Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)

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See Reaching over.

Overspun [overwound, wirewound] string.

String with a core of gut or metal that is wound round along its length with a coil or coils of a (relatively thin) ductile wire to increase its mass without substantially increasing stiffness. In non-keyboard string instruments gut cores are generally overspun with aluminium or silver. The steel core bass strings of the modern piano are completely covered with copper, but in some early pianos, spaced brass windings on a brass core string were used. (See String.)


Overstrung [cross-strung].

A term applied to a piano in which the strings are arranged in two nearly parallel planes, with the bass strings passing diagonally over those in the middle range. Both groups may thus fan out over the soundboard and make more effective use of its entire area. Because of the fanning out of the long bass strings and their diagonal orientation, an overstrung grand piano has a characteristically wide tail compared with that of a straight-strung instrument, in which the strings do not fan out and the bass strings run entirely to the left of the treble strings (see Pianoforte, fig.28, 29).



See Ouvert.

Overton, Hall

(b Bangor, MI, 23 Feb 1920; d New York, 24 Nov 1972). American composer. He began his music studies in Grand Rapids, Michigan, composing an overture and a polytonal orchestral piece while still in high school. He pursued studies in counterpoint with Gustav Dunkelberger (1940–42) and in composition with Persichetti at the Juilliard School (1947–51); later he took private lessons with Riegger and Milhaud. Serving overseas in the US Army (1942–5), he developed remarkable skill in jazz improvisation and later appeared with such jazz musicians as Getz, Pettiford, Teddy Charles, and Jimmy Rainey; he also made arrangements for the Thelonious Monk Orchestra and contributed to Down Beat and Jazz Today. His own music was deeply influenced by jazz but without his trying to make jazz ‘respectable’ through the unnatural imposition of classical forms or materials. He taught at Juilliard (1960–71), the New School, New York (1962–6), and the Yale School of Music (1970–71). Among his many honours were two Guggenheim Fellowships (1955, 1957), a BMI award (1962), and the combined award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1964).


(selective list)

Dramatic: The Enchanted Pear Tree (op buffa, 4 scenes, J. Thompson, after Boccaccio: Decameron), 1950; Nonage (ballet), 1951; The New Look is the Anxious Look (film score), 1960; Pietro’s Petard (chbr op, 1, R. DeMaria), 1963; Huckleberry Finn (op, 2, Overton, J. Stampfer, after M. Twain), New York, May 1971

Orch: Sym. Movt, 1950; Sym. no.1, str, 1955; Concertino, vn, str, 1958; Sym. no.2, 1962; Dialogues, chbr orch, 1963; Interplay, 1964; Sonorities, 1964; Rhythms, vn, orch, 1965; Pulsations, chbr orch, 1972

Chbr and solo inst: Str Qt no.1, 1950; Str Qt no.2, 1967; Sonatina, vn, hpd, 1956; Fantasy, brass qnt, pf, perc, 1957; Str Trio, 1957; Polarities no.1, pf, 1959; Sonata, va, pf, 1960; Sonata, vc, pf, 1960; Pf Sonata, 1963; Processional, brass qt, perc, 1965; Str Qt no.3, 1967; Polarities no.2, pf, 1971; other pf and chbr pieces

Vocal: Captivity (G. Chaucer), male vv; 3 Elizabethan Songs (B. Jonson), S, pf, 1953; other songs

Principal publishers: ACA, Peters


J.T. Howard: Our American Music: Three Hundred Years of it (New York, 1929, enlarged 4/1965 as Our American Music: a Comprehensive History from 1620 to the Present)

D. Cohen: ‘The Music of Hall Overton’, ACAB, x/4 (1962), 8–12

W. Mellers: Music in a New Found Land (London, 1964/R)

G. Green: ‘Current Chronicle’, MQ, lvii (1971), 659–64 [analysis of Va Sonata]



One of the frequency components of a sound other than that of lowest frequency. Usually overtones are numbered consecutively in ascending order of frequency; they need not be harmonic. See Harmonics and Sound, §5.


Overtone-singing [throat-singing, chant biphonique, chant diphonique, höömii].

A vocal style in which a single performer produces more than one clearly audible note simultaneously. In melodic overtone-singing styles, a drone is produced on the first harmonic or fundamental and a flute-like melody created from a series of upper harmonics or overtones. In non-melodic styles, overtones may occur because of the pitch of the fundamental drone combined with the vocal sounds being enunciated, for instance when Mongols sing the bass overtone-singing style harhiraa höömii or Tibetan dge lugs pa monks in Gyume and Gyütö monasteries chant using a profound bass in the chest register. Overtone-singing may also comprise a rich tapestry of harmonics without the presence of a drone.

