2019 s’annonce riche pour Voyage en Diphonie : Le film participera par exemple aux Les RDV de l’Aventure sous le présidence de @Vincent Munier

2019 s’annonce riche pour Voyage en Diphonie – Journey In Diphonia- Хөөмийгөөр Аялахуй. Le film participera par exemple aux Les RDV de l’Aventure sous le présidence de @Vincent Munier – Photographe – avec Chez A Propos, A ProPos Productions, LES FILMS DU ROCHER, Routes Nomades / Нүүдэлчин Зам Холбоо

TRAN QUANG HAI : About the terminology used in overtone/undertone for the throat singing /overtone singing

About the terminology used in overtone/undertone for the throat singing /overtone singing

Tran Quang Hai (UMR 8574, National Center for Scientific Research, France)

“KHOOMEI” 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 . We transcribe in the simplest way the Tuvan term, for the lack of agreement between the different authors :

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, a distinguished American physicist, who was an ardent devotee of Tuvan matters (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.

This singing tradition is mostly practised in the Central Asia regions including Bashkortostan or Bashkiria (near Ural mountains), Altai and Tuva (two autonomous republics of the Russian Federation), Khakassia and Mongolia . But we can find examples worldwide in South Africa between Xhosa women, in the Tibetan Buddhist chanting, in Rajasthan, and also among the Dani tribes in Papu Guinea

The Tuvan people developed numerous different styles . The 5 different techniques are :
Sygyt (like a whistle with a weak fundamental)
Khoomei ( general term for throat singing and a particular style)
Borbangnadyr (similar to Kargyraa with higher fundamental)
Ezengileer ( rercognizable by the quick rhythmical shifts between diphonic harmonics)
Kargyraa (with very low fundamentals obtained by undertones)

In Mongolia, most throat singing styles take the name from the part of the body where they suppose to feel the vibratory resonance
XARKIRAA XÖÖMI (similar to Tuvan Kargyraa)
ISGEREX (rarely used style it sounds like a flute)

The Khakash people practise three types of Throat singing

The peoples of the Altai Mountains use three terms

The Bashkiria musical tradition uses the throat singing UZLAU similar to Tuvan EZENGILEER) to accompany epic song

The Tibetan GYUTO monks have also a tradition of diphonic chant, related to the religious beliefs of the vibratory reality of the universe . They sing in a very low register in a way that resembles the Tuvan KARGYRAA method . The aim of this tradition is mystical and consists in isolating the 10th harmonic partial of the vocal sound.


There are in the literature many terms to indicate the presence of different perceptible sounds in a single voice. If you have a look at the motor of reaearch (www.google.com ) , you will be astonished by the number of websites linked to throat singing KHOOMEI . I am going to establish a listing of unmbers of sites linked to each term according to GOOGLE motor research (28 December 2003 , date of consultation of GOOGLE)

KHOOMEI 1,710 sites
KARGYRAA 883 sites
SYGYT 673 sites
EZENGILEER 141 sites
THROAT SINGING 8,980 sites
OVERTONING 615 sites



According to the pioneer work in the domain of the vocal sounds made by the Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble (EVTE) of San Diego University and bearing in mind that there is little agreement regarding classifications, the best distinctive criterion for the diphonia seems to be the characterization of the sound sources that produce the perception of the diphonic or multiphonic sound

Following that principle, we can distinguish between BITONALITY and DIPHONIA

BITONALITY : in this case, there are two distinct sound sources that produce two sounds. The pitches of the two sounds could be or not in harmonic relationship. This category includes DIPLOPHONIA, BITONALITY , and VOCAL FRY

DIPHONIA : the reinforcement of one (or more) harmonic partials produces the splitting of the voice in two (or more) sounds. This category includes KHOMEI, THROAT SINGING, OVERTONE SINGING, DIPHONIC SINGING, BIPHONIC SINGING, OVERTONING, HARMONIIC SINGING, HARMONIC CHANT


