Overtone Singing

World Premiere of Yang Song’s In Einem Moment 须臾

This weekend a new work by Chinese-German composer Yang Song in which my voice and Jew’s harp are featured, will have its world premiere: In Einem Moment – 须臾. The piece features orchestra and tape, as it is often still called, meaning pre-recorded audio played back during the live performance. Yang Song studied electro-acoustic composition and created an 8-channel version with spatial and some digital effects superimposed on the voice and instrument recordings. Among the recordings are not just pieces of throat singing (khöömii or khöömei), but also vocalisations inspired by a special genre of folk song I have practiced in a free style for many years: Mongolian long song or urtyn duu.

 

The timing of the invitation, some four months ago, was auspicious, because I had just began to delve deeper into the Mongolian long song genre with the intention to include it in my live repertoire. So a month or so earlier I picked up a book plus CD I had bought in Mongolia but never properly studied: Alain Desjaques’s Dix-Huit Chants Mongols Dzahtchin et Ourianhai. (If this sounds familiar to some readers, I wrote more about that in this recent blogpost.)*

While I was working on that material, Yang Song got in touch with me through a common friend, Frank Kouwenhoven, of CHIME in Leiden. Song grew up in Inner-Mongolia, part of the PRC, from partial Mongolian parentage, but in a Chinese-language environment. In the program notes to her piece, she admits that she is familiar with traditional Mongol music and yet not really used to them. “In my family Mongolian blood flows; I was used to be surrounded by Mongolian music in various formats, even though I did not understand the lyrics.”

The question was if I could provide a number of different techniques of throat singing / overtone singing, Mongolian long song, and Jew’s harp, to use as the ground material for her electronic composition and the orchestral piece. I wanted to oblige, as her music immediately appealed to me and our first conversation made clear we had many things in common aesthetically. At the same time I was a bit confused: Why Me? Wouldn’t it be easier and more logical to ask a musician from Inner-Mongolia to provide the basic tracks for her piece? Even though I am a Dutchman living in Taiwan, and she is a Chinese Mongol in Germany, we had a similar proximity, or rather: distance to the music that inspired her. Noticing that this was apparently what she wanted (someone with a certain distance to the living source of Mongol traditional music) I put the question aside and started to work.

I sent her my updated and expanded Anthology of Overtone Singing: a selection of my field recordings from traditional of overtone singing plus several of my own pieces and demonstrations (and which will be published soon as the 2022 version of my book Overtone Singing is in its final stages of publication). She sent me back samples of it and of recordings she found on the web. We agreed to work on 7 short pieces of about 30 to 90 seconds. Although initially it seemed she wanted to let me improvise, over time her ideas became more fixed. She wanted to let the orchestra sing or recite some of the long song syllables, so she ended up needing fixed lyrics. I then wrote lyrics inspired by Mongolian phonemes (I only speak a few words of Mongolian and do not want to make a fool of myself pretending I can sings ongs in fluently Mongolian). She also set out the rhythmical structure, fundamental notes and durations for my parts, all of which I recorded in a studio.

 

 

 

I am curious about the result but will not be able to hear it in its full 8-channel form with live orchestra. If you are near Saarbrücken, please go and listen for me – at least Frank Kouwenhoven will be there to give his account of how it sounded! Since this is a radio concert, I think it will be live on the radio too this Friday.

May 20, 2022, 19:00

Benjamin Britten
Variationen über ein Thema von Frank Bridge für Streicher op. 10

Yang Song
„In einem Moment – 须臾“

Uraufführung / World Premiere

Benjamin Britten
Violinkonzert d-Moll op. 15

 

German Radio Philharmonic. Conductor: Martyn Brabbins.

Website Link: Saarländischen Rundfunk Saal, Saarbrücken/Germany, 20th May 2022

 

Live broadcast:

Sendetermin | 20 Uhr zeitversetzt auf SR 2 KulturRadio

Künstlergespräch | 18.15 Uhr

 

Program booklet (in German)

https://www.yang-song-composer.com/

 

* Alain Desjaques’ book title is a reference to an earlier collection of songs and poems assembled by a Mongolian princess, Dix-huit chants et poèmes mongols, published 1937.

 

Founding the Taiwan Overtone Singing Association

On 12/12/2021 we started the founding of the TOSA, or Taiwan Overtone Singing Association. It was an old dream of mine to have a more solid vehicle for my work and that of others in the field of overtone singing. But lacking reading and writing skills in Chinese I was unable to give that wish a concrete form. But then my close collaborators Sunny Chen and Jackal Mei began to question me about this and make suggestions about how to let this community grow and organise some bigger events. By now there are quite some people who have studied overtone singing with me or with other local practitioners, or with foreign teachers (often from Inner Mongolia or Tuva). There are several skilled performers and others who are improving their skills rapidly. I tend to be a bit of a loner in my work in overtone singing, but I think the time has come to really help others flower if they wish to become good overtone singers. And to show more people the beauty of this technique in all its forms, whether artistic or therapeutic, traditional or modern.

