgeree; lit. melodic whistle). Others, however, such as Sengedorj and Margad, both from Chandman’ sum, think that xarxiraa is the source of xöömii and that xöömii is founded on it. Margad sees xarxiraa not as a separate style but as the oldest form of xöömii and the background colour or tone (devsger ongo) out of which others developed. In his own performance of xarxiraa, Margad produces an overtone melody. Sengedorj’s argument was that since there is only one flow of air through the vocal tract, there can only be one type of xöömii.  He acknowledged a different technique for xarxiraa and xöömii, however, saying that if the throat is open (zadgai xooloi) the sound produced is called xarxiraa, whereas if it is “closed tightly” (xumix xooloi) then the sound is called xöömii. He also admitted that the stream of air goes through three places‑the nose, lips and throat‑and stated that this is how the terms xamryn (of the nose), amny xendii (of the mouth cavity) and xooloin xöömii (of the throat) have arisen. And he recognised that some people can only produce one type. Davaajav, who performs tseejiin xondiin xöömii and sometimes bagalzuuryn xöömii, agreed with the concept of different types of xöömii. As a xoomich he felt a difference between them but did not know how to explain. He opined that it is not possible for one person to perform all types.

5 The Four Siblings (ax duu): overtone singing, epics, long song and horse‑head fiddle

Tserendavaa likened the relationship of the four main types of traditional “art”‑xöömii/overtone singing, Tuul/’epics,  urtyn duu/long song and morin xuur/horse‑head fiddle‑to that of four ‑siblings‑ or “brothers and sisters”. A further instrument should be added to the above list which, possiibly because it is not XaIxa, was omitted by Tserendavaa. The tsuur, played by the Urianxai, Kazak and Tuvans in Bayan Olgii aimag, is a three_holed vertical flute through which the performer plays a melody whilst simultaneously producing  a low‑pitched vocal drone.

This ax duu relationship is significant partly in terms of the sounds produced, for the above traditional musical forms all comply with the Mongolian conceptualisation of traditional music, which involves the division of sound into a low drone above which is laid a high melody line. This division of sound has been discussed above in relation to xöömii. The sounds produced during xöömii are often related to those produced in xailax, the deep, declamatory, non melodic technique used for the performance of epics. Sengedorj, xöömiich and tsuur player with the Xovd theatre, proposed that xailax and xöömii originated from the same source but developed differently within the context of different yastan. Similarly, Byambadorj, assuming a relationship between epic and xöömii vocal techniques, used the presence of a strong epic tradition among the Bayad to validate his argument for the indigenous nature of Bayad xöömii. In neighbouring areas, epics and xöömii performance are more obviously related. For example, xai throat singing amongst the Khakassians usually accompanies epic recitation (Maslov and Chernov 1979‑80:86).(note40) Long songs consist of a highly ornamented, long drawn‑out single melody line but are usually accompanied by the horse‑head fiddle which echoes the vocal melodic line whilst simultaneously supplying the underlying drones. As noted above, turlegt xöömiii also combines long song with xöömii. Regarding the tsuur, the programme notes for xioomii performances at a folk art festival (Bawden 1991 OS) gave one category as “xarxiraa xöömii (aman tsuur)”, i.e., (mouth tsuur), thus making the connection between the sounds of one kind of xöömii and the tsuur.

In addition to the similarity in the sounds produced, Tserendavaa pointed out that these traditional musical forms relate as “brothers and sisters” in that their origins connect and harmonise with nature (baigal’) and the environment (orchin axui). He particularly stressed the relationship of the traditional musical forms to baigal’, noting that the performance of xöömii was not associated with culture (soyol) until the 1930s when Chuluun demonstrated it as a “folk art” (see above).

IV OVERVIEW OF NON‑MONGOLIAN PERSPECTIVES

1 The magical sounds of overtone singing

The experimental composer Karlheinz Stockhausen tells how he was inspired in his vocal work “Stimmung'” ‑ the first major Western composition to be based entirely on the production of vocal harmonics‑by a range of Mexican gods and magical forces (D). Similarly, David Hykes relates the overtone sounds of his New York‑based “Harmonic Choir” to “solar winds”, “gravity waves”, “the flight of the sun” and so on (D). In England and America, the “caring 1990s” is said to be replacing the “Thatcherite materialistic 1980s”. The New Age movement, which embraces the beliefs of esoteric religions and a wide range of alternative healing techniques, is becoming increasingly popular as people seek to reinject a spiritual aspect into their lives. Perhaps because it is an exotic and strange sound, Mongolian overtone singing is being assimilated into this movement and is increasingly being promoted as a means of meditation and of alternative or magical healing. It is being linked with Tibetan overtone chanting and advertised as a means of spiritual and physical healing. Proliferating New Age gurus link overtone singing with both Buddhism and shamanism, assuming that its performance has beneficial effects on the body. For instance, “overtone chanting” influenced by “Mongolian and Tibetan shamanic techniques” has been advertised as a means of “sonic meditation”, as “chanting for psycho‑physical transformation” and as a “magical voice technique” (Purce 1991). In alternative healing it is claimed to be able to “reharmonise the patient’s energy field” (Cocker 1990 OS) and to cause “miraculous healings” (McGregor 1991 OS).

Little work has been done in the West on the potentially harmful physical effects of xöömii. The Vietnamese musicologist Tran Quang Hai does warn that it may be dangerous and suggests that practice should be limited to ten or fifteen minutes a day. As a performer himself, Tran also underwent a clinical examination which showed slight inflammation of the vocal chords and some wearing away of the lining of the nasal passages (Sauvage 1989:6). But he also shows a desire to popularise it, having elaborated a series of physical instructions to enable the production of a form of overtone singing to be accessible to all (1978:163‑4; 1989:15‑16) and collaborated on Zemp’s film which, as a cinematic technique, treats those watching the film as workshop members, encouraging them to try it for themselves (Zemp and TrAn 1989 F).

2 Acoustical and physiological analysis of sound

Spectral analysis and the sonogram have been used to analyse the sounds produced in xöömii in order to understand both the sounds themselves and the physiological processes which produce them. Spectral analysis was used initially to identify the range of partials from which the melody tones are selected, namely the 6th to 13th partials but excluding the 11 th (Walcott 1974:55‑9). My own experiments with Tserendavaa confirmed this. His use of the 7th and 11th partials as auxiliary rather than structural notes support the suggestion that tones were selected in accordance with the anhemitonic pentatonic scale typical of Mongolian traditional music (Huglies n.d.; Cross 1990 OS).

Physiological aspects of xooiii production have been investigated with the aid of X‑ray films. In the early 1970s X‑ray films were made in  Paris (note41) of  Tran Quang in Leningrad (note 42) of Tuvan throat singers and later, in 19?? , in Khahassia of  Khakassian throat singers (Maslov and Chernov 1979‑80).  More recently Tran Quang Hai underwent video examinations of his larynx and buccal cavities in Limoges (paller 1989: 11‑15) and had an X‑ray film recording made of his nose and throat whilst performing overtone  singing with sinlge and double buccal cavities as part of Zemp’s film, Le chant des harnoniques (Zemp and Tran 1989 F). This film also shows multi‑coloured sound spectra of  several types of Mongolian overtone singing  (as well as examples from Tuva, Africa and India) reproduced in synchronic sound and in real time using advanced technology of the DSP sona‑Graph Model 5500 which had been acquired by the Department of Ethnomusicology at the Musee de,l’homme.

The fascinating and informative sonograms used in the film have been impressively augmented by Zemp and Tran’s 1991 paper “Recherches experimentales sur le chant diphonique”, in which the physiological characteristics the recorded styles from Tuva, Tibet, Mongolia, Altai, Rajasthan and South Africa are compared with the aid of illustrative sonograms. The strength, range, and contours of bourdons and partials are clearly shown and, by using Tran Quang Hai’s imitative skill in reproducing the same contours, physiological data is provided on the use of different resonating cavities, muscular contractions and ornamentation techniques.

Following Stumpf’s work on the analysis of sung vowel sounds (1918), recent work has also been done on the association of vowel sounds and pitch. Tran Quang Hai (1980:163) elaborated on the way in which the pronunciation vowels produces a series of partials the range of which depends on the tone quality of the singer’s voice and windpipe, and David Hughes (1989) discusses, the use of vowel‑pitch solfege systems in different societies.

As a result of the above acoustical and physiological research, it is possible to give a broad outline of the factors which influence the range, selection and production of partials and which consequently determine the tonal colour xöömii. These include the following five, which overlap to some extent:

  1. a) the size of the buccal cavity, which may be separated from the pharyngeal cavity by the back of the tongue or divided into a front and rear cavity by

raising the tip of the tongue to the palate (Zemp and Tran 1991:31; Tran and Guillou 1980:171);

  1. b) the contraction of muscles in the stomach, neck, pharynx, the nasal passages and in the soft inner walls of the other cavities of the vocal tract ( (Winckel

1960; Gunji 1978:136; Zemp and TrAn 1991:39‑46);

  1. c)  the production of different vowel sounds (Stumpf 1918; Guriji 1978,Tran 1989; Hughes 1989);
  2. c) the pitch of the fundamental, which in part determinesthe frequency range within which partials are available for selection (Walcott 1974; Cross 1990

OS; Zemp and Tran 1991).

  1. d) manipulation of the muscles of the vocal tract as under point (b), in order to select as primary resonator either the buccal or the pharyngeal cavity, thus

emphasising respectively the second or first formant, the latter resulting in the Tuvan kargyraa (Hughes 1989).

Since it is not possible to illustrate adequately in the space available the depth of acoustical and physiological research that has been accomplished, and since the main thrust of this paper is to present the Mongolian viewpoint, it is hoped that the reader will examine the rich data now available through the sources cited.

3 Conceptualisalion of sound

only etic observers compare the sounds produced in overtone singing with those of the jew’s harp (aman xuur, that is, mouth harp). Since the French scientist Manuel Garcia pointed to a similarity between the Bashkirs’ uzIiau overtone singing and the sound produced by a “jew’s harp” in 1840, others have followed suit. For instance, Vargyas (1968:71) made the same comparison in relation to the Tuvans, and this has been echoed by others in relation to the Mongols (Hamayon 1973, Heiffer 1973,Guriji 1978:135). The techniques do have some similarities. In both cases the mouth is used as a resonator and the articulation of silent vowels produces harmonic overtones above a fundamental drone. In the case of the jew’s harp, however, the fundamental is generated by an extrasomatic source‑the tongue of the jew’s harp whilst in overtone singing it is generated by the vibrating vocal chords. Mongolian xöömii is also more diversified and expressive than the sounds produced by a “jew’s harp”, and the techniques used are far more complex. As shown above, the production of each type involves the use of different breathing techniques and changes in tension in the vocal cords, the pharynx, the nasal passages, the windpipe and so on. When Sundui was asked, during a seminar session in Japan, about the validity of the comparison between xöömii and the jew’s harp, he pointed out that whilst the control of the mouth cavity is quite similar, the control of the breath is quite different (Emmert and Minegishi 1980:48). During my fieldwork in Mongolia, xöömii performers in Chandman’ consistently denied any connection between overtone singing and the jew’s harp, insisting, as outlined above, on the interrelation ship of the sounds produced in xöömii with those of the other traditional musical forms and the connection which all of them have with nature.

