practice-based research

I still hear you!

Today it is 6 years ago since Michael Vetter (1943-2013) passed away. One year after his passing I wrote a blogpost called ‘Five Reasons to Remember Michael Vetter’ and those reasons still stand. In part I still ‘think through’ Vetter’s way of looking at the world and of looking at creative processes (not to mention in practising music and other arts). That is, I wonder how he did things I am doing or want to do, and try to find what I can still learn from him. Since that time (and in fact long before that, to be sure), my taste for music and sound ventures (or ventured) in many directions where his taste certainly did not go. But it is not his art alone that matters. With all that searching and groping, I sometimes lose a sense of what is essential. Not for music and sound per se, but for the bigger picture of how it all fits in with the other aspects of life (and death). And it is here that I find enduring inspiration from this versatile German artist.


Michael Vetter had a remarkable critical attitude towards a wide range of topics, traditions and disciplines. He knew exactly what he needed from them and was always able to state with great clarity how they related to each other and, if applicable, to his own work. Another feat is how he succeeded in developing a total vision for the many arts he practiced (fine arts, performing arts, and writing, to start with) and for spiritual and contemplative practises, primarily Christianity and Zen Buddhism. He knew both from inside out – and that is something not many composers or musicians could say. Most of them who claim Zen inspiration have flirted with it or studied it from a distance. Vetter lived the life of a monk several months a year for a decade, practising alongside Japanese monks and the occasional foreigner. He also studied theology for some years, which at the time (early 1960s) meant deep-reading of existential and other philosophical and psychological authors. Small wonder a large portion of his work is imbued with themes at the heart of the human experience. Often, in fact, he looked one or more levels deeper, beneath the surface, to find the roots of symbol, communication, emotion, illusion, aesthetic form, signs …


Michael Vetter making Indian ink drawings, Academia Capraia, Italy, 2009 (photo by Mark van Tongeren)


Some of Michael Vetter’s boxes with about two years worth of daily ink drawings, Das Buch der Zeichen. Photo by Mark van Tongeren


There is a lot of music out there that can touch me deeply, from the abstract (Morton Feldman’s Coptic Lights) to the popular (Stevie Wonder’s Black Man or As, which recently made me burst out in tears), from the dream-like and hallucinating (Biosphere’s Substrata) to the Romantic (Schubert/Müller’s Winterreise), etc .etc. And even though I know and do believe that quite a few of all those artists that I like have interesting ideas, I also know that many of them don’t necessarily have a vision that resonates deeply with me. The case with Vetter is different. He was someone whose works I often enjoyed or admired, but who also inspired me with his grand vision about, well, almost anything. I have deep respect for the way he could balance his own interests in the arts, in society, in spirituality and religion, and –not last but not least either – in everyday life. And then how he weaved all those themes together in a remarkably consistent and coherent whole, so that each part could always be linked in multiple ways to any other part. Many of us would at some point have to let others do the talking, for example when tough philosophical questions come up; or shy away from certain artistic challenges; or not quite know how our contemporary work relates to, say, late mediaeval painters; not so with Michael. He would always have an answer and keep you wondering about the next three questions. Which, of course, he would whole-heartedly welcome and answer too.

O yes, it is time I write up some of my ideas about him in a more substantial way – even if it were to see if I could emulate his ability to answer just a single tough question of some scope (I did try it, partly). The magnitude of his vision was simply too much to know where to begin during these past six years, but I consider it not yet too late to do so.

I still hear you, Michael Vetter!


Bonus video: Jetzt… Du (Now… You), from the 1986 Zen record series, played on the Japanese koto zither.


Presentation about artistic research in Taipei


You are cordially invited to the first Taipei Cleveringa Lecture. Professor emeritus Frans de Ruiter, founder and former director of Leiden University’s Academy of Creative and Performing Arts (ACPA), will speak about a new and hotly debated field of academic inquiry: artistic research. In his talk he will draw upon the work of many artists who were recently awarded the title of PhD, and give examples of their creative, artistic and scholarly endeavours. Included is a live vocal performance of one of Leiden’s ACPA PhDs, Mark van Tongeren, who will demonstrate the process of his research project Thresholds of the Audible.

