LETTER to TRAN QUANG HAI from CLAUDIA FOFI , artistic director of the UMBRIA IN VOCE 5, 2019 , Gubbio, Umbria, Italy, 12.11.2019

to me

Dear Tran

I deeply thank you for your high level work and deep humanity, you are a true teacher indeed. Would be interesting to try to create a community  around your teaching method of the overtune singing technique. We’ll see. Our festival is about voice 360°… every year changes but we really felt in love with you so we could repeat the experience, never know.
Take care of you, warm regards by everyone here abbracci,

Tuvan Throat Singing with Overtone Analyzer – Giovanni Bortoluzzi (Canto armonico difonico L2)

Tuvan Throat Singing with Overtone Analyzer – Giovanni Bortoluzzi (Canto armonico difonico L2)

iovanni Bortoluzzi 1,54 k abonnés you can visit http://www.sygyt.com and download/buy the software I used, which is called Overtone Analyzer. For Skype lessons, mail me at sherden.oc@gmail.com

Dan Nosowitz: The Many Pleasures of Sardinian Throat Singing


The Many Pleasures of Sardinian Throat Singing

A fiercely unusual musical style from a fiercely independent island.

by Dan Nosowitz October 8, 2019 The Many Pleasures of Sardinian Throat Singing

A traditional Sardinian cantu a tenòre quartet.

A traditional Sardinian cantu a tenòre quartet. Sardegnabella / CC BY-SA 3.0 In This Story Destination Guide Italy

On an island in the Mediterranean, there is an incredible musical style unknown to the vast majority of the world. Because describing music often ends up as a series of references to other music, here’s what that style, cantu a tenòre, evokes: one part barbershop quartet, one part traditional Mongolian drone, one part political punk, and one part bar band. It’s also one example of an unusual vocal strategy, one that almost doubles as a wild anatomical experiment, that appears in scattered places around the globe.

Cantu a tenòre is Sardinian throat singing, and it’s very, very cool.

To talk about cantu a tenòre, we first have to talk about the human voice—a truly amazing musical instrument, capable of an astonishing range of sounds. But it has the same weakness as all breath-powered instruments (including woodwinds and brass): You can only play one note at a time. Except sometimes your voice can play two.

The human vocal apparatus is made up of two vocal cords, which is sort of a misleading name. They’re not strings, really, but more like flat, folded, mucous-covered membranes, which can be constricted and vibrate at varying speeds as air pass between them to produce sound, either spoken or sung. This is the only vibrating tissue for most speakers and singers, but among the group of people who have learned how to throat sing, there’s another option. Related The Gaelic World’s Last Great Bird Hunt Just 10 men are permitted to hunt and pickle 2,000 young seabirds on a desolate island each year. Read more

A little higher up, there are two vestibular folds, sometimes called “false vocal cords.” These are, like the regular vocal cords, mucous-covered infoldings, but they aren’t ordinarily used for making sound. Instead, they’re kind of like guard membranes that keep food and water out of the airway while you’re eating and drinking. Throat singers have figured out how to control the muscles in these folds, and can constrict or relax them to produce noise as air passes by them. It’s almost a body hack that creates harmonies out of some internal bits that few know can even produce sound.

The Sardinian tradition is a rarity among rarities.

Vibration of the vestibular folds can be done either with or without vibration of the regular vocal cords. “You can sing with only the false folds but it will not become throat singing any more,” says Giovanni Bortoluzzi, who, along with Ilaria Orefice, runs the Sherden Overtone Singing School, the first and probably the only school for Sardinian throat singing in the world. You end up instead with a growl, which may be familiar from certain varieties of heavy metal. It’s particularly common in death metal, and is sometimes referred to as “monster voice.” But if you can sing or speak—using your regular vocal cords—while vibrating your vestibular folds, you end up, incredibly, harmonizing with yourself. The vestibular folds will vibrate at one octave lower than whatever tone you sing. That specific difference in pitch is consistent, and even the most experienced throat singers can’t change it.

There are multiple ways of manipulating these false folds. That harmony is called a subtone—bassu, in Sardinian—but there’s also something called contra, which is made by tensing the false cords. You don’t end up with two simultaneous tones, but anything sung is … changed. Bortoluzzi calls it “metallic voice,” and it’s kind of hard to describe. It’s a sound that can’t be produced in any other way, but it’s immediately noticeable as something unusual.

