Cascadescan – Mark van Tongeren
Published on Jun 21, 2019
Published on Nov 2, 2018
Published on Jun 20, 2019
MARK VAN TONGEREN
Last week Ming-Hwa Yeh invited me to join her for a late-night performance on the roof of the Wellspring Spa hotel in Yilan. Because of our travels, we had no time to rehearse except for the day itself. It was to be an adaptation of several performances we had done in previous years. We used plastic before, so she brought large sheets of plastic again. And she asked me to spread out the plastic on the water with her, then swim under it and come up. I then was trapped in a space where no fresh air entered.
Breathing out enlarged the space around my head a bit. Breathing in pulled the plastic back. As soon as the plastic closed off my mouth that was it (or almost, sometimes): no more air.
This was a very fun way for me to use breathing techniques. I first developed those as a kid, when I swam almost every day, or even several times a day. Later I learnt more from overtone singing, which naturally lowers the frequency of your breathing and induces a more controlled breathing. And later again from yoga and finally pranayama.
In the last 10 years I discovered all the games I can do with my kids in the swimming pool. Like playing dead: I completely relax my body, face down into the water. They start to move me up to get my head out of the water (too heavy) or push down and stand on my back (easier). Either way I would often stay under water for a minute, if possible.
Ming-Hwa, on the contrary, cannot swim – she never learnt it. And yet she made herself look convincing in the water, as if she could swim! And she had no fear of the water even when I pulled her to swim underwater.
This in itself was a great experience, also for the audience, I was told (we repeat it next week: the only performance for the public). Then imagine that it is a sky-high swimmingpool with the Pacific Ocean and Turtle Island/Guishan (龜山島) as a backdrop.
(Photo credit: Alvis Lai)
Throat-singing, a guttural style of singing or chanting, is one of the world’s oldest forms of music. For those who think the human voice can produce only one note at a time, the resonant harmonies of throat-singing are surprising. In throat-singing, a singer can produce two or more notes simultaneously through specialized vocalization technique taking advantage of the throat’s resonance characteristics. By precise movements of the lips, tongue, jaw, velum, and larynx, throat-singers produce unique harmonies using only their bodies. Throat-singing is most identified with parts of Central Asia, but it is also practiced in northern Canada and South Africa where the technique takes on different styles and meanings.
Tuva is a predominantly rural region of Russia located northwest of Mongolia. There, throat-singing is called Khöömei. Singers use a form of circular breathing which allows them to sustain multiple notes for long periods of time. Young Tuvan singers are trained from childhood through a sort of apprentice system to use the folds of the throat as reverberation chambers. Throat-singing in Tuva is almost exclusively practiced by men, although the taboo against women throat-singers, based on the belief that such singing may cause infertility, is gradually being abandoned, and some girls are now learning and performing Khöömei. The Tuvan herder/hunter lifestyle, with its reliance on the natural world and deeply-felt connection to the landscape, is reflected in this Tuvan vocal tradition. With their throat-singing, Tuvans imitate sounds of the natural surroundings—animals, mountains, streams, and the harsh winds of the steppe. Throat-singing was once only a folk tradition, practiced in the windy steppe, but it is now embraced as an emblem of Tuvan identity and more often performed by professionals in formal settings.
The Inuit are the indigenous peoples of northern Canada. Unlike Tuvan throat-singing, the Inuit form of throat-singing is practiced almost exclusively by women. It is also a more communal form of singing than the Tuvan variety, usually performed in groups of two or more women. Their technique relies more on short, sharp, rhythmic inhalations and exhalations of breath. It was traditionally used to sing babies to sleep or in games women played during the long winter nights while the men were away hunting. Throat-singing was banned in the area over 100 years ago by local Christian priests, but it is experiencing a recent revival, especially among younger generations who believe that learning it from their elders connects them with Inuit strength and tradition.