V Conclusion

Although there is evidence that xöömii was used in secular contexts in Mongolia, there are also indications that it had religious or magical connotations. For instance, the legends of origin of xöömii outlined above link the sounds which inspired xöömii with beneficial effects on living creatures: the horses and cattle in Chandman’ sum are extra fine because they exist beneath the “musical communication” set up between mountain and lake, the people living by the River Eev are fine singers and also beautiful, the call of the crane is a portent of long life and so on. These sounds are both natural‑in that they emanate from natural phenomena such as mountains, lakes, rivers and birds‑and supernatural in the effects which they have. Although there is no firm evidence of a link with shamanism, pause for thought is given by the stress laid upon “nature” as the origin of xöömii in a people whose folk religion was based on communication with spirits located in natural phenomena. Clearly if the combination of mountains and lakes was the only necessary inspiration, overtone singing would be more geographically widespread. My experiences in western Mongolia showed that the belief in spirits of the mountains did not die during the years of Communist rule. Hunters who five on Mount  Jargalant continue to make libations of fermented mare’s milk (airag) and to burn juniper leaves (arts) and incense (xuj) before setting out on a hunting trip, requesting that the mountain should bestow game upon them that day. And when a tyre burst on my jeep, the former lama who accompanied me knelt in the direction of the mountain and prayed. It would be surprising, therefore, if strange sounds which had the dual function of warning of impending danger and enabling everything beneath it to flourish and which emanated from within the mountain where a spirit was thought to dwell had not, in former days, been interpreted as communication from that spirit. Mongolian traditional music researcher Badraa (IN) also links xöömii with religious belief when he categorises it as a form of whistling, which he believes is one of the earliest noises made by man in imitation of nature; until recently whistling was used to call up the god of the wind.(note43) Similarly, the legendary xöömiich Bazarsad’s performance of tiirlegt xöömii was said to attract the earth and water spirits. Such references to spirits and gods are not insignificant given that at the time of my field trips the Mongols had not reached the degree of openness and freedom of speech and belief which they are now able to enjoy.

There is, then, some basis from the evidence within Mongolia for the belief that these sounds are related to religious belief and particularly to natural phenomena. It is perhaps partly because of a former religious association that the Mongols surround xöömii performance with rules and regulations. But it is also related to the fact that performance of the more difficult types of xöömii may cause physical damage while sustained performance of less difficult types cause physical changes which may also have adverse effects. Whilst an argument could be made that those listening to overtone singing may be effected beneficially (as those hearing the xöömii‑type sounds of mountain, water and birds in Mongolia), the evidence from Mongolia contradicts the idea that those producingxöömii  sounds will also automatically benefit‑suggesting, in fact, that xöömii performance may cause considerable physical problems. At a minimum, those people who are teaching the production of those sounds should be aware of this and also aware, as Tserendavaa pointed out, that beginners may “drift between types”, thereby doing themselves unwitting harm.

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TRAN QUANG HAI : A Wide Range of Possibilities of the Human Voice

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A Wide Range of Possibilities of the Human Voice

 

Tran Quang Hai (France/ Vietnam)

tqh

 

To establish a typology of the voice is not something easy to be done .  Based on the phonation and its production, is proposed a first attempt of provisory voice classification :

  1. Calls, cries and clamours

The voice is used with intensity in order to project towards a big audience . The cries remain an individual expression of pain (funerals), joy (ululations of the Arabo-Berber world), and astonishment (“ole” of flamenco)

Sound example : KECAK chorus in Bali, Indonesia

Kecak chorus appeared at the beginning of 20th century. This genre drew from older models, such as the trance dances as practised in temples . A chorus men, some one hundred singers, seated in concentric circles facing towards the centre, where a scene from the Ramayana is played. The chorus itself performs a polyphony of diverse cries and onomatopoeias, wherein the syllables KE and CAK are stylised monkey calls. The result is a varied rhythmic counterpoint, mainly using techniques of hocket, ostinato and off beat . Synchronisation between the different parts is rigorously directed by one of the members in the chorus. There is no place for improvisation .

  1. Voice and breath

The sound of the breath itself may be exploited for aesthetic ends, as when seeking a special timbre (as in the whispered voice of the Burundi zither player . Inuit throat games combine both rhythmical component of the breath and musical line of the voice .

Sound example : Whispered song with Inanga trough zither , Burundi

The pronunciation of the words by a man’s voice with the breath very obvious is perfectly synchronised with the plucking of the zither

Sound example : Throat game by Inuits, Canada

Three short throat game pieces KATAJJAQ a) by Elijah Pudloo Mageeta and Napache Samaejuk Pootoogook, b) by Temgeak Pitaulassie with Alla Braun, c) by Soria Eyituk with Lusi Kuni

The KATAJJAQ is a singular vocal technique characterized by the alternation of audible inhalation and exhalation, by a nasal and guttural vocal emission, and of bursts of sounds without fixed pitch. It is built upon repetitive motifs . Women’s vocal jousting. The two singers get face to face, almost mouth to mouth. The idea is to fatigue the adversary, and rhythmicalle destabilize her . A piece ends when one of the women runs out of breath and laughs .

  1. Spoken, declaimed, sung

Cantillation of the Koran, Buddhist psalmody, recitation of the Rig Veda in India, ritual speech in New Caledonia, and shaman’s song in Terra del Fuego (Argentina) are different aspects of this category .

Sound example : Buddhist psalmody by Tibetan Monks, Tibet

This is an extract of an invocation to the goddess Aphyi, protector of the monastery .

The passage shows the style of chanting dbyangs (literally “vowels”) and is characterized by a solemnisation of the enunciated text, obtained by the interpolation of syllables without meaning between the words with the accompaniment of a big frame drum .

  1. Compass and register

The term “register” is used in widely different ways. Acousticians and physiologists recognize 4 registers or mecanisms: mecanism 0: strobass or fry voice, mecanism 1: chest voice, mecanism 2: head voice, mecanism 3: whistle or flute voice .

The alternation of the 2 principal registers can sometimes constitute the very essence of the musical material, as is the case of the yodel, defined as such by the rapid passing from one mechanism to the other .

Sound example : Totemic emblem song, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea , tribe: Abelam

This men’s song is sung with a “strobass “ voice in the deep bass . This song has no words .

Sound example: Song for the carnaval, Bolivia, Indians Llamero

By 2 women, this vocal duo with an ensemble of 4 vertival flutes rnkillo played in parallel octave by men . The women sing in the highest register, it is said that their voices “become visible” .

Sound example: Yodel during the alpine pasturage, Switzerland

A three part polyphonic song without words consists of yodel syllables selected for the register, mostly with the vowels (a) and (o) in chest voice and (u) in falsetto, but also with (i) in both registers .

  1. Colours and timbres

If the “flamenco voice” is often thought of as “guttural”, what does this word mean, and what kind of physiological reality is involved ? Is not the Xhosa voice while quite different from the Andalusian, not also “guttural” ? As for “nasal voice”, how can we determine the difference between the voice used in American country music and the one of Japanese shomyo chanting ?

Sound example : Flamenco song seguiriya , Spain

This example of the flamenco voice, whose pungency and dark character are summed up the adjective negra “black” . A negra voice contains a number of intentional impurities

Sound example : Shomyo buddhist chanting , Japan

The psalmodic chant Hyôbyaku is a prayer offered to Dainichi recited by an old monk with a nasal voice

  1. Disguised voices

There are several techniques of disguise that a singer can employ . In the Peking opera, a male actor sings in falsetto to imersonate a female . The masked voice in Africa evokes the supernatural spirit. The didjeridu of the Australian aborigines,the kazoo of European children, the bamboo tubes of the Iatmul of the Sepik area, Papua New Guinea, or clay pots in Rajasthan, India distort the voice during performances .

Sound example: Peking opera Jingxi/ Pingju, China

The principal feminine role is traditionnally performed by a man

Sound example : Song with mirliton , Honduras

Alternance of sung words with cries, of a relatively weak intensity . The voice is masked by means of a mirliton .A small tube is closed at its lower end while to the other end is fixed a vibrating membrane (skin from a bat’s wing, intestine or paper).

  1. Ornementation

Vibrato can be considered as ornementation . In Western lyrical singing, it is a minimal form of ornamentation . The Mongolians alternate vibrato with trills (upon 2 degrees)

Sound example : Epic song , Kurdistan, Iran

Ne discovers here the same very confined melodic structure, and the ornamentation technique tahrir, though less applied .

 

         8 .Singing in the instrument

By lip vibration, the Australian aborigines  use the didjeridu as a horn, and with the technique of circular breathing permitting a continuous sonorous spectrum, rich in harmonics. At the same time, the musician emits sounds of different animals

Sound example :solo of didjeridu, Australie

9 .Imitation of instruments

The flute (in Mongolia) is not , however the only instrument that the voice can take for model – the fiddle (the Tibesti region of Chad) , the whistle (Central Africa) or the drum (North and South India)

Sound example : imitation of flute limbe , Mongolia

The singer uses an acrobactic vocal technique called “playing the flute through the nose”

  1. Employ of harmonics

A periodic sound is made of a fundamental and a series of upper harmonics which are selected to create an independent melody .

Experimental Research on Overtone / Undertone Singing

 

My experimental research on overtone/undertone singing has enabled me to establish  new possibilities of sound productions

  1. To select  one harmonic as a drone and to sing a melody with fundamentals

The fundamentals can be varied from 110 Hz  to 220 Hz (from A2 to A3) in the diatonic scale. During that time is kept the same pitch of the selected overtone at 1320 Hz. In order to obtain this result, the tip of the tongue strongly touches the meeting point of the hard palate and the soft palate or velum under the roof of the palate and should not make any movement . In that case, the two buccal cavities obtained by the position of the tongue inside of the mouth have the same volume and get the same overtone pitch in spite of the changing pitch of the fundamentals .

