“Ode to Joy”, overtone singing by Wolfgang Saus inside an MRI.

This spectacular dynamic MRI video shows how the tongue moves during overtone singing. The melody of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” is created by double resonances which are shaped by the tongue in the mouth and throat. Overtone singing is based on the combination of the second and third resonance frequencies of the vocal tract on a single frequency to increase the volume of a single overtone from the vocal sound.

The second resonance frequency is controlled by the base of the tongue along with the epiglottis. The third resonance frequency is regulated by the space under the tongue, which is larger than it appears in the video, because it also spreads to the side of the tongue frenulum, which covers the space in the image. Overtone singing requires constant fine tuning of the two resonance chambers.

It is not easy to sing in the very loud magnetic resonance tomograph and even record the sound. The noise level is so high that I had to wear hearing protection and couldn’t hear my own overtones. I had to sing by feeling. That the right melody came out is spectacular in itself. It shows that it is possible to develop a body feeling for the exact pitch of the resonances that also works without acoustic control through the ear.

The team in Freiburg has developed highly specialized equipment for recording and filtering. Of course the sound is not HiFi.

MRT footage with kind permission and a big thank you to:
University Hospital Freiburg
Clinic for Radiology – Medical Physics & Institute for Music Medicine
Prof. Dr. Bernhard Richter
Prof. Dr. Dr. Jürgen Hennig
Prof. Dr. Matthias Echternach
(c) 2015

Gene Shinozaki voice-performes his own composition Home in YouTube Space New York. The new generation of beatboxers starts using the formats purposefully – the art of western overtone singinger of the 2nd generation.

Christopher Vila is the inventor and manufacturer of this ravishing music instrument, that leads you in a deep self-forgetfulness when you play it, what you can still feel as a listener:  Cosmicbow.

In the video, he demonstrates an incredible control of the first and second formant, by playing two independent melodies simultaneously with both resonances. He controls the deeper overtone with the anterior mouth, the high harmonics are determined mainly by the position of the epiglottis and the root of the tongue.

This skill is an example of how much music is yet to be discovered in our vocal resonance cavities alone. A reference to the vocal Phonetics is interesting, in which also a control of the formants is required to enable the brilliance and load-bearing capacity of the voice, which is required for classical singing. I can recommend any classical singer to play around with the Cosmicbow for a while.