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Tibetan Throat Singing

September 15, 2009

The sound I chose was chanting by Tibetan monks. I wanted to examine this sample because of the unique way these monks make sounds. They do a style called “throat-singing” or “overtone singing” which creates a low tone with the vocal chords and a resonant upper tone with multiple harmonies using airflow past the pharynx, mouth, and lips.

I wanted to play with effects to try to deconstruct the sound a bit. Surprisingly, most effects had little noticeable impact upon the sound. A high pass filter was able to cancel out some of the lower tones and allow the higher whistling frequencies to show through.

Speeding up or slowing down the sound naturally made the singers seem to sing higher or lower, faster or slower, but the fundamental music was not significantly altered. Interestingly enough, when the sound was reversed, you got a fairly consistent replica of the original sound, which suggests that the chant has very regular wave patterns that are the same whether forwards or back.

The most interesting effect was playing the track back at half speed. When this occurred, the chanting took on a very grated and segmented format. I expect this is a result of the tone control in the pharynx that helps augment the higher frequency segmenting the lower frequencies by blocking a continuous vibration of the vocal box and pharynx. The vibrations that can occur, although fragmented, are fast enough to be perceived by the human ear in real time as one uninterrupted tone.

Here are the links to the edited sounds:

High-pass: http://www.freesound.org/samplesViewSingle.php?id=79647

Reverse: http://www.freesound.org/samplesViewSingle.php?id=79648

Half-speed: http://www.freesound.org/samplesViewSingle.php?id=79649

Here is the link to the original sound: http://www.freesound.org/samplesViewSingle.php?id=15488

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