and Seiji Niimi∗4 ∗1 NTT Communication Science Laboratories, ∗2 The University of Tokyo, ∗3 National Rehabilitation Center for the Disabled, ∗4 International University of Health and Welfare
Throat singing is a traditional singing style of people who live around the Altai mountains. Kh¨ o¨ omei in Tyva and Kh¨ o¨ omij in Mongolia are representative styles of throat singing. Throat singing is sometimes called biphonic singing, multiphonic singing, overtone singing, or harmonic singing because two or more distinct pitches (musical lines) are produced simultaneously in one tone. One is a low sustained fundamental pitch, called a drone, and the second one is a whistle-like harmonic that resonates high (in the range from 1 kHz to 3 kHz) above the drone. Many variations of singing styles in throat singing are classiﬁed according to singers and regions. However, it is possible to objectively classify these variations in the terms of a source-ﬁlter model in speech production. The laryngeal voices of throat singing can be classiﬁed into (i) a pressed voice and (ii) a kargyraa voice based on listener’s impression, acoustical characteristics, and the singer’s personal observation on voice production. The pressed voice is the basic laryngeal voice in throat singing and used as drone. The kargyraa voice is a very low pitched voice that ranges out of the modal register. The production of the high pitched overtone is mainly due to the pipe resonance of the cavity from the larynx to the point of articulation in the vocal tract . In Tyvan kh¨ o¨ omei, sygit is a style where singers articulate by touching the tongue to the palate and kh¨ o¨ omei is one where they articulate by pursing the lips. We have also physiologically observed two diﬀerent laryngeal voices and estimated the patterns of the vocal fold and false vocal fold vibrations . We have simulated the vibration patterns by a physical modeling of the larynx: 2 × 2-mass model. Based on the physiological observations and the simulation, we propose a new laryngeal voice model and synthesis system for throat singing
Università di Padova Dipartimento di Storia delle Arti Visive e della Musica firstname.lastname@example.org
ISTC (Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione), CNR, Padova email@example.com
Università di Padova Dipartimento di Storia delle Arti Visive e della Musica firstname.lastname@example.org
ABSTRACT Demetrio Stratos (1945-1979) was a singer known for his creative use of vocal techniques such as diplophony, bitonality and diphony (overtone singing). His need to know the scientific explanation for such vocal behaviors, drove him to visit the ISTC in Padova (Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies) in the late Seventies. ISTC technical resources and the collaboration with Franco Ferrero and Lucio Croatto (phonetics and phoniatric experts), allowed him to analyze his own phonoarticulatory system and the effects he was able to produce. This paper presents the results of a broad historical survey of Stratos’ research at the ISTC. The historic investigation is made possible by textual criticism and interpretation based on different sources, digital and audio sources, sketches, various bibliographical references (published or unpublished) and oral communications. Sonograms of Stratos’ exercises (made at the time and recently redone) show that various abilities existed side by side in the same performer, which is rare to find. This marks his uniqueness in the avant-gard and popular music scene of the time. The ultimate aim of this study was to produce a digital archive for the preservation and conservation of the sources related to this period.
Tran Quang Hai : Metodo per Imparare il Canto Armonico di Stile KHOOMEI
Posted on by haidiphonieStandardMetodo per Imparare il Canto Armonico di Stile KHOOMEI Tran Quang Hai (Francia)
Negli ultimi 40 anni si sono prodotte un numero considerevole di ricerche riguardo questo peculiare fenomeno vocale, in particolare sulle modalità con le quali esso è praticato in Mongolia e a Tuva. In mongolo e tuvano la parola KHOOMEI significa faringe, gola e KHOOMEILAKH è la tecnica di produrre armonici vocali. Questa tecnica piuttosto insolita, che porta la voce umana ai suoi limiti, comporta la produzione simultanea di due suoni: un suono grave o fondamentale che è ricco di armonici e la reminiscenza dello Jew’s harp (motivo per cui questa tecnica è anche chiamata “ Jew’s harp voice”). Secondo i cantanti della Mongolia questa tecnica è molto faticosa. L’esecutore deve tendere i muscoli e gonfiare le guance. Variando la pressione dell’aria attraverso le corde vocali, il volume del cavo orale e la posizione della lingua, vengono ottenuti suoni diversi. In questo modo, armonici di diverse frequenze vengono prodotti formando melodie. La fondamentale viene prodotta nel retro della gola, passando attraverso il cavo orale e attraverso l’eccitazione delle labbra leggermente divise e in misura minore attraverso il naso. La ricerca può essere eseguita in molti modi: dai sistemi di osservazione degli esecutori nativi dopo una o più visite nei paesi che interessano, o attraverso una pratica strumentale e un addestramento vocale che mirano ad una migliore comprensione della struttura musicale assunta dalla popolazione studiata. La mia ricerca non appartiene a una di queste due categorie in quanto non sono stato in Mongolia e non ho imparato lo stile KHOOMEI (canto armonico) da un insegnante Mongolo. Quello che ora vado descrivendo è il risultato dei miei propri esperimenti che abiliteranno chiunque a produrre due note simultaneamente in maniera simile allo stile Mongolo e Tuvano di canto armonico. ——————————————————————————– DEFINIZIONE La maniera con la quale viene tradotta la parola Mongola o Tuvana non è uniforme: HO-MI, HÖ-MI (Vargyas, 1968), KHOMEI, KHÖÖMII (Bosson, 1964: 11), CHÖÖMEJ (Aksenov 1973: 12), CHÖÖMIJ (Vietze 1969: 15-16), XÖÖMIJ (Hamayon 1973; Tran Quang Hai 1980: 162). Ricercatori francesi hanno altri termini per descrivere questa peculiare tecnica vocale come per esempio CHANT DIPHONIQUE o BIPHONIQUE (Leipp 1971), Tran Quang Hai 1974, Gilles Leothaud 1989, VOIX GUIMBARDE, VOIX DEDOUBLEE (Helffer 1973, Hamayon 1973), e CHANT DIPHONIQUE SOLO (Marcel-Dubois 1979). Altri termini esistono in Inglese come SPLIT-TONE SINGING, THROAT SINGING, OVERTONE SINGING, e HARMONIC SINGING. In Germania è chiamato ZWEISTIMMIGEN SOLOGESANG. in Italia CANTO DIFONICO O CANTO DIPLOFONICO. Per convenienza, io ho impiegato il termine “OVERTONE SINGING” per descrivere uno stile di canto eseguito da una singola persona che produce contemporaneamente una fondamentale che continua e un altro suono più acuto tra quelli della serie delle parziali o armoniche, che ricordano il suono del flauto . Come sono giunto al “Canto Armonico” (“overtone singing”) Nel 1970, al Department of Ethnomusicology (Musee de l’Homme), il Prof. Roberte Hamayon mi fece ascoltare le sue registrazioni fatte in Mongolia nel 1967 e nel 1969. Fui sorpreso dalla natura straordinaria e unica di questa tecnica vocale. Per molti mesi compii ricerche bibliografiche negli articoli dove era trattato questo stile di canto nel tentativo di ottenere informazioni sulla pratica del Canto Armonico, ma ricevetti piccole soddisfazioni. Spiegazioni meramente teoretiche e alcune volte di natura ambigua non fecero nulla di meglio che creare e incrementare la confusione col il che la mia ricerca fu abbandonata. A dispetto della mia completa ignoranza sul metodo impiegato per imparare il Canto Armonico praticato dai Mongoli, dai Tuvani e da altre popolazioni della Siberia, non mi scoraggiai minimamente per i risultati negativi ottenuti all’inizio dei miei studi dopo mesi di sforzo. Io lavorai interamente solo brancolando a mio modo nel buio per due lunghi anni, ascoltando frequentemente dalle registrazioni effettuate da Roberte Hamayon depositate nel Sound Archives del Department of Ethnomusicology del Musee de l’Homme. I miei sforzi non portavano risultati. Nonostante la conoscenza della tecnica dello scacciapensieri, il lavoro all’inizio fu difficile e scoraggiante. Provai anche a fischiare mentre emettevo un suono grave con la voce come fondamentale. Comunque all’analisi spettrografica si vedeva che non era simile alla tecnica Xöömij dei Mongoli. Alla fine del 1972 mi resi conto che ero ancora molto lontano dalla mia meta. Poi, un giorno, nel novembre del 1973, mentre cercavo di calmare i miei nervi nella terrificante congestione del traffico di Parigi, accadde che feci vibrare le mie corde vocali nella faringe con la bocca mezzo aperta recitando a memoria le lettere dell’alfabeto. Quando arrivai alla lettera “L”, e la punta della lingua stava quasi per toccare la cima del palato, sentii improvvisamente un suono armonico chiaro, puro e potente. Ripetei molte volte l’operazione ottenendo lo stesso risultato; tentai poi di cambiare la posizione della lingua sul palato mantenendo il suono di base. Una serie di palatali risuonò come un disturbo nelle mie orecchie. All’inizio trovai gli armonici dell’accordo perfetto. Lentamente, dopo una settimana di addestramento intensivo, slittando verso l’acuto o il grave con la fondamentale scoprii da me stesso il mistero del canto armonico, il cui stile appariva vicino a quello praticato dai Mongoli e dai Tuvani. IL MIO METODO DI ADDESTRAMENTO Dopo due mesi di “ricerca” e dopo numerosi esperimenti di vario genere, riuscii a creare una breve melodia di armonici. Questa è la mia “ricetta” per aiutare chiunque a fare questo primo passo per cantare gli armonici. 1. Intensificare la produzione vocale con una voce di gola 2. Pronunciare le lettere “I” e “U” collegandole insieme e ripetendo molte volte in un fiato. 3. Si faccia un suono nasale con la punta della lingua in posizione bassa. 4. In questo modo è possibile mettere a fuoco la linea degli armonici superiori sia in ordine ascendente che discendente. Questa è la prima tecnica, quella che io chiamo “tecnica a una cavità”. Ciò è piuttosto facile da fare e chiunque può ottenere due suoni simultanei nel giro di un minuto di pratica. La seconda “ricetta” aiuterà a produrre gli armonici chiari alla maniera dello stile Mongolo e Tuvano. Io chiamo questa “tecnica a due cavità”. 1. Si emetta il suono vocalico “E” più lungo possibile. 2. Si pronunci la lettera “L”. Mantenere la posizione con la punta della lingua che tocca il palato. In questa posizione la bocca è divisa in due cavità, una davanti e una dietro. 3. Si pronunci prima “LAANG” per diverse volte (primo esercizio) e poi “LOONG” per altrettante (secondo esercizio). Quando gli armonici sono udibili si canti tenendo la lingua contro il palato e contemporaneamente cambiando la forma della bocca come per pronunciare le vocali da “A” a “O” e successivamente da “O” a “A” eseguendolo molte volte in un fiato. 4. Si faccia un suono nasale. 