This Cleveringa Lecture will be introduced by Leiden University alumnus Guy Wittich, who is representative for the Netherlands Trade and Investment Office in Taipei (NTIO).

Please join us for this unique global event!

We’ll receive you with complimentary drinks and snacks from 18:00 onward.

Entrance is free, but we appreciate if you could register through the link below or the registration tab above.


How do  ‘artistic researchers’ articulate what cannot be written? How do they oscillate from style to style, from rule to exception and from exception to rule again? What qualifies as a PhD, when it is partly based on a composition or an exhibition? What if the text itself is a website, instead of a printed thesis? These and other questions surround the emerging field of artistic research in Europe. Frans de Ruiter has supervised many artistic PhDs to successful completion. In his talk he will draw on examples ranging from Early Music to living composers and from typography to design, to highlight theoretical challenges of practise-based research. Video, audio and a short live performance will be part of the presentation.

About the Cleveringa Lectures

The Cleveringa Lecture in Taipei is part of a series of lectures presented annually in major cities around the world. Dealing with a wide range of current topics and delivered by prominent Leiden researchers, the Cleveringa Lectures commemorate the lecture that Prof. Mr. R.P. Cleveringa held at Leiden University on 26 November 1940. They are organised around that same date by the Leiden University Fund since 1946 in collaboration with local partners.

The Taipei Clevering Lecture and reception are made possible through the generous support of the NTIO (Netherlands Trade and Investment Office) in Taipei and the VNT (Vereniging Nederlanders in Taiwan/Dutch Society of Taiwan).


Monday 27 November 2017


18:00-18:30        Drinks and bites

18:30-19:15        Lecture

19:15-19:30        Q&A


Astronomy-Mathematics Building, NTU campus, No. 1, Sec. 4, Roosevelt Road, Daan District, Taipei. A map can be found under the “Venue” tab in the navigation toolbar.


Entrance is free but please register before Monday 20 November through this link or the “Registration” tab in the navigation toolbar.

More information

If you have any question do not hesitate to contact one of the local organisers:

  • Mark van Tongeren: mark @  /  0910382749
  • Ciska Kemper: ciska @ / 0932944428

Learn more about the organising institutions and sponsors:

LUF / Leiden University Fund:

VNT / Vereniging Nederlandstaligen Taiwan:

NTIO / Netherlands Trade and Investment Office:


謹代表在台荷蘭聯誼會,誠摯地邀請您蒞臨2017年11月27日(一)假台灣大學天文數學館舉行之首場臺北克維林和紀念講座(Cleveringa Lecture)。本講座每年由全球荷蘭萊登大學校友籌辦,紀念萊登大學法學院克林維和教授在二次世界大戰間荷蘭受納粹德國占領時所發表的抗議演說。本講座由在台荷蘭聯誼會(Vereniging Nederlandstaligen Taiwan, VNT)代表萊登大學基金(Leids Universiteits Fonds, LUF)籌辦,並由荷蘭貿易暨投資辦事處(Netherlands Trade and Investment Office in Taipei, NTIO)協辦。

本場次講座由萊登大學名譽教授Frans de Ruiter主講,De Ruiter教授為萊登大學創意與表驗藝術學院(Academy of Creative and Performing Arts, ACPA)創辦人暨前主任,將以新興且廣受熱議的藝術研究學門為講題。其中將介紹數位最近獲得博士學位的藝術家作品,並以他們在創意、藝術及學術上的嘗試為例演講。萊登大學創意與表演藝術學院Mark van Tongeren博士將現場以聲樂演出,並暢談他的研究計畫”聽力的臨界”(Thresholds of the Audible)。本講座將由萊登大學校友、荷蘭駐台北貿易投資辦事處紀維德代表擔任介紹人。




耑此 敬頌


Ciska Kemper 康逸雲(Academia Sinica, LUF, VNT)

Mark van Tongeren 溫馬克 (Fusica, LUF)

Guy Wittich紀維德 (NTIO, LUF, VNT)

André Verkade范安治 (NTIO)

林宜亭Christine Lin (Taiwan Thinktank, LUF)     敬邀

5/24: Free R E S O N A N C E Introduction Class

Sunday May 24 at Canjune’s Training Center in the Daan area, Taipei, from 10-12: an introduction to next year’s RESONANCE course. With information about the course, some exercises and a small concert by Mark to round it up.

