By Carole Pegg
on fieldwork in western
The term "overtone singing" (see note 1) refers to an extraordinary
vocal technique in, which a single performer simultaneously produces up to
three separate voca1 lines, which can be clearly distinguished by listeners.
There are several types of “overtone singing", but most involve the
sounding of a fundamental drone, whilst producing a flute‑like melody by
reinforcing a series of chosen harmonics or partials of that fundamental. This
phenomenon has been embraced in the West by two groups of people who view it
with very different perspectives. On the one hand, there are those who assume
that it is linked with ancient religious
practices and beliefs, with powerful forces within the universe, that it may be
used for meditation or for magical healing. On the other hand, there are those
who are curious to understand how one person can physically produce such
sounds, and musicologists and others have carried out a considerable amount of
research on this over the last ten years. But little has been done to relate
the phenomenon to its social context or to the cognitive world of the
performers. This has been partly because of the inaccessibility of those
Central Asian areas where it occurs and partly because of the orientation of
the researchers. This paper attempts to augment these previous perspectives
with indigenous ones gained during fieldwork undertaken in
II GEOGRAPHICAL DISTR IBUTION OF OVERTONE SINGING
1 Turko‑Mongol peoples
Overtone singing is found
predominantly amongst the Turco‑Mongol peoples of Southern Siberia and
Isolated examples have been found in other parts of the world. For instance, the women and girls of the Xhosa people of South Africa perform overtone singing (umngqokolo) during which three tones simultaneously produced by one person are clearly audible (Dargie 1991:39). Umngqokolo ngomqangi, a technique where only two lines are audible (fundamental and overtone), is explained by one performer as originating in the Xhosa boys' habit of impaling a large flying beetle called umqangi on a thorn and then holding the desperately buzzing insect within the mouth. Umqangi is also an alternative name for the umrhubhe mouth bow, and it is suggested that the umngqokolo ngomqangi overtone technique and narne were derived frorn the bow either directly or via the unfortunate insect (ibid.). The single example (note 2) recorded in Rajasthan is thought to be imitating either the satara double flute or the jew's harp (Zemp and Tran 1989 F). (note 3)
In Mongolia, prior to the destruction of the
monasteries by the communists during the 1930s and 1940s, the chanting of
Buddhist monks was pitched very deep, and overtones would also sometimes occur,
although apparently with no intention of producing a melody. The lama Ven
Luvsangshirab (who had been training to become a lama prior to the Revolution
and in 1990, because of the new freedom, had been reinstated) dismissed this as
a sound which, although impressive, only "resembled" xöömii (IN). Amongst the Mongols, xöömii performance
was a secular activity which was
considered by the lamas to be “without respect" (xdndtei bish).
Despite the claims in 1967 of the Hungarian musicologist Vargyas (D) that
xöömii was "still fairly common among male singers, especially in Eastern
Mongolia", the tradition of secular overtone singing belongs to the Altai
mountain region of western
My own fieldwork was undertaken in the three provinces
or aimag which lie along the Altai mountain range‑Uvs, Xovd and Bayan
Olgii‑and contain many different yastan. (Note 4) The majority of Mongols belong
to the XaIxa, but there are 22 other yastan in
i. Uys aimag.(note 5) Situated in northwest
He pointed the relationship between ?// (cannot readt
the text badly photocopied) an epic performance. He suggested that since the
Bayad had a strong epic tradition it was likely that xöömii was also
indigenous, In Byarribadorj’s opinion, the influence between the two groups of
people was mutual, arising from (instant interaction between the Uriarixai and
Bayad in pre‑Revolutionary
ii. Xovd aimag. Xovd aimag is divided from Xirijiang, (note 8) an autonomous region of
iii. Bayan Ölgii aimag. Bayan Ölgii aimag lies in the extreme northwest of
The majority of Mongols are semi‑nomadic
pastoralists who, despite political changes, have led a virtually unchanged
lifestyle since the time of Chinggis Xaan. They continue to live in round felt,
easily transportable tents called ger, to lead a semi‑nomadic life within
a prescribed (note12) area in
accordance with the wealth of pasture, and to use the animals they herd for
their own subsistence needs. Chinggis united the Mongol tribes in the
thirteenth century, founding a great empire which eventually encompassed the
A consideration of some Mongolian perspectives on xöömii will assist in greater understanding and help to distinguish differences in the way in which Mongols and some Westerners view it.
