The Supernatural Voice: A History of High Male Singing

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Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 2014 - Music - 244 pages
`The use of high male voices in the past has long been one of the most seriously misunderstood areas of musical scholarship and practice. In opening up this rich subject (to readers of all sorts) with refreshingly clear perspectives and plenty of new material, Simon Ravens' well-researched book goes a very long way to rectifying matters. Ravens writes damnably well, and if the story that emerges is necessarily a complex one, his treatment of it is always engagingly comprehensible.' ANDREW PARROTT

Tracing the origins, influences and development of falsetto singing in Western music, Simon Ravens offers a revisionist history of high male singing from the Ancient Greeks to Michael Jackson. This history embraces not just singers of counter-tenor and alto parts up to and including our own time but the castrati of the Ancient world, the male sopranists of late Medieval and Renaissance Europe, and the dual-register tenors of the Baroque and Classical periods. Musical aesthetics aside, to understand the changing ways men have sung high, it is also vital to address extra-musical factors - which are themselves in a state of flux. Tothis end, Ravens illuminates his chronological survey by exploring topics as diverse as human physiology, the stereotyping of national characters, gender identity, and the changing of boys' voices. The result is a complex and fascinating history sure to appeal not only to music scholars but to performers and all those with an interest particularly in early music.

Simon Ravens is a performer, writer, and director of Musica Contexta, with whom hehas performed in Britain and Europe, regularly broadcast, and made numerous acclaimed recordings. Ravens had previously founded and directed Australasia's foremost early music choir, the Tudor Consort. Between 2002 and 2007 his regular monthly column Ravens View appeared in the Early Music Review, to which he still regularly contributes.
 

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Contents

Chapter 1 The Discovery of Alfred Deller
1
Physiology and Terminology
6
Chapter 2 The Ancient World to the Middle Ages
12
The Historically Developing Human Larynx
38
Chapter 3 Renaissance Europe
45
Extempore 3 Are We Too Loud? The Impact of Volume on Singing Styles
66
Chapter 4 Late Medieval and Renaissance England
71
Cultural Stereotypes and the High Male Voice
90
The Etymology of the CounterTenor
144
Chapter 7 The Nineteenth Century
149
Gender Identity and Falsetto
182
Chapter 8 The Early Twentieth Century
186
Falsetto in Popular Music
201
Chapter 9 The Modern CounterTenor
206
Bibliography
224
Index
237

Chapter 5 Baroque Europe
96
Changing Boys Voices and Nascent Falsettists
123
Chapter 6 Baroque England
130
Backcover
245
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