  1. To create a parallel between fundamentals and overtones

The overtones are always 3 octaves higher than the fundamentals while singing the ascending and descending  diatonic scale with the fundamentals . If the fundamental is at 110 Hz , the overtone will be heard at 880 Hz. If the fundamental is moved up to 220 Hz , the overtone will be at 1760 Hz . For this experiment,, not only the tip of the tongue is hardly pressed  against the roof of the palate and moves from the velum to the hard palate when the fundamentals moves from A2 (110 Hz) to A3 (220 Hz) in order to create the same pitched distance of 3 octaves in parallel .

  1. To create the opposite direction between overtones and fundamentals

When the fundamental is sung at A2 (110 Hz) the overtone is at H16 (4 octaves above the fundamental). While the fundamental goes up to A3 (220 Hz) , the overtone goes down to H4 (2 octaves above the fundamental). Consequently, this shows the opposite movement of fundamentals and overtones . In order to get this spectrum, the position of the tip of the tongue touches near the teeth under the roof of the palate (H16 will be heard) and moves  back slowly to the velum (H4) while the fundamentals start with low pitch (A2) and ends with high pitch (A3) of the A tonality

 

  1. To write words with overtones (such words like MINIMUM,  WIN )

A limited number of words can be written with overtones . With the same pitch of the fundamental , the written words can be done by varying overtones  at three levels (under 1,000 Hz, 2,000 Hz, and 3,000 Hz)

  1. To create UNDERTONES (F-2, F-3, F-4 while singing a melody)

Some traditional throat voices like Tuvan Kargyraa, Xhosa  Umngqokolo from South Africa, the Tenore voice of the Sardinian Quintina  (the fusion of 4 main voices creates the virtual fifth overtone voice) use the undertone going down one octave lower than the real fundamental . Leonardo Fuks from Brazil arrived to go down to F-5 (2 octaves and a major third below the fundamental) but he could not sing a tune with that way . I have succeeded in  dividing the fundamental pitch into 2, 3, and 4 . With  the use of arytenoids inside of my throat , I could sing one octave lower (F-2), one octave and a fifth lower (F-3) and two octaves lower (F-4) than the real fundamental pitch (between 110 Hz and 150 Hz) . It is not possible to create the undertones above 220 Hz or below 60 Hz

  1. To combine OVERTONES and UNDERTONES while singing a melody

In Tuvan kargyraa, and Xhosa umngqokolo from South Africa, the combination of overtones (melody) and undertones (real fundamental split into two – F-2) can be produced simultaneously . With my experiment, I could sing an overtone melody with the fundamental divided into 3 (F-3) simultaneously . The perception is naturally not at all identical.

  1. To create overtones corresponding to 7 chakras in Yoga

In Yoga, there exist 7 chakras corresponding to 7 vowels, 7 sounds or pitches, 7 overtones and 7 points of the human body. I carried out experimen-tal research in the presence of overtones in Yoga. The result of my three-year study was presented at the International Congress of Yoga in France in 2002 .
According to my research, the fundamental of voice should be at 150Hz .

1 Mulâdhâra        coccyx   H n° 4     U           600Hz
2 Svâdhishthâna  genitals  H n° 5     O           750Hz
3 Manipûra          navel     H n° 6     Ö           900Hz
4 Anâhata            heart      H n° 8     A         1200Hz
5 Vishuddha        throat     H n° 9     E          1350Hz
6 Ajnâ between eyebrows H n°10    AE       1500Hz
7 Sahasrâra   top of head  H n°12     I          1800Hz

Conclusion

First, I would like to present you a quick overview of different possibilities that the voice can be found in traditional musics in the world and second, I am happy to show you some results of my recent discoveries on overtone / undertone study . Thank you for your attention ..

Selective Bibliography for Overtone Singing Study

 

Bloothooft G. Bringmann E., van Capellen M.,  van Luipen J.B., Thoamssen K.P.  1992: “Acoustic and Perception of Overtone Singing”, in Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, JASA, vol.92, n°4: 1827-1836.

Dargie, D. 1993: “Thembu Xhosa umngqokolo overtone singing : the use of the human voice as a type of “musical bow”, paper presented at the ICTM Conference in Berlin. (self publication)

Grawunder, S. 2003 : “Der südsibirische Kehlgesang als Gegenstand  phonetishcer Untersuchungen“ , in Gegenstandsauffassung und aktuelle phonetische Forschungen der halleschen Sprechwissenschaft :53-91, Eva-Maria Krech/Eberhard Stock (Ed), Peter Lang, Halle, Germany .

Grawunder, S. 2003: „Unusual phonetic and acoustic features in certain Tuvan throat singing styles“, Scientific Center of Research „Xoomei“, Kyzyl, Tuva

Leipp, E. 1971 : “Le probleme acoustique du chant diphonique”, Bulletin du Groupe d’Acoustique Musicale , no 58 : 1-10, Universite de Paris VI

Leothaud, G. 1989 : « Considerations acoustiques et musicales sur le chant diphonique », Le Chant diphonique, dossier n°1 : 17-43, Institut de la Voix, Limoges, France

Sundberg, Johan 1987 : The Science of the Singing Voice , Northern Illinois University Press, USA

Tisato G., Cosi, P. 2003: “On the Magic of Overtone Singing”, in Voce, Canto Parlato : 83-100, Unipress (publisher), Padova, Italy

Tongeren , van M. 2002 : Overtone Singing / Physics and Metaphysics of Harmonics in East and West , 271 pages, Fusica publisher, 1 CD , Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Tran Quang Hai , Guillou D. 1980 : « Original Research and Acoustical Analysis in connection with the Xöömij style of Biphonic Singing “, in Musical Voices of Asia : 163-173, The Japan Foundation (ed), Heibonsha Ltd, Tokyo, Japan

Tran Quang Hai , Zemp H., 1991: “Recherches experimentales sur le chant diphonique”, Cahiers de musiques traditionnelles, 4 (Voix) : 27-68, Ateliers d’Ethnomusicologie, Geneva , Switzerland .

Tran Quang Hai 2002 : « A la decouverte du chant diphonique », in Moyens d’investigation et Pedagogie de la voix chantee : 117-132, with a CD Rom, Guy Cornut (ed), Symetrie publishers, Lyon, France

 

Filmography

 

1990 Le chant des harmoniques  (The Song of Harmonics),  film 16mm and video cassette , 38 minutes, directed by H.Zemp, co-authors (Tran Quang Hai and Hugo Zemp), CNRS Audio Visuel (prod), France . Contact: Tran Quang Hai, email: or tranquanghai@hotmail.com

2003 Le chant diphonique, DVD , 27 minutes, directed by C.Beguinet, co-authors (Tran Quang Hai and Luc Souvet), Centre Regional de Documentation Pedagogique (CRDP), Saint Denis, Isle of the Reunion, contact: Luc Souvet email : luc.souvet@wanadoo.fr

Weborama

 

www.tranquanghai.info

http://tranqhai.com

www.khoomei.com

www.oberton.org

www.google.com  (type each of these words : overtone singing , throat singing , biphonic singing, diphonic singing, canto difonico, oberton,  khoomei, sygyt, kargyraa, harmonic singing,)

TRAN QUANG HAI (CNRS, FRANCE) : Le Chant diphonique Xöömij : origine, styles et phonation

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Le Chant diphonique Xöömij : origine, styles et phonation

 

Trân Quang Hai (CNRS, France)

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Comme les précédents empires de nomades d’Asie Centrale, tel celui des Huns avc Attila, ils commencèrent par soumettre les peuples voisins avant de se lancer à la conquête du monde . Déferlants à maintes reprises sur l’Asie, le Moyen Orient, l’Europe au Moyen Age, et redoutés comme un terrible fléau de Dieu, les conquérants mongols , avec à leur tête le plus fameux de leurs chef, GENGIS KHAN, furent tristement réputés pour semer la terreur et le désastre sur leur passage. Mais ils sont bien moins connus pour leur sens aigu de l’organisation, leur discipline rigoureuse, qui n’ont d’ailleurs pas empêché la désagrégation progressive de l’empire après la mort de Gengis Khan . De cet empire éphémère, la mémoire historique commune ne semble n’avoir retenu, et à juste titre, que le souvenir d’une violenc dévastatrice, au détriment de cette paradoxale tolérance relilieuse srupuleuse et exemplaire qui régnait à la cour du Grand Khan .

De cette époque, subsistent les témoignages capitaux de voyageurs, de marchands, d’ambassadeurs de différents pays dont, en Europe, celui de Jean du Plan Carpin, envoyé par le Pape Innocent IV en 1246 aurpès de Gengis Khan ; ensuite celui du frère Guillaume de Rubruck, envoyé par Saint Louis en 1253 ; et , celui du marchant vénitien Marco Polo qui resta 16 ans, de 1275 à 1291, au service du Khan Kubilai, petit fils de Gengis Khan et fondateur de la dynastie Yuan de Chine . Malheureusement, dans les récits de ces grands hommes, peu de renseignements concernent la musique et les musiciens, dont on avait surtout signalé des chants de guierriers et des instruments de musique originaux employés à la cour des Khans . C’est surtout grâce à l’ “ Histoire Secrète des Mongols ”, chronique impériale de cette période, véritable monument de littérature mongole que nous proviennent des informations intéressante sur l’efficacité des chants chamaniques et sur le rôle important des bardes-devins dans le sphère du politique. Genis Khan, lui même, n’hésitait pas à attribuer un rôle politique à son musicien préféré Argasun, de même que le gouverneur mongol de la Perse, Arghun Khan, avait envoyé en 1289 un barde comme ambassadeur auprès de Philippe lle Bel . Ces bardes ou rhapsodes, devenus rares dans la Mongolie contemporaine, sont les derniers détenteurs d’un art séculaire, mais vivant, parvenu jusqu’à nous par la tradition orale .

Les Mongols n’utilisaient pas d’écriture musicale pour fixer la mélodie de leurs chants . Cela ne signifie pas, pour autant, qu’il n’y ait pas eu, au cours de l’histoire, de tentative de description de la musique mongole . Très tôt, en effet, des théoriciens de pays conquis se sont intéressés à cette musique et quelques innformations, datant de la fin du XIIIème et début du XIVè siècle, ont été notées en persan, probablement à Samarkand, par Al-Maragi. Dans un de ses manuscrits, il est fait mention de 9 mélodies ou modes mongols (jesun xög). Une autre source, d’origine chinoise, est fournie par Tao Zong Yi qui, au milieu du XIVème siècle, avait identifié 28 modes, de la période Yuan,. Cependant , il est difficile de se faire une idée claire sur la réalité musicalce donnée par ces modes, de même que de définir le lien qui les unit à la musique mongole traditionnelle d’aujourd’hui, fondamentalement pentatonique .