 

TOSA members performing on January 1 at Mei Garden Restaurant, Taipei

 

In the end it was Sunny Chen who has done endless amounts of paperwork to have the first small meeting of founders last December. My heartfelt thanks to her and all those who signed up as founders. The next step is to go public, and this will happen right after Chinese New Year, on February 19. On that day our chairman Sky Tseng will tell more about bigger and smaller events we are going to host every year; about a practising group to brush up your overtone singing and chanting; about concerts we will jointly attend or important books and pieces or CDs we will discuss. Professor Chung Minder, or taimu as he is known to many, will look back to twenty years of overtone singing in Taiwan, and perhaps look forward too. My old friends, and long-time overtone singing lovers (and love-couple in the first place) Wei-Lin and Qi-Chung will do a presentation, and so do I: this serves as the upbeat to a full concert we are preparing for later this year.

To make all of this happen, we need to reach a minimum of 45 members by January 28 (and not by February 19, as we thought before). We hope you will consider to sign up this month and give our association a flying start. A little extra support at this point is much needed since only a small inner circle of people knows about this initiative. Once we get started in February we can reach out to more people.

 

TOSA founding meeting no. 1, 12/12/2021

 

2021 12 12 日,我們著手成立 TOSA,即台灣泛音詠唱協會Taiwan Overtone Singing Association)。協會將 2 19 日舉辦場盛大活動,在一個美麗的新空間舉辦音樂會和講座作為協會對外公開的開端。我在此邀請你一同加入,成為協會成員。我長久以來都夢想能在泛領域為自己和其他藝術家創建更實際的平台。但由於中文讀寫能力有限,我遲遲無法實現這個願望。直到身邊的合作夥伴 Sunny Chen Jackal Mei 開始詢問我相關的想法,並提出發展組織及舉辦大型活動的建議,我的心願才開始逐步實踐目前為止已經有不少人學可能是跟我學習,也可能是跟台灣國外的老師學習(通常來自內蒙古或圖瓦)近年來,位技術純熟的表演者和泛音愛好者,他們的技巧與日俱進。我在泛唱方面的工作往往是獨立進行但我認為是時候幫助更多有志專精泛音詠唱的人發光發熱了!同時我也想與更多人分享泛唱各種形式的美,涵蓋藝術、療癒、傳統現代等各個層面

 

更多關於 2 月活動和 TOSA 計劃的訊息都可以在這裡找到。請註冊並成為會員!根據規定,我們需要在 2 月 19 日之前招募足夠的會員,所以如果可以,請現在(或在 1 月底前)點選連結,協助我們推動計劃。非常感謝你!

最後是 Sunny 做了大量文書工作,在去年 12 月召開了第一次小型的發起人會議。我衷心感謝 Sunny 和所有登記的發起人。協會的下一步是對外公開,時間將是農曆年後的 2 月 19 日。那一天,理事長 Sky Tseng 將詳細介紹協會大小年度活動、一起精進泛唱技巧的練唱小組、成員共同參與的音樂會、還有我們列入討論項目的重要書籍、作品和專輯。鍾明德教授(也就是大家熟知的大木老師)則會回顧台灣 20 年的泛音詠唱史。另外一個重頭戲是泛唱圈的佳偶啟仲和維琳的泛音雙重唱,他們是我的老朋友,也是資深的泛音愛好者。我自己也會有一段泛音獨唱,這兩段演出將為今年籌備中的正式音樂會開啟序幕。

 

為了實現這一切,我們需要在 1 月底前招募至少 45 員(不是之前以為的 2 19 日)。所以我們希望大家能在這個月註冊,讓協會有一個好的開始這方面我們非常需要一些額外的支持,因為目前只有少部分人知道這個計畫。一旦在 2 正式對外公開,我們就更多人

 

【台灣泛音詠唱協會 成立大會】將於農曆年後,在台北舉辦!

