Advertise on ChoralNet 
ChoralNet logo
The mission of the ACDA is to inspire excellence in choral music through education, performance, composition, and advocacy.

An inside view of a larynx from above with a guide to gross anatomy and function

The image above is an internal view of Leon Thurman's larynx.  The front of Leon's larynx is at the bottom of the picture (toward his "Adam's apple"), and its rear area is at the top (toward his cervical spine).  In this image, Leon was sustaining the pitch C3 on an /ee/ vowel.  Note the 'Gothic arch' configuration in the photo (upside-down V shape).
At the bottom of the circle is Leon's epiglottis (attached to the back of his tongue).
At the top of the circle is part of Leon's lower pharyngeal wall, sometimes called the laryngo-pharynx.
Forming the peak of the Gothic arch configuration are the mounds of flesh that cover the tops of Leon's left and right arytenoid cartilages (they do not include the rounded 'bulbs' that are located below the arytenoid mounds). The cartilages were rotated and slid together by his Larynx's vocal fold 'closer muscles.'  Pitch changes were carried out primarily by coordinations of his vocal fold 'shortener and lengthener muscles.'
Leon's left and right true vocal folds appear vertically right in the center of the Gothic arch. His false vocal folds appear to the lateral sides of his true vocal folds.  The left and right false vocal folds are located just above the two true vocal folds, and the two pairs of folds are separated by ventricular 'spaces' (can't be seen; the Ventricles of Morgagni).  The false vocal folds are not usually engaged during speaking and singing.  When they do join the true vocal folds in creating speaking or singing, the voice quality that is produced is the sound that Louie ('Satchmo') Armstrong made when he sang a song.  He's the famous jazz trumpeter-singer of years gone by, e.g., "It's a Wonderful World".
To the lateral sides of the Gothic arch are Leon's two pyriform sinuses (sinus is Latin for 'hollow cavity').  They are the left and right endpoints of the closed entryway into his esophagus.  The image isn't clear enough to show the curved horizontal 'line' that is formed between the pyriform sinuses when the entryway is closed, like they are when we're not swallowing. 
Note: The esophageal entryway is located behind the larynx.  When we human beings swallow a large amount of food or drink, the entire entryway opens to send it on its digestive journey to possibly become 'us.'  When we swallow moderate to small amounts, about one-half the food/drink enters the esophagus through the left or right pyriform sinus, and the other half enters through the other sinus.  In order to prevent food/drink from entering the airway when we swallow, the tongue is pulled backward so that the epiglottis is folded backward over the gothic arch area of the larynx, and at the same time, the larynx is pulled upward by the larynx-pull-up muscles.  Their coordinated 'pincer' action seals off the airway and channels the food/drink into the esophagus. 
Remember what happens when we swallow something and some of it "goes down the wrong way?"  When anything barely touches the tissues that form the closure of larynx and epiglottis, a powerful laryngeal/respiratory reflex action happens, driven by nearby high-speed brainstem neurons, and we cough, cough, cough to expel the possible lung invader.
About the image:
The late, beloved Dr. Van Lawrence was Company Physician for the Houston Grand Opera, and saw many top-line, international opera singers.  He used videostroboscopic images to give the singers feedback about the efficiency with which they sang and spoke.  He was first to identify the 'gothic arch' configuration (see photo above) as a sign of efficient vocal production in both singing and speaking.
The image was taken from a videotape that was made in Dr. Lawrence's exam room in Houston, Texas, June, 1983.  Dr. Lawrence used a flexible-nasal laryngeal videostroboscope to capture moving images of a variety of efficient and inefficient vocal coordinations that Leon used while speaking and singing.  Subsequently, the tape was used in voice education experiences to illustrate vocal efficiencies and inefficiancies (and the voice qualities they produced) for choral conductors, music educators, singing teachers, speech teachers, theatre directors, speech pathologists, and otolaryngologists (primarily during courses offered by The VoiceCare Network).