5. In questa maniera si può produrre chiaramente la serie di armonici in stile Mongolo. Per i principianti gli armonici dell’accordo perfetto (Do, Mi, Sol, Do) sono facili da ottenere. Comunque, un allenamento particolarmente duro è necessario per ottenere scale pentatoniche. Ogni persona ha la sua altezza favorita che l’abilita a produrre una maggiore gamma di parziali. Questa fondamentale favorita varia secondo le qualita della voce del singolo cantante. NUOVI ESPERIMENTI DI CANTO ARMONICO Altri esperimenti dai quali ho appreso che è possibile ottenere due suoni simultaneamente in tre diversi modi: 1. nel primo modo la lingua è abbassata o leggermente curva, senza mai toccare in alcun modo il palato, e solo le labbra muovono il cavo orale. Con questa modalità del cavo orale, questa volta diviso in un’unica cavità, è possibile udire le parziali ma deboli e gli armonici più acuti non superano i 1200Hz. 2. La tecnica di base del secondo metodo è descritta sopra. Comunque, invece di tenere la bocca mezzo aperta è tenuta quasi chiusa con le labbra tirate indietro e molto strette. Perché le parziali siano molto chiare, la posizione delle labbra deve variare allo stesso tempo della lingua. Quando le parziali sono molto chiare e distinte allora la tecnica è esaurita. Gli armonici acuti possono arrivare alla zona dei 2600 Hz. 3. Nel terzo metodo la lingua è abbassata, e i denti stringono la lingua mentre si cantano le vocali “U” e “I”, con la contrazione dell’addome e dei muscoli della gola. Gli armonici più acuti possono giungere a 4200Hz. Altri nuovi esperimenti che ho iniziato a mostrare è che io posso mantenere l’armonico allo stesso livello di frequenza usato come “nota tenuta” e cambiare la linea delle fondamentali (per esempio Do, Fa, Sol, Do). Sono anche riuscito a creare una linea di fondamentali e una di armonici che muovono contemporaneamente in direzioni opposte. In altre parole io produco una linea fondamentale ascendente e, allo stesso tempo, una linea discendente di armonici. L’effetto armonico è piuttosto inusuale ed eccezionale. Nel 1989 io e il dottor Hugo Zemp abbiamo realizzato un film intitolato “THE SONG OF HARMONICS” che mostra una ripresa ai raggi X e una spettrografica, in tempo reale e con il suono sincronizzato, di brani di canto dei diversi paesi. Questo film prodotto dal CNRS –Audiovisivi e dalla French Society for Ethnomusicology, ottenne due premi (Grand Prize and Best Music Prize) al International Festival of Visual Anthropological Film in Estonia Ottobre 1990, un premio (Special Prize for Research) al International Festival of Scientific Film in Palaiseau (France) nel Novembre 1990, e il Grand Prize del International Festival of Scientific Film in Montreal (Canada) nel1991. Nella musica contemporanea occidentale gruppi di cantanti sono riusciti ad emettere due note contemporaneamente e sono stati creati brani di musica d’avanguardia e nell’ambito della musica elettoacustica. David Hykes con il suo Harmonic Choir, fondato a New York nel 1975, usa il canto armonico per collegarsi con l’universo cosmico nelle sue composizioni. Demetrio Stratos (1945-1979) ha usato il canto armonico per creare una relazione tra la voce e il subconscio. Nelle mie composizioni – improvvisazioni io raccomando sempre di investigare gli armonici per arricchire il mondo dei suoni. Altri esecutori di canto armonico sono i tedeschi Michael Vetter, Christian Bollmann, Michael Reimann, l’italiano Roberto Laneri, l’olandese Rollin Rachele, l’australiano Josephine Truman, i francesi Les Voix Diphoniques , Thomas Clements, Iegor Reznikoff, Tamia, tutti costoro hanno utilizzato il canto armonico nei loro lavori. Il canto armonico è praticato anche da numerosi gruppi (Oirat, Khakass, Gorno-Altai, Bashkir, Tuvin, Kalmuk) etnici al confine tra la Repubblica Russa e la Mongolia. In Rajasthan (India), in Taiwan presso il gruppo etnico Bunun, in Tibet presso i monaci dei monasteri Gyuto e Gyume, in Sud Africa presso la popolazione degli Xhosa, la pratica del canto armonico è nota e ovunque registrata. Io spero che dopo questa breve introduzione al mondo degli armonici, si possa avere un’idea riguardo l’esistenza del canto armonico in differenti aree del mondo e la possibilità di sapere come ottenere armonici vocali. Bibliografia AKSENOV, A.N. 1973: “Tuvin Folk Music”, Journal of the Society for Asian Music 4(2):7-18, New York. HAMAYON, R. 1980: “Mongol Music”, New Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians 12: 482-485, Stanley Sadie (éd), MacMillan Publishers,Londres. LANERI, R. 1983: “Vocal Techniques of Overtone Production”,NPCA Quarterly Journal 12(2-3): 26-30. LEIPP, E. 1971: “Considération acoustique sur le chant diphonique”, Bulletin du Groupe d’Acoustique Musicale 58: 1-10, Paris.. LEOTHAUD, G. 1989: “Considérations acoustiques et musicales sur le chant diphonique”, Le chant diphonique, dossier n° 1: 17-43, Institut de la Voix, Limoges. 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, 1995: ” Le chant diphonique: de……ion, historique, styles, aspect acoustique et spectral”, EM, ANnuario degli Archivi di Etnomusicologia dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, 2:123-150, Rome. TRAN QUANG HAI, 1995: “Survey of overtone singing style”, EVTA (European Voice Teachers Association, Dokumentation 1994 (actes du congrès): 49-62, Detmold  Nome inglese dello scacciapensieri o maranzano.  In Italiano utilizzeremo “Canto Armonico”.