III MONGOLIAN PERSPECTIVES
1 Performance contexts
Xöömii was popular amongst the Urianxai and Bayad camel herders and the Bayan Ölgii Tuvan yak herders. For instance, Mangiljav, a 48‑year‑old Bayad, camel herdsman, is a fine xöömiich who used to perform whilst looking after the herds as a child. He learned from Setsen, his avga (uncle on father's side), and recalled how his uncle's xöömii could be heard over a great distance, an ability which was much prized. The Bayad Jamiyan, for instance, recalled People who could be heard over a distance of three kilometres (IN) The Tuvans in Bayan Olgii aimag used xöömii to "call" yaks ‑ a function which may be connected with this great value placed on carrying power.
2 The ger
Altai tsantai jurtentei
Amban noen zaxirgaatai. (note14)
that, in contrast to the lamas' attitude, the people did treat the performance
of xöömii with respect. It is possible that this short introduction was an
“offering" to the Altai mountains in much the same way that Altain Magtaal
/ Praise Song to the
3 The noyon'‑s nair / nobleman's celebration
Jarniyan (IN), born in 1924 in Tes sum, recalled how the noyon JaJin Gün would invite the best bii (Note15) dancers, two‑stringed spiked fiddle players (ixelch) (note16) longsong singers (urtyn duuch) and xöömii performers to his ger to entertain distinguished guests. Xöömii performers, however, were not usually invited to the herders' own nair (celebrations), to local nair held by the noyon or to a nair held officially (alban yusoor).
4 Chigee uulaax / to cause to drink fermented mare's milk (note17)
This term was used for a collective celebrations forming part of the wedding ritual known as "seeing off the bride"; it was the only herders' celebration at which xöömii was performed. Over several days the bride‑to‑be would be invited to the ger of different relatives, accompanied by two xia (note18) and someone whose function was to carry her gifts. She had to wear a special hat and to cover her face with a scarf. Inside each ger she would be offered special meat to eatsheep's breast, adjoining meat and roasted fat‑and a nair would be held at which, as above, dancers, fiddle players, long‑song singers and xöömiich would perform.
2 Theories of origin
The people of Chandman' sum believe that xöömii explain its origin in several ways.
1 Nature and the supernatural
The Performance of xöömii and the claim that Chandman' is its place of origin is attributed to the unusual natural features of this sum: the mountains, lakes. rivers and birds. This "natural origin is also linked, however, with the supernatural or magical.
The geographical features of Chandman' sum are unusual in Mongolian terms in that it is surrounded on three sides by mountains and lakes. Its western border is formed by Lake Xar Us Nuur in the north and two high mountain ranges, Zuun Jargalantyn Nuruu and Xuremtiin Nuruu. The eastern border is formed by two lakes, Xar Nuur and Dargin Nuur. The two largest lakes, Xar Us Nuur and Xar Nuur are connected in the north by a much smaller lake, Dalai Nuur, and by a river called Chono Xaraix. To the south lies semi‑desert.
Birds. It is
claimed that several birds produce xöömii ‑type sounds. For instance, the
usny buxI bittern (Note19) keeps its
head under water in the lake and produces a sound which can be heard a saaxalt
(note20) away (Sengedorj IN). The
crane (togoruu), said to live for 3,000 years, also has a distinctive call
which, when heard, is considered a portent of long life (Bolorma IN). The noise
produced by the wings of the snow cock (xoilog), widespread in
The mountains stand alone in the steppe, seperated from the main Altai massif. The people of
Chandman' sum stress that the sounds heard in the mountains have a special
quality, and those who live on
addition, the mountains contain many rivers and waterfalls, which produce
different combinations of sounds according to the types of stones over which
they run. On the
The sounds of this river also had a magical effect. They lured animals to the water to drink but then bewitched them, causing them to fall in (Margad IN, Tserendavaa INb). They also had the power to entrance people. For example, the tale was told of a young girl who went to the river to get water: once she heard the melody of the river she remained there all day, forgetting her mission (Tseveen IN). Samdan (IN) maintained that people born by the River Eev became very good singers and very beautiful people.