1. History, locations and contexts.

Myths of origin vary. Tuvans believe that overtone-singing originates in lullabies sung by women dating back to the time when humans first inhabited the earth, or that it originates in the environment; Khalkha Mongols cite musical communications between natural phenomena and the effects of such sounds on humans. Both Tuvans and Mongols generally refute connections posited by Europeans of its relationship with Shamanism, Buddhism or the jew's harp. Given their beliefs about the spirits of nature, however, overtone-singing may traditionally have been linked to folk-religious practices.

Indigenous overtone-singing is found predominantly among the Turco-Mongol peoples of Inner Asia, the nomadic pastoralists of the Republic of Tyva (see Tuvan music) and Mongolia (see Mongol music), and the Khakassians and Gorno Altais of southern Siberia. Tuvans, Khakassians and Gorno Altais live across the northern border of west Mongolia, where overtone-singing is traditionally performed by Western Khalkha, Bait, Torgut and Altai Urianghai Mongols. A style of overtone-singing (uzliau) is also performed by the Bashkirs, a Turkic-speaking people from the Ural mountains. Isolated examples have been found in other parts of the world, for instance among the Xhosa speakers of South Africa and the Gogo of central Tanzania. A single example recorded in Rajasthan in 1967 is thought to be imitating either the satara double flute or the jew's harp. It is Mongolian and Tuvan overtone-singing that has become particularly well known in recent years.

Traditionally, both Mongols and Tuvans use overtone-singing in a range of different contexts including lulling babies to sleep, calling yaks or camels while herding, and luring wild animals during the hunt. Occasionally it is used in formal contexts such as during wedding celebrations. Mongols sometimes accompany themselves with the morin Huur, Tuvans with the toshpulur, shanzy, byzaanchi, balalaikaor the horse-head fiddle. Until the communist period, overtone-singing was performed only by men, which is explained by Mongols in terms of the bodily strength required and by Tuvans in terms of its effects on fertility. Under communism, the gendered performance of songs and instruments was changed.

Over the cusp of the new millennium, overtone-singing has been increasingly assimilated by Westerners into a New Age collage of spiritual and alternative beliefs about nature, the earth and spirituality. It has been used in a range of different musical genres. In Stimmung, the first major Western classical composition to be based entirely on vocal harmonics, Karlheinz Stockhausen was inspired by ‘a range of Mexican gods and magical forces’. Similarly, David Hykes relates the overtones of his New York-based Harmonic Choir to ‘solar winds’, ‘gravity waves’ and the ‘flight of the sun’. Overtone-singing has become popular as a sonic icon of the ‘other’ among ethnic and World music enthusiasts. In indigenous contexts, overtone-singing was elevated into an ‘art form’, became part of ‘national’ and ‘international’ Soviet repertories, and was taught in schools under communism. In Tuva, Xunashtaar-ool, who died in 1993, was said to perform ‘in the classical style’ and in Mongolia Sundui is considered to be the founder of the ‘modern classical form’. Partly in order to reclaim and reinvent traditions and beliefs in post-Soviet times and partly to secure a niche in world music and global culture, local overtone-singers are reinvesting overtone-singing with spiritual aspects (Pegg, 2001).

2. Styles.

In general, Tuvan styles of overtone-singing are pitched much lower than Mongolian styles.

Aksenov (1964) identified four basic Tuvan styles within the xöömii genre – kargiraa, borbannadir, ezenggileer and sygyt – but noted that in some regions xöömej was used to refer to borbannadir. More recently it has been suggested that xöömej is the oldest style, originating from the lullaby, as well as giving its name to the genre.

Styles and substyles are proliferating partly because of the individuality of renowned performers, such as Mongush Mergen and Kajgal-ool Xovalyg, and partly because of increased interest and research. Kargiraa has many substyles: xov- or steppe kargiraa (characterized by long flowing lines); dag- or mountain kargiraa (also called kozhakar kargiraa); chelbig-kargiraa (which uses a birch tree leaf as a fan); ün- or ‘throat’ kargiraa; öpej- or ‘lullaby’ kargiraa; chilangit, Stil Oidupa, xörek-kargiaazi and dumchukargiraazi. Other recently-discovered styles and substyles include kanzyr (without bourdon), chilandyk (a combination of sygyt and kargiraa), dunchuktaar (‘through the nose’; used in combination with sygyt, kargiraa and xöömej); xorekteer(a bourdonless melody used in between overtone-singing sections in sygytand kargira styles; when performed in a low register it is called xörekkargirazi) and tsepeng khoomei (sygyt with fast tremolo-like notes characteristic of borhangnadir).