時間: 2022219日,14:00-16:00

地點: 好好說話工作坊,

         台北市中山區明水路575B1

https://goo.gl/maps/tjjuF6zGF9vqGYmV8

~~~~~~~~~~~

精彩分享包括:

1. 鍾明德教授分享〈泛音在台灣的歷史〉 

     (鍾明德教授為《OM:泛音詠唱作為藝乘》作者)

2. Mark van Tongeren 泛音獨唱 

3. 天使之音啟仲維琳 泛音雙重唱
 
 
活動搶先看資訊歡迎追蹤協會臉書
【台灣泛音詠唱協會】

~~~~~~~~~~~~

如欲參與2/19活動,加入協會聲音探索的大家庭,
請填:【會員申請書】

 

Spring/Summer Program

Check out all the activities for the coming months.

scroll down for full details in English and Chinese.

Concert with Amale Gadhu, Lee Shih-Yang and Arnaud Lechat

JUNE 4, Taipei, Lin’s Culture

 

Annual retreat: 2 x 4-day Resonance / Overtone Singing Intensive

JUNE 11-14 (PART II), Taidong

 

Concert IUooUI

JUNE 25 or JULY 30 Hsinchu (t.b.c.)

 

Soundpainting Workshop
AUGUST 20

 

 

DETAILS PER EVENT

 

Concert with Amale Gadhu, Lee Shih-Yang and Arnaud Lechat

JUNE 4, Taipei, Lin’s Culture, Taipei

時間:2022.06.04 Sat. 1930-21:30
地點:林舍文化 Lin’s Culture(台北市中正區新生南路一段138-1號1F)
阿螞樂‧卡督
馬克‧范‧湯可鄰
貓阿諾
李世揚
Amale Gadhu
Arnaud Lechat
Lee Shih-Yang
Mark van Tongeren
6/4 《變形歌謠演出,台北:林舍文化,
演出者: 
Mark van Tongeren, 貓阿諾, 阿螞樂.卡督, 李世揚

 

Concert IUooUI

JUNE 25 or JULY 30 Hsinchu (t.b.c.)

 

 

Annual retreat: 2 x 4-day Resonance / Overtone Singing Intensive, Part II

June 12-15, Hualien

The yearly intensive to learn overtone singing and much more.

Part Two is Only for advanced singers / old students.

Find more details and register here.

 

 

 

 

Soundpainting Workshop
8/20 Mark 工作坊,台北:林舍文化,
Soundpainting發展暨演出計畫-工作坊⑤【Catch the Spirit】
+ + + you might also be interested in the other ones:
工作坊① 董籬【看聲音,聽畫面-跨領域即興創作】:
https://www.accupass.com/go/Soundpainting-1

工作坊② 方駿圍【白畫布-即興表演者的練功場】
https://www.accupass.com/go/Soundpainting-2

工作坊③ 鍾繼儀【你曾聽過,但不一定理解的聲音——北管音樂】
https://www.accupass.com/go/Soundpainting-3

工作坊④ 張晏慈【不完美的圓是最完美的生活】
https://www.accupass.com/go/Soundpainting-4

工作坊⑤ Mark van Tongeren【Catch the Spirit】
https://www.accupass.com/go/Soundpainting-5

工作坊⑥ Arnaud Lechat【即興練習 – 希臘神話的啟發】

 

Concerts IUooUI @ Taipei Fringe Festival

August 21, 24, 26, 28

 

 

Dulan Voice Yoga Retreat

Stay tuned for updates.

 

ON SALE : Overtone Singing Book + CD

Overtone Singing (2004) is sold out now.

 

The newly revised, updated and expanded edition, entitled

Overtone Singing. Harmonic Dimensions of the Human Voice

is scheduled to be published in spring 2022 by Terranova / MIT Press.

 

Read all about the 2004 book and the CD on this page.

 

Below: the special hardcover edition (pictured with the CD in the back). Both paperback and hardcover are printed with high quality print (paper/binding) that will last another century.

 

 

TongerenOvertoneSingingCover3
BOOK SUMMARY:
In Overtone Singing, ethnomusicologist and singer Mark van Tongeren provides a fascinating insight into the timeless and universal aspects of sound and vibration. Grounded in a decade-long study of Asian music, he draws upon various fieldwork experiences, interviews with eastern and western musicians, in addition to the work of numerous scholars. He presents a multidisciplinary vision on sound that runs from World and contemporary music to the science of acoustics and perception, to music philosophy and the spiritual dimensions of music. Written in a non-technical style, this book and accompanying audio CD are indispensable guides to musicians, listeners and music specialists seeking a deeper understanding of the nature of the human voice, sound and overtones.

 

 

Read all about the book and the CD on this page.

 

 

 

Late 2019 Hong Kong workshops cancelled

Due to all the uncertainties in Hong Kong, the Soundtherapy Hong Kong team decided it is not a good time to run my regular Hong Kong workshop Outer Voice – Inner Voice. So we cancel the workshop. Here is the original post with announcement and some photos from the workshops 2014-2018.