2 Historical and legendary time
There is no firm evidence to suggest a date for the
origin of xöömii in
J'ay veu comme il me semble,
Luy seul chanter ensemble
Et dessus et teneur
I saw, it seems to me
A strong man of honour
Singing together with himself
Both above and below. (Note26)
three centuries later, in a paper given in 1840 to the
This lack of documentation is possibly because the elevation of overtone singing (and of Mongolian traditional music generally) into an "art form" postdates the Communist Revolution of 1921, when the "music of the people" became imbued with special value and found support from "people's power" ,Tserendavaa INb). Cultural centres were included in the small group of Administrative buildings placed at the centre of each sum, and local traditional music performers were enlisted to give concerts. The theatres built in each aimag centre drew their artists from those who performed at the cultural centres.
For the people of Chandman', the origin of xöömii lies in a legendary time when Bazarsad used to perform at nair (celebrations). The xarxiraa xöömiich Margad, now 50 years old, recalled that when he was a boy the old people used to talk of Bazarsad of Chandman' sum, who lived in ancient times. They described him as being very tall and strong (chadaltai) and a very good wrestler.
When horseman Dashdondob was five years old in 1923, he heard that Bazarsad was the first to perform xöömii in Chandman' (IN). It was said that he performed türlegt or xosmoljin xöömii a combination of long song with different xöömii techniques, and that when he performed this kind of xöömii well, the spirits of the land and waters came to listen to him (Tserendavaa INc). Although no‑one has actually met or heard Bazarsad, it is affirmed that none will match his skill. By contrast, people did know Chimiddorj, who performed three‑voiced xöömii and Togon Chulum the man who is credited with beginning a new stage in xöömii development.
3 Development of xöömii as a cultural art form
1 Chandman' Xöömiich
Togon Chuluun was a XaIxa Mongol born in the 1890s who, in addition to performing xöömii whistled, played the tsuur and excelled on the morin xuur Before the Revolution, he often used his skills when travelling with a camel train to secure himself food and lodgings in ger along the route. There is some disagreement about whether Chuluun learned overtone singing from the declining tradition in Chandman' sum and later improved his performance whilst in military service in the West Border Guards, or whether he learned the skill whilst in the Guards. In any event, it was Chuluun who, in 1930, first demonstrated xöömii as a "folk art" (Tsambaa IN). He had many pupils, including the now well‑known xöömiich Tserendavaa. These pupils developed xöömiii into a national "art" form capable of winning many medals in folk competitions.
the man accredited with the introduction of xöömii to the rest of the country.
He lived on the lakeside and learned xöömiii from Chuluun. In 195? Tsedee
joined Xovd Theatre, becoming the first professional xöömii perforner in
Sundui is considered to be the founder of what has been termed the "modern classical form" of xöömii (Tserendavaa INb). He is said to be unique among xöömii performers in that he can produce half tones, rather than the usual full tones. (Note28) He can perform classical European melodies by composers such as Tchaikovsky and Bizet (Batzengel 1980:52) and is able to make vocal leaps over wide intervals (Sengedorj IN). He has a high technical level of xöömii performance, can produce "a scale using four vowels" (gammalax dorvon egshig: Tserendavaa INC) (note29) and is thought to be a possible match for the legendary, Bazarsad.