Diplophonia :
The vibration of the vocal folds is asymmetrical. It happens that after a normal oscillatory period, the vibration amplitude that follows is reduced. There is not the splitting of the voice in two sounds, but the pitch goes down one octave lower and the timbre assumes a typical roughness. For example, assuming as fundamental pitch a C3 130.8 Hz, the resulting pitch will be C2 65.4 Hz . If the amplitude reduction happens after two regular vibrations, the actual periodicity triplicates and then the pitch lowers one octave and a 5th. The diplophonic voice is a frequent pathology of the larynx (as in unilateral vocal cord paralysis), but can be also obtained willingly for artistic effects (Demetrio Stratos was an expert of this technique)

The two sound sources are due to the vibration of two different parts of the glottis cleft . This technique requires a strong laryngeal tension . In this case , there is not necessarily a harmonic relationship between the fundamentals of the two sounds. In the Tuvan KARGYRAA style, the second sound is due to the vibration of the supraglottal structures (false folds, aryepiglottic folds that connects the arytenoids and the epiglottis, and the epiglottis root). In this case generally (but not always) there is a 2:1 frequency ratio between the supraglottal closure and vocal folds closure. As in the case of Diplophonia, the pitch goes down on octave lower (or more)

Vocal fry
The second sound is due in this case to the periodic repetition of a glottal pulsation of different frequency . It sounds like the opening of a creaky door (another common designation is “creaky voice”) . The pulse rate of vocal fry can be controlled to produce a range from very slow single clicks to a stream of clicks so rapid to be perceived as a discrete pitch . Therefore vocal fry is a special case of bitonality : the perception of a second sound depends on a pulses train rate and not on the spectral composition of a single sound .


Diphonic and Biphonic refer to any singing that sounds like two (or more) simultaneous pitches, regarless of technique. Use of these terms is largely limited to academic sources . In the scientific literature the preferred term to indicated Throat Singing is Diphonic Singing .

Multiphonic Singing indicates a complex cluster of non-harmonically related pitches that sounds like the vocal fry or the creaky voice. The cluster may be produced expiring as normal, or also inhaling the airflow .

Throat Singing is any technique that includes the manipulation of the throat to produce a melody with the harmonics. Generally, this involves applying tension to the region surrounding the vocal folds and the manipulation of the various cavities of the throat, including the ventricular bands, the arytenoids, and the pharynx .

Chant generally refers to religious singing in different traditions (Gregorian, Buddhist, Hindu chant , etc…). As regards the diphonia, it is noteworthy to mention the low singing practised by Tibetan Buddhist monks of the Gyutö sect . As explained before , they reinforce the 10th harmonic partial of the vocal sound for mystical and symbolic purposes . This kind of real diphonia must be distinguished from resonantial effects (enhancement of some uncontrolled overtones) that we can hear in Japanese Shomyo Chant and also in Gregorian Chant .

Harmonic Singing is the term introduced by David Hykes to refer to any technique that reinforces a single harmonic or harmonic cluster. The sound may or may not split into two or mor notes. It is used as a synonym of Overtone Singing, Overtoning, Harmonic Chant and also Throat Singing .

Overtone Singing can be considered to be harmonic singing with an intentional emphasis on the harmonic melody of overtones . This is the name used by Western artists that utilizes vowels, mouth shaping and upper throat manipulations to produce melodies and textures. It is used as a synonym of Harmonic Singing, Overtoning, Harmonic Chant and also Throat Singing .


In the West , the Overtone Singing technique has unexpectedly become very popular, starting into musical contests and turning very soon to mystical, spiritual and also therapeutic applications . The first to make use of a diphonic vocal technique in music was Karlheinz Stockhausen in STIMMUNG . He was followed by numerous artists and amongst them : the EVTE (Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble) group at the San Diego University in 1972, Laneri and his Prima Materia group in 1973, Tran Quang Hai in 1975, Demetrio Stratos in 1977, Meredith Monk in 1980, David Hykes and his Harmonic Choir in 1983 , Joan La Barbara in 1985, Michael Vetter in 1985, Christian Bollmann in 1985, Noah Pikes in 1985, Michael Reimann in 1986, Tamia in 1987, Bodjo Pinek in 1987, Josephine Truman in 1987, Quatuor Nomad in 1989, Iegor Reznikoff in 1989, Valentin Clastrier in 1990, Rollin Rachele in 1990, Thomas Clements in 1990, Sarah Hopkins in 1990, Les Voix Diphoniques in 1997, Mark Van Tongeren in 2000, etc… The most famous proponent of this type of singing is David Hykes . Hykes experimented with numerous innovations including changing the fundamental (moveable drone) and keeping fixed the diphonic formant , introducing text, glissando effects , etc… in numerous works produced with the Harmonic Choir of New York .


