The Diminished Vowel Space in Classical Singing and the Tug of War between "Speech-true" and Modified Vowel Qualities
; Peer reviewed
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Institutt for litteratur, områdestudier og europeiske språk
Journal of Singing. 2017, 73 (3), 293-303
Good voice quality and good diction are often contradictory. This basically concerns vowels. In classical singing, vowels are often modified in their quality from speech, to make the voice function better as a musical instrument, often to such an extent that vowel identification is impossible and fine detail differences in quality regarding one and the same vowel phoneme in different languages may be neutralized. Many attempts have been made to try to understand why and how vowels need to be modified from a musical point of view; not many attempts have been made from a linguistic point of view to understand the effects of this modification on text delivery and intelligibility.
The aim of this article is threefold. I intend to show and explain why there seems to be a smaller phonetic vowel space in classical singing as opposed to normal speech. I also question how vowels are reorganized from speech to singing in order to fit into this new area. And I attempt to present an explanatory model with some predictable rules and give some useful guidelines to help singers improve their diction in singing in general and to better target the correct phonetic quality in any foreign language they want to perform in particular.
I base my presentation on results from my dissertation back in 1999, which bears the title “Vowel Migration and Equalization in Classical Singing”1 , and on my experience in the years thereafter, tutoring students of classical singing in the phonetics of singing.
Item may not be reproduced. © 2017 National Association of Teachers of Singing
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