Sundui's main attributes are said to be: xevliin bagtaamj sailai / having good storage capacity in the stomach; duuny xooloi saitai / having good throat sounds; and mash ix tamirtai / having great physical strength.(note 30)
Sundui later joined the State Folk Song and Dance
Ensemble (Ulsyn Ardyn , Duu Bujgiin Chuulga) in
has no formal musical education but joined Xovd theatre in 1975. He learned
xöömii in Chandman' at about age five, performed xöömii in the tenth Festival of Young People and
Students and has since travelled widely in
Ganbold, currently with the Ulaanbaatar Ensemble, is also from Chandman' sum. He is able to perform a scale (gammalax) on more vowels than Sundui (Tserendavaa INc). Since he is still a young man, it is thought that he will become very good.
is a truck driver and a skilled musician. He performs many types of song,
including western Mongolian long songs (urtyn duu) and praise songs (magtaal,
and plays the horse‑head fiddle (morin xuur) and two‑stringed
plucked lute (tovshuur). Together with Badraa, he has identified seven types of
xöömii (see below), teaches xöömii in the school in Chandman' sum and has now
begun to teach foreigners in
2 Training methods and transmission
Performers and teachers of xöömii in the West are
largely unaware of the physical problems which its performance can precipitate,
stressing only its potential beneficial effects. I was specifically requested
by Mongol performers to alert practitioners to the dangers and to attempt to
enlist scientific aid in understanding and counteracting the problems. In
Learning and performance. Emic theories stress that the training period for
the performance of xöömii should be lengthy, preferably beginning in childhood
(Tserendavaa INb, Sengedorj IN). Childhood should be a period of
"learning", with "performance" reserved for one's maturity.
For instance, Tserendavaa began learning at age nine but did not
"perform" until age 25. Traditionally, learning was by example and
imitation. Tserendavaa recalled his first, childhood experience of xöömii,
which was to have an enduring effect. The arrival of the xöömiich at his home
had left a strong impression in his mind. One evening a "white‑haired,
bearded old man rode up on a greyish horse which shone like silver (buural),
looking for two lost horses." The man, later discovered to be the xöömiich
Chulutun, spent three nights in the family ger. During that time Tserendavaa
listened to his xöömii and learned from him to play the horse‑head fiddle
bought for Tserendavaa by his father. Tserendavaa became a xöömiich to repay
his debt to this man. Since 1981 Tserendavaa has taught xöömii to children in
Chandman' secondary school. His method is to define which type of xöömii the
pupil is naturally attempting, then to give individual advice according to this
chosen type and the stage the child has reached. His main teaching method is
demonstration. Tserendavaa pointed out that the difficulty in working with
children is that they drift between different types. He emphasized the need to
learn the general rules of performance and then choose the specific kind. Aids
are sometimes used to acquire a "good xöömii voice". For instance, a
cup is held to the mouth to provide an echo,
(ayagaar devex; lit. to fan by means of a cup), or a pupil is made to
xöömiilox against the wind (salkiny ogsuur xöömiilox).Once a "good xöömii
voice" is acquired, these devices are no longer necessary. Traditionally
xöömii has been performed only by men, but Tserendavaa has begun to teach
women. The few women in
Physical problems: Can you wrestle? Chuluun stressed that xöömii is a difficult art demanding self control, endurance and great strength. As an illustration of the strength needed, Tserendavaa described how the legendary Bazarsad's hair used to stand on end when he performed. He compared the strength needed with that required for wrestling, pointing out that both Bazarsad and Sundui, the two most renowned xöömiich, were also famous wrestlers.The ideal age for wrestling is 25‑ the peak of male human strength. Unless the performer has this strength and the other qualities outlined by Chuluun, xöömii; performance is believed to be harmful for the body. Tserendavaa stressed that physical problems associated with xöömii performance needs to be the object of intense scientific research. His own experiences illustrate some of the problems which may occur. As a child, he injured his larynx (tovonx batsrax) while learning and couldn't swallow for some time. He has also often broken blood vessels. He advised eating a good meal before performance. In 1982 Tserendavaa took part in a concert in Ulaaribaatar for the Twelfth Trade Union Congress and had not eaten. He felt hungry during the concert and, when he was producing high overtones, he lost consciousness. He needed an operation for broken blood vessels near his eyes and was advised to give up xöömii‑but he says that he is unable to do so. He is now 35 and has been "performing" for ten years. Over the last two years he has been performing more often and has begun to have more problems. Because of the strength and power demanded by its performance. xöömii becomes more difficult with age. After age 40, the technique may survive, but there is a loss of the necessary power. Tserendavaa stresses that achieving a "true xöömiii voice" requires overcoming many bad physical effects. His advice is that men should not perform it in advanced years.