All these sounds contain overtones or tones that resonate in fixed relationships above a fundamental frequency. These overtones create tone color, and help us to differentiate the sounds of different music instruments or one voice and another
Different cultures have unique manifestations of musical traditions , but, what it is quite interesting, is that some of them share at least one aspect in common: the production of overtones in their respective vocal music styles .
The diversity of terminology designating this vocal phenomenon shows us the interest of people in discovering overtones /undertones .The most used term is THROAT SINGING (8980 websites linked according to GOOGLE motor of research) more than OVERTONE SINGING (2500 linked websites). This attitude is understandable because the term “Throat Singing” is the correct translation of the Tuvan and Mongolian terms KHOOMEI which means “pharynx”, or “throat”.

WIKIPEDIA : Theodore Levin (ethnomusicologist)

Theodore Levin (ethnomusicologist)
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Theodore Levin is professor of music at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. He is an ethnomusicologist, earning his undergraduate degree at Amherst College and obtaining his Ph.D. from Princeton University. Levin has focused his research on the people of Central Asia, including a recent research trip to the Altai Mountains to study Tuvan forms of music. Dr. Levin began studying Central Asian forms of music in 1974. Since then, he has written 2 books, including 100,000 Fools of God: Musical Travels in Central Asia (published by Indiana University Press in 1999). He chronicled his journey to Tuva in his most recent book, Where Rivers and Mountains Sing (published by Indiana University Press in 2006).

100,000 Fools of God: Musical Travels in Central Asia- Levin’s first book, this chronicles his return to Central Asia. Levin records information about the peasants; such as the stories they kept alive through music, the actual music itself, how they dealt with Soviet rule, and even the shaman healers that use music to heal the sick. This book has a wealth of information pertaining to Central Asia folk customs and the evolving post-soviet culture.

Where Rivers and Mountains Sing- This is Levin’s second book that takes the reader once again on a journey through Central Asia. Levin begins the volume by chronicling his experiences with a Tuvan throat-singing group. He vividly explains and details the Tuvan people’s ideas about nature and animals, and how their music reproduces the sounds and actions of those animals. The idea of tradition is also brought up frequently, especially in the case of the throat singers. The world is embracing them, and Levin details the effects of the popularity on the performers and the traditions.

Theodore Levin: The Hundred Thousand Fools of God, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana (USA), 1999, ISBN 0-253-21310-X
Theodore Levin (with Valentina Süzükei): Where Rivers and Mountains Sing: Sound, Music and Nomadism in Tuva and Beyond, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana (USA), 2006, ISBN 0-253-34715-7

External links

Smithsonian Folkways: Bukhara: Musical Crossroads of Asia

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KELLY SEAMAN: TED LEVIN’s curriculum vitae

Curriculum Vitae

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On the Silk Road with Professor Ted Levin
The Silk Road, the ancient network of trade routes linking Asia with Europe, winds its way through Dartmouth this winter, thanks to Theodore Levin, chair and professor of music and the Parents Distinguished Research Professor in the Humanities.
levinTed Levin (Photo by Joseph Mehling ’69)
Academic and impresario: Levin, an expert ethnomusicologist who has produced sound and video recordings for the Smithsonian, identifies himself as both. He is also the former executive director of Cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project, which was created to promote the study of the cultural riches of the Silk Road’s people and places. “I like doing the two together, both scholarship and musical production. The combination is good for my teaching-it brings the world into the classroom,” he says.