Plus tard, vers le milieu du XIIIème siècle, la religion bouddhique et le chergé lamaïque, étaient en plein essor en Mongolie . De même confession religieuse que les Tibétains, les Mongols avaient hérités de ceux ci leur notation musicale manuscrite de certaines cérémonies religieuses . Mais ce système de notation, de style neumatique, appelé dbjangs-jig en tibétain, janjeg (jan-jeg) en mogol, reste très imprécis et se présente plutôt comme d’un aide mémoire . Probablement poussés par le besoin de noter plus précisément la mélodie de certains chants religieux et aussi populaires, quelques lettrés mongols, dont Lusannorovsarav (1701-1768), suivi par Luvsandandarvancig (1776-1827) et Badamdorz (1830-1882) avait élaboré un système original de notation. En reproduisant sur un support écrit touts les cordes de la citharre oblongue jatga de cette époque, ils avaient ainsi défini le cadre d’une portée musicle à 10 lignes. Sinon le rythme, du moins les hauteurs pouvaient ainsi etre clairement notées.

Les premières transcriptions de musique mongole dans le système musical européen date du milieu XVIII ème siècle et furent réalisées par Gmelin au cours d’une expédition en Sibérie. Son recueil publié en 1742 contient notamment 4 chants de Mongols Burjat , de l’Empire russe . Une autre publication d’une quinzaine chants bar-jat sont dues, un siècle plus tard, en 1850, au missionnaire anglais Stallybrass, qui les nota de mémoire. Puis, les publications vont se multiplier et s’étoffer rapidemment. En 1880, Pozdnejev publie 60 chants mongols à Saint Peterbsburg ; en 1909, c’est au tourde Rudnev de proposer la notation de 24 chants populaire en 1915 . Le Père belge Van Osst publie un recueil, avec notation musicale, de chants des Mongols ordos de Mongolie Intérieure . Or, à cette époque, vont commencer les premier enregistrements de musique mongole, entre 1906 et 1916, par Anoxin lors d’une expédition de L’institut russe de Géographie en Mongolie occidentale. La collection se compose de 40 cylindres de cire. Ramstedt réalisa également à la même période, en janvier 1909, quelques enregistrements sur cylindre de cire ; ainsi que Vladimirtsov dont la colleciton comporte, pour la première fois, des fragments d’épopées : Bum Erdeni, Dajni-Kjurjul et Zangar, très célèbre ches les Mongols kalmuk

Depuis, la liste serait longue s’il fallait énumérer, avec risque d’oubli, tous les auteurs qui se sont, à différents niveaux, intéressés à la musique mongole, en réalisant soit des enregistrements , soit des recueils, ou encore des études, dont les plus sérieuses contributions réelleent disponibles nous sont dues notamment à Haslund Christensen et Emsheimer en 1943, à Kondrat’ev en 1970 et Smirnov également en 1970. Mais il serait injuste de sous estimer l’apport des chercheurs mongols qui, formés pour la plupart par l’Ecole des “ folkloristes ” russes, ont entrepris depuis 1970, l’édition de nombreux recueils de chants et de musique populaire. Les chercheurs de Mongolie Intérieure sont même allés jusqu’à éditer, parmi les nombreux recueils de chants populaires avec leur notation musicale, déjà en circulation. “ Cinq cents chants mongols ” en deux volumes, suivis par un recueil de “ Mille chants mongols ” en 5 volumes .

Parmi toute la richesse de l’art vocal des Mongols, qui ne se limite pas à des répertoires de chants populaires, un genre vocal bien singulier, a retenu plus particulièrement l’attention des chercheurs occidentaux depuis une trentaine d’années : le XOOMIJ ou chant diphonique. Mais le mystère du chant subsiste. Comment se fait il en effet, qu’un chanteur maîtrisant parfaitement cette technique, arrive à faire disparaître, par endroit, son bourdon vocal ? Cette acrobatie vocale si particulière est originaire de la chaîne montagneuse de l’Altaï, à l’Ouest de la Mongolie. Il représente l’un des trois volets d’une émission vocale, unique à cette région de Mongolie, placée très en arrière de la gorge et qui est commune à l’exécution du répertoire de chants épiques dans le style xajlax et à la pratique de la flûte verticale cuur .

 

TERMINOLOGIE

Le chant diphonique est un genre vocal très étonnant et difficilement classable. Sorte de polyphonie à une voix, le chant se compose d’un bourdon continu et d’une ligne mélodique faite pas des harmoniques supérieurs du fondamental .

Depuis qu’il retient l’attention des spécialistes et des chercheurs, ce phénomène vocal a reçu un grand nombre de dénominations . En français, il est connu sous le nom quasi généralisé de “ chant diphonique ”. Mais il est appelé également “ chant biphonique ”, “ chant diphonique solo ”, même “ voix guimbarde ” “ voix dédoublée ”. Plus récemment est apparue une nouvelle expression “ chant harmonique ”, et plus tard “ chant de gorge ”.

Dans les ouvrages de langue anglaise, le terme de “ overtone singing ” s’est imposé sur celui de “ throat singing ”. Mais on trouve aussi “ two voiced songs with no word ”, tandis qu’en allemand il est surtout défini comme “ kehlgesang ”, “ rachengesang ” ou encore “ zweistimmingen sologesang ”

En russe, l’éventail des expressions rencontrée est auss étendu “ col’noe dvuxgolosnoe enie ”, “ gorlovogo penija ” qui ont été traduites en anglais par “ boule voice singing ” et “ larynx singing ” ; aussi “ sol’nogo dvuxgolosnogo ” “ gorlovogo penija ” ou bien “ sol’noe mnogoglosnoe overtonovoe enis ” et “ gortannoe penie ”

Le terme mongol qui désigne ce genre vocal est XOOMIJ , littéralement “ gorge, pharynx ”. XOOMIJLOKU signifie “ faire le xöömij, chanter diphoniquement ”, et XOOMIJCIN , chanteur de xöömij ” .

L’expression de “ voix guimbarde ” a été signalée par Trân Quang Hai. Selon Roberte Hamayon, le xöömij représente une imitation par voix seule de deux instruments : la flûte “ limbe ” et la guimbarde “ aman xuur ” . La question du rapprochement de la guimbarde et du xöömij rest fondamentale dans la mesure où la guimbarde est associée à des pratiques chamaniques car l’on sait que le chaman utilise sa voix de façon extraordinaire, avec des recherches de timbre intentionnel . Mais , jusqu’à présent aucun texte, aucun témoignage ne mentionne un chant exécutant un chant diphonique durant une séance chamanique.

Du point de vue musicologique, le jeu de la guimbarde ne peut être assimilé à celui du xöömij et inversement . Ce sont des technique de jeu différente et la maîtrise de l’une ne donne as aussi facilement accès à l’autre, bien qu’il est toutefois plus difficile de pratiquer le xöömij que la guimbarde . Par contr, le rapport entre la guimbarde et un type d’amission vocale diphonique pratiquée chez les Bashkirs, l’ “ uzlau ” a été suggéré par Lebdinski . L’auteur ajoute que le terme bashkir pour la guimbarde est “ kurai ” et, pour le chant diphonique “ tamak kurai ” , que l’on serait tenté de traduire par “ guimbarde laryngale ” . Cette métahore présenterait un intérêt certain dans la mesure où elle met l’accent sur l’aspect instrumental de la voix dans ce genre vocal .

Cette comparaison avec la guimbarde a été ensuite reprise pour le xöömij mongol par Vargyas, mais au niveau de la fonction du résonateur buccal dans la formation des harmoniques.

Les Touvins d’Asie Centrale connaissent aussi la guimbarde et différents types démissions vocales diphoniques (sygyt, khoomei, borbannadyr, ezengileer, et kargyraa) . Ces émissions se différencient entre elles selon des critères musicaux, tels que la hauteur de la tonique, la structure mélodique du sifflement harmonique, le mode d’introduction du chant . Les Touvins regroupent l’ensemble de ces techniques sous le vocable KHOOMEI . Mais contrairement au xöömij mongol, le KHOOMEI des Touvins exhibe une nette tendance à matérialiser un marquage rythmique par des pulsations glottales, qui rappellent le jeu de la guimbarde . Rien de tel dans le xöömij mongol.

ORIGINE DU XOOMIJ

L’origine du xöömij est encore aujourd’hui une énigme . Est il lié à des pratiques chamaniques dans lesquelles il puiserait sa source ? Ou bien n’est il que pur divertissement musical, dénué de connotations religieuses, comme l’affirment souvent les chanteurs mongols ?

Il est clair que le chant diphonique est peu diffusé en Mongolie et que sa pratique reste rare et surtout régionale . De plus, il existe différents niveaux d’acquisition de cette technique vocale . Ce qui nous appelons ici xöömij correspond à la maîtrise la plus achevée de cet art vocal qui apparaît comme une sorte de sifflement laryngal diphonique .

Ceux qui pratiquent ce type de chant sont des Mongols “ xals ” pratiquement tous originaires de l’Ouest du pays, et plus précisément de la province de Tchandmani . Cependant, on rencontre aussi la pratique u xöömij dans la région de Uvs, par les chanteurs E. Tojvgoo et Z.Sundui notamment . Ils commencent à apprendre le xöömij très tôt, en général vers l’âge de 7 ou 8 ans dans le cadre d’un enseignement institutionnel, mais tout simplement par tradition orale, dans le décor naturel de la steppe.

Au début de l’apprentissage, les enfants commencent à émettre sur les voyelles mongoles un timbre provenant de l’arrière gorge. Puis ils font avec leur main droite ou gauche des mouvements secs et réguliers devant leur bouche entr’ouverte. Ces mouvements ont pour but de renforcer les harmoniques émises et, ainsi, d’aider à l’émission diphonique . Cette technique particulière s’appelle “ baiybaldaqu ” (information fournie par le chanteur Yavgan d’Oulan Bator)

Le musicologue mongol Badraa a recueilli une légende d’origine du xöömij dans laquelle il est question d’une rivière montagneuse .

“ L’Ijven dont la chute d’eau pure et cristalline du haut d’une falaise abrupte vient frapper les rochers en contre-bas et produire ainsi des sons très mélodieux . C’est en essayant d’imiter cette musique que les gens ont appris à chant le xöömij ” . Il cite une autre légende dans laquelle l’Ijven n’est pas une simple rivière mais “ la fille du Maître de l’Altaï ”.

