Overtone Music Network

a common space & database for harmonic overtones

I have been made aware that some believe 'western overtone singing' is inferior to traditional eastern throat singing. Indeed I personally love traditional eastern throat singing and its many types. I also appreciate the immense skill involves in developing and presenting each of the techniques and I respect the cultural heritage behind it. But I strongly contest any suggestion that it is superior or even more genuine than western overtone singing. Both are in fact different forms of singing from the same family of throat singing techniques. Both also require many different kinds of skills and both exhibit different qualities of sound.

I hope to see a change of dialectic where both forms are celebrated without one trashing the other. It is simply ridiculous and plain wrong to say that traditional throat singing is a more evolved form of singing than western overtone singing. There are many colours in the rainbow to celebrate.

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You are completely right. The composition JERUSALEM DREAM, written by Nori Jacoby, a composer from Tel Aviv (IL), expressly requires overtone singing and khöömej as different stiles. The piece shows the different skills and qualities of both stiles.

There are many reasons why (young) people think of western overtone singing as a copy of khöömej stiles: Most authors who write about overtone singing today learned to know it only in the 90s. This was a time when the Iron Curtain fell and many musicians from Tuwa and Mongolia came to the west. As street musicians first, then with fascinating shows and ethnic costumes. Western overtonesinging was more established in experimental and contemporary classical music. Not quite the same audience :).

It was also in the 90s when the internet became popular. Many missunderstandings derive from non researched articles. Writers started spreading nonsense like a connection of overtone singing with shamanism or wrestling. The term Throat singing had in musicology mainly been used for guttural chants and rarely had to do with khöömej. But journalists mixed it up and suddenly Innuit, Sami and others became overtone singers. Other styles, such as umnqolo or Dani are largely ignored. Until today it's hard to get rid of these rumors.

There are four books, which I can recommend. They contain well-researched and scientifically correct information:

Grawunder, S.: On the Physiology of Voice Production in South-Siberian Throat Singing. 1. Aufl : Frank & Timme, 2009 – ISBN 386596172X (English)

Jentsch, A.: Obertongesang in Mitteleuropa : Grin Verlag, 2008 – ISBN 3638916006 (German)

Saus, W.: Oberton Singen. Mit Lern-CD: Das Geheimnis einer magischen Stimmkunst - Obertongesang erlernen mit dem Drei-Stufen-Selbstlernkurs. 3. Aufl. Battweiler : Traumzeit-Verlag, 2004 – ISBN 3933825369 (German)

Tongeren, M. C.: Overtone Singing: Physics and Metaphysics of Harmonics in East and West. 2. Aufl : Eburon B V, 2004 – ISBN 9059721322 (English)
there are no borders physiological and physical between east and west, onely relation and bridges -
though there can be borders in our heads.. the overtoneseries is allways the same, would eaven be the same on the mars... in it all the different cultures of music on eart, the different scales, rules, intervalls are interconected... and overtone/throat-singers of all people see borders..

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