Exploring the physics, metaphysics, philosophy, and cultural significance of overtone singing and throat singing, I offer wisdom old and new on the theories and methods of this fascinating vocal art that anyone can learn to do.
We live a sad life when we do for the results instead of for the doing itself. Having been teaching students the fundamentals of overtone singing for ten years now, I can conclude confidently that one cannot do this. One can only be this. To do overtone singing well, one must be for the doing alone.
However, this does not mean we ignore the quality of the results; rather, we can attain enhanced results by desiring the present-time experience of the process itself. If that seems confusing, do know that it’s supposed to be confusing, as the act is nothing the mind can reason through. To clarify, or to confuse in just another way, we can all think of an instance in life when we cared so much about something that we couldn’t do it. Finally, when we gave up, perhaps assuming inevitable failure, the task was more doable. Surrendering our excessive caring for an attachment to the outcome helps us do it even better. I call the ideal performance of overtone singing “actionless action,” but you’ll find other terms to describe this seemingly mysterious, paradoxical process that can apply to the performance of anything. In Taoism this actionless action is known as wu wei, and in Hindu philosophy you can find it referred to as nishkama karma. To grossly summarize these profound teachings, and others like them but not mentioned here, desire for the outcome inhibits the quality of performance and the consequent attainment of the outcome. For example, singing with the desire to make the overtones louder and more prominent interferes with the the act of singing the overtones. The most common correction I make to a student’s singing is to stop their constant starting and stopping. A student begins to sustain a tone and after only a few seconds, his or her thinking judges the sound as undesirable before the tone has a chance to sustain itself. Then, s/he begins again, once thinking editorially about the tone before it can sustain, and then cuts it off. First, this is a waste of endurance, as the act of setting the vocal cords into vibration costs more energy than the act of sustaining the vibration; in other words, you wear your voice out faster by making repeated attacks with the vocal folds. More importantly, by stopping too soon, you try to rush past the process to get to the result. The process is the sustaining of the tone, and the desired result is the tone and overtones exactly as you want them to sound. You will get the result you want, your pleasure, if you find an inner hold by concentrating on the tone itself and all the physiological sensations that occur when toning. Listening without thinking tethers awareness to the act. By listening, I do not mean with the ears alone. Listening is also an attitude of receptive attention, and so we can “listen” to the physical sensations in the body. When we listen we suspend the activity of the internal senses, our thoughts, and something deeper begins to pay attention; next, something deeper inside us begins to sing. By temporarily suspending your judgement and listening to your body produce a tone, you get much closer to producing the desired result of enhanced overtones. However, you must continue to sustain the tone no matter how crappy you think the tone sounds. Do not stop. Sing through the undesirable sound coming out of you. You must pay these dues of process to experience the result. Though it seems hard to believe, you can begin to enjoy even the most displeasing of your sounds. Appreciate this process of “sounding through the crap”. Fail again and again and love it. This takes guts. This method of doing regardless of result has other applications in life. You can practice actionless action in anything. Do it, and prove you are not one of the gutless masses in search of only the pleasure. Learning to overtone sing, however, seems to be an exemplary method for getting the knack of this kind of doing for a few reasons. First, overtone singing occupies the speech organs and consequently reduces the mind’s inner speaking. Second, sustaining long vocal tones requires enhanced awareness of the physiology of respiration, a focal point which further reduces mental activity. Third, singing overtones is itself a paradoxical activity as we attempt to isolate and amplify the overtones that in fact are already present in any continuous vocal tone. Considering that, perhaps overtone singing is an efficient defense against the continual attack of your thinking. But to make it work, you must pay the dues of attention. You must love the process so much that even if your reap no reward whatsoever, you’d continue to do it anyway. Finally, I still offer lessons and consultations through SKYPE and GOOGLE HANGOUTS and I do guarantee results during the the first lesson. However, the more valued guarantee is in how I teach you to love the process.
To receive more information about lessons, please send an email to alexglenfield(at)hotmail(dot)com
For ten years I’ve been teaching a method for learning to overtone sing. Every student I’ve known wants to improve the isolation and amplification of parts of the harmonic series; in other words, make the overtones louder. Increased prominence of the overtones in one’s voice is easy to achieve, and you might be producing loud harmonics already, but your ear is not yet able to detect them; more specifically, your awareness of your ear’s signals is not yet heightened enough to perceive the inherent overtones in sound. That concentration and some time.
Teach the ear to hear the harmonics by sustaining very long tones with your natural singing voice while, as slowly as possible, and with the minutest of oral movements, stretch out some vowels sounds. Then as you continue to sustain a steady tone while stretching vowels sounds, relax and just listen. Don’t yet try to hear any harmonics in the sound yet. Instead, just place all your focus on your hearing of the sound, and all the while feeling the vibrations of the sound in your body. Direct all the senses, and even the inner senses of the imagination, toward sounding and sensing. When you begin to hear a kind of melody, a changing of flute-like sine tones, over or within your droning, you’re beginning to hear your own overtones.