“ L’Ijven voulait rejoindre le lac Zaiysan mais ce dernier refusa de la recevoir, prétextant que ces eaux n’étaient pas profondes. Alors, l’Ijven offensée, alla trouver son père Altai lui demandant une eau plus abondante pour accomplir son désir . Son père bienveillant lui attribua 5 affluents grâce auxquels ell put enfin se jeter dans le lac ”

LES STYLES DE XOOMIJ EN MONGOLIE

Traditionnellement il existe 6 styles de xöömij :

1.Amany xöömij : xöömij de bouche

2.Xamaryn xöömij : xöömij de nez

3.Xolgojn xöömij : xöömij de gorge

4.Ceezijn xöömij : xöömij de poitrine

5.Xondij xöömij ou Xevlijn xöömij : xöömij profond

6.Xarkiraa xöömij : xöömij grue

Ce système classificatoire s’opère autour de zone de vibrations et de résonance, qui attribue une couleur timbrique spécifique à chaque type d’émission .

FONCTION DE LA PHONATION SELON LE CHANT DIPHONIQUE MONGOL

Le rôle réduit des voyelles lors de la production de sifflement diphonique montre que les résonateurs, bien qu’ils aient leur qualité timbrique propre et qu’ils agissent comme de véritalbes filtres, réduisants ou renforçants des sons harmoniques, ne sont pas les seuls éléments participant à la mise en place de la seconde voix . Le problème semble se situer davantage dans la partie antérieure de l’appareil phonatoire, au niveau du larynx, c’est à dire de la production de la voix. Le larynx a une fonction respiratoire, phonatoire et sphinctérienne ou de valve . Il est formé par deux sphincters glottiques appelés “ cordes vocales ” et “ fausses cordes vocales ”. Il s’agit en réalité de plis musculaires tapissés de muqueuse qui réalisent des mouvement de rapprochement et d’éloignement très rapides .

Le chanteur lui même localise la production du sifflement diphonique au niveau du larynx, lorsqu’il parle de “ resserrement ”. Il est donc très intéressant de pouvoir étudier les comportements phonatoire glottiques qui produisent ce type d’émission.

La méthode la plus simple d’observation du larynx consiste à utiliser le miroir laryngoscopique de Garcia . Garcia était à la fois chanteur et professeur de chant qui , en 1855, réussit à voir le larynx grâce à un petit miroir de dentiste correctement orienté sur la luette, et en l’éclairant.

En inspiration ou respiration, les cordes vocales, qui sont de couleur blanche et nacrée, se séparent et laissent entrevoir la trachée. Au moment de l’émission phonatoire, les cordes se ressèrent et se mettent en vibration l’une contre l’autre. Tout ce mécanisme est commandé par le cerveau et contrôlé par les centre de l’aution. On a aussi observé que la dimension des cordes vocales varie avec l’âge et en fonction du sexe. De 14mm à 21mm pour les femmes, elles passent de 18 à 25 mm pour les hommes .

La question est de savoir comment se comporte l’ensemble du larynx lors d’une émission diphonique. Or, dès 1975, des recherches furent entreprises par le musicologue CERNOV et le phoniâtre MASLOV sur le chant des Touvins, comparable, sur le plan des études spectographiques, aux productions du chanteur SUNDUI . Cernov et Maslov mentionnent les résultats danalyses acoustiques réalisées par Banin et Lozkin sur le chant diphonique des Touvins. D’après ces derniers, le bourdon vocal peut se situer dans une fourchette de 60 à 220 Hz et le sifflement (ou la voix formantique) entre 2000 et 3000 Hz . A titre de comparaison, le chanteur Sundui émet un bourdon entre 78 et 156Hz, le sifflement laryngal entre 1400 et 2480 Hz .

Ces chercheurs utilisèrent différentes méthodes d’investigation : radiographie aux rayons X, tomographie, cinématographie et laryngoscopie indirecte. Les résultats de leurs travaux parurent sous forme de plusieurs articles en russe . Les examens laryngoscopiques, répétés sur plusieurs chanteurs touvins (parmi lesquels D.Otchir, V. Soyan et V. Mongoush en 1976), montrèrent que leur appareil vocal ne comporte pas d’anormalité de caractère anatomo-physiologique. Cependant, au moment de l’émission diphonique, les chercheurs ont observé le phénomène suivant :

1963 L’épiglotte et le cartilage aryténoïde se resserrent plus étroitement

1964 Les fausses cordes vocale (ou bandes ventriculaires) particulièrement développées musculairement, se rejoignent et forment un étroit canal dont l’ouverture, de 1,5 à 2mm est entourée de mucosité sur le dessus .

L’ensemble du larynx, en émission diphonique, se contracte : le pied de l’épiglotte s’abaisse vers le cartilage aryténoïde et les bandes ventriculaires se rejoignent ne laissant qu’un étroit passage circulaire. Les cordes vocales deviennent, du coup, invisibles. Pour observer leur fonctionnement, une tomographie frontale aux rayons X fut réalisée et a permis de constater que les cordes vocales restent accolées et les bandes ventriculaires se contractent pour former un étroit couloir.

Cette tomographie permet nettement de voir que, lors d’une émission de chant diphonique, le larynx réduit le passage de la colonne d’air à deux endroits : d’abord au niveau des cordes vocales qui produisent le son fondamental, puis les bandes ventriculaires se resserrent et créent une cavité de résonance dans la chambre des ventricules de Morgagni d’où sort un sifflement de haute fréquence sur une harmonique du son fondamental ; le registre de ce sifflement étant en relation étroite avec le volume de cette chambre. Le sifflement est ensuite modulé par les qualités résonantes du pharynx, de la cavité buccale et de la région nasale .

Cela ne signifie pas que le dispositif ainsi mis en place reste statique. Tout se passe comme si le chanteur faisait disparaître son bourdon à certains endroits par l’émission d’un sifflement laryngal. Cette disparition du son fondamental, lisible sur les sonagrammes, pose le problème de la source sonore. Les fausses cordes vocales sont elles à ce point resserrées qu’elles peuvent se substituer aux cordes vocales et produire du son par sifflement ? ou bien forment elles une sorte de filtre puissant capable de filtrer jusqu’au son fondamental des cordes vocales ?

Pour les phoniatres russes, la source principale provient des cordes vocales, mais il aurait été tout de même intéressant d’en avoir la confirmation par une laryngoscopie qui aurait eu le mérite de montrer si les cordes vocales vibrent réellement lors de l’émission du sifflement laryngal, particulièrement dans ces passages où le bourdon disparaît.

Un bref aperçu sur le chant diphonique mongol pour montrer qu’il y a une lègère différence entre les styles mongols et ceux des Touvins .

BIBLIOGRAPHIE

AALTO, P. “ The Music of the Mongols : an Introduction ”, Ulralic and

1965 Altaic Seires, vol.23, Indiana University Publications

BADRAX, G : “ Mongolyn xögzmijn tüüxees ”, Studia Ethnographia, tome 1

1960 Fasc 3, 106p, Oulan Bator.

BATZENGEL : “ Urtyn Duu, Xöömij and Morin Xuur ” , Musical Voices of

1978 Asia, part.1, Edité par R. Emmert et Y Minegushi, Heibonsha

Ltd, : 52-53, Tokyo.

DESJACQUES, Alain : “ Une considération phonétique sur quelques

techniques vocales diphoniques mongoles ”, Bull. du Centre d’Etudes de Musique Orientale, n° 31 : 46-54, Paris.

DESJACQUES , Alain : Chants de l’Altai Mongol, thèse soutenue à

1992 l’Université de Paris IV-Sorbonne en 1992, 389 p., une cassette audio, Paris

HARVILAHTI, L. et KASKINEN, H. “ On the application possibilities of

1983 overtone singing ”, Suomen Antropologi i Finland n° 4 : 249-255, Helsinki

TRAN QUANG HAI & GUILOU, D. 1980: “Original Research and Acoustical Analysis in

Connection with the Xöömij Style of Biphonic Singing”,Musical Voices of Asia : 162-

173, The Japan Foundation (éd), Heibonsha Ltd, Tokyo.

TRAN QUANG HAI & ZEMP,Hugo. 1991: “Recherches expérimentales sur le chant

diphonique”, Cahiers de Musiques traditionnelles : VOIX vol.4: 27-68, Ateliers

d’ethnomusicologie /AIMP, Genève.

TRAN QUANG HAI, 1975: “Technique de la voix chantée mongole: xöömij”,Bulletin du

CEMO (14 & 15): 32-36, Paris.

TRAN QUANG HAI, 1983: “Note à propos du chant diphonique mongol”, Catalogue de l’exposition Mongolie-Mongolie, Musée de l’Homme (éd), Paris.

TRAN QUANG HAI, 1989: “Réalisation du chant diphonique”, dossier n°1 Le Chant

diphonique : 15-16, Institut de la Voix, Limoges.

TRAN QUANG HAI, 1990: “Les Musiques vocales”, L’Esprit des Voix, C.Alès (éd), La

Pensée Sauvage: 43-52, Grenoble.

TRAN QUANG HAI, 1991: “New Experimental About the Overtone Singing Style”,

(Nouvelles Expérimentations sur le chant diphonique),Nouvelles Voies de la Voix, 1ère

partie, Bulletin d’adiophonologie 7(5&6): 607-618, Besançon.

TRAN QUANG HAI, 1991 : “ La voix dans les cultures extra-occidentales ”, La Voix dévoilée

: 164-186, Editions Romillat, Paris .

TRAN QUANG HAI, 1991 : “ Les différents styles de chant diphonique ”, Actes de

‘Universon : 45-52, Narbonne .

TRAN QUANG HAI, 1992 : “ Instruments traditionnels et musiques à bourdon : la voix

diphonique ”, Autour de l’instrument de musique, Actes du IIème Colloque

départemental d’éducation musicale en Seine et Marne, 1989 : 15-21, Melun .

TRAN QUANG HAI , 1992 : “ Pratique du chant dysphonique ou chant diphonique chez les

personnes âgées ”, 3ème Colloque d’Etude Clinique du Langage en Gériatrie : La voix

du sujet âgé. Rééducation orthophonique , 30 (171) : 299-311, Paris .

TRAN QUANG HAI, 1995: ” Le chant diphonique: description, historique, styles, aspect et

spectral”, EM, ANnuario degli Archivi di Etnomusicologia dell’Accademia Nazionale

di Santa Cecilia, 2:123-150, Rome.

TRAN QUANG HAI, 1997: “Recherches Introspectives sur le chant diphonique et leurs

applications”, Penser La Voix, (ed) La Licorne: 195-210, Poitiers.

TRAN QUANG HAI, 1997: ” Overtones in Central Asia and in South Africa(Xhosa Vocal

Styles), Confluences: Cross-Cultural Fusions in Music and Dance, Proceedings of the

First South African Music and Dance Conference and 15th Symposium on

Ethnomusicology: 422-432, (ed) Université de Cape Town, Afrique du Sud.

TRAN QUANG HAI, 1998: ” Survey of overtone singing style”, Die Ausdruckswelt der

Stimme, 1-Stuttgarter Stimmtage/ Horst Gunderman, Hüthig (éditeur): 77-83,

Allemagne.

