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date: 03 December 2020


The Oxford Companion to Music
Bryan WhiteBryan White

The use of the vocal mechanism (see voice (3)) to produce musical tone. The urge to sing, which characterizes all peoples and cultures, has been developed, in Western music, through specialized techniques to extend the range of the voice, to create extremes of dynamics, and to produce great variations in tone-colour. Although modern techniques of singing are inevitably rooted in the practices of earlier generations, evidence for the manner and sound of historical singing was, until the advent of recorded music at the turn of the 20th century, limited to description alone. Whereas examination of earlier specimens of an instrument gives insight into its sound and use in previous eras, the vocal instrument dies with the singer. The fact that the physical apparatus of the voice has not changed over aeons does not provide, with any certainty, detailed knowledge of how it was used in earlier times, given the instrument's complexity and the seemingly limitless ways in which it may be exploited.... ...

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