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). Phone 09 – 10 38 27 49.




March10-13: PhD defense and performances

On March 13 I shall, deo volente, succesfully defend my thesis

Grenzen van het hoorbare: over de meerstemmigheid van het lichaam (Thresholds of the Audible: about the Multiphony of the Body).

For those interested there are several opportunities to attend performances in the days prior to the defense. All events can be attended free of charge.

Superstringtrio: Rollin Rachele & Mark van Tongeren

Superstringtrio: Rollin Rachele & Mark van Tongeren (Photography Jochem Hartz)

Sunday 10 and Tuesday 12 March

18:30, doors open 18:00

Incognito Ergo Sum, performance

Dokzaal, Plantage Doklaan 8-12, 1018 CM Amsterdam

With Superstringtrio (Rollin Rachele, Mark van Tongeren, voices), Horst Rickels (artistic advice), Daphne van Tongeren (light-performance) and Maksim Chapochnikov (speaker).


mark van tongeren nulpunten

0… / Zeropoints

Monday 11 March

13:30-16:30, ongoing

0…: an overtone singing marathon for two singers

Academy of Creative and Performing Arts, Rapenburg 38, Leiden

With Superstringtrio (Rollin Rachele, Mark van Tongeren, voices), Paul Oomen (live compositional direction).

Academy of Creative and Performing Arts, Leiden University, Rapenburg 38, Leiden.


Thresholds of the audible

Thresholds of the audible

Wednesday 13 March

12:45 – 13:15 Introductory talk, Zaal 2

13:45 – 14:45 Defense, Senaatskamer

14:45 – 15:45 Reception, downstairs

Academiegebouw, Leiden University, Rapenburg 73, Leiden

On the Fusica website you can find more information on all the events:

Fusica logo

And here you may announce your wish to attend one or more of the events.

Your attendance at one or more of the events will be much appreciated!

Rollin Rachele (Photography: Jochem Hartz)

Rollin Rachele (Photography: Jochem Hartz)

Thanks for sharing, hope to see you.

Mark van Tongeren

Reflecties op boventonen – uit de inleiding

Twee decennia geleden was boventoonzang voor mij een speciaal en ikonisch verschijnsel, dat leidde tot bijzondere ervaringen. De sterke, subjectieve gewaarwordingen gingen gepaard met persoonlijke transformaties en een veranderend bewustzijn. De verleiding was groot om mijn nieuwe muzikale mogelijkheden op te vatten als een bijzondere gave, en mijn transformaties als een soort bewijs daarvan. De reacties van anderen op deze vorm van zingen gaven daar soms ook aanleiding toe: mensen staan perplex, geloven hun oren bijna niet, en begrijpen niet wat je doet of hoe het kan. Boventonen zijn tegelijk vervreemdend, bij het bovennatuurlijke af, en hyperreëel. Toch gaat het om door en door natuurlijke verschijnselen die overal voor elke aardbewonder zo aanwezig zijn als de zwaartekracht. Ook dat idee was onmiddelijk evident: er was sprake van een duidelijke realisatie dat deze harmonischen mij scheppen en mij doordringen, en dat dat niet alleen voor mijn zingen geldt maar ook voor mijn spreken. Elk woord, elk symbool, elke waarheid en elke illusie die ik in mijn leven hoor, ontstaat ten dele door middel van deze resonanties. Waar of wat ze precies zijn als ik denk weet ik niet, maar ook mijn innerlijke stem draagt de sporen van deze resonanties in zich en is in staat, via mijn spraakorganen en de lucht die binnen en buiten mij is, ze weer tevoorschijn te laten komen.

