Voices can make our hair stand on end or send shudders down our spine more easily and more powerfully than anything else.
The classic evolutionary and philosophical writings tended to downplay the role of music in human partner selection; but popular culture indicates otherwise, particularly where the voice is involved.
Still, the enchantment that audiences experience when they listen to their favorite singers is highly subjective. For example, while critics of Lata Mangeshkar’s little-girl sound view her popularity in terms of a desire to keep women immature and vulnerable, her millions of admirers hear in her voice a timeless and idealized lover.
This according to “Enchanting voices” by Wim van der Meer, an article included in Music, dance, and the art of seduction (Delft: Eburon, 2013, 49-70; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2013-28812).
Above and below, Mangeshkar enacts her enchantment.
Nearly every Kam person sings in a choir at some time in their life. From a community singing group of the Yandong township, the Yandong Grand Singers have gradually made their name known internationally through their album Everyone listen close—Wanp-wanp jangl kap and international tours. In 2019 they toured five cities in the United States to give concerts and workshops, which turned out to be a special experience of cultural exchange for both the musicians and audiences.
Many English-speaking people attending concerts sung in English readily state that they cannot understand the words being sung.
In a study, 21 subjects (15 women, 6 men), all Western classically trained performers as well as teachers of classical singing, sang 11 words—“beat, bait, Bob, boat, boot,” representing the most frequently occurring vowels in practice, and “bit, bet, bat, bought, but, book,” representing the other six vowels that occur less frequently—arranged in six random orders,singing on two pitches a musical fifth apart.
The sung words were cropped to isolate the vowels, and listening tapes were created. Two listening groups, four singing teachers and five speech-language pathologists, were asked to identify the vowels intended by the singers. In general, vowel intelligibility was lower with the higher pitch, and vowels sung by the women were less intelligible than those sung by the men.
This according to “Vowel intelligibility in classical singing” by Jean Westerman Gregg and Ronald C. Scherer (Journal of voice XX/2 [June 2006] 198–210; RILM Abstracts of Music Literature 2006-8289).
In Sweden the herding of livestock is women’s work. Herding music functions chiefly as a means of communication between the women and the animals; it is also used for communication between herders.
The song style known as kulning has an instrumental timbre, a sharp attack, and a piercing, almost vibrato-free sound, often very loud and at an unusually high pitch. A study of the physiological and acoustical characteristics of kulning, including phonation and articulation, shows an unconventional use of the voice that contradicts what is recommended in traditional Western voice training.
This according to “Voice physiology and ethnomusicology: Physiological and acoustical studies of the Swedish herding song” by Anna Johnson (Yearbook for traditional music XVI  pp. 42–66). Below, Maria Misgeld demonstrates.
“No true American would practice this base art,” he continued. “I like to use my radio, when weary. But I cannot turn the dials without getting these whiners, crying vapid words to impossible tunes.”
“If you will listen closely when you are unfortunate enough to get one of these you will discern the basest appeal to sex emotions in the young. They are not true love songs—they profane the name. They are ribald and revolting to true men.”
This according to “Cardinal denounces crooners as whiners defiling the air” (New York times 11 January 1932, p. 21), which is reprinted in Music, sound, and technology in America: A documentary history of early phonograph, cinema, and radio (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012) pp. 319–20.
Styles of singing in which pitch is fixed, categorical, and independent of loudness originated in prehistoric times as a by-product of the development of musical instruments capable of this loudness-pitch independence.
The physical and consequent acoustic properties of the voice suit it to producing a range of timbres and vocalizations in which pitch and loudness are correlated and not controlled independently. To sing a fixed pitch while varying loudness, singers must make compensations in the vocal mechanism.
This unnatural, albeit ubiquitous, singing was influenced by instruments. One of the advantages of pitch-loudness independence is in teaching infants to analyze vocalizations in a reductionist manner.
This according to “Did non-vocal instrument characteristics influence modern singing?” by Joe Wolfe and Emery Schubert (Musica humana II/2 [fall 2010] pp. 121–138).
In a study investigating how singing while driving affects driver performance, 21 participants completed three trials of a simulated drive concurrently while performing a peripheral detection task (PDT); each trial was conducted either without music, with participants listening to music, or with participants singing along to music.
Results suggest that singing while driving alters driving performance and impairs hazard perception while at the same time increasing subjective mental workload. However, singing while driving does not appear to affect driving performance more than simply listening to music. Drivers’ efforts to compensate for the increased mental workload associated with singing and listening to music by slowing down appear to be insufficient, as evidenced by relative increases in PDT response times in these two conditions compared to baseline.
The HandySinger system is a personified tool developed to express naturally a singing voice controlled by the gestures of a hand puppet.
The system’s hand puppet consists of a glove with seven bend sensors and two pressure sensors. It sensitively captures the user’s motion as a personified puppet’s gesture. To synthesize the different expressional strengths of a singing voice, the normal (without expression) voice of a particular singer is used as the base of morphing, and three different expressions—“dark”, “whisper”, and “wet”—are used as the target.
This configuration provides musically expressed controls that are intuitive to users. The experiment evaluates whether (1) the morphing algorithm interpolates expressional strength in a perceptual sense, (2) the hand-puppet interface provides gesture data at sufficient resolution, and (3) the gestural mapping of the current system works as planned.
Jimmie Rodgers’s recordings present nearly all of the yodel types used by hillbilly singers, including nonsense-syllable strands, breaking voice registers while singing words, and brief falsetto grace-note descents into his natural voice. His yodels contain influences from both African American (falsetto upward leap at the end of words) and European (word-breaking) traditions.
Home tropes evoke themes of home, family, regret, return, or nostalgia; subdominant tropes represent carefree cheerfulness; blues tropes conjure masculine braggadocio themes.
Rodgers applies grace notes according to the pathos of the lyrics, and his hummed or moaned yodels are toned down for mainstream appeal. He was a carrier of tradition—his yodels connect to ragtime and blues, as well as to nineteenth-century European yodels, song types, and decorative devices.
Launched by Frog Records in 2010, The Frog blues & jazz annual is a book series that presents original research and articles on early jazz and blues. The inaugural issue, The musicians, the records & the music of the 78 era, includes articles about the Mississippi Jook Band’s Graves brothers, the pianist Arnold Wiley, and the vocalist Ida Cox.
Seven strings/Сім струн (dedicated to Uncle Michael)* For thee, O Ukraine, O our mother unfortunate, bound, The first string I touch is for thee. The string will vibrate with a quiet yet deep solemn sound, The song from my heart … Continue reading →
From 4 to 8 October 2021, The Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation hosts the virtual conference Responses in Music to Climate Change. The event brings together scholars, performers, composers, and activists, with the goal of exchanging … Continue reading →
Introduction: Dr. Philip Ewell, Associate Professor of Music at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, posted a series of daily tweets during Black History Month (February 2021) providing information on some under-researched Black … Continue reading →
For it [the Walkman] permits the possibility…of imposing your soundscape on the surrounding aural environment and thereby domesticating the external world: for a moment, it can all be brought under the STOP/START, FAST FOWARD, PAUSE and REWIND buttons. –Iain Chambers, “The … Continue reading →