Throat singing shows up in various musical traditions, the most famous of which is probably Tuvan, or from a remote Russian republic bordering Mongolia. For some reason, it seems to appear most often in the native music of cold-weather communities: the Sami people of Scandinavia, the Inuits in Canada, and among Buddhists in Tibet. Sardinia seems to be an exception to this rule; its climate is as Mediterranean as you can get. This makes the Sardinian tradition a rarity among rarities.

Anyone can learn throat singing, says Bortoluzzi, though it takes a keen ear, both for external and internal sounds—those you hear with your ears and those your body makes. He says it usually takes about a week to teach the technique, though some find it easier than others. “The Sardinians, they have it in their blood, so it’s very easy to teach Sardinians,” he says. (Bortoluzzi, unlike Orefice, is not Sardinian, though he has spent a great deal of time in Sardinia.)

It’s not known when cantu a tenòre first emerged. It’s first attested, says Orefice (as translated by Bortoluzzi), in the 15th century, though it’s likely much older than that, possibly thousands of years older. Even though Sardinia is so unlike many of the other places that are home to throat singing it seems unlikely that it came there from somewhere else. Sardinia, like much of the Mediterranean, was conquered and reconquered throughout history—by the Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, and more. But Sardinia has always been a little bit separate from those empires, with a little bit more autonomy than its history might suggest. Even today it is a little bit separate from the rest of Italy.

For example: All of the various languages of the Italian kingdoms—including Neapolitan and Venetian—were shunted to the side in favor of standard Italian during the unification of the country. Of those languages, Sardinian—a romance language, but not comprehensible to Italian speakers—is the most widely spoken today, and a majority of Sardinians can speak it.*

An illustration of Sardinian men wearing traditional costumes from the 18th century.
An illustration of Sardinian men wearing traditional costumes from the 18th century. Photo12/UIG/Getty Images

Bortoluzzi says that given how fiercely independent Sardinia is, it is all the more unlikely that throat singing, something so fundamental to Sardinian culture, could have been introduced. Instead it might have just been independently discovered or evolved, the same way it was in Canada or Tibet. One thing Sardinia does have in common with all of those other places, from Scandinavia to Tuva: wide open spaces. Throat singing, says Bortoluzzi, is associated with herders and shepherds, possibly as a way to communicate over long distances, because the sound carries very far.

Cantu a tenòre is a fairly rigid form. It is exclusively a capella. It is almost always sung with four members. And it is always, always sung in Sardinian—never Italian. This came in handy in the past, given that Sardinia was often under the control of some far-off power. “During the Inquisition they used to sing revolutionary lyrics in Sardinian cantu a tenòre in a way that the Inquisitors would not understand,” says Bortoluzzi. Rebellious or otherwise forbidden political messages could be inserted cleverly into songs that might appear religious—a way for Sardinians to thumb their noses at their oppressors.

If not political in nature, cantu a tenòre lyrics tend toward the hyper-local—often poems about townspeople. “There are many many poets in Sardinia, and the poems become music,” says Bortoluzzi. That local element is important, and cantu a tenòre groups are traditionally named after their hometowns.

The town of Castelsardo, in northwest Sardinia.
The town of Castelsardo, in northwest Sardinia. Ellen van Bodegom / Getty Images

The name cantu a tenòre translates as something like “singer and accompaniment.” Of the four singers in a cantu a tenòre group, three harmonize as an accompaniment (in lieu of, say, a guitar or drum or piano) and one sings over that. The bassu sings with that subtone, producing the lowest sound and, an octave above that, the third-lowest. The contra, using that “metallic voice,” sings the second-lowest tone, in between the two bassu tones. The mesu boche usually sings suspended fourths above the bassu, before laying on the major third (if you know your music theory).* The three singers together are the tenòre, and they are basically singing power chords, like in punk music.

The boche, the last of the four, is the lead vocalist, and the only one to actually sing lyrics; the tenòre are all singing the same nonsense syllables, like “beem, bam, boom.” The boche’s melodies are often improvised, feathery and vaguely Semitic-sounding. The harmonies are fairly restricted, and they are always, says Bortoluzzi, in a major key, which leaves them sounding a little bit like Tuvan barbershop.

The group tends to sing very close together physically, often with their arms wrapped over each other’s shoulders. There is a real intimacy there. Bortoluzzi says that there is often debate about what makes a good or authentic group, but some things are unassailable. “They all agree on one thing, and that is that to perform cantu a tenòre, you must be very close friends,” he says. Most cantu a tenòre groups are all-male, and none are all-female, but women are not discouraged from singing, even the bassu part. Mixed-gender groups are not unheard of, though it can be difficult to find a female throat-singing teacher.