The ear leads the voice. Listening, in the most all-embracing sense, yields to almost all of the most desirable improvements.
So, one improves and reaches the desired level of ability. Then one asks, “What can I do with this?”
The human nervous system is programmed to seek out improvements. Perhaps this condition of continual betterment is the deep impulse to evolve , but it is also the source of much misery, as even when one has something great, one wonders of having something even greater. In leaving the great for the greater, and finding there is no greater, one returns to the great, but sometimes to find it gone.
In contrast, we might perceive the great thing as great in itself, and we declare to be totally satisfied, but then we ask, “What use is it?” or “What can I do with that?”
Like meditation, singing overtones is an end in itself, and needs no purpose to evince its value. In way, it is totally useless, as is meditation, but therein lies its highest use!
The moment we desire some end from the process of singing, we have lost the purpose. Desire for something more than the act itself diminishes the quality of of the act.
However, I have made some use of overtone singing in creating eleven mystical love songs in a collection of songs known as “The Me Machine.”
For many more years that I have taught, I have struggled conceptually with what to do with overtone singing, to whom it belongs, whether I should be teaching it at all, and how best to share it with others.
Forced into live performance on occasion for need of money, I had to come up with something to do to keep the show going. Overtone singing alone can’t always fill an hour-long set. So, when not overtone singing, I would sing or recite lyrics of my own smart-ass design, or play trumpet, and generate looping drones of any of those sound sources to support the lead melody. After a few performances, I found I had a body of “songs,” which audiences found amusing.
These songs are studio creations that employ much layering of overtone singing. These vocal layers provide accompaniment to the principal singing of lyrics that either switches to mini-solos of obvious overtone singing styles. When the overtone singing is not obvious, the singing is still performed with a subtle enhancement of the overtones. Nevertheless, all the sounds on this album were created with an enhanced awareness of harmonic overtones, and my awareness of of the overtones might be apparent to the listener.
The lyrics are mystically romantic. The text also contains little lists of philosophical aphorisms that I need to remember.
So, I have used overtone singing to produce an end, a product, an album of songs. The songs are blatantly popular, yet still weird enough to keep it all from falling into the pit of illuminati pop. And I can’t say I like them all, and I can’t even believe they are from me. But I didn’t do them for me. I made these songs for those that love me, and I took care to be sure that the music would have maximum universality for the diversity of my loved ones, and how thankful I am for the diversity of all the strange angels in my life.
They only indicator of success I desire is for them, and that one, to love this music.
Finally, I hope my use of overtone singing honors the beauty of solo singing while including it in the style of the popular song. Meanwhile, I shall set to work on the next improvement, the next whim of my desire, which I will soon share with you, with the beloved, and with the One.
Some of you, the good people who are kind enough to talk to me, have asked for more of this home performance stuff, and something like an online tutorial. I tried to create both in one.
Both in one. Always in search of the next innovative hybrid, we humans are always combining two things to make a third. Sometimes, one thing is divided into two, and then the new resulting parts are used to create a third.
The creative act itself is dependent on the simultaneous occurrence of two seemingly opposite “realities” to create a new one that often brings with it a flash of insight, and sometimes humor. This third thing, this byproduct of opposing incompatibilities, is the spark of humorous insight. The creation equation.
This video is another thing I’ve made to give me a chance to laugh at myself, and I hope it brings a little dual reality convergence into your mind and heart, and whatever goo lies between them.
To sum up and bring it all together (before letting it blow apart again), overtone singing IS a perfect example of the creation equation. We have what APPEARS to be one note PRODUCING more than one note: melody within drone; movement within stasis; music within sound.
More deep thoughts, said dumbly here, as it must be. They ask me: “Does overtone singing have a healing effect?” Almost anything can be used to heal, and this is evinced by the promulgation of publications declaring the revitalizing potential of everything from asparagus juice to mashed up bee brains to the pheromones collected in the stringy belt of dad’s terrycloth bathrobe. But it depends, really, what one means by “healing”. On one hand, healing suggests the improvement of life quality; on the other hand, that very unpopular hand, but the hand I most prefer to play, healing can be the transcendence of the need to be healed at all. Through SKYPE or in person I encourage students to discover for themselves what effect the practice may have, as any declaration I make about the results of overtone singing becomes a suggestion and, under the right conditions of consciousness, a student may implant the suggestion and distort his or her reality to make the suggestion appear true. I can theorize, however, that singing overtones is a means to bypass meaning, thus stilling the movement of thought to let other parts of the self arise to express and clear the system of its blockages. This theory, however, assumes that the movement of feeling is beneficial to a state of mind-body health. What is thinking? Though some of us think in pictures, bodily sensations, emotions, or even smells, most of our thinking is in words. Words, vocal sound symbols, point to meanings. These symbolic word sounds can exist outside the body in waves upon the air molecules, and inside the body in the audial imagination, which is that place where you can imagine a sound. Thinking is the movement of words in the audial imagination: When you think, you talk to yourself, and almost everybody does it. How many of your waking hours are dominated by word thinking? How much do you talk—presumably internally—to yourself? When communicating with your fellow creatures, how much do you rely upon your—presumably external—words? These words are mostly an act of the conscious mind. Through most of the day, our breath, vocal apparatus, and audial imagination serve the intellect in word thought. The mind-body system’s health is partly dependent on the free flowing of feeling. Down deeper—or perhaps up higher, I don’t know which—our emotions struggle to ride the breath across the vibrating vocal folds. Most of the time, however, they are blocked by intellect. Our voice (internal and external) serves our intellect. Feelings want to go out and play, but intellect is clogging the exit. Overtone singing is a non-signifying vocal act: it means absolutely nothing, yet the isolation of overtones does use the raw materials of signifying speech; specifically and among others, the vowel sounds. While singing with awareness on the sound of sound itself, rather than its symbolic meaning, the individual bypasses the conscious mind temporarily to clear the way for something else. I dislike naming the something else, as I dislike naming anything, but the feeling state one experiences in this clarity is distinctly profound: sometimes highly emotional; sometimes highly blissful; sometimes transcending all that is feeling and knowing. But above words it takes you. So what “healing” effects can result from singing above meaning? Best to test for yourself, but keep an open mind and heart about what healing can be. I feel, however, that I’m closer to reality when singing and entering into the unnamable state of mind. Free of the judgments of passing thoughts in the audial imagination, I cease my distortion of reality, and come closer to what is; to what is without my intellectual filtering. Deep thoughts, dumbly. To enter into the indescribable way,Hear the mind’s mental chatterNot as meaningful words,But as beautiful music. Stare with the ear andTo hear the always music everywhere,And in all sound,External and internal. The brain says “yes”;The heart says “maybe”;The time of your lifeNeeds a winding.