Levin’s syllabus for his winter term course “The Silk Road” includes guest lecturers from Dartmouth’s departments of anthropology, geography, history, religion, theater, and Asian and Middle Eastern languages and literatures (DAMELL). The course, says Levin, considers the Silk Road and its cultural legacy from a profoundly interdisciplinary perspective.

An activist as well: A consultant and advisor to both the Aga Khan Music Initiative in Central Asia and the Soros Foundations’ Open Society Institute, Levin champions the role music and musicians can have in preserving and revitalizing traditional cultures. He continues to be instrumental in bringing musical artists to Dartmouth, including Brooklyn Rider, a string quartet that grew out of the Silk Road Project and that often collaborates with “world music” musicians. Among them is Japanese shakuhachi virtuoso and composer Kojiro Umezaki, a 1993 graduate of Dartmouth’s M.A. program in digital musics. Brooklyn Rider and Umezaki are artists-in-residence at the College in February, and premiered a Dartmouth-commissioned piece by Umezaki.

silk roadStudents in Levin’s course “The Silk Road” remove bandhani cloth from indigo dye. Master dyer Joan Morris (foreground) of the theater department guided the students through this ancient Indian method of textile patterning. “They are getting, literally, a hands-on experience of the sort of goods traded along the Silk Road,” she says. From left: Elizabeth Kemp ’11(hidden), Evelyn Fisher ’11, Emma Frankel ’12, and Samantha Kaplan ’09. (Photo by Joseph Mehling ’69)

Digital revolution: The impact of the digital revolution on the world’s music, says Levin, is on two fronts. First, the Internet is transforming accessibility; listeners now have access to music from anywhere in the world. Equally important, musicians can have access to an enormous potential audience. Second, digital tools empower creative work in sound, “giving access to musical creativity,” Levin observes, “without the need for arduous training. Dartmouth’s music department is poised at the cutting edge of these changes. We’re forging links not just with digital movements in the humanities, but also with engineering, computer science, psychology, and cognitive neuroscience.”


ACADEMIA : Tuvan Throat Singing, a series of articles

Tuvan Throat Singing


C’era una volta il fiume Höömey: leggendarie origini del canto armonico tuvino-mongolo. In: Costantini, V. & Kappler, M. (eds.), Sûzişât-i mü’ellefe. Contaminazioni e spigolature turcologiche. Scritti in onore di Giampiero Bellingeri. Crocetta del Montello (TV): Terra Ferma. 313-317, 2010.


by Elisabetta Ragagnin


Folklore, Tuvan Throat Singing, Siberian Turkic languages

Монгол дахь хѳѳмийн ѳвлүүлэлт / La transmission du khöömii en Mongolie / The Transmission of Khöömii in Mongolia
2018. « Mongol dakhi khöömiin övluulelt » (La transmission du khöömii en Mongolie), Chinggis Khaan Sudlal 27, Ulaanbaatar : Université Chinggis Khaan, p. 141-146.


by Johanni Curtet


Anthropology of Music, Ethnomusicology, Historical Ethnomusicology, Mongolian Studies

Voyage en Diphonie / Journey in Diphonia
English: Since 2010, the Mongolian Traditional Art of Khöömii (throat singing) has been inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, and the research of Johanni Curtet and his spouse,… more


by Johanni Curtet


Visual Anthropology, Ethnomusicology, Film Music And Sound, Film Analysis

Archaic Oirat substratum of the “circa-Altai musical Kulturkreis” in Tuva / Архаичный ойратский субстрат среднеалтайского культурного круга в Туве
Worldwide fame for Tuvan music is now immovable. The vocal phenomenon xöömei or Tuvan throat-singing, in particular, attracts music fans around the world. On the other hand, so called “overtone-singing” or “throat-singing,” the vocal… more


by Masahiko Todoriki


Tuvan Throat Singing, Tuvan music, Tuvan history

An Anthology of Mongolian Khöömii – Монгол Хөөмийн Сонгомол
An additional 12 videos playlist to the record An Anthology of Mongolian Khöömii Монгол Хөөмийн Сонгомол цомгийн нэмэлт видео Audiovisual recording : Johanni Curtet, 2015. Editing : Jean-François Castell, Les Films du Rocher, 2016. Дуу,… more