TRAN QUANG HAI, 1999: “Overtones used in Tibetan Buddhist Chanting and in Tuvin

Shamanism”, Ritual and Music, Lithuanian Academy of Music, Department of

Ethnomusicology (editeur): 129-136, Vilnius, Lithuanie

TRAN QUANG HAI, 2000 : “ Some Experimental and Introspective Researches on Xoomij

Overtone Singing ”, Proceedings WESTPRAC VII (3-5 octobre 2000), vol.1,

Université de Kumamoto : 593-598, Kumamoto, Japon .

TRAN QUANG HAI, 2001 : “ Voix d’autres cultures ”, Cinq Sens dans un Corps, 284 : 36-

37, Paris .

TRAN QUANG HAI, 2001 : “ Chant Diphonique ”, Science et Conscience 2 : 42-44,

Luxembourg.

TRAN QUANG HAI , 2002 : “ A la découverte du chant diphonique ”, Editions Symétrie,

avec 1 CD Romm, Lyon .

TRAN QUANG HAI, 2002 : “ New Experiments on Overtone Singing ”, Stimm-Kulturen, 3-Suttgarter Stimmtage 2000 : 65-70, edité par Röhrig Unversitätsverlag, Stuttgart

DISCOGRAPHIE

“Mongolie: Musique et Chants de tradition populaire” ,

GREM G 7511, Paris, France, 1986.

“Mongolie : Musique vocale et instrumentale” ,

Maison des Cultures du Monde, W 260009, collection INEDIT, Paris, France, 1989.

“Mongolian Music”,

Hungaroton, HCD 18013-14, collection UNESCO, Budapest, Hongrie, 1990.

“White Moon, traditional and popular music from Mongolia” ,

Pan Records, PAN 2010CD, Leiden, Hollande, 1992.

“Folk Music from Mongolia / Karakorum” ,

Hamburgisches Museum für Völkerkunde, Hambourg, Allemagne, 1993.

“Vocal & Instrumental of Mongolia” ,

Topic, World Series TSCD909, Londres, Grande Bretagne, 1994.

“Jargalant Altai/ Xöömii and other vocal and instrumental music from

Mongolia” ,

Pan Records PAN 2050CD, Ethnic Series, Leiden, Hollande, 1996

“ Virtuousos from the Mongol Plateau ”.

World Music Library. King Records. KICC 5177

“ Mongolie: Chamanes et Lamas (Shamans and Lamas) ”

Ocora Radio France C560059, Paris.

Mongolia: Living Music of the Steppes

“ Mongolia: Traditional Music ”.

UNESCO Auvidis D8207

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RICHARD MIDDLETON : INSIDE MUSIC : “HARMONY FOR ONE”

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Inside Music:
“Harmony for One”
by Richard Middleton

First published in Victory Review, August 2001.

Although few people are aware of this, it is possible to sing more than one tone at a time — to, in effect, sing harmony with yourself. This fact runs counter to most people’s experiences, but nonetheless, if you know how to do it, you can produce multiple tones with your voice.

The techniques required can take time to master, but the physics involved is simple. It’s based on the use of overtones, or harmonics, those higher and less audible, but still very important, tones that contribute to the overall “flavor” of your voice (or of any musical instrument, for that matter). The fact is, whenever you sing a tone, there are also a number of higher overtones “inside” that tone which are harmonically related to the main pitch (or fundamental tone) that you’re singing. As I’ll show you, you can physically “focus” your voice so that one or more of those overtones are emphasized, creating the impression that more than one voice is singing.

To focus your voice in this manner, there are two main concepts to work with:placement, and formants. Both have to do with controlling acoustic resonance in your body.

Placement deals with what part of your body is resonating the tone(s) you’re singing, i.e. your chest, your throat, your head, etc. For our purposes, you want to use what’s called “forward placement.” That is, you want your voice to resonate in the front of your face — in your nose, cheekbones, and teeth. To learn to place your voice forward, sing a long sustained tone, such as an “oo,” preferably a higher pitch in your vocal range, as these are more easily resonated in the head. See if you can focus the tone in such a way that you begin to feel a buzzing sensation in the front of your face. As you begin to feel it, emphasize it further by increasing the forward focus of your tone. It’s a phenomenon better introduced in person than in writing, but if you play with it for a while, you’ll get the hang of it. (TIP: You can test whether you’re achieving good forward placement by touching your front teeth together very slightly; if they buzz strongly against each other as you sing, you’re on the right track.)

By the way, singing with forward placement doesn’t mean that the rest of your body isn’t also resonating and contributing to the sound — it is. Forward placement just means that the “leading edge” of your voice is resonating and buzzing in the front of your face. You need this resonance because it means the higher harmonics are strong, and ripe for being made stronger.
To make those harmonics stronger, we now turn to formants, the characteristic frequencies and resonances of the different vowel sounds that we produce when we talk or sing. How do we produce these different vowels? By changing the shape of our mouths — both internally (through the relationship between the tongue and the roof of the mouth) and externally (the size and shape of the opening of the lips).

This is exactly the same mechanism we will use to sing overtones, but we’re going to slow the whole thing down so that we can minutely control the changes in vocal resonance. Start by singing a long open tone, and very gradually alter the vowel sound that you produce. For example, start with an “oo” sound and very slowly “morph” it into an “uh,” then an “ah,” than an “a,” then an “ee,” etc. Find those odd, in-between sounds halfway between “ee” and “oo,” or “ah” and “uh.” Explore all the subtle vowel gradations such as you find in words like “wood,” “car,” and “oil.” Don’t just read these exercises, try them for yourself — they’re fun, and quite ear-opening. As you experiment, notice the many ways in which you use your tongue and lips, and how they contribute to the sound.

I find it easiest to produce overtones while singing a vowel somewhere between “oo” and “ee” (another good one is a sound halfway between “oh” and “ah”). Again, forward placement is critical to create the focused “edge” that you need. When you feel that vibrating edge, very slowly make subtle changes in the shape and height of your tongue, and listen closely for the presence of high, bell-like tones in your voice. Keep making slow, subtle changes in your vowel sound and forward placement until you hear one of those tones. When you do, focus your attention on it, and see if you can increase its intensity, either by changing your tongue slightly and/or changing the shape/size of your lip opening.

Learning these skills is always a process of trial and error. It’s important to pay close attention, listening for and emphasizing those subtle physical changes that produce the desired results. Only such gradual changes and concentrated attention will allow you to focus your voice precisely enough to begin amplifying specific overtones.

It’s best to do these experiments indoors rather than outdoors, because the overtones are quickly carried away and lost in the open air. The space you sing in can have little or no ambient reverberation, like a car or small carpeted room, or it can be very “live,” like a tiled bathroom, large open living room, gymnasium or dance rehearsal space.

Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can find and amplify a nice clear overtone for pretty much any vowel sound (though some are certainly harder, such as long “a”). Once you’ve found one overtone, if you keep your tongue position constant, you can produce other overtones simply by changing the size and shape of your lip opening. As you cycle up and down through the other overtones, it sounds much like the arpeggio of a chord because, as I said earlier, the overtones are harmonically related, both to the fundamental tone and to each other. Some singers are so skilled at singing overtones that they can actually sing several at once, enabling them to sing chords! One especially refined example of this can be found in the vocal tradition known as Tuvan throat singing. A more contemporary example is the Harmonic Choir.

When I sing in this way, I often find myself singing longer and longer tones, as my breath capacity increases and I lose myself in the experience. Sometimes, I even feel as though I’m breathing in as I sing rather than out — a very restful and meditative state. Others who are listening often have the sensation that the overtones are not coming from the singer, but from another direction entirely, sometimes from all directions at once.

Give it a try and see what fascinating new sounds you can create. Enjoy!

© Copyright 2001 by Richard Middleton.
All rights reserved.

Richard Middleton is a musician, songwriter, producer, educator, and writer based in Seattle. He is the author of “Rhythm Guitar Secrets”(Countersine), and his music writing has also appeared in Smithsonian magazine, Victory Review, and SingOut! magazine.

http://www.richardmiddleton.com/insidemusic/harmony4one.html

 

ALEXANDER GLENFIELD : WHAT IS OVERTONE SINGING?

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Monday, August 16, 2010

What is Overtone Singing?

 
 
Dear Constant Reader:  
 
 
Because of the high number of nearly identical questions I have received about overtone singing, I have had to post a blog to save my finger tips, which as a result of my impeccable reply rate, now feel and actually look a bit like the surface of a stale Triscuit Cracker. I may never use a Blackberry again. But no loss. Moreover, people want to know more about overtone singing, and I’ve heard they are having a hard time finding answers.
 
I promise this will be the most boring of my blog posts to come, for I must get the basics out of the way before I get to the good stuff, the juicy stuff, the stuff that you don’t even have to chew to swallow. But you must first learn what follows.
 
Overtone Singing with a tampura
A vocalist who sustains a steady tone while simultaneously isolating and amplifying distinct frequencies above it, uses a technique commonly known to the west as overtone singing. When manipulated to appear distinct, harmonic overtones of a sustained tone are usually perceived as ethereal, whistle-like pitches occurring above or within the sustained tone, and the overall, gestalt effect of overtone singing is of a singer producing more than one note at a time, usually a drone and melody that, for some, brings to mind the bagpipes. 
 
Still don’t get it? Don’t expect to completely understand how overtone singing actually works. I have been singing and studying overtones for ten years and still feel baffled when contemplating this vocal art. Overtone Singing leaves people fascinated in the aftermath of their initial shock of first hearing. And the mystery does not end; in fact, as one learns more, the mystery grows exponentially more profound. So be patient with yourself, and appreciate that the world still holds a little mystery. 
 
I shall attempt to provide the simplest explanation of those whistling tones you hear above a guttural drone, those ethereal little melodies weaving atop a steady pitch. Here it is: 
 
We live our lives inside an unending melody, and most of the time, we are oblivious to this music that is the ever-present harmonic series.
 
I might just be able to prove this to you right now. Get comfortable in your seat, relax from head to toe, bring your awareness to the sounds around you, and do not judge the sounds as they enter in to the forever-open holes at the sides of your head. Now, you might be listening deeply; at least, deeper than before. Next, breathe in all the way to the floor of your belly, and sing–don’t just say–a steady “Ah” for the length of about one full breath. You might believe you have just sung a “note”, but in the real world–in the world of unending melody–you have actually sung several distinct notes. 
 
Congratulations on taking the first step out of audial oblivion.
 