INSIDE THE SOUND: A Villanelle Take notice of the silence in the sound The sound of sound is in the music there Be still the mind where judgments are abound The ear is known to sense the world profound To subdivide the ugly from the fair Take notice of the silence in the sound This is a place with music all around The bliss of wind in trees without a care Be still the mind where judgments are abound Undo the violence seeing will surround Unlike the eye, the ear can never stare Take notice of the silence in the sound Do know that we are partials of the ground Divine that births the world through silent prayer Be still the mind where judgments are abound These musical intentions will astound To find the subtle masterpiece is rare Take notice of the silence in the sound Be still the mind where judgments are abound
PANTOUM FOR THE LINE OF DOLLS She took her place among the line of dolls Beset with fear her skin turned sickly pale And all who saw her turned before the fall Unto the sounding of the bugle’s wail Beset with fear her skin turned sickly pale Her shapeless legs held firm around the wind Unto the sounding of the bugle’s wail A trail of dirty tears down to her chin Her shapeless legs held firm around the wind That sweetness of her face a dying dream A trail of dirty tears down to her chin The dolls beside her hacked a golden scream That sweetness of her face a dying dream The sky around them shuddered with the thought The dolls beside her hacked a golden scream The One they called to save them then, was not The sky around them shuddered with the thought For hope was always drifting in the air The One they called to save them then, was not Their universe ached on without a care For hope was always drifting in the air They fell as one, went lifeless to the ground Their universe ached on without a care To the silent, sliver moon’s impassive frown For the evil of the man that sent her home And for all who saw her, turned before the fall For the man who wanted her to him alone She took her place among the line of dolls Posted by Alexander Glenfield at 8:39 AM 4 comments: Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to FacebookShare to Pinterest
He found himself in a landscape that was on one hand the loneliest and most isolated, and on the other, the most profoundly inclusive environment, he had ever known. The South Siberian Steppe. The land was the frozen motion of the planet’s most subtle tremors blanketed with treeless grasslands extending to the edges of the sky in all directions. The sky so vast the land seemed hardly real beneath it, and how easily the vastness of emptiness, with the slightest descent, could swallow the ground that held him. Though the land was barren, with the tallest vegetation being the waving grasses gone to seed, the wind sounded a continuous and strangely human-sounding “aahhh”. Perhaps the ethereal vowel sound on the wind was a result of the air’s passing over the hole of his ear, but it must have blown through or around something to produce almost clarion resonance. In that moment, no effort he needed for contentment. No need to pose himself before others so as not to harm or be harmed. And the everyday judgment he habitually passed and received was away on the wind. He returned the sound, gently as though letting breath surrender into sound, and from that effortlessly sounding intonation of “aahhh” he heard the music of sound, the inherent harmonics of a vibrating body. With the little ego self away, the big self into sound. Before this moment in nature, the putting of the self into sound was merely theory, not direct experience. It was a theory his Hindustani Music Teacher had imparted to him. Guruji declared, “During the Brahmacharya stage of development, you must discover the self by holding each note for a very long time, and maybe for even hours a day if your dedication is complete. So long the swara must be held that there is nothing left of you and only the swara remains.” In the Hindustani system of classical raga singing, the term swara had once meant more than “note” or “pitch”, as it has come to mean in the modern age. The ancient meaning, however, is there to be found in the word itself. By simply taking an etymological view of the prefix and suffix, one can know that the Sanskrit swa meant “of self” and ra meant “bestow.” Then to sing a single note, the swara, is to bestow the self in sound, and one found the self in the sound by uttering it and listening to the vast harmonic content of a single, sustained vocal tone. However, the singularity of this tone is illusory. To sustain any one single note vocally is impossible, as the oral cavity, by default, forms the raw buzzing of the vocal folds into vowels. Though the speech centers of the brain are programmed to perceive vowel sounds as parts of signifying words, the vowel sounds are horizontal combinations of overtones (“chords” if you will, but more specifically, “formant regions”). Differing combinations of overtones distinguish one phonetic vowel from another. Our speech is replete with the music of vocal sound. He was also bestowed with the knowledge that in the classical Hindustani singing tradition the vowel “ah” is preferred for singing, as this is the vowel sound of the heart, an expression of supreme adoration. And is it merely coincidence that many of these vowels sounds, when used as raw expressions, heard alone and unaccompanied by contrasting consonants, have culturally specific meanings associated with them? For example, take “ah” as an expression of adoration in the Hindustani system. To a westerner, does it not have a similar meaning? What is your emotionally driven vowel response to the following stimuli and scenarios? 1) An adorable kitten with a red bow in its fur approaches you; it purrs, meows, and rubs against your leg. AH
2) Unprepared for your seminar presentation about wool slacks of the Elizabethan theatre, you improvise, thus faking it, and you use this commonly heard “mantra” of ponderous uncertainty heard all too often in public presentations and everyday conversation. UM 3) To your shock, the kitten from before is, in truth, a rare breed of dwarfed tomcat and it is in heat. It sprays your leg with its putrid pheromones. EEW
4) On your lunch break, you spill an entire plate of Spaghettio’s on your temperamental boss’s white, silk blouse just five minutes before her meeting with the board of directors.