Giovanni Bortoluzzi (center) and Ilaria Orefice (left) perform throat singing—and stretching the form with instruments.
Giovanni Bortoluzzi (center) and Ilaria Orefice (left) perform throat singing—and stretching the form with instruments. Courtesy Sherden Overtone Singing School and Paola Perrone

Over the past few centuries, cantu a tenòre has become drinking and dancing music. In the recent past, you would often, says Bortoluzzi, find a cantu a tenòre group in a local bar, singing for friends. (This is not so common anymore.) To many older Sardinians, this is the true form of cantu a tenòre, in the same way that punk really ought to be played in a low-ceilinged venue that smells defiantly of old beer.

The stubbornness of Sardinians about their musical form is not unusual for Italy in general; just try asking a Roman how to make a cacio e pepe. But that rigidity and a lack of global visibility for Sardinia has meant that, even as Tuvan throat singing became somehow famous in the 1990s, cantu a tenòre has stayed local. Bortoluzzi mentions a concert for which Tuvan throat singers came to collaborate with Sardinian throat singers, only to run into a brick wall of tradition. “The Tuvan group accommodated a lot in terms of pitch and the choosing of the rhythm and stuff like that,” he says, “but the cantu a tenòre group was very stubborn. ‘Oh, we always sing like that, you should follow us, this is the Sardinian way.’”

Bortoluzzi and Orefice’s school started in 2016, and teaches workshops in addition to putting on performances. They have, says Bortoluzzi, more than 100 students, most of whom are in their 30s and 40s. “Not so many young people are interested, for now,” he says. But there are some signs of change. Young groups, such as Tenore Su Remediu de Orosei, are stretching the form, sometimes adding instrumentation and influences from outside Sardinia. (This song has a distinctly Southern-sounding slide guitar.)

As with any other very old tradition, there’s a balance to be struck between remembering the way it’s been done for centuries and exploring new ground. Either way, cantu a tenòre feels ripe for global discovery.

* Correction: This story originally stated that Sardinian is not taught in schools. It is, but fewer young people speak it than in the past. The story was also updated to further explain the tone the mesu boche sings.

Tisato G., Ricci Maccarini A., Tran Quang Hai (2001), “Caratteristiche fisiologiche e acustiche del canto difonico”

Tisato G., Ricci Maccarini A., Tran Quang Hai (2001), “Caratteristiche fisiologiche e acustiche del canto difonico”


Trân Quang Hai & Graziano Tisato in Venice, 2004


Graziano Tisato & Trân Quang Hai in Padova, 13 october 2017



Dr. Andrea Ricci Maccarini

Click on this link below to read the integral article illustrated with spectral & acoustical analyses :

Tisato G., Ricci Maccarini A., Tran Quang Hai (2001), “Caratteristiche fisiologiche e acustiche del canto difonico”