If you want to learn overtone singing with me but do not need a Chinese translation, then the workshops in Hong Kong may be something for you. Most workshops in Taiwan are with translation, which means we lose some time for interpretation. This November workshop in Hong Kong is the next opportunity to do an English-only workshop, other opportunities in Winter and Spring 2020 will be announced here soon.

(Link to Chinese version)

 

First workshop location in Hong Kong, 2014

I have had such fantastic experiences during the Hong Kong workshops over the past six years and would like to look back through some photos. The first workshop I did was during the Umbrella Revolution in 2014 – though the umbrellas you see in the first photo were not related to the protest. The previous visit (late 2018) was just days after a violent typhoon struck Hong Kong, locking people in their homes with the wind bashing on their windows and rains creeping in through the windowposts. On the beach (last photo) we found the remains of shops that were completely destroyed. In between you will find mostly happier moments shared with students and Jennifer and Jasmine. And at the bottom my ‘Courage!’ statement for the many friends in Hong Kong.

 

With Jasmine Hui of Soundtherapy Hong Kong at the workshop location, a comix and animation center.

 

The fantastic Soundtherapy Hong Kong team and me have revamped the annual Outer Voice ~ Inner Voice workshop to make it a bit more accessible and diverse. At the same time old students will find some new themes to progress further in their exploration of overtone singing and the endless possibilities of the colours of the human voice.

 

The general idea is for starters to come to Part One ~ Outer Voice (day one) and from there to continue with Part Two ~ Inner Voice (day two and three). Old students can directly come to Part Two ~ Inner Voice, if they wish. Within these two blocks there are still six  themes to chose from – or you can do them all.

 

PART I ~ OUTER VOICE

THE RESONATING BODY

DAY 1. SOUND IS MOVEMENT

Session 1. Breath, Prana & Movement

Breath is one process in the totality of prana / life force, and the one that drives our vocal sound too. We slowly build up our vocal practise from the breath and from movements. From relaxation we start a journey to learn new ways of sounding and moving. Familiar, everyday patterns become tools for transformation. Plenty of group chanting and toning, too.

Session 2.        Sounds and music to lose and find yourself

We continue our exploration by shaking up things a bit more. Going wild and extreme one moment, contemplating sound and self another. Focus and un-focus. By doing less than we normally do, we notice more. We return to a primary knowledge that sits at the centre of the body-mind-division: sonic phenomenology. Musical games/meditations/dances. Serious fun. Anything is possible, and nothing too!

 

Projecting vowels into the body

 

PART II. INNER VOICE

INTO THE HEART OF SOUND

 

DAY 2. THE HARMONIC UNIVERSE

Session 3. Cosmic Listening

After some energising Voice Yoga we dive into the subtler realms of vowels, resonance and overtones. You take your first steps in The Art of Listening 2.0. Break through your habitual patterns of sounding and hearing. Expand your awareness of voice physiology. Cosmic listening to overtone singing with the sruti box and hear your own harmonics. Getting back to the more vigorous shake-ups of the day before whenever needed.

Session 4. Your Voice, Your Resonance, Your life

Overtone singing is not easy and pursuing mere technique in itself can be a burden. Armed with new understandings and experiences of the hidden dimensions of the human voice, we ask ourselves where we want to go with it. How do you resonate? What makes your voice unique? Love it or hate it? Every voice and every path is different. Pushing our vocal limits, we collectively embrace failure. And return to soothing vibrant sonic meditations.

 

Holland Street

DAY 3. CREATIVE IMAGINATION as a SOURCE OF LIFE

Session 5. Mantras, Chants and Sound poems

In an age of media technologies we have silenced ourselves and forgotten our ancestors’ songs. Mantras are among the most ancient sound tools around and we can still learn from them. The repetitive vibrations of chants also awake slumbering resonances in our body-mind. Add to that 21st century Sound Poems flavored with overtones and we have a complete palette of tools to revive the lost sonic core of our selves.

Session 6. Paraphony

Paraphony means: there is no such thing as objective sounds. Sound is shaped by your ears, your awareness, your mood … always in flux. In our last session, we throw ourselves into the creative process of making music by and for ourselves and each other. The more we live by our creative impulses—be they noisy and chaotic or contemplative and balanced—the deeper we get to know ourselves and the world around is. Resonating together, we attune ourselves to ever subtler sounds of tones, overtones and elusive acoustic realms. Grasping these phenomena, we manifest our own voice, bring it out in its own unique glory.