 
 
 
Harmonic Series to the 16th Partial
Sound is the result of air molecules energized into motion by vibrating matter. When something vibrates it absolutely must produce a series of tones above it; however, there are exceptions. But most of the time, these little tones are locked in to a pattern of fixed positions that are immovable. This lawfully organized pattern of tones appear in musical notation above, and it is called the Overtone Series, or the Harmonic Series
 
If you don’t read musical notation, you can still observe details in the patterns. For example, the tones go up the page and, the farther they ascend, the gaps between them become smaller and smaller. Other patterns can be observed.
 
Do know, however, that the overtones do not end at number 16 as I have listed here. Actually, the harmonics continue to ascend way higher, and theoretically above the highest limits of the range of human hearing (max. 20, 000 Hz). I have listed the harmonics within this limited scope because the most overtone singing is performed within this range of the harmonic series. 
 
With all that said, I have yet to explain how it is done.
 
The scientific explanation won’t help you learn to sing overtones, but put simply, overtone singing involves tweaking areas of resonance in the vocal tract and oral cavity. 
 
You tease your mouth and throat just enough until the overtones come out the way you want them to. It’s kind of like the hardware foreplay involved when putting a key into a reluctant lock. You know, whenever you have to cat sit for a friend, you always struggle a bit with the front door, but each time you put the key in the lock, you get a little bit better at getting in: For all things, we must endure a period of awkward acclimation. But you’ll get nowhere fast if you don’t listen hard. Well, not so hard you block yourself, but you must learn to augment your hearing sense.  
 
I learned to do overtone singing and Tuvan throat singing (see video demonstration below) by listening very carefully to the sound of my own voice. Sounds a bit narcissistic to sit in a little room for hours on end and listen to myself, but I wasn’t talking or saying words, and somehow that makes it more normal. Instead, I was sustaining steady long tones on different vowel sounds. 
 
Then, something switched inside my awareness. To describe the sensation is difficult, but the closest comparison I can think of is to the perception of color. Imagine going through life without ever having seen the color green, or perhaps you somehow filtered out just a certain shade of the color green. One day, you see it, and this new addition to your repertoire of perceptions, energizes and inspires you. You might say, “The world isn’t so boring after all! There is still hope for unending fascination!” 
 
Those were my words exactly when I first heard the tones inside my voice. I heard not just a bland drone that carries quotidian speech laden with signification, but a full chord of rich musical tones sounding out what seemed to be the music of the whole universe, and right there inside my little voice. I could hear nebulae exploding, black holes sucking dark matter, whole galaxies colliding, and an angry neighbor pounding on the wall with the handle end of a Swiffer
 
 

Hearing the harmonic overtones in my voice opened my ears and, consequently, opened my awareness. 

 
With my third ear open and my third eye in tears (what could have been taken merely as the sweat of my brow), I practiced listening and singing, seeking out recorded examples of overtone singing and imitating them, until I could somehow intuitively justdo any overtone singing style I heard. I now believe, however, that I had a tool that worked in my favor. 
 
When I first began to sing overtones in winter 1999, I was also practicing self-hypnosis, and oh, what a tool it is. No, I didn’t dangle a pocket watch in front of my own eyes until I monotoned the words, “I hear and obey.” Instead, I practiced a method of inducing a state of relaxed awareness that summoned a deeper intelligence from within me. While in this state of relaxation, something akin to a meditative state, my subconscious mind rose to the fore, where it could more easily perceive and execute the singing of overtones. 
 
To sum up how I learned this, I merely listened carefully to myself and to recorded examples of overtone singing and relied on my subconscious mind to do the learning.
 
However, I have since found ways of helping others find the harmonic series and sing with it. I have observed many students attain overtone singing skills within an hour or two. Learning to be musical with overtone singing techniques, however, might take a little longer, for just how long does it take to become musical? Seems to me that it is always there, lying dormant, until we are ready to risk heightened sensitivity. 
 
Meanwhile, as one begins to hear overtones in one’s own voice, the sonic world begins to change. One starts to hear music in what was previously thought to be the most unmusical of places. I remember hearing a jumpy vacillation between the 6th and 7th partials of the harmonic series in the spiraling water of a toilet bowl. I remember trancing out to the beautiful and endless shimmering ring of the 11th partial above the droning hydro transformer in the grocery store parking lot. I remember hearing folky pentatonic melodies– jigs, almost–when my housemate underwent his nightly oral hygiene ritual using his Philips Sonicare electric toothbrush. 
 
I also remember hearing the music of sound in more organic and less gross settings. I heard it in the winter wind singing through the tops of tall Balsam Firs; I heard it in the humble trickle of a dying stream at the center of a forest of cedars; and even in the breathing of a newborn human infant and the joyful weeping of its host. 
 
Thus, the unending song of the harmonics is all around us, and if we give ourselves over to listening, the harmonics sing themselves. 
 
Before one can sing overtones, one must first practice hearing them. 

ALEXANDER GLENFIELD : SINGING UNDERTONES, SUBHARMONICS, AND SUBTONES

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Singing Undertones, Subharmonics, and Subtones

 
 
 
How does one learn to sing those seemingly super-low tones? Some people are as obsessed with low notes as they are with the high ones. For whatever reasons, the extremes of anything are attractive. 
 
Vocal infrasonics can be heard in various traditions: the yangchanting used ritually among some branches of Tibetan Buddhism; the folk music and throat-singing of Tuva (kargyraa)and Mongolia (kharkhiraa); the liturgical music of Sardinia (in the tenore bass voice): alongside the umngqokolo overtone singing of Xhosa women; and either occasionally or continuously in the epic songs of the Altai, Khakassia, and Sakha Republics. 
 
But the ability to produce subtones is inherent in the human vocal apparatus; consequently, this vocal technology also arises spontaneously and radically, which is to say, devoid of roots in any of the above-listed traditions.
 
 
I used to tell people that to sing subtones they simply had to hit “second puberty”. Though the joke has since grown tiresome, there is truth to the onset of a lesser knownsecondary pubescence. At about the age of 26 years, the human brain typically ascends to another plateau of cortical development, whereby the pre-frontal cortex fully matures. Think back (or forward) to your twenty-sixth year or when-a-bouts. What was happening at that time? How did you feel? Anything change?
 
Perhaps at twenty-six your voice didn’t start to sound like a chainsaw at the bottom of a well, but still, maybe we should rethink the concept of only one puberty, only one turning point in the ongoing development of the remarkably intelligent organism that is human body. 
 
 
Overtones and Undertones
 
Overtones exist. There is a clearly observable and measurable series of harmonic overtones that is inherent in periodic sound vibration. Overtones go over the main note, but is there a series of tones that go under the main note? 
 
Is there an undertone series
 
In formal acoustics, the undertone series remains a theoretical construct, not an actual acoustical phenomenon. To date, no one has produced evidence of an undertone series, a true mirror inversion of the overtone series that sounds simultaneously with the fundamental frequency (With singing, the fundamental is the actual note sung by the vocal folds).
 
Theoretical Undertone Series to the Fifth Partial
 
 
 
What is that low tone if it is not an undertone? I prefer to call it a vocal subtone, as it is caused by the oscillation of tissues that lie above the vocal folds. We use the vocal folds for everyday speech and song. The tissues above these actual focal folds are known as the false vocal folds, and you can see them on the diagram below, which is a cross sectional view of the larynx.
 
 
 
 
When the actual vocal folds are set into periodic vibration with a highly tensed glottis, the false vocal folds are pushed together and slightly upward toward the back of the throat. I have imagined that when these slimy little flesh curtains are set into motion to produce a subtone, they look and feel like puckering lips. 
 
When set into motion, these false vocal folds vibrate most optimally, with maximum amplitude and consistency, at exactly one half the rate of vibration of the actual vocal folds. For example, if your actual vocal folds are singing an A 440 Hz and you set your false vocal folds into optimal vibration, you will produce a strong subtone of 220 Hz simultaneously with the 440 Hz tone of your actual vocal folds. Thus, you are producing two distinct oscillations spaced one perfect octave apart. 
 
For this reason, I prefer to use the term subtone instead of subharmonic or undertone to describe this phenomenon, as the secondary tone is not a partial harmonic of the actual note sung, but a distinct fundamental tone unto itself. Furthermore, being a tone unto itself and not just a partial, a subtone also has a corresponding overtone spectrum. 
 
Remember that overtones are parts dependent on the whole, which is the fundamental vibration. Overtones do not have overtones, nor should undertones have overtones.
 
Does this remove the mystery from subtone singing? Not at all. We’re merely taking out the mystery and then putting it right back in again. 
 
No one knows exactly why the subtone vibrates so supremely at exactly one octave below the fundamental. Resonance mightbegin to explain it. The false vocal folds might absorb more energy when the actual vocal folds matches the resonant frequency of the false folds. However, one can sing a whole scale in subtones, which indicates the false vocal folds have an atypically wide range of resonant frequencies. Furthermore, the vibration of the subtone far exceeds the intensity of the vibration of the actual tone, and the false folds feel and sound as though they are not merely absorbing energy, but producing it independently.
 
There you haven’t it: the mystery remains. 
 
 
How to Sing Subtones
 
1. Sing any tone naturally and slowly slide it up a little ways, and then go all the way down to the lowest note your can sing comfortably. Hold it.
 
2. From that low note as your base, sing up about a perfect fifth (the opening interval of the Star Wars theme, theSuperman theme, the E.T. theme, or the opening notes of just about anything by John Williams). 
 
3. Starting on that note about a fifth up from your lowest, begin to hum. For a few minutes, just practice holding that hum steady to get comfortable with your note.
 
What follows is the hard part, and no “how to” explanation will be universally applicable to each individual, but try this anyway:
 
4.  Pretend you are pushing an immovable object with all your strength and then grunt. Sustain the grunt as you sing your note. You should be feeling a lot of pressure building up beneath your throat, in your lungs, and all the way down to your lower belly. 
 
5. With that feeling of pressurization in your torso, imagine you are pushing up from the back of your throat where you feel normal vocalization while pushing down from somewhere a ways behind the base of your tongue. This is a difficult sensation to feel and remember, and most people feel more upward push from the back of the throat than they do downward push from the base of the tongue. There should be a sensation of the back and front meeting somewhere in the middle, where we find the false vocal folds.
 
6.  While pressurized and pushing the throat, begin to do the grunty hum and then add just a touch of cough and hack while continuing to sustain your note.
 
7. Slowly and carefully adjust all the physiological parameters (degree of tension, placement of tension, pitch of your note, vowel, mouth open, mouth closed, seated or standing, morning voice or night voice, etc.) until the subtone appears. When it does appear, don’t chase it. Take a moment to stop and become aware of how it felt and sounded. Much of the learning here is in deeply internalizing a physiological memory of the sensation. 
 