Davaajav, a tseejiin xondiin/chest cavity xöömiich, noted that, although xöömii performers are generally also good singers, it becomes increasingly difficult to sing well because of physical changes which occur in the throat. From his own experience, he supports the view that the performance of xöömii affects the body, and he agrees that a person cannot perform xöömii over in extended period of years. Amateur xöömii performers are, he said, able to perform for longer because of the infrequency of performance.
Women. The performance of xöömii by women is a recent phenomenon. Those who do perform are young and are pupils of Tserendavaa.. Xöömii is considered particularly bad for women's health, so there are strict rules associated with its performance (Badraa IN, Tserendavaa INc). Women should not begin to learn before the age of 17 or 18 and should only be active Xöömiich between the ages of 20 and 24. They may continue to perform until age 30 if they are not married. Once married, however, they should not continue, and after childbirth they are believed to be unable to perform well.
4 Mongolian classification of xöömii
A. Uyangiin xöömii/melodic or lyrical xöömii
Overtone singing styles vary in
The attempt by the Mongols to classify styles is
fairly recent and has been completed most effectively in relation to the Xalxa
A. uyangiin xöömii /melodic or lyrical xöömii:
1. uruulyn / labial xöömii
2. tagnain /palatal xöömii
3. xamryn/ nasal xöömii
4. bagaIzuuryn, xooloin / glottal, throat xöömii
5. tseejiin xondiin, xeviiin / chest cavity, stomach xöömii
6. türlegt or xosmoljin xöömii / xöömii combined with long song (Note35)
The sixth type is a combination of speaking (xelex), singing (duulax), humming (ayalax), long song (urtyn duu) melodies and all five melodic types of xöömii. Tserendavaa developed this style, having heard that the legendary xöömiich Bazarsad could perform this combination, and calls it türlegt xöömii (note36). Researchers in Ulaaribaatar have named it xosmoljin xöömii. Tserendavaa, demonstrated the style by performing “Widespread Happiness" or Jargaltai Delger, (note37) using the more restricted range of the west XaIxa variant of the melody rather than that used by the central XaIxa.
Tserendavaa noted that the most difficult types of
xöömii to perform are nasal xöömii and türlegt xöömii. Both of these are
characterised by much -chinex ‑blood rushing to the face. Nasal xöömii is
difficult, he said, because it is necessary to create a powerful flow of air by
forcing it through a small channel. Since türlegt xöömii includes elements from
all other kinds, it is also very difficult. He needed ten years to master
türlegt xöömii, which he first demonstrated in the
Tserendavaa also identified a style of xöömii known as xarxiraa, which he compared to the sound of a "rippling waterfall" (note38) He was however unable to Demonstrate it, since it requires a deep, powerful voice.(note39) The relationship between uyangiin (melodic) xöömii and xarxiraa has been the source of some dispute among Mongol performers and academics. Traditional music researcher Badraa and the xöömiich Tserendavaa classify them separately, a division which is maintained in categories of performance at folk art festivals (Bawden 1991 OS). Badraa (IN) suggested that xarxiraa lacks the overtone melody (uyangiin isgeree; lit. melodic whistle). Others, however, such as Sengedorj and Margad, both from Chandman' sum, think that xarxiraa is the source of xöömii and that xöömii is founded on it. Margad sees xarxiraa not as a separate style but as the oldest form of xöömii and the background colour or tone (devsger ongo) out of which others developed. In his own performance of xarxiraa, Margad produces an overtone melody. Sengedorj's argument was that since there is only one flow of air through the vocal tract, there can only be one type of xöömii. He acknowledged a different technique for xarxiraa and xöömii, however, saying that if the throat is open (zadgai xooloi) the sound produced is called xarxiraa, whereas if it is "closed tightly" (xumix xooloi) then the sound is called xöömii. He also admitted that the stream of air goes through three places‑the nose, lips and throat‑and stated that this is how the terms xamryn (of the nose), amny xendii (of the mouth cavity) and xooloin xöömii (of the throat) have arisen. And he recognised that some people can only produce one type. Davaajav, who performs tseejiin xondiin xöömii and sometimes bagalzuuryn xöömii, agreed with the concept of different types of xöömii. As a xoomich he felt a difference between them but did not know how to explain. He opined that it is not possible for one person to perform all types.