 

PART I ~ Session 1 and 2:

Date: 22 Nov 2019 (Fri). Time: 10am – 1pm + 2:30pm – 5:30pm

PART II ~ Session 3 /4 and 5/6: 23-24 Nov 2019 (Sat – Sun), Time: 10am – 5:30pm
To register Session 3-6 (Part II), you’re required to register for either Session 1 or 2 first. Past students can directly register for Part II without taking Session 1 or 2.

Venue (All Sessions): Sound Therapy Hong Kong

For registration go to the Soundtherapy Hong Kong website here and on Facebook.

 

Awaken your potential:

  • –     >    to listen better
  • –     >    to hear and sing the natural overtones in your voice
  • –     >    to understand your inner drives better
  • –     >    to diversify your voice

After this 3 days workshop, you will go home with a renewed sense of self through a fresh look and ‘a fresh ear’ at your voice. You will have a fuller understanding of its complex vibratory mechanisms, and get many new ideas how these operate at the point where body and mind are merged in a greater whole.  You learn techniques to better hear the world around you and inside you. These tools help you to gradually increase your musical/sound awareness, to know what needs to be healed and how to do that.

For whom?

No previous musical or vocal experience is required. Just bring a healthy dosage of curiosity and willingness to explore. The starting point is your own path as a speaker, as a communicator, as a person who enjoys music. Or simply as a human being. This workshop is beneficial for musicians and artists, for healers and therapists, and for anyone looking for more direction, meaning and depth in their lives.

 

 

Improvising theatre director Ho Ying Fung and Wu Wentsui brought me to this fantastic streetperformance in January 2018

Courage, Hong Kong!

It is my sincere wish that Hong Kong remains as much as possible as it is now:

  • a relatively free space within the larger Chinese boundaries
  • a place where Cantonese people with a democratic inclination determine the political, economic, cultural course of their unique region
  • a peaceful and culturally diverse hotspot where people from around the world live and work together without an over-active state apparatus encroaching upon their lives

My prayers go out to my Hong Kong friends and everyone else suffering from the human violence and psychological pressure. I pray too for the perpretators because it is, in my point of view, them who need to find peace of mind more than anyone else.

 

After the violent typhoon of September 2018

Catching up with Tran Quang Hai

The most prolific researcher in the field of overtone singing is a man with many faces. His name is Tran Quang Hai and you can call him (and all options are correct): Vietnamese or French; a professional musician or a professional musicologist; an instrumentalist or a singer; an improviser or a composer; a traditional, a popular or an experimental musician (all three will do); an expert in Vietnamese traditional musics and an astute chronicler of its year-to-year development in the past decades.* Tran Quang Hai has a new book out celebrating his 50 years of music research in many different areas. We recently met in Paris, where he shared some interesting facts about the Vietnamese Jew’s harp (dan moi) I did not know before. On the trip back to Amsterdam I read most of the articles in his book that I had not seen before, so more on that too. Before talking about our meeting, his book and the origin of the word dan moi (Jew’s harp), some historical background. Since Hai is Tran Quang Hai’s first name I will refer to him as Hai.

I learned of Hai’s work on overtone singing in the early 1990s. When I got to know him personally, I was astounded and (I will admit) a bit intimidated by his unbridled energy. He loves to share what he does, and he is in fact overflowing with enthusiasm: for overtone singing, for Vietnamese music, for playing the Jew’s harp and spoons, for ethnomusicology, for his constant travels as a performer and teacher. After my visits I was usually exhilirated (about all the new things I had learned or shared with him) and at the same time exhausted (feeling my life was a mess with no progress at all).

 

In fact, going to Paris has been almost synonymous with visiting Hai and his lovely wife Bach Yen (whose singing carreer goes way way back). And these visits became almost synonymous with absolutely great Vietnamese food. Bach Yen often spent hours and hours to buy fine ingredients like all kinds of fresh leaves, vegetables, seafood and meat and prepare them the Vietnamese way. We would have excellent diners, drank nice wine, as the couple made an annual ‘pilgrimage’ to different regions in France to stock up on boxes of quality wine to share with friends at home.

After moving to Taiwan, my encounters with Tran Quang Hai were scarce, and visits to both of them even more. In 2019, it has been around ten years since we last met in Paris. So I was delighted to see them again some weeks ago. Tran Quang Hai retired a decade ago from the ethnomusicology department at the Musée de L’Homme in Paris, but has remained an active performer and workshop leader for all these years. Bach Yen is a famous singer of popular songs and entertainment music, as well as a singer of many different genres of traditional music. Together they have given hundreds of concerts in Europe and elsewhere, and they continue to do so. Here is a photo of their appearance in Genoa, Italy, a week or so after I met them.