by Johanni Curtet


Visual Anthropology, Ethnomusicology, Mongolian Studies, Traditional Music

3 questions à J. Curtet, Sh. Nomindari et un musicien du groupe Khusugtun autour de l’Anthologie du khöömii mongol
Conférence en ligne (enregistrement audio). 8 décembre 2016: avec Pierre Bois et Nomindari Shagdarsuren, « 3 questions à J. Curtet, Sh. Nomindari et un musicien de Khusugtun autour de l’Anthologie du khöömii mongol», panel “Inscriptions… more

by Johanni Curtet and +1


Ethnomusicology, Cultural Heritage, Ethnography, Mongolian Studies

An Anthology of Mongolian Khöömii / Une Anthologie du khöömii mongol / Монгол Хөөмийн Сонгомол
Double CD / Хос цомог Livret 47 p. / 47 p. Booklet / 47 хуудас товхимол Français / English / Монгол English: Through 43 tracks, including 28 previously unreleased, this double disc gathers the essentials of Mongolian khöömii, from early… more


by Johanni Curtet and +1


Ethnomusicology, Film Music And Sound, Fieldwork in Anthropology, Historical Ethnomusicology

Khömmei Vocal Techniques in a Study of the Bard Tradition in Mongolia/Istanbul Technical University


by Volkan Çağlayan


Anthropology of Music, Tibeto-Mongolian Buddhism, Tuvan Throat Singing, Anthropology of Music and Sound

History, Memory, and Landscape in Post-Soviet Tyva’s Xöömei Scenes
Presented in the Department of Music and Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh (2015) This lecture, which flows from ten years of dissertation research, explores a theory of musical sensibility… more

by Robert O Beahrs


Ecology, Post-Soviet Studies, Collective Memory, Russia

Post-Soviet Tuvan Throat-Singing (Xöömei) and the Circulation of Nomadic Sensibility
Guttural singing practices in the Sayan-Altai region of south-central Siberia have been historically framed as possessing “nomadic” qualities linked with pastoral population groups indigenous to the region. As these singing practices were… more

by Robert O Beahrs


Embodiment, Sound studies, Ecology, Post-Soviet Studies

Khömmei Vocal Techniques in a Study of the Bard Tradition in Mongolia (Full Paper)
This article aims to explain and exemplify the bard’s identity and the functions of khömmei –a special vocal technique sometimes called overtone singing or throat-singing among nomadic, hunter-herder communities of Mongolia, Tuva and… more


by Volkan Çağlayan


Historical Ethnomusicology, Mongolian Studies, Religious Syncretism, Tibeto-Mongolian Buddhism

Music for trumpet has seen a great expansion over the past fifty years. The importance of this development to the trumpet and music world cannot be overstated. The purpose of this study is to explain the process of commissioning,… more


by Philippe Brunet


Music, Collaboration, Contemporary Music, Trumpet

Contemporary ethnosocial processes in Tuva
“The New Research of Tuva” is delighted to invite you to join the special edition #2, 2016 (to be released on June, 2016). This edition will be dedicated to “Contemporary ethnosocial processes in Tuva”. Doctor of Philosophy, professor Yu…. more


by Chimiza Lamazhaa


Ethnography, Central Asian Studies, Central Asia, Tuvan Throat Singing

Tuvinovedenie: novye gorizonty [Tuvinology: the new horizons]
В данном сборнике подведены некоторые итоги работы электронного журнала «Новые исследования Тувы», главным редактором которого является автор книги. Особенность данной работы заключается в том, что Ч.К. Ламажаа предлагает свой взгляд на… more


by Chimiza Lamazhaa


Indigenous Peoples, Tuvan Throat Singing, Tuvan, Tuva Central Asia

Review of Kuznetsova, U. K., 2008, The Dictionary of Tuvan Culture: Angloiazychnyi slovar’ tuvinskoi kul’tury. Kyzyl: Tyvinskii Gosudarstvennyi Universitet. In Sibirica: Interdisciplinary Journal of Siberian Studies. 10(1):100-102.


