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Query Details

Query Subject:   The articulatory gestures of Tuvan throat singing
Author:   Anthony M Lewis
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  Phonetics
Subject Language(s):  Tuvinian

Query:   Dear friends,

My question has to do with the vocal configurations assumed by the
traditional Tuvan throat singers of Siberia. For those of you who may not
be familiar, the Tuvan Autonomous Republic is a central territory of the
Russian Federation situated on the border of Russia and Mongolia. This
particular style of singing (also known as ''overtone'' singing, and attested
in other parts of the world) is most notably characterized by the singer's
production of (at least ) a single, fundamental musical note, accompanied
by the corresponding overtones (presumably, harmonics, of the fundamental
tone). The perceptual effect is that of a robust, whistling, almost
chord-like nature.

I have two rather simple questions regarding this phenomenon:
first, is this unique acoustic effect the result of a highly coordinated
posturing of the vocal folds (e.g., a complex setting of register(s)... a
la ''soprano'' in voice science terminology)?; purely supra-laryngeal in
nature?; or a combination of both?. My suspicion is that the robust
percept is purely the result of sustaining a configuration of the
supra-laryngeal cavity which enhances certain (resonant) frequencies of the
fundamental tone. I'd be most interested to hear alternative accounts
(e.g., complex laryngeal posturing, contribution of the pharyngeal wall,
etc.). My second question asks whether or not Tuvan singers (or any other
''overtone'' singers for that matter) are capable of producing more than a
single ''fundamental'' tone (and, presumably, the corresponding harmonics) at
the same time. This, as far as I can figure, would require the vocal folds
to vibrate simultaneously at two different fundamental frequencies.

If responses warrant, I will most pleased to post a summary to the

Anthony M. Lewis

Anthony M. Lewis
Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

e-mail to:
LL Issue: 10.335
Date posted: 04-Mar-1999


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