 

 

Late August, when I walked down the platform of Gare de Lyon, Hai and Bach Yen were waiting for me. Once again I was overwhelmed to be in their buzzing, energetic presence. The first thing they did, was to get out their cameras and make many photos together. Then we strolled to their car, and their warm hands and arms embraced my arms. I sometimes think of myself as someone who easily touches people, but this time I thought I am quite distant compared to them. It was really (excusez le mot) touching to stroll down the platform chatting and to be ‘wrapped’ by their tender hands and arms on both sides. Hai told me once about using his hands to heal people and showed me some methods. But it seems the couple just radiates warmth and energy naturally, even without using a special method.

For our Vietnamese food, this time we drove to a place called Pho Bida, pronounced Fo Beeyaa. Pho is the famous Vietnamese noodle soup, but what about Bida? It turns out to be derived from ‘billiard’, as the former location of this restaurant housed a popular billiard room as well. The place is not very spacious but we were early and could chose any seat. By the time we left lots of people waited outside. The food was great and loved by Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese alike: highly recommended! (Pho Bida Vietnam, 36 rue Nationale, 75013 Paris)

 

Tran Quang Hai’s New Book

When we sat down, Hai gave me his new book, a thick volume with many of his articles and listst of all his achievements, titles, appearances, etc. organized in a single volume. Some articles I have known for a long time. So I particularly enjoyed reading those things I did not know in detail.

First, an article about Vietnamese music and its historical background, very helpful for understanding the relationship to Chinese music and culture. It also covers many of the recent developments in Vietnamese music, making it in effect a kind of encyclopaedic entry into Vietnam and all its music. With this work Hai most clearly follows in the footsteps of his late father Tran Van Khe, also a well-known musician and musicologist.

 

“Tran Quang Hai. 50 Years of Research in Vietnamese Traditional Music and Overtone Singing.”

Second, an article that accompanied a double CD issued in France in 1997, dedicated to the absolutely fascinating world of mountain tribe musics in Vietnam. There is a dazzling array of types of instruments and ways of playing, and these liner notes give a good overview of this field.

 

 

 

If you are interested in overtone singing and still love printed matter, as I do myself, then this is a good way to get your (physical) hands on several key articles on this technique by Dr. Tran Quang Hai and understand the background of his research. (Note for academic readers: for research purposes it is better to consult online pdfs of the articles in their original format). Available here.

 

 

Tran Quang Hai and the Dan Moi

During our lunch I also learned where the common name of the Vietnamese brass Jew’s harp comes from. It is usually referred to as dan moi, which is a Vietnamese word (compare for example dan tranh/đàn tranh, the plucked zither, or the unique one-string zither dan bau/đàn bầu). However, the thin, finely crafted Jew’s harp, probably smaller than any other type of Jew’s harp, originates from the mountain tribes who live close to Yunnan in South China. The Hmong’s native language and culture has little to do with that of the dominant Viet or Kinh ethnic group, who are historically tied to China. When travelling in the mountains in North Vietnam (around Sapa), I encountered the Hmong people who play this instrument and managed to get one made locally by their craftsmen. They referred to it as gya, phonetically speaking, though in writing it is referred to as djam. A personal note from Tran Quang Hai shortly after publishing this post: the Hmong name of the Jew’s harp is ncas (pronounced ncha).

 

The djam I bought in Sapa from girls who played the instrument along the mountain road. (photo by the author).

 

So I asked Hai how the name dan moi came about. He explained: there is no Jew’s harp in the music of the ethnic Vietnamese. So when he learned about the traditions of the mountain people around 50 years ago, he had to make up a new name himself in order to accommodate the minorities’ instrument in the system and language of Vietnam. To use ‘dan’ (meaning ‘instrument’) was an obvious beginning point. Hai decided to add ‘moi’ for lips, to designate it is played between the lips. Most brass or metal Jew’s harps are held against the teeth, with the lamella vibrating between the teeth; the dan moi is held between the lips and vibrates there. In this sense it is more like a type of wooden or bamboo Jew’s harp, particularly the ones vibrated by a string attached to one side.

 

A Hmong girl playing the djam for me in 2003 (photo by the author).

