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Elife. 2020 Feb 12;9. pii: e50476. doi: 10.7554/eLife.50476. [Epub ahead of print]

Overtone focusing in biphonic Tuvan throat singing.

Author information

1
Physics and Astronomy, York University, Toronto, Canada.
2
Languages, Literatures and Linguistics, York University, Toronto, Canada.
3
York MRI Facility, York University, Toronto, Canada.
4
Biology, Western University, London, Canada.
5
Psychology, York University, Toronto, Canada.
6
National Military Audiology and Speech Pathology Center, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, United States.
7
Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, United States.

Abstract

Khoomei is a unique singing style originating from the Central Asian republic of Tuva. Singers produce two pitches simultaneously: a booming low-frequency rumble alongside a hovering high-pitched whistle-like tone. The biomechanics of this biphonation are not well-understood. Here, we use sound analysis, dynamic magnetic resonance imaging, and vocal tract modeling to demonstrate how biphonation is achieved by modulating vocal tract morphology. Tuvan singers show remarkable control in shaping their vocal tract to narrowly focus the harmonics (or overtones) emanating from their vocal cords. The biphonic sound is a combination of the fundamental pitch and a focused filter state, which is at the higher pitch (1-2 kHz) and formed by merging two formants, thereby greatly enhancing sound-production in a very narrow frequency range. Most importantly, we demonstrate that this biphonation is a phenomenon arising from linear filtering rather than a nonlinear source.

KEYWORDS:

human; physics of living systems

PMID:
32048990
DOI:
10.7554/eLife.50476
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