5) Angrily tearing up yet another piece of junk-mail from your cable provider, you feel the firm cardboard slice open the sensitive flesh between your fingers, which for whatever reason, was wet with lemon juice. OW
6) Having pondered at length on the reason for your rapidly shrinking gums, in a “Eureka” moment, you suddenly know that your toothpaste has been taken and replaced with a tube of Preparation H. AH HA
How have these expressions found their way into the lexicon of human communication? Perhaps they are there for the same reason we moan when in pain or pleasure, or scream in terror or excitement, or laugh in response to either humor or impending mental meltdown: emotional response is biologically linked with the breath and any breathing that excites the vocal folds into vibration will consequently produce a vowel sound. There is something universal in the body, its feelings, and its means of expressing them. Interesting to ponder, but like most idle contemplations, they serve to fascinate far more than they serve to offer any answers or evidence.
So he sings alone and there is no one to hear. There was no one there, not even him, and perhaps that is why there was no need to be known, for there was no one to know. He felt such relief in losing the little self, craving the recognition it needs to sustain it. Nature is a place without names. Giving names to the phenomena of nature is to give it identity, and the bestowal of identity is the imposition of limitation. And with these names, to us the beings who give meaning to almost everything, the animate and inanimate myriad things of nature were reduced to their little selves. He lost his little self on the wind in sound. “None of these forces shall sway me,” he declares to the past and future. The declaration dislodged the self-destructive tendency of his subconscious mind, and dissolved the deeply imbedded impetus to obscure the big self. Perceiving the apparent singularity of the tone as illusory was the first step in the separation from the world of little things, ego things. Dissolve the self, bestow the self, and listen.
Alexander Glenfield I’ve been called “a silly little man” by some very serious giants. I’ve been called “a lazy mystic” by some very ambitious academics. I’ve also been called “the most unknown person in the world” by some very close undead relatives. Like always, I’ll let you decide who I am. View my complete profile
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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.
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
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)
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.
i. 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.
ii. 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
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:
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).
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
A. 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.
6. 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).
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:
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);
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 ( (Winckel1960; Gunji 1978:136; Zemp and TrAn 1991:39‑46);
c) the production of different vowel sounds (Stumpf 1918; Guriji 1978,Tran 1989; Hughes 1989); 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).
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.
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.
La dénomination “chant diphonique” désigne une technique vocale selon laquelle une seule personne chante à deux voix: un bourdon constitué par le son fondamental, tenu à la même hauteur durant tout le chant, et une mélodie superposée (une sorte de sifflement du larynx) formée à partir des harmoniques.
Reproduire ces sons n’est pas forcément très difficile, mais les maîtriser au point d’en faire un chant relève d’un art exigeant. Le plus difficile consiste à obtenir un fondamental riche en harmoniques: pour ce faire, le chanteur utilise toutes ses ressources respiratoires, contractant son pharynx et sa musculature abdominale à partir du diaphragme pour faire passer l’air avec une pression très forte sur les cordes vocales. Toute la cavité buccale devient alors caisse de résonance, modelée encore par le mouvement des lèvres.
Sous des formes diverses, on retrouve ce genre de technique vocale à l’état de traditions dans plusieurs endroits du monde, mais c’est en Asie centrale, autour des montagnes de l’Altaï et du Sayan, qu’on rencontre ses expressions les plus spectaculaires. En Mongolie et dans la république de Touva (Fédération de Russie), on l’appelle khöömii, littéralement “le fond du palais” ou “pharynx”.
Chants de gorges et sifflements harmoniques
En fonction de la voix et du milieu de vie de ses exécutants, selon qu’on soit dans un village de l’Altaï ou dans une université d’Oulan Bator, les réalisation et la représentation du khöömii varient encore passablement d’un individu à l’autre. Mais la manière de réaliser la mélodie d’harmonique est la même: le “diphoneur” (khöömiich) modifie le volume de sa cavité buccale en ouvrant et en refermant les lèvres et en déplaçant ou non sa langue. Suivant ces modulations, la hauteur du bourdon et la pression exercée sur la gorge, on distingue alors de nombreuses techniques bien particulières, identifiables par leur timbre vocal.
D’une manière générale, toutes ces déclinaisons se regroupent pourtant sous deux catégories principales. Le style grave et profond (kharkhiraa), qui travaille sur les harmoniques basses, et le style aigu, mélodique (sigit, isgeree khöömii ou khöömii sifflé).