II Convegno Internazionale di Foniatria – Ravenna 19 ottobre 2001

Caratteristiche fisiologiche e acustiche del Canto Difonico

Graziano G. Tisato, Andrea Ricci Maccarini, Tran Quang Hai

Il Canto Difonico (Overtone Singing o Canto delle Armoniche) è una tecnica di canto
affascinante dal punto di vista musicale, ma particolarmente interessante anche dal punto di vista scientifico. In effetti con questa tecnica si ottiene lo sdoppiamento del suono vocale in due suoni distinti: il più basso corrisponde alla voce normale, nel consueto registro del cantante, mentre il più alto è un suono flautato, corrispondente ad una delle parziali armoniche, in un registro acuto (o molto acuto). A seconda dell’altezza della fondamentale, dello stile e della bravura, l’armonica percepita può andare dalla seconda alla 18° (e anche oltre).
Per quanto riguarda la letteratura scientifica, il Canto Difonico compare per la prima
volta in una memoria presentata da Manuel Garcia di fronte all’Accademia delle Scienze a Parigi il 16 novembre 1840, relativa alla difonia ascoltata da cantanti Bashiri negli Urali (Garcia, 1847).
In un trattato di acustica pubblicato qualche decennio più tardi (Radau, 1880), la realtà di questo tipo di canto è messa in discussione: “…Si deve classificare fra i miracoli ciò che Garcia racconta dei contadini russi da cui avrebbe sentito cantare contemporaneamente una melodia con voce di petto e un’altra con voce di testa”.
Deve trascorrere quasi un secolo dal 1840 prima che si ottenga un riscontro obbiettivo
della verità del rapporto di Garcia, con le registrazioni fatte nel 1934, fra i Tuva, da etnologi russi. Di fronte all’evidenza della analisi compiuta nel 1964 da Aksenov su quelle registrazioni, i ricercatori cominciarono a prendere in considerazione il problema del Canto Difonico (Aksenov, 1964, 1967, 1973). Aksenov è il primo ad attribuire la spiegazione del fenomeno al filtraggio selettivo dell’inviluppo formantico del tratto vocale sul suono glottico, e a paragonarlo allo scacciapensieri (con la differenza che la lamina di questo strumento può ovviamente produrre solo una fondamentale fissa). In quel periodo compare anche un articolo sul Journal of Acoustical Society of America (JASA) sulla difonia nel canto di alcune sette buddiste tibetane, in cui gli autori interpretano correttamente l’azione delle formanti sulla sorgente glottica, senza
tuttavia riuscire a spiegare come i monaci possano produrre fondamentali così basse (Smith et al., 1967).
A partire dal 1969, Leipp con il Gruppo di Acustica Musicale (GAM) dell’Università
Paris VI s’interessa al fenomeno dal punto di vista acustico (Leipp, 1971). Tran Quang Hai, del Musée de l’Homme di Parigi, intraprende in quel periodo una serie di ricerche sistematiche, che portano alla scoperta della presenza del Canto Difonico in un numero insospettato di tradizioni culturali diverse (Tran Quang,1975, 1980, 1989, 1991a, 1991b, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, e il sito Web http://www.baotram.ovh.org). L’aspetto distintivo della ricerca di Tran Quang Hai è la sperimentazione e verifica sulla propria voce delle diverse tecniche e stili di canto, che gli ha permesso la messa a punto di metodi facili di apprendimento (Tran Quang, 1989). Nel 1989 Tisato analizza e sintetizza il Canto Difonico con un modello LPC, dimostrando per questa via che la percezione degli armonici dipende esclusivamente dalle risonanze del tratto vocale (Tisato, 1989a, 1991). Nello stesso anno anche il rilevamento endoscopico delle corde vocali di Tran Quang Hai confermava la normalità della vibrazione laringea (Sauvage, 1989, Pailler, 1989). Nel 1992 compare uno studio più approfondito dal punto di vista fonetico e percettivo,
che mette in risalto la funzione della nasalizzazione nella percezione della difonia, la presenza di una adduzione molto forte delle corde vocali e una loro chiusura prolungata (Bloothooft et al., 1992). Gli autori contestano l’ipotesi fatta da Dmitriev che il Canto Difonico sia una diplofonia, con due sorgenti sonore prodotte dalle vere e dalle false corde vocali (Dmitriev et al., 1983). Nel 1999 Levin pubblica sul sito Web di Scientific American un articolo particolarmente interessante per gli esempi musicali che si possono ascoltare, le radiografie filmate della posizione degli articolatori e della lingua, e la spiegazione delle tecniche di produzione dei vari stili del Canto Difonico (Levin et al., 1999, http://www.sciam.com/1999/0999issue/0999levin.html).
Il lavoro che presentiamo qui è il risultato di una recente sessione di lavoro con Tran
Quang Hai (ottobre 2001), in cui abbiamo esaminato i meccanismi di produzione del canto difonico con fibroendoscopia. La strumentazione utilizzata era costituita da un fibroendoscopio flessibile collegato ad una fonte di luce stroboscopica, per valutare quello che succedeva a livello della faringe e della laringe, e un’ottica rigida 0°, collegata ad una fonte di luce alogena, per esaminare il cavo orale.



Studi in onore di Franco Ferrero, 2003



graziano tisato.jpg

Piero Cosi, Graziano Tisato
Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione – Sezione di Fonetica e Dialettologia
(ex Istituto di Fonetica e Dialettologia) – Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche
e-mail: cosi@csrf.pd.cnr.it tisato@tin.it
www: http://nts.csrf.pd.cnr.it/Ifd

I really like to remember that Franco was the first person I met when I
approached the “Centro di Studio per le Ricerche di Fonetica” and I still
have a greatly pleasant and happy sensation of that our first warm and
unexpectedly informal talk. It is quite obvious and it seems rhetorical to say
that I will never forget a man like Franco, but it is true, and that is, a part
from his quite relevant scientific work, mostly for his great heart and sincere