In Mongolia, styles and methods vary according to ethnicity and the ability of individual performers. Bait Mongol helnii üg (root of the tongue) style corresponds to Western Khalkha bagalzuuryn or hooloin(‘glottal’ or ‘throat’) höömii. Some have styles peculiar to their group, for instance, Altai Urianghais perform hargiawith the hand cupped to the mouth and only Kazakhs perform ‘tooth höömii’ (shüdnii höömii).

The musician Tserendavaa and the music scholar Badraa identified seven types of Western Khalkha höömii, six of which use overtones to produce a ‘melodic whistle’ (uyangiin isgeree). These are as follows: labial (uruulyn) – fundamental ‘e’ (167–8 Hz), range of overtones in Helmholtz pitch notation b''–c''''; palatal (tagnain) – fundamental ‘e’ (167–8 Hz), range b''–c''''; nasal (hamryn) – fundamental ‘f’ (182–3 Hz), range c'''–c''''; glottal, throat (bagalzuuryn, hooloin) – fundamental ‘e’ (170 Hz), range, b''–b''''; chest cavity, stomach (tseejiin höndiin, hevliin) – ‘a’ (214–15 Hz), range e'''–e''''; and ‘with türleg’ (türlegt) – fundamental g (202–3 Hz), range d'''–d''''.

In performance of labial and palatal höömii, Tserendavaa employed a single lively overtone melody but used a second more reflective melody for nasal, chest cavity and glottal höömii. His use of the seventh and eleventh partials as auxiliary rather than structural notes supports the suggestion that overtones were selected in accordance with the collection of five pitches typical of Mongolian traditional music (ex.1). Türlegt höömii, called hosmoljin höömii by Mongolian researchers, combines speaking, singing, humming, long-song melodies and the other five melodic höömii types.

The seventh type, harhiraa, produces overtones but does not attempt to create melodies with them. It requires a deep bass voice that can reach a fundamental drone at least as low as B producing melodic overtones within the range b''–g''''.

Training methods include holding a cup to the mouth to provide an echo (ayagaar deveh, literally ‘to fan by means of a cup’) and performing against the wind (salhny ögsüür höömiilöh). Traditionally, learning is by example and imitation.

3. Musical, acoustical and physiological analyses.

The multiphonic quality of sound and rich textures of overtone-singing have led to diverse scholarly attempts to represent its production and essence. Musical transcriptions usually represent the fundamental drone and overtone melody for different styles rather than notate any additional harmonics.

Acoustical analyses seek to explain the mechanisms through which the vocalist reinforces harmonics in order to make them discernible as individual pitches. Using the acoustic theory of speech production together with methods including video fluoroscopy (motion X-ray) and nasoendoscopy (imaging the vocal folds using a miniature camera), it has been demonstrated that singers do this by changing the shape of the vocal tract to align the frequency of a resonance or ‘formant’ with that of a harmonic. Physiological techniques used to achieve this include manipulating the vocal folds and glottis in the larynx; moving other organs, such as the ‘false folds’, arytenoid cartilages, aryepiglottic folds and the epiglottic root in the vocal tract; modifying the volume of the mouth and vocal tract by moving the jaws backwards and forwards, changing the shape of the lips (including enunciating vowels) and altering the thickness or position of the tongue (see Acoustics, §VI, 5(vii)).

Frequency-spectra have been used to show the effects of labial movements on the amplitude of overtones – as the performer's lips close during uruulyn höömii for instance, the overtones become softer. Spectograms and sonograms have indicated the presence of two, three and sometimes four voices in Mongolian, Tuvan, Tibetan and South African overtone-singing as well as that performed by Westerners.

Physiological research has yet to take on board the potentially damaging effects that overtone-singing might have on the body. Mongols stress that there are physical dangers in the learning and performance of höömiiand höömii performers cite a number of potential injuries including loss of consciousness, burst blood vessels around the eyes and the inability to swallow because of a damaged larynx. These are more likely to be a result of performing the more difficult styles, such hamryn and türlegt höömii. Tuvans consider the ezenggileer style, which involves fast tongue movements, difficult to perform.


and other resources

O.J. Mänchen-Helfen: Reise ins asiatische Tuwa (Berlin, 1931; Eng. trans., 1992)

A.N. Aksenov: Tuvinskaia narodnaia muzyka [Tuvin folk music] (Moscow, 1964)

H. Smith and K.N. Stevens: ‘Unique Vocal Abilities of Certain Tibetan Lamas’, American Anthropologist, lxix/2 (1967), 209–12