Aujourd’hui, de nombreux artistes, tant à l’étranger qu’en Mongolie, utilisent désormais volontiers le kharkhiraa ou la voix pressée pour colorer leur chant. De leur côté, alliant virtuosité et précision harmonique, les maîtres du khöömii ont appris depuis longtemps à alterner les différents styles au cours d’une même chanson. Au sein de groupes souvent spectaculaires, ils les mêlent à d’autres genres musicaux, les déclinant même parfois à plusieurs voix dans un nouveau développement polyphonique. Photononstop –
Johanni Curtet est musicien et ethnomusicologue, spécialiste du chant diphonique dont il poursuit depuis des années l’apprentissage sur le terrain, en Mongolie, auprès de plusieurs maîtres particulièrement respectés.
Il est le co-auteur dʹune “Anthologie du khöömii mongol” publiée à la fin 2016 chez Buda Musique.
>> Écoutez l’émission “Versus” consacrée aux maîtres du chant diphonique, avec Johanni Curtet.
routesnomades.fr Versus-écouter – Publié le 20 janvier 2017
Des chanteurs traditionnels à Hohhot, le 5 août 2012. [Liu Yide – AFP]
De la yourte à la scène
D’obédience bouddhiste ou chamaniste, la culture traditionnelle mongole s’est épanouie dans un rapport animiste d’intimité avec la nature. Dans cet esprit, les légendes racontent que le khöömii serait né de l’imitation du souffle du vent, des sons de l’eau, du chant des oiseaux, dans un contexte essentiellement pastoral.
En 1934, des chercheurs russes enregistrent les premiers disques 78 tours de khöömii, permettant au musicologue Aksenov de l’étudier en profondeur et de publier en 1964, soit 30 ans plus tard, le premier article scientifique de qualité sur le sujet. D’abord pratiqué a capella dans le contexte nomade pastoral des régions de l’ouest, le khöömii est alors progressivement diffusé à plus grande échelle grâce aux enregistrements.
Vue d’Oulan Bator (Mongolie extérieure), en 1965. [AFP]
Porté par la politique culturelle de la période soviétique, il est de plus en plus arrangé et mis en scène, au point de devenir l’un des emblèmes de la musique nationale mongole dès les années 1960. À côté de l’usage rural se développe une nouvelle forme professionnelle qui va façonner le chant diphonique mongol dans son état actuel.
Les recherches de l’ethnomusicologue Johanni Curtet à propos de la transmission traditionnelle orale du chant diphonique étudiée a fait l’objet d’un film documentaire, “Maîtres de chant diphonique”, réalisé par Jean-François Castell.
>> Voir un extrait du film
Nouveaux modes d’apprentissage
En 1990, la révolution démocratique ouvre les frontières de la Mongolie. Longtemps transmise par imitation, la tradition du khöömii est dorénavant aussi enseignée à l’Université et au Conservatoire. Presque toujours portés par un accompagnement instrumental, les styles et les techniques se multiplient et le répertoire s’étoffe. On le pratique aujourd’hui dans tout le pays et, depuis deux générations, il se conjugue aussi au féminin.
Mais la médaille a son revers et le succès ses zones d’ombre. A Oulan Bator, l’enseignement académique du khöömii tend à devenir le modèle dominant, au risque de standardiser les autres modes de transmission. A terme, accentuée par un le fossé croissant entre le les mondes rural et urbain et par le désintérêt des jeunes générations pour la culture de leurs parents, cette situation pourrait bien figer la tradition. D’un côté, une virtuosité de plus en plus spectaculaire et souvent folklorisée, de l’autre, une diversité patrimoniale en danger… Johanni Curtet – Unesco
Une anthologie du khöömii mongol
Diffusé à grande échelle, le khöömii a fait depuis longtemps des émules en Occident, y compris parmi les chercheurs. De nombreux travaux académiques en anthropologie, ethnomusicologie, acoustique et même médecine, ont été produits dans le monde entier. Mais depuis son inscription au Patrimoine Culturel Immatériel de l’Humanité de l’UNESCO, aucune documentation de référence n’a été publiée pour donner à comprendre le chant diphonique mongol dans toute sa richesse. De nombreux aspects de sa pratique et de sa diversité restent mal connues, même pour ses praticiens traditionnels.
Pour combler cette lacune, deux chercheurs, la Mongole Nomindari Shagdarsüren et le Français Johanni Curtet, créateurs de l’association Routes Nomades et contributeurs du dossier pour l’UNESCO, publient aujourd’hui sous le label français Buda Musique la première Anthologie du khöömii mongol : deux CDs, 43 plages de musique dont 28 inédites, pour couvrir plus de 60 ans d’histoire et de développement musical de cet art extraordinaire.
>> Écoutez un entretien avec Johanni Curtet, musicien et ethnomusicologue, spécialiste du chant diphonique de Mongolie; un reportage réalisé en juillet 2013 dans le cadre du festival Les Suds à Arles.
David Collin – L’écoute des mondes – Publié le 06 octobre 2013
>> Voir le reportage de “Couleurs locales” ( 8 juin 2015): un groupe de yodel des environs de Saint-Gall a chanté avec un choeur venu de Mongolie
Couleurs locales – Publié le 08 juin 2015
Proposition et texte: Vincent Zanetti
Réalisation web: Miruna Coca-Cozma Bruno Morandi – hemis.fr/AFP