What would rock’n’roll be without screaming? Jim Morrison’s tortured wail in “The End.” Roger Daltrey’s explosive “YYYYYEAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” towards the end of “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Kurt in “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” And let’s not even begin to talk about all forms of metal and screamo.
But screaming isn’t easy. It’s hard to do properly–and it plays hell on your body. Check out this article from Invisible Oranges on the science of screaming.
As a proud degree-holding science nerd, I am known to peruse scientific journals. A few months ago, I was reading the December 2012 edition of Science
when a picture of the German band Bitterness Exhumed
caught my eye. Needless to say, sweaty tattooed dudes yelling into a microphone aren’t part of a visual typically associated with this particular academic publication. How did it get there? Turns out a musicologist, Dr. Marcus Erbe of the University of Cologne, is exploring the heavy metal, death metal, and hardcore scene in Germany. He’s joined by linguist Dr. Sven Grawunder from The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and Leipzig University School of Medicine’s Dr. Michael Fuchs, an ear, nose, and throat physician. Their goal? To find out exactly what happens when singers growl and scream.To examine their screaming subjects, the researchers first use an endoscope. Indeed, the vocalists actually have a fiber-optic cable shoved down their throats to shoot video of the flapping of their vocal folds. Then, Dr. Grawunder compares the sounds to assorted languages and Tuvan throat singing
. So far, the early results suggest aggressive use of the vocal chords may not be as harmful as people once believed, opening up potential therapies and training for vocalists who want to use their voices in extreme ways.
Unfortunately, the doctors’ research has stalled somewhat since the Science article, largely due to needing a physician present when utilizing the endoscope. However, though they’ve only conducted research on six people, they’ve been able to observe extreme vocalists from a perspective rarely seen — from the inside.
I was able to interview Dr. Erbe and Dr. Grawunder about their findings. Dr. Erbe and I exchanged emails, while Dr. Grawunder and I spoke on the phone. Luckily, they both speak and write much better English than I German.
Continue reading. Then watch this video on how to scream like a rock star.