Whistling and singing at the same time – Badinerie by JS Bach

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.

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