When you achieve a consistent subtone, you will know it. The sound will be strong and it will seem to just lock into place on its own. 
 
 
Three Common Mistakes 
 
1. Going too deep. When singing a subtone, you are not singing a low register note with the actual folds. The actual folds are actually singing a relatively mid-range note, and the false vocal folds are resonating at one half the rate of the actual folds. Similarly, beginning subtoners often associate the deepness of the subtone with deepness in their body. As a result they tend to put the sound too deeply in the throat to produce a gravelly rattling that feels like it is going into the chest—it’s kind of an old-man-with-his-orange-juice-in-the-morning sound. But the vibration of the subtone is actuallyabove the vibration of normal vocalization. Send your awareness of the sensation upward, not downward. However, also keep awareness in the root of your body, at the base of your belly and even lower, from which the energy of this sound must come. I know it is confusing when you think about it, as there are lots of paradoxes in this kind of singing. Doing will make it clear.
 
2. Vocal frying. One can produce uber low vocal tones by loosening the glottis to regulate the incoming puffs of air. These bubbly pops can be regulated to produce a false bass register, sometimes known as strohbass. In the morning, you can really get those low pops on or around the vowel “uh”, and you can make them go faster and faster until they resound a steady low tone. The vocal fry sounds primarily from the slack closure of the actual vocal folds. The sensation is completely different from subtone singing, which is an intense and simultaneous vibration of the tissues above the actual vocal folds.
 
3. Over-Practicing. When I first started learning subtone singing, I did it for about 3 hours the first day, 6 hours the second, 8 hours the third, and none for the the 5 days that followed because my voice disappeared into infrasound. For a while I was speaking so low I could only speak in rhythm. The moral of the story is, you must proceed very carefully and patiently. Your false folds have lain dormant for most of your life, and now you’re asking them to wake up and vibrate. With gentle and moderate daily practice (no more than 7-10 minutes a day when first learning), the false vocal folds can begin vibrating freely and with no tickling or discomfort. The beginning subtoner, however, must endure some mild tickling and slight irritation when setting into motion the tissues of the false vocal folds. But with a little time, even the most intense sounding subtone vibrations will not and should not hurt if done properly. In this context, and perhaps many others, doing properly means simultaneously relaxing some areas of your body while tensing others.
 
 
Still Mystery
 
Finally, though at first you may have no idea how to do this kind of singing, you will have no doubt whatsoever when you have done it. The subtone will resound with such purity that you will just know that something mysterious still lies at the back of your throat.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

ALEXANDER GLENFIELD : SUGGESTIONS FOR BEGINNERS, REMINDERS FOR MASTERS: SOME SENSIBLE TIPS AND HARMLESS TRICKS FOR OVERTONE SINGING

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Suggestions for Beginners, Reminders for Masters: Some sensible tips and harmless tricks for overtone singing

 
My first hearing of overtone singing was followed by a period of intense desperation. My despair came with much enthusiasm, but I remember an aching desire to sing the way I heard on the recordings. I reasoned that if merely listening to overtone singing can excite profound  fascination in me, than what can actually doing it make me feel? Pure ebullience was my guess.I sympathize with those who ask “how can I learn to do that?” I know they seek the same feeling I sought. What follows here is a rather incomplete list of suggestions, affirmations, and aphorisms which are in no particular order, but are most certainly not “random” to use the parlance of high-school times. “That was so random,” the young people say, and I do love them all for it. However those “so random” acts to which they refer are usually more deliberate and focused than anything else they have done all day–a foray of full intention, a precise and directed line against the backdrop of a quotidian wash. Randomness should not be confused with spontaneity, but either way–either one–I think we need a lot more of it. I hope the following list leads you closer to the kind of singing you want to do and the kind of feelings you want to have. Please know, however, that there are no magic words that can give you the skill. You have to play, experiment, observe, and adjust. 

1) You can teach yourself. Though learning to overtone sing without a teacher might seem impossible, many adepts have acquired skills while sitting all alone in a room. I learned by listening to recordings of overtone singers from Tuva, Mongolia, Central Asia, North America, and Europe. Within a day or two of obsessive, continuous practice, I could imitate most styles with a reasonable degree of similarity to their sources. I have taught some individuals who catch the “knack”of a style within minutes, and it is very much a “knack” because there is an indescribable trick to turning on the sound, and when you get it, you’ll have it. I believe I got the hang of this with some ease because I’d played the trumpet and other brass instruments for many years before singing overtones. Other brass players have caught on quickly as well, and the “jaw harp”–specifically the tongue placement when playing–shares some very salient parallels with overtone singing. 

2) Imitate other singers, but sing like you. All humans, regardless of age or gender, have the same digestive and respiratory components comprising the vocal apparatus. Each voice is unique and truly inimitable. You can waste a lot of time trying to sound like someone else, while your own intrinsic sound is there waiting for you to discover it. Muster the courage to work with your inherent sound because no one else in the world has what you have, and therein lies its value.

3) Listen as much as, if not more than, you sing. Maintaining enthusiasm is necessary to attaining skill and producing meaningful sound–“music” if you dare. But desire can keep you from your goal. In making efforts to produce high, ringing harmonics, the novice strains, pushes, pulls, and all around fails to observe the overtones that are already present in his or her natural singing voice. I recommend first listening for the harmonic overtones in your natural, uninhibited singing voice and, when identified, concentrating intensely upon them. By listening carefully, one learns that there is no need to force the emergence of what is already there.

4) Practice intoning vowel sounds while cupping the hand to the ear.Beginning on a pitch in your medium to low register (probably the frequency range at which you speak), intone around the vowel triangle, moving as slowly as you possibly can and breathing comfortably as needed. As you sing, cup your hand to your ear with the palm held slightly away from the jaw line. The cupping of the hand amplifies the higher harmonic overtones that characteristically fall away the moment your sound leaves your mouth and enters into the air in front of your face. I have observed this hand-to-the-ear technique at use in several of the world’s traditional singing traditions. Furthermore, in my opinion, the gesture of putting the hand to the ear helps to redirect awareness from the reactionary mouth to the responsive ear.

5) Practice the three “voices” and making transitions from one to the other. Almost any overtone-singing style is executed using one of three voices. The “voices” are more than just three differing vocal timbres. The first voice, the “neutral”or “natural”voice, uses no more laryngeal tension than is necessary for speech. Second, the “throat” voice (known as the khoomeivoice in Tuva and neighboring regions in Central Asia), uses an immeasurable but clearly audible amount of increased tension in the larynx. Technically, the throat voice is made by increasing the length of the “closed phase” in each open-and-close cycle of a periodic frequency. The throat voice is not unique to Central Asia, and it can be heard in parts of Central and North Africa and among blues and rock vocalists such as Howlin’ Wolf and Captain Beefheart. Third, there is the “subtone” voice, which I think of as a kind of extension of the throat voice, but with prominent, and downright unmissable, sympathetic vibration of the false vocal folds and, in many singers, other surrounding tissues of the vocal tract. (For a more complete description of these voices and instructions for how to produce these voices, see my previous post).

When you have learned to do the voices, work on moving smoothly from one voice to the next. Begin with your natural singing voice, on a comfortable, mid-to-low pitch, and increase tension until you move into the “throat voice, and then return to your natural voice. Also, move from the natural voice, to the throat voice, to the “subtone” voice, and then return again, breathing as needed. Remember the exercise is to attempt to make smooth transitions, but the result may be more of a turning on and off of these vocal sounds.

 
 
6) To produce the lip trembling effect, purse the lips to the point of muscular exhaustion until they ripple subconsciously. I receive many questions about the style which I have listed on the video as “khoomei borbangnadyyr“, and I have learned  from a few viewers that this  may be actually named “byrlang.” Like many great things in life, the tremelo effect of the lips is not done consciously. I cannot speak for others, but when I do it, I purse my lips, pushing them forward, and then open them gradually and slightly to find the ideal size of the aperture. Sustaining this position, I feel the muscles surrounding the embouchre begin to fatigue. With only a little time, the lips begin to shake uncontrollably. I love this technique because it illustrates a great truth that there is strength and purpose in weakness. The more you practice the lip tremelo, however, the stronger you make the muscles, and so the more difficult it becomes to fatigue them. But no matter how beefy your chops get, there is always a “sweet spot” somewhere in the positions of the pucker and aperture that is weak enough to surrender to your “hidden will.”
 
 
 

7) Sing outside. Explaining this one isn’t easy, nor is it really necessary. The natural environment is composed of powerful archetypal symbols that positively affect the human organism. The forms of nature–shapes, sounds, smells, textures, tastes–instill quietude and awareness that is conducive to overtone singing. I have a theory as to why, but I don’t want to write about it write now. You may find that the most pristine outdoor locations–edenic sanctuaries in your own backyard–inspire you to sing in this way. Moreover, many overtone-singing traditions have strong ties to the natural landscape and its myriad creatures.

8) When you sing a sound you like, don’t celebrate too soon; instead, take a moment to reflect on and remember the sensation of how it felt. Finally getting it can leave you so excited that you neglect to notice how it feels when you perform correctly (by correctly, I mean the way you want it to sound). Rather than going to show a friend, setting up the recording equipment, or running to your dad’s house to sonically heal his eczema, relax and observe your physical sensations and mental attitude that led to the successful performance.

9) Move through the overtone series as slowly as possible. Beginners often try to move up and down the overtone series too quickly, racing about and making articulatory movements too gross for stability. When you find three, two, or even one overtone(s) you can sustain with some clarity, stay there….enjoy that sound. Moving slowly is not only more difficult than moving quickly, but so too one can develop more control and usually derive more musical pleasure and meaning from singing within a limited range of the series; at least, at first.

Aside from these nine simple suggestions, I can offer no more tips to mastery of overtone singing in all styles. It is impossible for, if not detrimental to, a student to receive a handful of universal, fix-all tips. A teacher must hear and see a student to make a proper assessment of a student’s ability and potential. There are too many variations on physiology and methods to help anyone without virtual or actual contact.

Finally, to reiterate, skills can be discovered and perfected all alone in a room. You don’t need a cave, or a mountain top, an emaciated guru, or a trip to “exotic” locations to learn to overtone sing. Though I believe one can come to know the world from one spot on the floor in the house one was born in, there might be some truth to authenticating some styles by visiting specific locations on the planet. I just don’t know for certain. But do beware of authenticity, as most of the time, whenever authenticity arises in a discussion, there is a either a personal or cultural ego fighting for superiority over another. Oh, and money–authenticity debates and money seem to go together like rich kids and belted, khaki shorts.

“Ours is better than yours”—what an asinine statement.  If such debates arise around you, get away from those people and go to nature, an entity which has no need to justify its identify, and so it lives on and on.