Last week my article about a unique listening experience in Taiwan was published in the Journal of Sonic Studies. The whole issue is devoted to sounds in Southeast Asia, and covers many countries from north (China) to south (Indonesia and India).
My article neatly fits in the appeal to listening from the organisers of World Listening Day, as it is the result of a near-constant interest in what I hear during the last three-four decades, nearly all my life. Not only to music, to be sure, but simply to everything I hear around me: whether I am in cities, nature, houses, cars or trains; whether I listen to radio’s, live concerts or my smartphone; whether the sounds are intentional or accidental.
I encourage anyone to open up their ears and share their listening experiences, just as Marcel Cobussen, one of the editors of the Journal of Sonic Studies, writes in his editorial. And I would like to ask Taiwan readers in particular to keep their ears open for birds imitating portions of the sounds of the garbage truck and report to me immediately if they do so!
You can read my article (and listen to it) here and find Marcel Cobussen’s ‘Encounters With Southeast Asia Through Sound’, an introduction to all the other contributions, here. Happy reading and listening!
Recently my Resonance students – plus a few guests – joined the second Sound Journey. The first Sound Journey was about the Art of Listening, in Hsinchu. This time, we delved into musical traditions in an outdoor camping/guesthouse site in Puli, with fantastic views of the valleys and mountains of Nantou. The central event was a visit to the Bunun village of Mingder, now called Naihunpu (formerly Naifubo) in the Bunun vernacular. Here we were warmly received by mainly elder people (mostly 50+) of this small community. I visited them for the first time in 2005, when I stayed there for a few days, talking to them and recording their songs on audio and video. I was introduced to them at that time by Dr. Wu Rung Shun, the well-known expert on Taiwanese indigenous music and a recordist/compiler of the most extensive collection of published recordings from Taiwan, The Music of the Aborigines on Taiwan Island Vol. 1-9.
The Music of the Aborigines on Taiwan Island, Vol. 1: The Bunun
Recording the Bunun of Naihunpu in 2005 (they gave me their dress to wear for the occasion).
In 2005 I was struck by the Bunun’s music, their hospitality and their willingness to share their music, dance and wisdom with me. But I had no opportunity to follow up on my visit for a long time. Last year I finally returned, meeting some familiar faces and quite a few new ones too. I wasn’t just interested to learn more about their music for myself; I thought it would also be great if my students had a chance to experience their music. After all this music is always polyphonic, and it is more interesting to learn it together. So I asked the Bunun leaders if we could come over one afternoon to learn from them, and they agreed. They pointed out that they had Wu Rung Shun’s students visiting and that it was not easy to learn their songs. We were slightly uncertain as to how satisfying this would be for both parties. They had never worked with a group like ours, that is, a group of students that did not study music at the academic level. Perhaps we would not be able to make much of their music ourselves?
We came prepared: all of us had listened to the CD the Bunun from this village had recently produced, with a selection of their repertoire. And the evening before I had talked about different vocal styles and techniques and practised these with the group. We had also tried a Kyrie from Corsica, a polyphonic Christian song that I deemed appropriate to learn during this Easter weekend.
We were warmly received by a large group of about twenty people who were all introduced to us, and we all introduced ourselves to them. They were clearly very willing and eager to teach us about their music and perform for us. They insisted to change to their full traditional regalia of dresses, pants, headbands, earrings and carry-on bags, so they looked fabulous. Surprisingly, what seemed to be newly-made handwoven vests, turned out to be actually quite old, and worn for many occasions throughout the years. They took great care to maintain it.
After watching several pieces performed by them, I asked if we could mingle and spread out between them, men between men, women between women. That would allow my students to better hear that each individual sings something different. After all, in a recording you hear many voices, but you are not really able to find out how one particular voice moves around in the polyphonic network. They readily agreed and so we could hear at close range what different voices do: a completely different experience than hearing the whole song, played back from a CD. Ten years ago I also recorded Amis songs this way, moving between the singers so as to get a clear picture of different individual voices. It was very revealing! Suddenly the chords jump to life all around you, like some kind of enhanced-dolby-5.1-stereo – much better than that in fact.
The meeting continued with more singing, sitting between the Bunun, absorbing the richnes of their musical patterns and imitating them. They asked us to sing our Corsican Kyrie for them, which my students dared to do, even though they had only learned it the day before. It was an approriate thing to do, as the Bunun are Christians and were actually very busy this time of year preparing for next day’s Easter Sunday celebrations (later that night they still went to church to prepare for it).
Later on, we saw and heard the men sing the Pasi But But: the most famous of Bunun vocal pieces. It is so unique in the world of music that it is hard to come up with any parallel. When I first heard a recording of the Pasi But But some 20 years ago, I thought of the music of György Ligeti, the contemporary Hungarian composer whom I listened to quite a bit at that time. The slow, draggingly-ascending lines, curled up into each other, make up for a confusing sound experience, unlike most other types of polyphony (I also listened to hundreds of music traditions around the world, but the Bunun piece resembled none of them).