by Alexander D King


Cultural Studies, Cross-Cultural Studies, Siberia, Cross-Cultural Communication

Los cantores diafónicos de Tuva.
Sometiendo a prueba los límites de su capacidad vocal, los cantores diplofónicos crean sonidos inigualables. Mantiene dos notas a la vez o sintonizan con una cascada


by Michael Edgerton


Acoustics, Music, Musicology, Ethnomusicology

Die Obertonsänger von Tuwa
Sie loten die Grenzbereiche der stimmlichen Fähigkeiten aus: Obertonsänger erzeugen Klänge, die weder der Sprechsprache noch dem Gesang gleichen. Sie singen sogar mehrstimmig und bringen ihren Gesang in Einklang mit Naturgeräuschen.


by Michael Edgerton


Music, Musicology, Ethnomusicology, Ethnography

La transmission du höömij, un art du timbre vocal: ethnomusicologie et histoire du chant diphonique mongol (texte intégral/full text)


by Johanni Curtet


Anthropology of Music, Ethnomusicology, Learning and Teaching, Historical Ethnomusicology

Johanni CURTET : La transmission du höömij, un art du timbre vocal : ethnomusicologie et histoire du chant diphonique mongol
Résumé de thèse.
PhD abstract.

by Johanni Curtet


Anthropology of Music, Ethnomusicology, Cultural Heritage, Historical Ethnomusicology

De l’art du timbre vocal: au cœur du khöömii en Mongolie
Émission “Carnet de Voyage” présentée par Edouard Fouré Caul-Futy sur France Musique, diffusé le 31 mai 2015. Disponible en podcast sur le site de l’émission. “Ce soir, nous partons aux confins de l’asie centrale, dans cette partie de… more

by Johanni Curtet

Ethnomusicology, Historical Ethnomu




by Turna Ezgi Toros


Tuvan Throat Singing, Yoruks (The Nomads) of West Anatolian

Randy-Raine Reusch
A chapter of work-in-progress on Randy Raine-Reusch, Canadian composer for/player of Asian instruments. See links under “Files” tab….


by Michael Heffley


Music, Improvisation, Chinese Music, Free Improvisation

Roomful of Teeth performance program
Dumbarton Oaks celebrates the completion of its new Fellowship House with a concert by the Grammy Award-winning Roomful of Teeth, including Caroline Shaw, this year’s inaugural Early-Career Musician-in-Residence. Sunday, October 5 and… more


by Jan Ziolkowski


Interdisciplinarity, Contemporary Art, Poetry, Composition (Music)

Dumbarton Oaks Fêtes New Programs and Spaces
Today is a special day. I decided not to have the formality of a ribbon-cutting or dedication ceremony, but instead to celebrate the positive change of new cultural programming and of a new building by insisting upon perfect fall weather… more


by Jan Ziolkowski


Musical Composition, Interdisciplinarity, Innovation statistics, Landscape Architecture

Tuva Cumhuriyeti


by Ekrem Arıkoğlu


Tuvan Throat Singing, Tuvan Language, Tuvan Shamanism, Tuva Central Asia

Tuva Müziği


by Ekrem Arıkoğlu


Tuvan Throat Singing

Theodore LEVIN et Valentina SÜZÜKEJ: Where Rivers and Mountains Sing. Sound, Music, and Nomadism in Tuva and Beyond. Bloomington & Indianapolis: …
Intitulé The Hundred Thousand Fools of God (1996), le premier livre de Theodore Levin est rapidement devenu une référence pour tout chercheur travaillant sur les musiques d'Asie centrale. Aboutissement de plus de vingt années de… more

by Frederic Leotar


Folklore, Ethnomusicology, Ethnography, Central Asian Studies

Sainkho Namchylak
Jarrod Cagwin is a serious percussion voice (most of what he plays here sounds like a shaman’s frame drum) on the New York world/improvised/experimental music scene, by way of his American heartland home state of Iowa.. Those roots swell… more


by Michael Heffley


Religion, Buddhism, Parapsychology, Music

Anett C. Oelschlägel 2012: Die Tyva, ein Turkvolk in Südsibirien. URL: http://plural-world-interpretations.org/home/die-tyva-suedsibiriens.html (letzter Zugriff: 05.12.2012)


