Liberal Arts Blog — Musical Exotica, Esoterica: “Overtone Singing,” “Throat Singing,” “Multiphonic Singing”

John Muresianu
4 min readSep 16


Liberal Arts Blog — Thursday is the Joy of Music Day

Today’s Topic: Musical Exotica, Esoterica: “Overtone Singing,” “Throat Singing,” “Multiphonic Singing”

Today, a little detour from my usual focus on music with a wide audience (eg. Taylor Swift, the Beatles, Bach). This is definitely out of my league, out of my comfort zone, and beyond my pay grade. But here goes. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.


Humans don’t have a “syrinx” like birds do but they can unbundle the overtones inherent in each note they produce.

1. This is called “overtone singing,” “harmonic singing, or “multiphonic” singing.

2. The key is changing the dimensions and the shape of the resonant cavities of the mouth and the throat.

3. “It is thought that the art of overtone singing originated in southwestern Mongolia in today’s Khovid Province and Govi Altai region. Nowadays, overtone singing is found throughout the country and Mongolia is often considered the most active center of overtone singing in the world.”


Pachelbel’s Canon — Overtone Singing

BRAHMS LULLABY,vid:5pviBr32pB0,st:0

WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON — acoustic illusion or “acoustic disillusionment” — an unmasking of the hidden complexity of the miracle of the human voice

1. “Overtones are a natural part of the voice. They are always present in the voice. A normal vocal sound consists of a bundle of partials.”

2. “This bundle forms a special harmonic partial-tone chord, which we normally hear as a single note with a timbre. The timbre is created by the volume distribution of the partials.”

3. “If an overtone becomes much louder than its neighbours, it will suddenly be perceived as a separate tone. This is exactly what happens with overtone singing. Extreme “vowels” are used, which are not found in the language.”

NB: “Overtone singing is in a way an acoustic illusion, because in fact only one note is sung, but because of an extreme “pronunciation” it sounds like two notes. But one could also say that it is an acoustic disillusionment: the tone consists of many tones, and now we hear at least two of them, the keynote and the amplified overtone.”

THE WORLD MAP OF OVERTONE SINGING — it’s not just Mongolians!

1. South Africa: “mngqokolo of the Xhosa women is polyphonic.”

2. Papua New Guinea: Dani tribe.

3. Sardinia: “canto a tenore”

FOOTNOTE — the Anatomy 0f It

polyphonic overtone singing — explained visually by Anna-Maria Hefele

Overtone singing — Wikipedia

polyphonic overtone singing — by Anna-Maria Hefele

What is Overtone Singing? — I love overtone singing — Wolfgang Saus

Explore the World of Throat Singing, Overtone Singing, and Other Multiphonic Vocal Techniques

Mongolian Throat Singing With My Daughter

Incredible Zulu click language — The ultimate tongue twister.

Sylbo, The Last Speakers of the Lost Whistling Language | TIME

Mongolian Overtone Singer , the most spetacular singer you ever see.

Overtone Singing

The Lady & The Cat — Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Cante jondo — Wikipedia

Built to Sing: The Syrinx of the Northern Cardinal | Bird Academy • The Cornell Lab

Syrinx (bird anatomy) — Wikipedia

British Library


“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

My spin — then periodically review, re-rank, and exchange your list with those you love. I call this the “Orion Exchange” because seven is about as many as any human can digest at a time. Game?



#1 A graphic guide to justice (9 metaphors on one page).

#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, (11/17/20)

#3 Israel-Palestine Handout


Time to share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to music. Or the coolest thing you learned in your life related to music. Say your favorite song or songs. Or your favorite tips for breathing, posture, or relaxation. Or some insight into the history of music….Or just something random about music… like a joke about drummers. jazz, rock….or share an episode or chapter in your musical autobiography.

This is your chance to make some one else’s day. And perhaps to cement in your memory something important you would otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than you otherwise would about something that matters to you.



John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.