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Wikimedia Commons

How Kongar-ol Ondar Sang Two Notes at Once

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

This week the world of Tuvan throat singing lost one of its greats, when Kongar-ol Ondar died after suffering a brain hemorrhage. Ondar played a large role in popularizing the multi-note singing tradition of Tuva, a Russian republic bordering on Mongolia. He had performed internationally over the last 20 years, once appearing on David Letterman’s show, and was featured in Genghis Blues, the 1999 documentary film that followed the journey of American blues musician Paul Pena as he travelled to Tuva to meet and perform with Ondar.

There are a number of different styles of Tuvan throat singing. One of its most notable techniques allows the singer to produce 2, 3, or even 4 notes at once. In this video of Ondar you can hear a low, steady tone, overlaid with a melody of high, almost whistling notes.

What you hear in Tuvan throat singing is a deft manipulation of the complex properties of sound waves. When anyone produces a sound, the vibration of the vocal cords creates a sound wave that is perceived as pitch. Slower vibration=slower sound wave=lower pitch. Faster vibration=faster sound wave=higher pitch. But in addition to the main sound wave—what we perceive as the note—there are harmonics, smaller sound waves produced at 2, 3, 4, 5 times the speed of the main one. Since they are tightly synched with the main wave, we don’t hear them as different notes, but they do add to our perception of the overall quality of a voice.

Throat singers use their vocal cords to make a low frequency sound wave and then use their lips, tongue, velum, jaw, and other parts of the oral and nasal cavities to isolate the harmonics above that frequency so they can be heard. They find ways to bounce the waves so that they break through to our perception. Ondar and the tradition he was part of took something that was always in the air, unnoticed by us, and brought it to our attention. He helped us hear the world a little better.

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How to Perform the Star Wars Theme—On Calculators
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

The iconic Star Wars theme has been recreated with glass harps, theremins, and even cat meows. Now, Laughing Squid reports that the team over at YouTube channel It’s a small world have created a version that can be played on calculators.

The channel’s math-related music videos feature covers of popular songs like Luis Fonsi’s "Despacito," Ed Sheeran’s "Shape of You," and the Pirates of the Caribbean theme, all of which are performed on two or more calculators. The Star Wars theme, though, is played across five devices, positioned together into a makeshift keyboard of sorts.

The video begins with a math-musician who transcribes number combinations into notes. Then, they break into an elaborate practice chord sequence on two, and then four, calculators. Once they’re all warmed up, they begin playing the epic opening song we all know and love, which you can hear for yourself in all its electronic glory below.

[h/t Laughing Squid]

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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