Many years ago, a group of singers that included Warren Burt, Deborah Kavasch, Ann Chase, Philip Larson, Edwin Harkins, and Linda Vickerman at the Center for Music Experiment and related research at UC San Diego recorded a Lexicon of Extended Vocal Techniques. This includes various harmonic singing techniques, fries, shakes, clicks, and a host of things that would make the ministry of funny noises proud.
While I was a student at CalArts, Jaqueline Bobak pointed me to this lexicon, and since locating it in their library, I’ve been working on trying to transfer it into a more user-friendly medium than the cassettes and faded index that accompanied our library copy. The lexicon was initially released on tape, but I’ve been working on turning it into samples.
I digitized the various sounds from the tape and have chopped them up into short sound bites, then put them on CDs. I ended up with over 200 separate sound files, and since CDs can only have 99 tracks, they have to go on 3 CDs, even though the size of the audio files would all usually fit on one CD.
I know, I know; singers who can master these techniques would scoff at having them on samples, but I guess it’s part of the labor-intensive lazy man’s digital revolution. So it’s a work in progress; I don’t have commercial aspirations for the samples, especially since I didn’t create the original lexicon, but I do hope it will provide a rich tapestry of “choral” possibilities for experimentation and composition.
If anyone knows any of the original singers, I wonder if they’d be interested in doing anything else with the Lexicon, which as far as I know, is the only resource of its type.
Deborah Kavasch responded to an earlier version of this post on my previous website; I’ve ported her comment below. It sounded as though she has the Lexicon on CD now, though we never managed to follow-up. By the time we’d corresponded, I’d already transferred the audio to digital form and sliced it up into individual examples. I’ve transferred the cassette content to aiff and mp3 format.
Google and the internet has made it a bit easier to find the other participants now too; I include links to their websites, discographies, or bios below as well.
I created a detailed spreadsheet index giving the approximate pitches for each sample and the performer’s name. You can find that spreadsheet here. It gives more specifics for each audio example included below. The pitch and register of each note name is given using alphabetic nomenclature as specified by Hindemith in his “Elementary Training for Musicians” book, pp. 36, 51-52, etc. Flatted notes have a lower case “b” and sharps use a pound sign “#”. If this is unfamiliar to you, you could play corresponding samples, find their pitches on the piano, compare them to the notation, and you should soon understand the relationship between lower and upper-case note-names, as well as their octave designations.
If someone wants to use the sound bytes as samples, proper attention to this registration can help minimize the audible distortion of vocal formants when pitch shifting the files.
Here are some recorded examples of the techniques in performance:
Following is the text that accompanied the cassettes of the Lexicon.
INDEX TO RECORDED LEXICON OF EXTENDED VOCAL TECHNIQUES (1974)
The sounds on this list and its corresponding tape are divided into three categories. In light of further research, some sounds need to be reclassified. This description will include all the original entries but will reflect the updated classification; therefore, the order of their listing may be different.
Each sound source used (vocal folds, lips, tongue, etc.) emits only one fundanental pitch at a time. In some expamples two sound sources may be used simultaneously (e.g. combining a tongue flutter with phonation to produce a voiced tongue flutter) or a single sound source may be codified so as to produce the impression of two discreet pitches (e.g. reinforced harmonics).
Sounds in this category lnclude:
Reinforced harmonics. (A1-8. A20, A31)
The fundamental is produced using Western Art Music phonation (WAMP) without vibrato. (note: in general whenever WAMP is used in this tape, it is without vibrato, so that the various vocal effects can be more easily perceived.) The action of the tongue and/or lips changes the shape of the vocal tract so that individual harmonics present 1n the fundamental are amplified and become audible as discreet pitches. Nasalization dampens the fundamental and allows the harmonics to be more easily heard.
In A20 a rapid movement of the tongue produces the oscillation between harmonics.
In A31 a heavy nasalized falsetto produces a fundamental with very strong high partials.
(It might be mentioned here that the reinforced harmonic technique has been very highly developed 1n some Mongolian music.)
Whistle stop. (A9).
This appears to be the highest of two different kinds of production which produce sounds having a timbral resemblance to whistles. The sensation of producing this sound plus its relative lack of partials indicates that it may be a true glottal whistle.
