Hear Jim Cole sing an overtone melody in the water tower.  He is not whistling, there are no flutes or other instruments, and there are no overdubs:

Background & Influences

For centuries people in many places of the world have been developing harmonic overtone singing traditions (aka: khoomei – throat singing).  In Central Asia it is expressed with great refinement and variety.  You may have heard the high whistling melodies, warbles and trills, and intense low croaking tones of Tuvan throat singers.

A similar folk tradition occurs among the herdsmen of Mongolia.  Certain groups of Tibetan Buddhist monks practice a deep sacred harmonic chant.  Throat singing in Central Asia was originally developed by solitary wandering herders communing with nature and by monks deep in meditation.  Jim’s group likewise experienced the focus and peace that can come through overtone singing.  Members enjoyed the shared opportunity for musical exploration, self-expression, and interaction with each other, but originally had no intention of overtone singing for anyone but themselves.  As the group evolved into Spectral Voices, the singers became increasingly experimental, playing with their voices to create new sounds and discovering the challenges and joys of totally improvised group work.

Origin of Spectral Voices

In 1991 Jim Cole began practicing overtone singing after hearing David Hykes and The Harmonic Choir’s Hearing Solar Winds.  He was astonished that the haunting otherworldly sounds he heard were produced entirely by human voices.  Within a year he was turning people on to the wonders of harmonic overtone singing, teaching others as he continued to learn, and gathering an ever-evolving group.

Next – Overtone Singing in a Water Tower