The dan moi went on to become a very popular instrument around the world once non-Vietnamese musicians discovered them, at the turn of the millenium. Many people asked me for it when I brought them back in 2003. I remember giving one to Tuvan throat singer Sainkho around 2004. She immediately fell for its bright sound and expressive qualities, and asked for more several times after (and so did other people). At the same time, a German company saw the potential of this cheap instrument to reach a huge audience and set up (web)shop, calling it www.danmoi.com. It has a become a one-stop shop to buy all kinds of Jew’s harps. So dan moi, Hai’s new name for the djham, a minority instrument, and for Jew’s harps in general, now has become sort of a symbol of 21st century global Jew’s harp culture. And it seems to be growing year by year: here in Taiwan I have seen many new Jew’s harp enthusiasts taking the stages recently, often sporting a collection of world Jew’s harps, including, of course, the dan moi.

Here is a video where you see the movement of the dan moi lamella in slow motion, played by Hai’s student Dang Khai Nguyen.

Learn more about Tran Quang Hai

Hai is still actively teaching, find out where his next workshops are by going to his blog:

https://tranquanghaisworldthroatsinging.com

(the blog itself amounts to a ‘wikipedia’ of sorts for throat/overtone singing, where you will find a huge amount o copies of scientific and popular articles, videos, and indeed copies of wikipedia entries, as well as some original posts about Hai’s workshops and travels).

Go here to find more entries in English and in Vietnamese:

https://tranquanghai1944.com

https://tranvankhe-tranquanghai.com

 

And for more news from Fusica and Mark van Tongeren subscribe to these blogposts here.

 

Finally, back to some Asian flavour, but East-Asian instead of the South-East Asian of Hai’s origins. Here is a hilarious video from the time Hai was flown into Japan to demonstrate overtone/throat singing in a hypertheatrical popular entertainment program.


TRAN QUANG HAI on JAPANESE TELEVISION, part 2, December 26, 2012

 

 

* OK, for this one I have no way to tell if it is true, but Hai does mention in his new book (page  32) that he wrote “more than 500 articles in Vietnamese for 30 Vietnamese magazines in America, Europe, Asia and Australia.”

 

 

Can I sing sygyt for one minute without taking a breath?

Today I tried out something I do a few times a year: take a deep breath and see how long I can sing. Well, this time I just tried to sing for one minute, not as long as possible. The best technique to use for this is either khöömei or sygyt as it automatically constricts the throat and inhibits the airflow.

It is trivial, I know, but it is a good exercise for the lungs, diaphragm and the entire respiratory system. The other challenge is to make some musical sense. The throat singing is far from perfect (some of the overtones should not be there) but I decided to share it anyway as an example of some of the things I practise.

 

 

The Ouroboros Concert

Voor nederlands even naar beneden skrollen.

Here is a letter I wrote earlier this year when I was about to turn 50 (want to get on the mailinglist too? let me know!):

I love the number 49 and its symbolism. Much better than 50. So I prefer to send out a shout to everyone on the last day of my 49th year in which I am walking on this strange and wonderful place called earth, rather than on the first day of the 50th year. My dear sister Daphne somehow knew I wanted to celebrate while I was still 49, when she organised a surprise party for me several months ago. I completely and totally bought it, even after my mom and two friends showed up in a park where you would not expect that. What a great present!

And then the Tuvans, for whom 49 is a special number, play their magic on me too. Tuva and its inhabitants have shaped my life in many ways. When I was halfway on to this point of my life and getting close to 25 years old, I first visited Tuva and fell in love with the place forever. 12 Years later I visited Tuva with June Wen, and it was then and there that we found out that we are destined for each other. That led to our marriage, to our kids, to me moving to Taiwan. Life-changing experiences in which Tuva seemed to play a role.

And right now, guess what? Earlier this year I began organising several Tuvan concerts here in Taiwan, and I was asked to curate two different acts for the Asian Pacific Traditional Arts Festival. And today (last day of 49) the first Tuvan group, a young quartet called Ezengi, has just finished their job (which they did very well) and returns to Tuva. And tomorrow (first day of 50) four fine senior musicians arrive from Tuva to Taiwan for this weekend’s performances: Shonchalai and Nachyn Choodu, Andrei Öpei and Valerii Mongush. Coincidence?

 

And then, there was this other coincidence this year. When I fist visited Tuva I learned about a Scythian ornament found during archaeological excavations, consisting of a panther biting its own tail. A wonderful symbol of infinity and the ever-repeating cycles of events. “Ma fin est mon commencement” (“my end is my beginning’) as mediaeval poets and musicians such as Guillaume de Machaut knew so well. This spring a very noble and inspiring friend, the philosopher Fons Elders, sent around a message with his view about this symbol, which is known as the ouroboros in the western world. A little later I performed in the Oosterkerk in Amsterdam with the wonderful Turkish ney player Sinan Arat, a concert I had arranged to be filmed so that I could share it with everybody. In the background of our stage happened to be . . . an ouroboros. So a few days ago, while working on the video I decided to call it “The Ouroboros Concert”. The next day I took the Tuvans to the Pacific Ocean – Tuva being very far removed from any sea or ocean. They decided to try surfing and that’s how I noticed the Scythian ouroboros tattooed on the arm of Anchy Damdyn. What a great idea! The first time ever I imagined I could have a tattoo too.

