Olga Podluzhnaya presents from 1:11 biphonation, a unique two-part singing technique. Actually, biphonation is a vocal disorder. It is assumed that the left and right vocal cords vibrate at different frequencies . But here it is an artistic intention and certainly not pathological.

I did a sound analysis of my favorite part at 1:30 to 1:36. There you can see unusual things: the two tones produced at the same time have a gap of 324 cents between the major and minor thirds. This interval does not occur in the overtone series. So it’s really two separate sounds. But they have far too many overtones. The expected overtones are laid over the spectrogram as a diagram. And these can also be seen in the spectrum. But there are still more overtones in between, which cannot come from the two fundamental tones. I don’t have an explanation. Anybody have an idea?

I. WILDEN, H. HERZEL. 1998. Subharmonics, biphonation, and chaos in mammal vocalisation. Bioacoustics 9, Nr. 3: 171–196. http://doi.org/10.1080/09524622.1998.9753394, .

Simon Grant, former bass and mouth percussionist of Swingle Singers, whistles and sings highly virtuosic the final movement of the 2nd Orchestral Suite in B Minor (BWV 1067), Badinerie, by Johann Sebastian Bach. Ward Swingle, the founder, director and composer of the ensemble, had written a famous version fo Bach’s Badinerie for choir a cappella. Grant sings it here virtually alone. Anyway, he was very creative with his voice. He was one of the first people to introduce mouth percussion in a cappella music  (as beatboxing only arose).

In March 2015 I was invited by Tobias Hug, Grant’s successor at the Swingle Singers, to hold a lecture on innovation in choral music. On this occasion we also talked about variants of overtone singing, which Tobias masters too. He drew my attention to this fantastic craft of his singer colleague and sent me this recording.

I am often asked whether overtone singing is a kind of whistling and singing. No, overtone singing is not a whistle, as you can hear the difference in the recording. Whistling uses air turbulence on the lips for producing sound, while overtone singing brings the voice partials in resonance. But whistling uses similar resonance chambers to adjust the pitch.