The Xhosa people of Bantu origins are indigenous to present-day southeast South Africa. Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu are famous Xhosa. The Xhosa people have a deep and unique style of throat singing, also called eefing. Two notes are produced one tone apart while higher tones embedded in overtones are amplified simultaneously. This low, rhythmic, wordless vocal style accompanies traditional call and response or group vocal songs. It also accompanies party songs and dances, adding a musical element that is distinctly Xhosa.
photo by Jochem Hartz
Mark van Tongeren is a sound explorer and performance artist with a PhD in artistic research from Leiden University. He did ground-breaking research and vocal experiments in the field of overtone singing, which he began studying around 1990. He feels equally at home ‘in the field’ to study and practice indigenous vocal techniques, as in experimental performance art, using voice, small instruments and/or electronics.
He received his M.A. in ethnomusicology from the University of Amsterdam and has taught world music at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. His PhD from the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts at Leiden University explores the boundaries of science and art and is entitled Thresholds of the Audible: about the Polyphony of the Body. During his PhD studies he founded a vocal laboratory (Paraphony) to develop little known aspects of multi-voiced harmonic singing. He created a series of compositions for two or more voices, called 0… (‘Nulpunten’ or ‘Zero-points’), which make audible hundreds of possible connections or permutations within the natural harmonic series, so that it ‘encounters itself.’ The results were presented in 2010 and 2013 by Mark van Tongeren and Rollin Rachelle, aka the Superstringtrio, in the performances entitled 0… and Incognito Ergo Sum in Amsterdam and Poland. Composer Paul Oomen also conducted the three-hour Overtone Singing Marathon held at the occasion of van Tongeren’s PhD defense in 2013.
Incognito Ergo Sum with Rollin Rachele
He began his performance carreer with the artists – contructors of Silo Theatre of Amsterdam (De Parade, Oerol), where he did sound-design, and created live and recorded soundtracks (1992 until 1998). In 1999 he presented new vocal works in The Trumpets of Jericho, alongside the Trivento organ of the project’s initiator Horst Rickels, and singing ‘with’ and ‘through’ Tjeerd Oostendorp’s 7-meter long tuba. In 2001 he was artist-in residence at the School of Music of Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand for Jack Body’s Secret Sounds project, producing the CD-Rom Secret Sounds and several performances. with Phil Dadson (NZ), Leo Tadagawa (JP) and Bennicio Sokong (PH). At the Silk Road Festival in Washington, D.C. he performed as a throat singer with the festival’s initiator – cellist Yo-Yo Ma – over one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s cello suites (2002).
throat singing with cellist Yo-Yo Ma at the Smithsonian Folklife/Silk Road Festival
From 1995 onward van Tongeren has made solo appearances as a singer in the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, Belgium, China, the USA and most recently in Taiwan (Taipei, Chiayi). In 1995 he received a special prize at the International Throat Singing Festival in Tuva, Siberia (the same festival documented for the famous Gengghis Blues documentary).
He is featured on CD-ROM’s and DVDs, including Secret Sounds (an audio-visual guide to overtone singing and Jew’s harps with Jack Body; Ode Records); Raum Klang Stimme / Space Sound Voice (documentary about overtone singing by Minghao Xu; Traumzeit Verlag). His CDs include Paraphony-Extended Harmonic Techniques, a solo exploration of the resonances of the voice and space (Ode Records), Etos (with Oorbeek, Nice Noise Foundation) and Sphere by his ensemble Parafonia (Fusica). Horst Rickels’ piece Lift-Off, written for Parafonia, is also featured in Jiska Rickels’ award winning documentary Four Elements. Van Tongeren is featured prominently on Deer Woman, composed by Taiwanese film music composer Cincin Lee with Van Tongeren as a soloist. This CD was nominated for Taiwan’s Golden Melody Awards 2008.
