Ralph Leighton Records Throat SingingRalph Leighton is certainly a man of many interests. As a friend of the famed Richard Feynman, he recorded several interviews of the physicist which later became The Feynman Tapes. These tapes were later turned into popular books that featured the hidden thoughts of Richard Feynman. However, Leighton also has another passion that has generated more fame than his relationship with the noted physicist. As part of the group, the Friends of Tuva, Leighton has travelled to the Russian republic several times to record the sounds of the throat singers of Tuva.
The travels and efforts of the recording delivered the album, Deep in the Heart of Tuva, the first record to reach international attention and bring focus to the Mongolian throat singers. While not technically from Mongolia, the throat singers of Tuva share a similar lifestyle to the people of this country. Released in 1996, Deep in the Heart of Tuva brought throat singing to a large audience that had never heard of the peculiar sounds before the album. The recording featured a mix of spiritual songs as well as popular tunes and modern interpretations of the throat singing.
The mechanics of the Mongolian throat singers is quite strange and is an acquired ability. Instead of producing a single sound, the throat singers of Tuva are able to create a harmonic effect that emulates two tones being created at the same time, also called an overtone. This is done by finding the frequency at which the human larynx will begin to vibrate. The throat singers have excellent control of their vocal chords and can manipulate the sounds being created to produce songs. The advantage of using throat singing is that the sound can carry long distances and can be used to communicate across the vast landscapes found in the area.