A10-13, A19, B17-23
The term here means a rapid and periodic interruption of the sung tone which seems to be caused by a series of unvoiced puffs of air (h) or glottal stops. It can be performed both egressively (exhallng) using WAMP or ingressively (inhaling. While ingresive phonation is not often found in singing, it is frequently used in speech, as in the Swedish ingressive “ja”.) The egressive cross register version, which is perfomed in the vicinity of a natural register break, is probably not a true multiphonic; rather, the rapid alternation between two pitches in different registers gives the illusion of multiphonic quality. The whistle stop used here is the lower of the two whistle-like production and appears to be actually phonated, although not in the WAMP manner. (It seems probable that the simple ululation was used as an ornament in the Renaissance: it and the cross register variety are still used for this purpose in some Eastern European and Middle Eastern cultures.)
Also known as glottal scrape, vocal fry is perceived as dry, rather click-like pulses, resembling those generated by the opening of a door with very stiff hinges. The pulse rate is quite controllable; when it is very fast, the pulses merge into a stream that is heard as a discreet pitch. While such pitches are here referred to as being voiced, they may not always be voiced in the conventional phonetic sense. The sensation of the high fry is frequently like that of the “buzz” of the low male voice withaut the rest of that phonation. It seems to be possible to phase the pitched fry into singing phonation without an obvious break, as is demonstrated 1n the ingressive version.
This movement between two pitches can either be performed at a high speed, which makes it appear to be a very wide vibrato, or at a lower speed, which evokes the ideas of a slow yodel. The technique may or may not involve a change in registration. (The shake is used as an ornament in jazz and in some Far Eastern cultures.)
(A21-30, B25, B26, B28, B30, some examples in C1-2)
All these sounds are characterized by a fast and periodic vibration involving one or more articulators. Some are familiar under the name “trill” which was avoided here because it has too many different connotations. The lip squeak is simply a very fast lip trill performed with the lips tightly compressed. Examples cited under Catagory B are not true multiphonics in the present definition of the term, because each source is emitting only one pitch.
Voiced Whistle. (B24)
This is produced by simultaneous WAMP and whistling. The shakes referred to are relatively large, changes in frequency, however WAMP and tongue-produced whistle vibratos can also be independently used.
At least one of the sound sources used in each example is emitting two or more pitches simultaneously. Some examples involve only one source, others involve two sources, one multiphonic in production and the other monophonic (e.g. voiced double lip squeak).
Sounds in this category include:
The term was borrowed from Tibetan Chant, a similar technique (used in certain Tibetan Tantric Buddhist Schools) for singing octave multiphonics together with pronounced individual reinforced harmonics, the whole sounding like a three-note chord. The Tibetans use the low chant version, and the high chant production, with its less noticeable harmonic content, is used ornamentally in jazz and rock singing. The physical sensation together with the perceived quality indicates that the production may involve the combination with light WAMP with vocal fry.
Clottal overpressure. (B5-9, C8, C12)
The sensation of these sounds is like that of the “gravel voice” used by Louis Amstrong and other jazz singers. It is not clear whether all these sounds are true multiphonics; the apparent complexity may also be due to amplitude or frequency modulation.
Forced blown. (B10-13)
Only the egressive versions of this sound, which is produced by exhaling nore than the usual amount of air at higher than usual pressure, belong in this class.
Forced blown. (B14-16)
These ingressive sounds should properly have a class of their own. In all cases. the amount of air inhaled is relatively small and in all but the most complex examples, the vocal fold resistance is relatively light. The sensation is not unlike that of ingressive vocal fry.
Multiphonic buzzes and Squeaks. (B27 and Parts of C1-2)
In these examples at least one sound source used is producing two or more pitches.
The sounds in this category are not classified according to actual discreet pitch production, because that is not a particularly important parameter of them. They rather represent miscellaneous vocal effects, most of which (C3-7, C10-11) are easily recognized in terms of production if one listens to the tape. The remaining two perhaps merit specific mention.
Tongue squish. (C9)
This is produced by arching the middle of the tongue while keeping the tip down so as to create a reservoir of air which is then forcefully expelled by lowering the tongue.
Water Drop. (C13)
This is produced by closing the glottis and gently tapping the cheek while moving the tongue rapidly and forcefully from the (u) to the (i) position.
Ensemble photos from Edwin Harkins UCSD page:
https://fishcreekmusic.com/composer-bios/deborah-kavasch/ (Turlock address on this page)
Department of Theatre & Dance
UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive MC0344
La Jolla, CA 92093-0344
Office: GH 136
Phone: (858) 822-2667
Center for Music Experiment and Related Research
UC San Diego
Center for Music Experiment: Creating a Digital Collection
Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble Google Search:
Meredith Monk – Turtle Dreams (shot by Ping Chong), fixed audio