Description: "Throat singers" from central Asia are well known for their unique song vocalizations. In particular, singers from Tuva (a federal subject of Russia) have become popularized in part due to the exploits of the late physicist Richard Feynman. A salient example is the Sygyt style of "Khoomei", which creates an otherworldly yet organic sound. Singers produce two pitches simultaneously: a booming low-frequency rumble alongside a hovering high-pitched whistle-like tone. The biomechanics of this biphonation are not well-understood. We use sound analysis, dynamic magnetic resonance imaging, and vocal tract modeling to demonstrate how biphonation is achieved by modulating vocal tract morphology. Tuvan singers show remarkable control in shaping their vocal tract to narrowly focus the harmonics (or overtones) emanating from their vocal cords.
Speaker: Dr. Christopher Bergevin
Institution: York University
Host: Alan Chen