L. Vargyas: ‘Performing Styles in Mongolian Chant’, JIFMC, xx (1968), 70–72

E. Leipp: ‘Le problème acoustique du chant diphonique’, Bulletin du groupe d'acoustique musicale, no.58 (1971), 1–10

A.N. Aksenov: ‘Tuvin Folk Music’, AsM, iv/2 (1973), 7–18

R. Walcott: ‘The chöömij of Mongolia: a Spectral Analysis of Overtone Singing’, Selected Reports in Ethnomusicology, ii/1 (1974), 54–60

Batzengel: ‘Urtyn duu, xöömij, and morin xuur’, Musical Voices of Asia: Tokyo 1978, 52–3

S. Gunji: ‘An Acoustical Consideration of xöömij’, ibid., 135–9

Trân Quang Hai and D. Guillou: ‘Original Research and Acoustical Analysis in Connection with the xöömij Style of Biphonic Singing’, ibid., 162–73

S.I. Vainshtein: ‘A Musical Phenomenon Born in the Steppes’, Soviet Archaeology and Anthropology, xviii/3 (1979–80), 68–81

V.T. Maslov and B.P. Chernov: ‘The Secret of a “Solo Duet”’, ibid., 82–6

L. Harvilahti: ‘A Two Voiced Song with no Words’, Suomalais-ugrilaisen seuran aikakauskirja, lxxviii (1983), 43–56

L. Harvilahti and H. Kaskinen: ‘On the Application Possibilities of Overtone Singing’, Suomen antropologi i Finland, iv (1983), 249–55

D.W. Hughes: ‘The Historical Uses of Nonsense: Vowel-Pitch Solfege from Scotland to Japan’, Ethnomusicology and the Historical Dimension, ed. M. Leith Philipp (Ludwigsberg, 1989), 3–18

G. Léothaud: ‘Considérations acoustiques et musicales sur le chant diphonique’, Le chant diphonique (Limoges, 1989), 17–51

J.-P. Pailler: ‘Examins vidéo du larynx de la cavité buccale de Monsieur Trân Quang Hai’, ibid., 11–14

J.-P. Sauvage: ‘Observation clinique de Monsieur Trân Quang Hai’, ibid., 3–10

H. Zemp and Trân Quang Hai, producers: Le chant des harmoniques (Paris, 1989) [16mm film]

D. Dargie: ‘Umngqokolo: Xhosa Overtone Singing and the Song “Nondel'ekhaya”’, AfM, vii/1 (1991), 33–47

Trân Quang Hai and H. Zemp: ‘Recherches expérimentales sur le chant diphonique’, Cahiers de musiques traditionnelles 4: voix (Geneva, 1991), 27–68

C.A. Pegg: ‘Le chant des harmoniques – The Song of Harmonics’, YTM, xxiv (1992), 192–4

C.A. Pegg: ‘Mongolian Conceptualizations of Overtone Singing (xöömii)’, British Journal of Ethnomusicology, i (1992), 31–55

M. van Tongeren: ‘Xöömej’ in Tuva: New Developments, New Dimensions (diss., U. of Amsterdam, 1994)

M. van Tongeren: ‘A Tuvan Perspective on Throat Singing’, Oideion: the Performing Arts Worldwide, ii (1995), 293–312

T.C. Levin and M.E. Edgerton: ‘The Throat Singers of Tuva’, Scientific American (1999)

C.A. Pegg: Mongolian Music, Song and Oral Narrative: Performing Diverse Identities (Seattle and London, 2001)


Chants mongols et bouriates, Vogue LDM 30138 (1973) [with notes]

Voyage en URRS vol.10 Sibérie: extrême Orient, extrême nord, Le Chant du monde LDX 74010 (1985)

Tuva: Voices from the Centre of Asia, Smithsonian/Folkways SF40017 (1990) [incl. notes]

Mongolia: Traditional Music, Auvidis D 8207 (1991)

Mongolia: höömii and urtin duu, JVC World Sounds V1CG-5211 (1992)

Yenesei-Punk, perf. Yat-kha, Global Music Center GM CD 9504 (1995)

Chants épiques et diphoniques, Asie Centrale, Sibérie, Inedit– Maison des Cultures du Monde MCM W260067 (1996)

Jargalant Altai: xöömii and Other Vocal and Instrumental Music from Mongolia, Pan (1996)

Les voix du monde: une anthologie des expressions vocales, Chant du Monde CMX 374 1010 (1996) [incl. notes]

Tuva, Among the Spirits: Sound, Music, and Nature in Sakha and Tuva, Smithsonian Folkways SFW 40452 (1999)


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