An unusual collaboration was his involvement in the realisation of the world première of a work by the renowned Russian composer Dimitri Shoshtakovich (1906-1975), 28 years after his death. He assisted conductor Mark Fitz-Gerald at restoring the lost score of the film Odna (“Alone”), by directors Kozintsev and Trauberg (1931). Van Tongeren transcribed an original piece of Altay throat singing that was used for the film and took part in several screenings of Odna with live music, including the 2003 world première in The Netherlands. In 2008 Naxos published Fitz-Gerald’s CD recording in Germany with van Tongeren’s singing.
In 2002 Fusica published the book Overtone Singing – Physics and Metaphysics of Harmonics in East and West (Fusica/Eburon), the fruit of over 10 years of scholarly and artistic research on this vocal technique. It is the first book-CD to document comprehensively the traditional and modern forms of this unusual vocal art. It exemplifies Van Tongeren’s interest to fuse intuitive and creative processes of singing and art with theoretical issues and critical reflection.
Van Tongeren began extending his array of small, toy and ethnic instruments, as well as a Korg Kaoss Pad, while playing with Oorbeek, an Amsterdam-based collective of artists exploring the boundaries of sound and visual art. Oorbeek is one of his most enduring collaborations. Though very un-typical for Oorbeek, their televised adaptation of John Cage’s 4’33” was selected in 2017 as one of the pearls of 70 years Holland Festival.
He played with Collision Palace, an Amsterdam-based improv collective led by Nathan Fuhr (NYC), in John Zorn’s game piece Cobra. In New Zealand he collaborated with former Scratch Orchestra member Phil Dadson and Japanese singer/performer/bandleader Makigami Koichi in Off the Wall: Vocal Acrobats.
He provided electronic/vocal soundtracks for several animation video’s by Oorbeek’s Serge Onnen, displayed in New York and in MOCA Taipei, and took part in several of Onnen’s live shadowperformances with Oorbeek or as a duo on in Beijing.
In Taipei Onnen and van Tongeren presented new works for video/shadow/sound at the Taipei Artist Village (together with composer/guzheng player Tung Chao-Ming) and Lacking Sound Festival. Also in 2014, he began collaborating with the dancers of Biao/Horse, in a project produced for the Chang Kai Shek National Theatre in Taipei collaborating with pianist Lee Shih-Yang and cellist Chen Yu-Rong. More dance collaborations followed, with Biao’s Yeh Ming-Hwa (2015, 2016, 2017) and with Taipei Dance Circle.
As a teacher, Van Tongeren gave a one-minute crash course of overtone singing for His Royal Highness the Aga Khan and secretary of state Colin Powell at the opening ceremony of the Silk Road / Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. (2002). (usually learning to sing overtones takes longer, though). He has taught overtone singing workshops and courses for exploring/integrating the dynamics of voice, mind and body at various universities (Victoria School of Music, Wellington NZ; TNUA, Taipei TW) and privately. He teaches semester-long courses at National Cheng-Chi University’s creative department (X-Academy) in Taipei. Since 2012 he offers weekly Voice Yoga classes at Canjune and since 2014 a year-long Resonance course in Taipei.
An enduring passion and artistic influence are local musical traditions from around the world. Since the 1990s Van Tongeren has studied music, singing and ritual in Siberia and Russia (Tuva, Altay, Khakassiya, Kalmukiya), Mongolia, India (Tibetan monks in Dharamsala), Sardinia and Corsica (polyphonic singing) and Taiwan. His move to Taiwan prompted a further study of its indigenous music and dance, particularly through the traditions of the Bunun and Saisiyat tribes. In Israel, Dutch composer Merlijn Twaalfhoven organised yearly events to empower Palestinian artist in East-Jeruzalem. In 2010, Twaalfhoven invited composer Paul Oomen, who guided a unique meeting between Firaz Gazzaz, a well-known Palestinian muezzin (reciter of the koran), and van Tongeren.
