Meeting Anna-Maria Hefele in Salzburg

  |   Salzburg

Vocal Chords recordist Robert Hope meets Anna-Maria Hefele in Salzburg

In advance of meeting Anna-Maria Hefele at her home in a suburb of Salzburg, Austria I felt a curious, yet excited anticipation of hearing in person what seemed to myself, and over 7 million viewers on YouTube, to be other worldly, and fascinating vocal sounds. Hefele’s release of a video online, exhibiting systematically her ability at polyphonic overtone singing has in her own words unexpectedly propelled her into the international spotlight, simultaneously bringing overtone singing into focus, which for her is the main priority.

Overtone singing is a voice technique where it seems like one person sings two notes, and Anna-Maria proceeded to explain and display her western style of overtone singing to which she adds polyphony by changing the fundamental. This is different to the traditional overtone singing known from Mongolia and Tuva which uses pressure and can be heard for long distances while outside. To hear this up close and personal is truly remarkable and it is not difficult to reason why seeing and hearing someone do this has captured the attention of millions, going viral. Equally enchanting is her ability to incorporate her classical background by methodically describing what is actually happening vocally in order for this technique to be easily understood.
Before finishing the interview she revealed that also within her bag of vocal tricks is an ability to yodel, a tradition of interest to her due to her Bavarian and Austrian roots. What was striking for me is the simplicity with which yodelling can be described. Technically it is switching immediately between chest voice, and head voice, and once displayed this makes perfect sense.
To describe best this encounter I would say, as a musician, it was a captivating and entertaining education in aspects of music I have never quite understood, but have always been fascinated by. Therefore it remains only to say that musical enlightenment still seems to live within the spirit of this home town of Wolfgang Amadeus.
Robert Hope