At the end of March, Danny Becher gave a much appreciated workshop on overtone singing and sound therapy at the �ngsbacka Center in V�rmland. Besides his own voice, he uses Tibetan and Thai bowls as well as gongs to call forth the mysterious and calming powers of music. "All music has a special influence on us," says Danny Becher, who has spent a good twenty years investigating how we are affected by music. "Not only on our consciousness but on a physical level as well." ���� He demonstrated that sound affects and organizes physical substances by drawing a bow at right angles to a metal plate covered with sand.
Depending on what tone is produced, different patters appeared in the sand. These are called Chlandi figures after the man who first discovered this phenomenon (see AO 4-96). During the course he encouraged us to feel different tones and music in our bodies, asking us: "How does a composition by Bach feel, compared with something light, or with extreme music like punk and heavy metal?" ���� Giving people the possibility to train themselves to listen and "feel into" sound, and making them conscious of the possibilities of music and the voice to affect us, is a large part of Danny Becher�s work. During the course he taught us to sing overtones and feel into the qualities of different sounds.
We toned and felt where in the body we felt the different vowels most. Did the sound evoke anything emotionally, and if so, what? Could we describe what we experienced? " When you sing, the high frequencies of the overtones result in a vibratory self-massage of the internal organs. Through the vibrations of this inner sound, the body harmonizes itself," says Danny Becher. ���� Just by singing one tone at a time and sounding different vowels, one becomes able with a little practice to distinguish the overtones that are generated.
In his book How it becomes music (S� blir det musik), Sixten Nordstr�m writes the following: " What we normally call a note is hardly ever a simple tone but a harmony of many tones. But what we hear is the ground tone, the lowest tone. The rest of the note, its component part-tones/overtones, give color to the note, give it its character. .
. . the construction of the sound source / instrument as well as how the tone is produced have great significance for which overtones will be predominant." It was in India, where Danny went at the age of twenty to study yoga, philosophy and music, that he first came in contact with overtone singing. He started taking singing lessons there, and in the course of these studies came to feel that he should concentrate on rhythm to understand the complex structure of the music.
" It is very interesting to study rhythm, because rhythmic structures are everywhere. Our life cycle, for example, moves in a rhythmic structure, and even woven patterns are an example of it," he maintains. ���� In the song training, he had to sing single notes and concentrate on their effects. This led to his discovering that overtones not only give the voice a particular tonal color, but that all sounds have a particular effect on the body.
" This is what I find the most interesting," Danny Becher emphasizes, and then goes on to tell how overtone singing is distributed in the world. " Traditions with overtone singing exist in many different cultures. Traditional Mongolian overtone singing is used in a melodic, folkloric way. And in all shamanic traditions where sound is used for healing or for transforming consiousness, you can hear overtones.
The shamans� way of using the voice generates many overtones. You can hear overtones in Japanese Shinto Buddhism when texts are recited, and within the Buddhist tradition in Tibet, the Bon sect has specialized in this way of singing. They sing very deeply, generating undertones as well as overtones. The undertones have a powerfully gounding effect, as if the sound were coming straight from the interior of the earth, in contrast to overtones, where we are listening "on high".
There, concentration moves upward, as in the tradition of Gregorian chant, where the underlying ideas in the religious songs are already directing conciousness toward the higher world." We were able to listen to recordings from different overtone traditions during the course, so we could compare and get a sense of the various techniques. ���� We even listened to the melodies of the planets -- each one has its own -- on recordings produced by the Max Plank Institut in Bonn. It is possible to order your musical horoscope, based on these planetary sounds, from the Astrophonic Institute in Munich. ���� As well as his voice, Danny Becker uses metal bowls, which vibrate when they are struck with a quality of sound that is totally different from the voice�s.
"The history of Tibetan bowls, like that of other bowls from traditions in Nepal, India and Thailand, isn�t so easy to find out about. There isn�t much written about them. The bowls are used the way we use church bells, to focus attention on something that is to come, a prayer, a moment of silence or a meditation. The difference between the overtones from bowls compared with those from a voice lies in the sound quality.
The bowls are metallic instruments with a complete overtone scale. Used properly, their sounds can give nourishment to the body through their harmonic vibrations. Some of the large bowls can reverberate up to five minutes after being struck. If you listen to this sound, it has a calming effect which is ideal for stress management." On Saturday evening, Danny Becher gave a completely improvised mini-concert in which he combined the gentle tones of the bowls with the soft rhythms of a small African thumb piano.
���� In the concerts he gives across Europe, he uses bowls, gongs, his voice, and possibly other instruments to suit the occasion. He prefers churches for his concerts because their good acoustics favor the creation of overtones. ���� Danny Becher works in both one-to-one and group settings with people ranging from preschool children to adult choirs, among others. He recently gave a course in Stockhom for speech teacher.
Their work can go better when they know how to listen for the overtones in a voice they are going to treat, are able to hear where there is a leak in the voice, and know how to counteract it. In individual sessions, Danny Becher listens for whether or not the voice has good resonance. "It is very simple to listen to the resonance of the overtones and hear whether there is any leak in what we could call the energy inside the person�s body. After this diagnosis I know how the person should train his or her voice to get better resonance in the body." Danny also regularly gives concerts at institutions for severely handicapped people.
He calls these therapeutic concerts. His choice of bowls depends on the acoustics of the place and the people who come there to listen. The bowls cannot cure, but they create a sphere that offers an interlude of relaxation and peace. "There are patients who are so aggressive that they come to the concert in a straightjacket, but after the experience of the music they can be calm up to two days." ���� A deaf girl who came for private lessons listened "with her skin" when she was to sing after Danny Becher.
"She sang very beautifully, and sometimes she had better control of her voice than a person with normal hearing. She knew immediately when she went off, and she could quickly find the right note again by trying a little higher or lower. This has to do with the resonance between the two notes. If they are in unison, a very harmonious vibration is generated, and if they aren�t, there is a disharmonic vibration.
The deaf girl felt this by listening with her body." ���� People with hearing can also learn to feel sound with the body, says Danny Becher, who maintains that our voice is a power source. " First and foremost, I try to inspire people to listen carefully. Everyone has a voice, everyone can sing. Overtones are not the only thing, singing normally is good, too.
Sometimes I advise people not to sing overtones but to concentrate on the simple way of singing. Later, you can work with overtines to give the voice more color. "By listening to overtones you experience improved concentration, articulation and hearing. You could say that we are listening into another dimension, a dimension that is always there but we are usually unaware of." Read more on Last.fm.
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