Since 2010 Van Tongeren lives in Taiwan with his wife June and his children Attar and Illy.
download biographie artistique-MvT.pdf
One thought on “Biography”
maisa van der Kolk
09/08/2015 at 19:56
BEste Mark, Geen idee waar ik u kan bereiken, maar uw naam kreeg ik van Jan Van Dijk van de Univeriteit Amsterdam.Ik ben bevriend met zijn vrouw Leontien. Wij zijn druk bezig een cultureel centrum op te starten in Edam. Zelf organiseer ik inmiddels 5 jaar maandelijkse wereldmuziekconcerten en ben altijd op zoek naar bijzondere uitingen in de volksmuziek.Volgend jaar hopen we in ons centrum ook films te draaien met een mogelijkheid daar na afloop over te praten. Ik dacht aan Meeting with Remarkable Men van Gurdjieff en dan zou het geweldig zijn om ook live boventoonzang te beluisteren.Wie weet is er eenmogelijkheid om uw zang te beluisteren als u eens in Nederland bent. U kunt me antwoorden via de mail:email@example.com , Met groet, Maisavan der Kolk.
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4 concerts this week (NL/PL)
15/11/2013Artistic Research, People, ProjectsAMSTERDAM, Audio Art, Audio Art Festival, Bram Stadhouders, concerts, Daphne van Tongeren, Echokamer, Het Poortgebouw, improvisation, Krakow, Marek Cholonewksi, Mark Alban Lotz, Mark van Tongeren, Mediamatic, music, Oorbeek, oorsprong curator series, Overtone Singing, Rollin Rachele, sound-art, Superstringtrio, Voice
I’d like to announce a couple of concerts in The Netherlands and in Poland in the coming week:
Monday 18 november, AMSTERDAM, Het Poortgebouw, 1st Floor, Tolhuisweg 2: Oorsprong Curator Series, start at 20 o’ clock. Free-improvisation with flutist Mark Alban Lotz and guitarist Bram Stadhouders and vocalist Mark van Tongeren, and several other exciting music/dance impro-combinations in two other sets that same night.
Thursday 21 November, AMSTERDAM, Mediamatic/Fabriek – Echokamer, 20:30, Superstringtrio (Rollin Rachele, Mark van Tongeren) and Daphne van Tongeren (light/performance).
Echokamer is a series of events during which composers, musicians and other sound-makers experiment with sound at, and with the sound of, Mediamatic Fabriek. The giant industrial hall reverberates and erodes, and produces quite a bit of sound all by itself. The perfect place for noisy experiments. Read more details about Superstringtrio’s sonic excursion next Thursday on this link: http://www.mediamatic.net/357851/en/echokamer-12-superstringtrio
Sunday 24 November, KRAKOW (Poland), Audio Art Festival/Bunkier Sztuki, 19 o’clock, Superstringtrio. We have been invited by Marek Choloniewski, founder of Audio Art Festival, one of the most long-standing festivals dedicated to Sound Art in all its beautiful, radical and weird manifestations, to join the ranks of many artists who have performed there in past decades. Superstringtrio will present an updated version of its performance Incognito Ergo Sum, premiered in Amsterdam earlier this year at the occasion of the PhD-defense of Mark van Tongeren’s Thresholds of the Audible- thesis at Leiden University. See a short clips of it on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/64866998. For the full program of the festival, which has already started yesterday and continues next week, check this link: http://www.audio.art.pl/
(with our thanks to Horst Rickels, who gives a workshop and concert in Krakow tomorrow with his Lesley-speakersystem, together with Robert Pravda).
In a couple of hours I am leaving Taiwan. If all goes well I might join Oorbeek tomorrow, Saturday 16 November at the opening of The New Institute in ROTTERDAM. Set 1 at 17 o’ clock, set 2 at 17:45. 6th floor, Museumpark 25, 3015 CB Rotterdam,
Hope to see you somewhere!
mark van tongeren
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