So by way of celebration and to express the gratitude I feel for being a human amidst so many wonderful human beings I share this Ouroboros concert video with you.

 

Nederlands

Hier is een brief die ik onlangs rondstuurde, toen ik op het punt stond 49 te worden (ook op de mailinglijst? laat het weten!):

49 Is een prachtig getal met een prachtige symboliek. Veel beter dan 50. Dus stuur ik een groet aan iedereen op de laatste dag van de 49 jaar dat ik op deze vreemde, wonderlijke planeet rondloop, in plaats van de eerste dag van mijn 50e. Mijn lieve zus Daphne voelde kennelijk al aan dat ik liever even stil sta bij mijn leven op mijn 49e, toen ze een surprise party voor me oganiseerde enkele maanden geleden. Ik stonk er totaal in, zelfs nadat mijn moeder en enkele vrienden spontaan opdoken in een park waar je hen toch niet 1-2-3 samen verwacht. Wat een geweldig cadeau!

En de Toevanen, voor wie het getal 49 ook speciale betekenis heeft, duiken ook weer op haast magische wijze op. Zoals jullie weten hebben Toeva en haar inwoners mijn leven op allerlei manieren vorm gegeven. Toen ik halverwege het punt was waar ik nu ben, dus bijna 25 jaar oud, bezocht ik Toeva voor het eerst en raakte voorgoed verslingerd aan deze plek. 12 Jaar later ging ik naar Toeva met June en we ontdekten, toen en daar, dat we voorbestemd waren voor elkaar. Dat leidde dus tot ons huwelijk, kinderen en tenslotte mijn verhuizing naar Taiwan. Nog een levenswending waar Toeva haast een sturende hand in leek te hebben.

En wat is er nu aan de hand? Ik begon eerder dit jaar een aantal Toevaanse concerten te organiseren hier in Taiwan, en werd onder andere verzocht twee programma’s in te vullen voor het Asian Pacific Traditional Arts Festival. En vandaag (de laatste dag dat ik 49 ben) vertrekt de eerste Toevaanse groep, een jong kwartet genaamd Ezengi (nadat ze zich trouwens uitstekend gekweten hebben van hun taak). En morgen (de eerste dag dat ik 50 ben) arriveren er vier geweldige senior musici uit Toeva: Shonchalai en Nachyn Choodu, Andrei Öpei en Valerii Mongush. Toeval?

 

En dan was er nog iets dit jaar. Toen ik Toeva voor het eerst bezocht leerde ik een Scythisch ornament kennen, dat bij archeologische opgravingen gevonden was en dat bestaat uit een panter die in zijn staart bijt. Een prachtig symbool van oneindigheid en de eeuwigdurende cycli van gebeurtenissen. “Ma fin est mon commencement” zoals middeleeuwse dichters en musici als Guillaume de Machaut heel goed wisten. Dit voorjaar stuurde vriend en inspiratiebron Fons Elders een bericht rond met daarin zijn visie op dit symbool, dat bekend staat als oeroboros in de westerse wereld. Iets later trad ik op in de Oosterkerk in Amsterdam met een geweldige Turkse ney-speler, Sinan Arat, een concert dat ik liet opnemen op video (en waarvoor je de link onderaan vindt). Juist achter ons podium bevond zich . . . een mooie uit hout gesneden oeroboros. En dus besloot ik een aantal dagen geleden toen ik met de video bezig was om ons optreden Het Oeroboros Concert te noemen. De volgende dag (afgelopen zaterdag) nam ik de Toevaanse musici mee naar de oceaan (waar de Toevanen verder van verwijderd zijn dan zo’n beetje wie dan ook ter wereld). Ze wilden graag gaan surfen en zo ontdekte ik de tatoeage van zo’n Scytische oeroboros op de arm van Anchy Damdyn. Wat een geweldig idee! Nooit eerder had ik ook maar een seconde de gedachte gekoesterd dat een tatoeage voor mij zelf ook best interessant kon zijn.


Dus om even stil te staan bij dit bijzondere moment in mijn leven en uitdrukking te geven aan de dankbaarheid om een mens te zijn te midden van allerlei fantastische mensen met wie ik mij omringd weet, deel ik nu deze Oeroboros concertvideo met jullie.