I am horrified to have uncovered what is doubtless Cecil’s only fallibility. His answer to Doug B.'s question on whether it’s possible to sing more than one note at once ( http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a1_078b.html ) stands in frightful ignorance of the Andean (as well, I think, as elsewhereian) process of throat-singing, a mysterious (to me, at least) way of projecting from the larynx a loud drone accompanied by a variable-but-inflexible second tone. Recordings of it are commercially available, & if you can’t find 'em, you can check out “Go To Sleep” on Dan Bern’s (now Bernstein) eponymous debut LP. I once heard the aforementioned, in an interview on the Vin Skelsa (sp?) show claim to have heard throat-singers produce three and even four tones at once.
My remarkably limitted understanding of the process is that it has nothing to do with the dual-vox-box theory Cecil mentions, but rather some bizarre way of separating the overtones from the original sound, & projecting one of them loudly – this sounds impossible to me, but I know nothing.
Anyhow, I’d like to send this off to Cecil, in hopes of seeing my name writ gilded in his hallowed weekly, but, alas & alack!, have got neither his mailing address nor the computerial facility to present myself via dusty email. If anyone can help, I’m much obliged in prospect.
“He had never bitten a woman before.” – Henry Miller
The column can also be found on pages 78-79 of Cecil Adams’ book “The Straight Dope”.
As another_ian mentioned, throat-singing is not limited to the Andes. From the liner notes to the album “Musique et chants de tradition populaire: Mongolie” (GREM G 7511), a description of one of the mongolian vocal techniques:
Liner notes by Xavier Bellenger. English translation by Michael Vogel.
The collection «L’aventure du monde par les sons» is directed by Xavier Bellenger and P. Flambeaux.
I wouldn’t call this an example of “Cecil’s only fallibility”, after all he did say “it’s also possible for some people to control their vocal folds to sing two pitches intentionally.”
I saw some guy doing this before the Academy Awards on some pre-show. One of the nominees for Best Documentary feature this year was “Ghengis Blues” which is about throat singing, and some guy from the movie came to the awards. I haven’t seen the actual movie, but when the guy sang on TV it sounded NUTS. The people who throat sing are from “Tuva,” wherever that is.