Hieruit volgt: het is veel te beperkend om de kennis die zich openbaart in deze manier van zingen te begrenzen tot die personen die boventonen kunnen zingen. Deze groep mensen, waar ik deel van uitmaak,  zijn in staat iets te herscheppen en om te vormen wat ze eerst herkend hebben, maar de herkenning is niet voorbehouden aan ons alleen. Dit onderzoek naar boventoonzang gaat niet om bepaalde ‘zangculturen’ (bijvoorbeeld in Tibet) en ‘muziekgenres’ (boventoonmuziek), het gaat om kritische luisteraars die met enige oefening en training iets waarnemen dat andere mensen ontgaat. Ik hoor niet in de eerste plaats bij een categorie zangers; ik hoor bij een type luisteraar. Mijn muzikale verwantschappen liggen aan de rafelranden van het muziekleven, waar Edgar Varèse geluid vrij maakt, de NASA achtergrondruis van het heelal in geluid omzet, een sound-designer het sonische karakter van dichtklappende BMW-deuren ontwerpt, en ritselende bladeren in de tuin een duet in grijstinten aangaan met een ver vliegtuig. Muziek—intentioneel of onbedoeld—is overal en houdt continu mijn speciale aandacht vast.

In dit akoestische spectrum neemt de boventoonreeks vooral een bijzondere plaats in in zoverre ik haar niet onder controle heb, omdat ze gegeven is. Eenmaal ontdekt, kunnen er bepaalde controlemechanismes in werking treden. Boventonen leiden dan gemakkelijk tot een soort fetisjisme: ze worden overal gezocht, en vervolgens ook gevonden. En daar waar ze niet evident aanwezig zijn, worden ze (bij)gemaakt. In de laatste decennia hebben musici talloze technieken ontwikkeld om de klankspectra van instrumenten te verrijken en vocale boventonen te versterken tot het niveau van zelfstandig manipuleerbare tonen. De enorme uitbreiding aan beschikbare klanken houdt gelijke tred met die in elke vorm van informatie. Mijn artistieke hoofddoel nu is soberder: ik heb getracht niet meer, maar minder te doen dan andere zangers, en een radicale wending tot de oermaterie van harmonischen zelf te voltrekken, en te laten horen hoe dat klinkt.

Rollin Rachele & Mark van Tongeren present: 0…

and here as text:

Zero Point is the result of a four-year long artistic research by Mark van Tongeren into Overtone Singing and the Thresholds of Audibility, at the Academy for Creative and Performance Arts (Leiden University) and docARTES (Ghent). It exists of many hundreds of possible permutations that together build up the technique of overtone singing from the ground. The presentation this Thursday consists of a small selection of these strings of sound structures, alternated with other compositions and improvisations that have been developed in these years. Thus the musical, harmonic source material of the human body is made audible in all its glorious, shimmering and rubbing forms. This is the first, short presentation of a theatrical-ritual process that is under development, and in which other Parafonists will take part.

Direction: Horst Rickels

Performers: Rollin Rachele, Mark van Tongeren

Light: Daphne van Tongeren

˚   Plantage Dok   ˚  Plantage Doklaan 8-12  ˚  Amsterdam   ˚   Thursday 1 juli 2010   ˚   22:00    ˚   free entrance

FORUM Interview about Thresholds of Audibility

There is an interview about my research for the University’s FORUM magazine, with some tracks of the Sphere album. You can read it here in Dutch:

and this is the English translation:

In The research of … Mark van Tongeren, doctoral student at the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts, tells about his research int new possibilities of multi-voiced overtone singing. “We are making audible a strange world of harmonies, that is hidden behind every word that we speak.”

Tell something about yourself, how did you arrive at this research topic?
For some twenty years now I am studying the foundations of sound, among others from (ethno)musicological and artistic perspectives. It all began with the question: what is sound colour? I tried to find answers to that question experimentally, because I thought something of the spectral analysis that we saw at acoustics classes must be retracable in our experience. After a little while I recognized in my voice specific resonances, so-called overtones, and I taught myself to sing in two voices. The unfamiliarity of the phenomenon of overtone singing taught me, as a musicology student, that this was an interesting area of study that I could help develop. I went to Tuva, in Siberia, in 1993, where the world’s best overtone singers live: in that time it was almost terra incognita for Westerners. Those fieldwork experiences raised my curiosity about the wider role of music and sound in society, vice versa. More research trips to Asia followed, and I wrote a book in which I assembled existing knowledge about overtone singing. Parallel to this I developed my vocal art and did theatre projects. Through my teaching post at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague I heard about the inauguration of the Faculty of Creative and Performing Arts. The combination of science and art has always attracted me, and now I can solve some burning issues as a PhD student.