Thanks – again – to Wu Rung Shun’s PhD thesis of 1995, the mystery of this piece was revealed in all its fantastic detail, including all the meanings, terms, spiritual messages and other practices associated with it. With him and his colleague Dr. Chung Mingder and students at the Taipei National University of Arts we tried the piece many times. We often got lost in the steadily increasing flow of microtonal changes; sometimes we had some degree of succes; it was always intense and exhausting.
Singing the Pasi But But
We were lucky enough – at least the four males of our group – to be invited to join their Pasi But But after they had done it. Again, each man of our group was surrounded by other men, and each in one of the four pitch-groups, holding hands and twisting arms firmly behind our backs. With the guidance of the experienced Bunun men’s strong, certain voices, there was little risk of messing this piece up, and indeed the three other men who never did it before got through it alright.
Finally, we shared more food, excited talk and some wine, as well as some Jew’s harp and mouth-bow playing to conclude our acquaintance.
Later that night, after we returned to the house on the mountain slope where we stayed, our group members unanimously rejoiced in this learning experience. Each for themsleves, they had made very different discoveries. One heard new songs that she had never heard before from the Bunun. Another said it was revealing to sing while being surrounded by several elders. A third was thrilled to feel the powerful voice of an aged, yet virile singer next to her. Another found out that the Bunun do not simply hit some notes here and there, but make certain patterns and still structure their pieces even though they improvise. Yet another marvelled at hearing the Pasi But But at close range, which is so different form a concert performance at a distance. One of the men of our group understood much better how this song worked after being taught to sing it with them.
My thanks to all the Bunun participants in the workshop, especially chief/chairman Diang Nangavulan (centre), Biling Demu (right) and Sani Sugluman (left).
Chinese information will be added, or write to email@example.com for info in Mandarin.
On Sunday March 20, I will teach a one-day overtone singing workshop, for those who want to get to know more about this singing technique. The workshop is open to all who are interested, with or without musical/singing experience.
In the morning we will start with warm-up exercises to develop attention for body, mind and sound, and explore basic techniques for using the resonances of the natural voice. We will start with a first rough exploration of overtone techniques.
After a lunch break, we will listen to and try more specific techniques for singing harmonics, and combine voices to work with simple, intuitive sound structures and intuitive compositional ideas. We will finish with a group improvisation.
Of course it is not possible to learn overtone singing in one day (despite certain videos on the web that claim you can do that in even less time). But you can get a sense of what goes on when singers produce clear overtones, sharpen your hearing in a live, acoustic situation, and get started on something you might want to explore further in the future.
Every participant will get some personal feedback about his/her voice and how to get started with the technique.
Students who are considering to join the next R E S O N A N C E Yeargroup (2016-2017) may get a taste of what they will learn, or get an advantage by an early introduction to the technique.
The workshop is in the Da-an area and is in English with Chinese translation (if needed).
In this class we use the voice in its immense richness, not only as a musical instrument, but as our primary tool to communicate and exist through/with/for/from sound. In Voice Yoga, sound, silence and resonance become a mirror for the self. The sounds produced by ourselves, allows us to ‘see’ ourselves more clearly, to hear what’s living deep inside us. In ever-growing cycles of creating and perceiving we learn about music and sound, about ourselves and about the environment. A ‘quintessence of science, sound and self’ as I called it in my book Overtone Singing.
DATES AND TIME FOR 2014
EVERY THURSDAY, 10-12 AM
[table colwidth=”100″ ]
JANUARY,9/ 16/ 23/ 28
FEBRUARY,13/ 20/ 27
MARCH,6/ 13/ 27
APRIL,3/ 10/ 17/ 24
MAY,1/ 8/ 15/ 22/ 29
JUNE,5/ 12/ 19
SEPTEMBER,4/ 11/ 18/ 25
OCTOBER,2/ 9/ 16/ 23/ 30
NOVEMBER,6/ 13/ 27 [no class on November 20]
DECEMBER,4/ 11/ 18/ 25
Canjune Training Centre, 4th Floor, number 3 , Lane 151, Fuxing South Road, Section 2, (this is about 20 meters from the corner of FuXing South Road, go up the stairs to the hairdresser and take the elevator to 4F; if you’re early the streetdoor may be closed). Nearest MRT: Technology Building (10 min. walk). Telephone training centre: 02 – 27 00 72 91.
Please notify us of your intention to join the class, by sending a text-message (SMS) with your name to 09-10 38 27 49.
For those unfamiliar with Voice Yoga, the information about Voice of Dao posted earlier still stands.
will be the name for what was called Voice of Dao for a little more than one year. Somehow ‘Voice of Dao’ never fully resonated. And yoga is part of our practice, more than any kind of daoist practice.