:Anna Liesowska & Derek Lambie : Secrets of throat singing revealed by scientific research into the unusual sounds

Secrets of throat singing revealed by scientific research into the unusual sounds
By Anna Liesowska & Derek Lambie
22 December 2014

Unique physiology of people in Altai mountain region means only they can perform the melodies that date back centuries.
secret 1

Shor female shaman performs the rite. Picture: Maxim Kiselyov

It is a unique and distinctive form of singing only found in one small part of the world. Now scientific research has finally discovered why the unusual sounds of throat singing have never spread out from the isolated steppes of the Altai and Sayan mountains.

Simply put, the people of Tuva and southern Siberia have different vocal cords to the rest of the planet and are the only ones with the capability to master the art.

Experts from the Institute of Philology, at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, have found that Turks’ vocal cords are slightly wider and the larynx is not as extended, allowing them to make the unique sounds required.

Throat singing produces a unique pitch and sound that comes from deep within the throat and it is said to date back centuries.

inside_Throat singing-Tuva-Choduraa Tumat-tuvaonline.jpg SECRET 2

Throat singing secrets
inside_altai_boy_playing.jpg SECRET 3
Throat singing secrets

Tuvan singer Choduraa Tumat. Altai boy playing khomus. Pictures: Tuva Online, Altai Komus

According to a March 2006 edition of Newsweek magazine, throat singing is described as coming from a ‘human bagpipe, a person who could sing a sustained low note while humming an eerie whistle-like melody’.

The article added: ‘For good measure, toss in a thrumming rhythm similar to that of a jaw harp, but produced vocally by the same person, at the same time.’

It is thought that it originated from Mongolian men who utilised the wide open landscape to make the sounds carry a great distance. Indeed, singers often travel far into the countryside looking for the right river or mountainside in which to create the proper environment.

Over time it now looks as if the way the singing was performed altered the physiology of the throats of people living in the Altai region.

Two residents of the Tashtagolsky district, in Kemerovo, took part in the Institute of Philogy research in Novosibirsk using modern methods to study the physiology of their speech.

Both TV journalist Raisa Sanzhenakova and culture worker Maria Idigesheva, who is head of the Taglyk Shor public organisation, are excellent native speakers of Turkic Shor. The language is spoken by only about 2,800 people in the Kemerovo province in south central Siberia, with many of its roots borrowed from Mongolian.

The experiment was filmed and a documentary on the results will be broadcast in January on local television.

However, one of the main conclusions is that the different throats of the people in the region help them to make the distinctive sounds in a way that people in Europe, for instance, would be unable to.
inside_shors_girls_must credit_r-19.ru.jpg SECRET 4
Throat singing secrets
inside_maria_idigisheva.jpg SECRET 5.jpg
Throat singing secrets

Shor music group ‘Ot Ene’. Maria Idigesheva, head of the Taglyk Shor public organisation. Pictures: r-19.ru, Maria Idigesheva

Raisa Sanzhenakova said: ‘For three days we talked with Novosibirsk scientists. Our speech using the Shor language was recorded with special equipment and was examined for the articular parameters of speech.

‘Digital radiography and magnetic resonance imaging studied our vocal apparatus and brain.’

The research took place in the laboratory of experimental phonetic studies, which was established in the late 1960s and is the only one of its kinds in Russia.

Since its creation, researchers have described the phonetics and phonology of more than 40 languages, dialects and sub-dialects.


Hanggai – My Banjo and I, Inner Mongolia

Hanggai – My Banjo and I
Published on May 4, 2010
This is the song “My Banjo and I” which is by the Mongolian band called Hanggai. I fell in love with their unique music when I was fortunate enough to be able to see them live when they came to play at my college, Northwestern Michigan College in TC, MI. I wanted to help get their music out there for more people to hear, and I hope that you enjoy them and their music as much as I do!


Disclaimer: I do not claim to own either the song or the photoo used in this video.