Photo: Four Sardinians sing in Five Voices. Photo M. van Tongeren, Castelsardo, Sardinia, 2007.

Can you tell what the research programme is about? Which is the central question?
I discern two main themes in my research programme Overtone Singing and the Thresholds of Audibility: one concerns a niche within a niche of music, the other rethinks and articulates what that means for the way in which each human relates to the world acoustically. My starting point is the artistic research into new possibilities of multi-voiced overtone singing. In fact I am not doing more, but less than what already has been done: together with others I show the matrix that is the foundation of the singing voice, without frills. This is done with the help of Zero(points) (Nulpunten), a series of systematic sound structures in which fundamental tones and overtones ‘meet themselves’ as it were. We are making audible a strange world of harmonies, that is hidden behind every word that we speak. Everyone speaks with the help of overtones, but nobody hears them, because speech is founded upon strategic transformations in our perception. That is the reason, secondly, for a deeper investigation of reality and illusion of our auditory world. For example, overtone singing is often considered a spiritual phenomenon, despite the fact that it is founded upon a way of listening that could be called rather empirical or phenomenological.

On 0.29/3028 three singers execute a variant of  Zero(point) 29, which exists of an almost endless series of permutations. In a simialr fashion Parafonia has recorded hundreds of chords, rather systematically and without frills. A selection of the Zero(point)s, starting with 0.32, forms the artistic part of the PhD, and its leitmotiv. They are further approached from the viewpoint of science, philosohpy and belief.Listen: 0.29-3028 (mp3)

What are the most exciting parts of the project?
I am tempted to select the artistic part of my research, for which I founded my laboratory Parafonia, as the most exciting part. Without a doubt the vocal experiments, in which performance – and theatrical elements also play a role, are the driving force behind this project. Within that, the composition cycle Zero(points) takes a special place, because it is something that has never been done before, while in my view it deals with fundamental knowledge and skills in music and acoustics. It is interesting both artistically and conceptually. On the other hand, it is just as exciting to think about what is nót very specific about this obscure way of singing, but what this way of singing lays bare about acoustic reality as such. You hit upon fundamental illusions in our perception that are comparable, for example, to the gaping rift between the space-time of modern physics and that of our everyday experience.

What do you hope to achieve?
For the short term, until February 2010, I hope I will be able to write down my thoughts crystal clear and to record the sound likewise. These are important conditions to get my research across to people. It is my intention that singers, composers, and my group Parafonia do much more with this material. Apart from that, I am aiming at people who have an interest and passion for music, who want to satisfy their curiosity with sounds that, from a musical and aesthetic perspective, try to get to the essence of sound.

How do you like the life of a researcher at this faculty?
I find the wide scope of the Academy of the Performing and Creative Arts  in the international framework of docARTES very stimulating. The first two year every PhD student joins monthly meetings with other musicians and composers, to talk about the theory and philosophy of artistic research. Philosopher Marcel Cobussen and theoretician Henk Borgdorff have given many impulses for the development of the new area of artistic research, together with a host of international guests from the musical and scholarly world. That was rather intensive, and to some extent I now miss the frequent exchange of ideas. Here in Leiden I have the privilege to work in a beautiful building on the Rapenburg with excellent acoustics: we have recorded the best Zero(points) here, among others in the kitchen, and not in the chapel in The Hague where our new, audiophile Cd Sphere was recorded. Hopefully the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts remains in this building for a while so that we can continue to realize our crystal clear recordings in ideal acoustic conditions.

Forum, September 2009

Harmonics and Paraphony


In these blog-notes I post news pertaining to my artistic projects and scholarly research in

music, sound and performing arts.

You will find updates about events, developments and news related to

overtone singing, throat singing/khöömei and harmonics

and the wider approach to sound/awareness that I call


My background is in cultural musicology,

with main focuses on North Asia (Tuva/Altai, Mongolia, Tibet) and Sardinia/Corsica.

I recently earned my PhD at the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts of Leiden University (NL) and docARTES/Orpehus Institute in Ghent (BE), which are among the very first  institutes in Europe to offer PhDs in artistic research or practice-based-research.

Thanks for visiting. Happy reading and joyful listening!