"Mongolian Throat Singing" for Dummies
This is a pretty stunningly adroit demonstration of polyphonic overtone singing (which is often called "Mongolian throat singing," although I'm told "Tuvan throat singing" is the preferred nomenclature). Just some inside baseball on throat-singing here: The fact that she can move the fundamental (i.e., the lower tone) while keeping the higher tone steady is goddamned *amazing.* #FACT
As Anna-Maria explains, "polyphonic overtone singing" basically means singing two notes simultaneously. This is accomplished by using your mouth as a sort of tuned resonating chamber: You generate the low note with your larynx (as per usual), but also use that vibration to excite the air in your mouth, creating the higher whistling overtone, which you can then control by changing your mouth shape (as you can see her doing).
GET AN EARFUL OF THROAT SINGING
In my early- and mid-20s I was obsessed with overtone singing, which was much more obscure then (in large part because there was also less Internet then, and far narrower distribution of multi-media files on that much slower Internet). If Anna-Maria's performance is sparking something in your ear, most definitely check out Hun Huur Tu (who do very traditional Tuvan compositions and performances) and Kongar-ol Ondar (who toured extensively during his lifetime, performing both traditional tunes and working in contemporary music, most notably with bluesman Paul Pena, whose documentary Genghis Blues is about Ondar and available through Netflix). Here's a great Ondar-Pena track (I'm also enduringly fond of his very traditional "Shamanic Prayer for Richard Feynman"):
As for Hun Huur Tu, this is an *amazing* 90 minute compilation of lots of their recordings:
My son, who is now 8, quickened at a Hun Huur Tu performance in Ann Arbor, MI. They came back the next year, and so my wife and I took him to the show, and once they began singing he was so rapt that we momentarily thought he was having a seizure, and sorta kinda flipped out (as new parents are wont to do). He was not having a seizure; he was just really digging the sound, and to this day, has sort of a tendency to fall into the things that fascinate him.
Speaking of which, a healthy chunk of my 20s was spent trying to figure out how to throat sing, and through trial, error, and lots of online text-based research, I managed to get the tiniest toehold into the fundamentals. Wanna try it? Here are some pointers:
LEARN TO THROAT SING
- LOOSEN YOUR JAW: Keep your jaw slack and pushed a bit forward. Your mouth should naturally hang open (as Anna-Maria's does), with your lower teeth a touch in front of your top.
- FLATTEN YOUR TONGUE INTO A BOWL: This is the part that takes the most experimentation. You want your tongue to be a flat, shallow U, with the tip of your tongue down, the bottom of the U resting on the floor of your mouth, and the edges of the U pressed against your molar. The idea is that you're making your mouth into a big, round resonator (like the jug played in jug band).
- GROAN LOW: Make a deep, low tone in your throat and chest (your larynx will really be buzzing).
- WORK YOUR LIPS: Experiment with drawing your lips together into a pucker, like you are going to whistle, and then relaxing them again to the starting position. Work through this slow, and listen for that high, ringing overtone, which will eventually start to quietly peek out of the low, buzzing fundamental. Once you find that overtone, it's just a matter of long, patient practice to refine and control the exact mouth-shape that brings it out.
- PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE—IN PRIVATE!: You'll need to practice and experiment *a lot* to even start to get this done—which is going to annoy the living hell out of anyone you live with. That said, two great practice spaces: The bathroom (natural home to all manner of shameful singing) and while driving alone (the windshield bounces your voice back at you, making it easier to pick out those first, shaky-legged little overtones coming out to greet the world).