The voice is the musical instrument with which we are most familiar. And yet it is possible to create sounds with it that were previously completely unknown, best to observe in the beatbox community or the art of vocal live sync innitiated by the Umbilical Brothers. Only the fusion of cultural techniques, our noisy environment and a broader general acceptance are giving rise to sounds that were anatomically possible more than fifty thousand years ago
As a kid i stumbled across a written mention of some exotic people who were able to sing two or even multiple tones simultaneously, no further clues or audio within my reach but deeply impressed. Not much later, a book about the physics of sound fell into my hands. Now armed with the explanation that each vowel and sound color is composed of many layered frequencies, i was – and still am – immersed in a life-defining expedition.
Later, when i first heard records of Tuvan folk music, i realized the need to further develop an approach of my own. This powerful and otherworldly sound demands respect, simply imitating it is pointless and, at least to me, indistinguishably from cultural robbery. At that time, while still studying jazz saxophone, my ears became ready for the formerly neglected traditional songs of my european roots, especially German and Scandinavian.
No other instrument is limited this way – two melodic lines interdependend by the few intervalls of the harmonic series. To sing even the simplest of our Western melodies with the overtones of a single fundamental, as the Tuvans do with theirs, just don’t work. So it was again a years-long process to entangle these two cultures.
Moving both lines was the challenge of the impossible and the key to musical freedom in one.
The next task was already just around the corner. While trying out different habitats for my new instrument, I keep coming across singing techniques of different styles, genres and origins: belcanto of course, various throat sounds, glottal stops, yodel, ululation, growls and screams… How can they be merged into a bigger picture of the human voice and how can these very different moods and expressions be consistently integrated into an evening?