For “special people” scientific interests sometimes co-occur with personal “hobbies”. I remember Franco talking to me about the “magic atmosphere” raised by the voice of Demetrio Stratos, David Hykes or Tuvan Khomei1 singers and I still have clear in my mind Franco’s attitude towards these “strange harmonic sounds”. It was more than a hobby but it was also more than a scientific interest. I have to admit that Franco inspired my “almost hidden”, a part from few very close “desperate” family members, training in Overtone Singing2. This overview about this wonderful musical art, without the aim to be a complete scientific work, would like to be a small descriptive contribute to honor and remember Franco’s wonderful friendship.


“Khomei” or “Throat-Singing” is the name used in Tuva and Mongolia to describe a
large family of singing styles and techniques, in which a single vocalist simultaneously produces two (or more) distinct tones. The lower one is the usual fundamental tone of the voice and sounds as a sustained drone or a Scottish bagpipe sound. The second corresponds to one of the harmonic partials and is like a resonating whistle in a high, or very high, register. For convenience we will call it “diphonic” sound and “diphonia” this kind of phenomenon.
Throat-Singing has almost entirely been an unknown form of art until rumours about Tuva and the peculiar Tuvan musical culture spread in the West, especially in North America, thanks to Richard Feynman [1]3, a distinguished American physicist, who was an ardent devotee of Tuvan matters.

1 We transcribe in the simplest way the Tuvan term, for the lack of agreement between the different authors: Khomei, Khöömii, Ho-Mi, Hö-Mi, Chöömej, Chöömij, Xöömij.
2 This is the term used in the musical contest to indicate the diphonic vocal techniques.

This singing tradition is mostly practiced in the Central Asia regions including
Bashkortostan or Bashkiria (near Ural mountains), Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Altai and Tuva (two autonomous republics of the Russian Federation), Khakassia and Mongolia (Fig. 1), but we can find examples worldwide: in South Africa between Xosa women [3], in the Tibetan Buddhist chants and in Rajastan.
The Tuvan people developed numerous different styles. The most important are:
Kargyraa (chant with very low fundamentals), Khomei (it is the name generally used to indicate the Throat-Singing and also a particular type of singing), Borbangnadyr (similar to Kargyraa, with higher fundamentals), Ezengileer (recognizable by the quick rhythmical shifts between the diphonic harmonics), Sygyt (like a whistle, with a weak fundamental)
[4]. According to Tuvan tradition, all things have a soul or are inhabited by spiritual
entities. The legends narrate that Tuvan learnt to sing Khomei to establish a contact and assimilate their power trough the imitation of natural sounds. Tuvan people believe in fact that the sound is the way preferred by the spirits of nature to reveal themselves and to communicate with the other living beings.
Figure 1. Diffusion of the Throat-Singing in Central Asia regions.
In Mongolia most Throat-Singing styles take the name from the part of the body where they suppose to feel the vibratory resonance: Xamryn Xöömi (nasal Xöömi), Bagalzuuryn Xöömi (throat Xöömi), Tseedznii Xöömi (chest Xöömi), Kevliin Xöömi (ventral Xöömi, see
Fig. 13), Xarkiraa Xöömi (similar to the Tuvan Kargyraa), Isgerex (rarely used style: it sounds like a flute). It happens that the singers itself confuse the different styles [5]. Some very famous Mongol artists (Sundui and Ganbold, for example) use a deep vibrato, which is not traditional, may be to imitate the Western singers (Fig. 13).
The Khakash people practice three types of Throat-Singing (Kargirar, Kuveder or
Kilenge and Sigirtip), equivalent to the Tuvan styles Kargyraa, Ezengileer and Sygyt.

3 Today, partly because of Feynman’s influence, there exists a society called “Friends of
Tuva” in California, which circulates news about Tuva in the West [2].






Polyphonic Overtone Singing – Greensleeves – Canto Difonico armonico avanzato – Giovanni Bortoluzzi

Polyphonic Overtone Singing – Greensleeves – Canto Difonico armonico avanzato – Giovanni Bortoluzzi

Ajoutée le 6 nov. 2018

Greensleeves in Canto Difonico politonale/polyphonic overtone singing. For Skype lessons , send me an email: sherden.oc@gmail.com , You can also follow me on FB: https://www.facebook.com/SherdenOSSch… https://www.facebook.com/Giovanni.Bor… Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/giovanni_bo…