Ethnomusicologist gives a throat-singing lesson

Excerpts from daily workshops conducted by Mark and visiting musicians at the 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Festival/Silk Road Festival in Washington DC. For those who think the human voice can produce only one note at a time, the resonant harmonies of throat-singing are surprising. In throat-singing, a singer can produce two or more notes simultaneously through a specialized vocalization technique taking advantage of the throats resonance characteristics. Singers use a form of circular breathing which allows them to sustain multiple notes for long periods of time. Young Tuvan singers are trained from childhood through a sort of apprentice system to use the folds of the throat as reverberation chambers. Mark van Tongeren, an ethnomusicologist specializing in khöömei throat-singing, teaches the technique.

Mark was an advisor and presenter for the festival. Before that, in Amsterdam in 1999, Mark introduced star-cellist Yo-Yo Ma to the Mongolian horse-head fiddle, which he had not yet played before. Ma received his first lesson and, later on, an original Mongolian morin khuur on behalf of the North Asia Institute Tengri, founded by Maya-Matthea van Staden, Liesbet Nyssen and Mark van Tongeren.