5 The Four Siblings (ax duu): overtone singing, epics, long song and horse‑head fiddle
Tserendavaa likened the relationship of the four main types of traditional "art"‑xöömii/overtone singing, Tuul/'epics, urtyn duu/long song and morin xuur/horse‑head fiddle‑to that of four ‑siblings‑ or "brothers and sisters". A further instrument should be added to the above list which, possiibly because it is not XaIxa, was omitted by Tserendavaa. The tsuur, played by the Urianxai, Kazak and Tuvans in Bayan Olgii aimag, is a three_holed vertical flute through which the performer plays a melody whilst simultaneously producing a low‑pitched vocal drone.
This ax duu relationship is significant partly in terms of the sounds produced, for the above traditional musical forms all comply with the Mongolian conceptualisation of traditional music, which involves the division of sound into a low drone above which is laid a high melody line. This division of sound has been discussed above in relation to xöömii. The sounds produced during xöömii are often related to those produced in xailax, the deep, declamatory, non melodic technique used for the performance of epics. Sengedorj, xöömiich and tsuur player with the Xovd theatre, proposed that xailax and xöömii originated from the same source but developed differently within the context of different yastan. Similarly, Byambadorj, assuming a relationship between epic and xöömii vocal techniques, used the presence of a strong epic tradition among the Bayad to validate his argument for the indigenous nature of Bayad xöömii. In neighbouring areas, epics and xöömii performance are more obviously related. For example, xai throat singing amongst the Khakassians usually accompanies epic recitation (Maslov and Chernov 1979‑80:86).(note40) Long songs consist of a highly ornamented, long drawn‑out single melody line but are usually accompanied by the horse‑head fiddle which echoes the vocal melodic line whilst simultaneously supplying the underlying drones. As noted above, turlegt xöömiii also combines long song with xöömii. Regarding the tsuur, the programme notes for xioomii performances at a folk art festival (Bawden 1991 OS) gave one category as "xarxiraa xöömii (aman tsuur)", i.e., (mouth tsuur), thus making the connection between the sounds of one kind of xöömii and the tsuur.
In addition to the similarity in the sounds produced, Tserendavaa pointed out that these traditional musical forms relate as "brothers and sisters" in that their origins connect and harmonise with nature (baigal') and the environment (orchin axui). He particularly stressed the relationship of the traditional musical forms to baigal', noting that the performance of xöömii was not associated with culture (soyol) until the 1930s when Chuluun demonstrated it as a "folk art" (see above).
IV OVERVIEW OF NON‑MONGOLIAN PERSPECTIVES
1 The magical sounds of overtone singing
The experimental composer Karlheinz Stockhausen tells
how he was inspired in his vocal work "Stimmung'" ‑ the first
major Western composition to be based entirely on the production of vocal
harmonics‑by a range of Mexican gods and magical forces (D). Similarly,
David Hykes relates the overtone sounds of his New York‑based
"Harmonic Choir" to "solar winds", "gravity
waves", "the flight of the sun" and so on (D). In
Little work has been done in the West on the potentially harmful physical effects of xöömii. The Vietnamese musicologist Tran Quang Hai does warn that it may be dangerous and suggests that practice should be limited to ten or fifteen minutes a day. As a performer himself, Tran also underwent a clinical examination which showed slight inflammation of the vocal chords and some wearing away of the lining of the nasal passages (Sauvage 1989:6). But he also shows a desire to popularise it, having elaborated a series of physical instructions to enable the production of a form of overtone singing to be accessible to all (1978:163‑4; 1989:15‑16) and collaborated on Zemp's film which, as a cinematic technique, treats those watching the film as workshop members, encouraging them to try it for themselves (Zemp and TrAn 1989 F).