For those unfamiliar with Voice Yoga, the information about Voice of Dao posted earlier still stands. We continue to use the voice in its immense richness, not only as a musical instrument, but as our primary tool to communicate and exist through/with/for/from sound . In Voice Yoga, sound, silence and resonance become a mirror for the self. The sounds produced by ourselves, allows us to ‘see’ ourselves more clearly, to hear what’s living deep inside us. In ever-growing cycles of creating and perceiving we learn about music and sound, about ourselves and about the environment. A ‘quintessence of science, sound and self’ as I called it in my book Overtone Singing.
Here are the new dates until the Summer.
EVERY THURSDAY, 10-12 AM
9/ 16/ 23/ 28 (note: 28 is a tuesday)
FEBRUARY please take note! the training centre is not available this month. Weather permitting, we do our class in Da’an park. Meeting point is the park, opposite the Taipei Public Library, halfway Heping and XinYi.
(6 = holiday)/ 13/ 20/ 27
6/ 13/ 27
On the 20th the class will be in the afternoon from 14-16 ‘o clock.
3/ 10/ 17/ 24
The last class of April (on the 24th) and the first class of May (1st) will be changed to another date.
1/ 8/ 15/ 22/ 29
5/ 12/ 19
Place: Canjune Training Centre, 4th Floor, number 3 , Lane 151, Fuxing South Road, Section 2, (this is about 20 meters from the corner of FuXing South Road, go up the stairs to the hairdresser and take the elevator to 4F; if you’re early the streetdoor may be closed). Nearest MRT: Technology Building (10 min. walk). Telephone training centre: 02 – 27 00 72 91.
On Saturday december 8, I will teach another one-day overtone singing workshop, for those who want to get to know more about this singing technique.
(info in chinese below)
The workshop is in the Shi-Da area. There will be full Chinese translation and you can find more info on http://www.hansuna.blogspot.com/
teaching at Taidong’s St. Mary’s hospital, March 2012
Paraphony is Mark van Tongeren’s approach to sound and music. It reflects his longstanding practice and study of musical techniques from Tuva, Mongolia & Tibet, musical improvisation, avant-garde and experimental music, theatre and performance art, as well as yoga and meditation.
This basic workshop is an introduction to that approach for musicians and non-musicans alike. In the morning we will start with my Dao of Voice exercises to develop attention for body, mind and sound, and explore basic techniques for using the resonances of the natural voice.
After a lunch break, we will listen to and try specific techniques for singing harmonics, and combine voices to work with simple sound structures and compositions. We will finish with a group improvisation.
Date: december 8
Cost: 3000 NT$
Bring a friend: pay 5000 instead of 6000 NT$
Max. pax: 12
Place: very near the Shi-Da night market: details will be sent. The workshop takes place at Hans de Back / Una Kao’s singing bowl/aromatherapy studio.
Registrations at Una’s can only be confirmed after November 30. If you don’t read Chinese and are interested to join, or if you have any questions drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get all the details.
(don’t forget to check our next blog announcing a shorter, but weekly session of Voice of Dao: that is not an overtone singing workshop, but highly recommended to attune mind-body through sound.)
Live recording from a piece I did in May 2012 in Hsinchu, Taiwan, at the invitation of the Taiwan Computer Music Association. It was an excellent program of works by various Taiwanese composers of music with computers (Jeff Huang. Chao Ming Tung, TZENG Shingkwei and orthers). I was invited to do a piece together with composer Tzeng Shing-kwei and, before that, to do some of my own work. After a piece for extended vocal techniques, also on VIMEO, I did this longer piece of overtone singing with drones from a shruti box.
Another piece I did in Hsinchu at the invitation of the Taiwan Computer Music Association: a work for extended vocal techniques, and also using a Sakha (Siberian) Jew’s harp (or khomus), thereby losely incorporating elements from typical computer generated sounds.
I present a soloprogram at the First International Arts Festival at the National Chiayi University, in Chiayi, Taiwan, October 18 2012.
Program description for the concert:
The twentieth century constituted a watershed of new vocal and sonic arts, and brought voices from distant times and places closer than ever before. And yet, in the twenty-first century the voice still retains its secrets. Vocalist Mark van Tongeren returns to the simple question: how does the naked voice of a single human being sound, when we strip everything away from it? As it turns out, a voice never comes alone. With his current theme The Polyphony of the Body, van Tongeren exposes the colourful, polyphonic nature of the singing human voice. Drawing upon his studies with traditional overtone singers from the Sayan and Altai mountains of South Siberia, extended-vocal techniques and sound poetry, van Tongeren’s performance moves from the introvert to the extrovert, from blissfull harmony to unpredictable noise. Instruments such as the shruti-box from India, Jew’s harps from Siberia and live electronics are his companions for Sonic spectrum and Poetic Silhouette.