2 Acoustical and physiological analysis of sound
Spectral analysis and the sonogram have been used to analyse the sounds produced in xöömii in order to understand both the sounds themselves and the physiological processes which produce them. Spectral analysis was used initially to identify the range of partials from which the melody tones are selected, namely the 6th to 13th partials but excluding the 11 th (Walcott 1974:55‑9). My own experiments with Tserendavaa confirmed this. His use of the 7th and 11th partials as auxiliary rather than structural notes support the suggestion that tones were selected in accordance with the anhemitonic pentatonic scale typical of Mongolian traditional music (Huglies n.d.; Cross 1990 OS).
Physiological aspects of xooiii production have been
investigated with the aid of X‑ray films. In the early 1970s X‑ray
films were made in
The fascinating and informative sonograms used in the film have been impressively augmented by Zemp and Tran's 1991 paper "Recherches experimentales sur le chant diphonique", in which the physiological characteristics the recorded styles from Tuva, Tibet, Mongolia, Altai, Rajasthan and South Africa are compared with the aid of illustrative sonograms. The strength, range, and contours of bourdons and partials are clearly shown and, by using Tran Quang Hai's imitative skill in reproducing the same contours, physiological data is provided on the use of different resonating cavities, muscular contractions and ornamentation techniques.
Following Stumpf's work on the analysis of sung vowel sounds (1918), recent work has also been done on the association of vowel sounds and pitch. Tran Quang Hai (1980:163) elaborated on the way in which the pronunciation vowels produces a series of partials the range of which depends on the tone quality of the singer's voice and windpipe, and David Hughes (1989) discusses, the use of vowel‑pitch solfege systems in different societies.
As a result of the above acoustical and physiological research, it is possible to give a broad outline of the factors which influence the range, selection and production of partials and which consequently determine the tonal colour xöömii. These include the following five, which overlap to some extent:
a) the size of the buccal cavity, which may be separated from the pharyngeal cavity by the back of the tongue or divided into a front and rear cavity by raising the tip of the tongue to the palate (Zemp and Tran 1991:31; Tran and Guillou 1980:171);
b) the contraction of muscles in the stomach, neck, pharynx, the nasal passages and in the soft inner walls of the other cavities of the vocal tract ( (Winckel1960; Gunji 1978:136; Zemp and TrAn 1991:39‑46);
c) the production of different vowel sounds (Stumpf 1918; Guriji 1978,Tran 1989; Hughes 1989); the pitch of the fundamental, which in part determinesthe frequency range within which partials are available for selection (Walcott 1974; Cross 1990 OS; Zemp and Tran 1991).
c) manipulation of the muscles of the vocal tract as under point (b), in order to select as primary resonator either the buccal or the pharyngeal cavity, thus
emphasising respectively the second or first formant, the latter resulting in the Tuvan kargyraa (Hughes 1989).
Since it is not possible to illustrate adequately in the space available the depth of acoustical and physiological research that has been accomplished, and since the main thrust of this paper is to present the Mongolian viewpoint, it is hoped that the reader will examine the rich data now available through the sources cited.
3 Conceptualisalion of sound
only etic observers compare the sounds produced in
overtone singing with those of the jew's harp (aman xuur, that is, mouth harp).
Since the French scientist Manuel Garcia pointed to a similarity between the
Bashkirs' uzIiau overtone singing and the sound produced by a "jew's
harp" in 1840, others have followed suit. For instance, Vargyas (1968:71)
made the same comparison in relation to the Tuvans, and this has been echoed by
others in relation to the Mongols (Hamayon 1973, Heiffer 1973,Guriji 1978:135).
The techniques do have some similarities. In both cases the mouth is used as a
resonator and the articulation of silent vowels produces harmonic overtones
above a fundamental drone. In the case of the jew's harp, however, the
fundamental is generated by an extrasomatic source‑the tongue of the
jew's harp whilst in overtone singing it is generated by the vibrating vocal
chords. Mongolian xöömii is also more diversified and expressive than the
sounds produced by a "jew's harp", and the techniques used are far
more complex. As shown above, the production of each type involves the use of
different breathing techniques and changes in tension in the vocal cords, the
pharynx, the nasal passages, the windpipe and so on. When Sundui was asked,
during a seminar session in
Although there is evidence that xöömii was used in
secular contexts in
There is, then, some basis from the evidence within