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Information For The Media

23 February 2012 / Academic
United Kingdom

A History of Singing

A History of Singing

By John Potter and Neil Sorrell

Hardback 9780521817059

Published 23 February 2012

380 pages, £75.00

From Neanderthal Man to Genesis, from Qawwali to castrati and from Purcell to Peking Opera, this history explores the global evolution of singing.

Why do we sing and what first drove early humans to sing? How might they have sung and how might those styles have survived to the present day?

This history addresses these questions and many more, examining singing as a historical and cross-cultural phenomenon. It explores the evolution of singing in a global context - from Neanderthal Man to Auto-tune via the infinite varieties of world music from Orient to Occident, classical music from medieval music to the avant-garde and popular music from vaudeville to rock and beyond. Considering singing as a universal human activity, the book provides an in-depth perspective on singing from many cultures and periods: western and non-western, prehistoric to present. Written in a lively and entertaining style, the history contains a comprehensive reference section for those who wish to explore the topic further and will appeal to an international readership of singers, students and scholars.

About the Authors

John Potter is a singer and writer. He was for many years a member of the Hilliard Ensemble and he has an eclectic discography of some 150 titles which include five gold discs and several Grammy nominations and music ranging from Leonin to Led Zeppelin. He currently maintains a portfolio of freelance performance projects and also coaches vocal ensembles and choirs all over the world. He spent twelve years as a lecturer at the University of York and is now an independent performer and scholar, researching all aspects of the voice.

Neil Sorrell is Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of York. He specialises in Asian music and has written, broadcast and lectured extensively on Indian and Javanese music. He is a recipient of the 1999 Hafiz Ali Khan Award, an international award in recognition of contributions to Indian classical music. He co-founded and directed the English Gamelan Orchestra, the first group of British musicians dedicated to the study, composition and performance of music for the Javanese gamelan.

Notes to Editors

For more information, an interview with an author or a review copy, please contact Carly Bareham at Cambridge University Press on 01223 326274,



Part I. Imagined Voices: Mythology and Muses

Part II. Historical Voices

1. The genesis of the western tradition

2. The emerging soloist and the primacy of text

3. The age of the virtuoso

4. The nineteenth-century revolution

Part III. Recorded Voices:

5. A great tradition: singing through history - history through singing

6. Classical singing in the twentieth century: recording and retrenchment

7. Post-classical: beyond the mainstream

8. The emancipation of the popular voice

9. Sung and unsung: singers and songs of the non English-speaking world

Part IV. Sources and Reference

10. Sources; Bibliography

About Cambridge University Press

Cambridge University Press was founded by a royal charter granted to the University of Cambridge by King Henry VIII in 1534.  It is the oldest printer and publisher in the world, having been operating continuously since 1584, and is one of the largest academic publishers globally.  Its purpose is to further the University's objective of advancing learning, knowledge and research.  Throughout its history, the Press has maintained a reputation for innovation and enterprise, through its use of printing technologies, through publishing the latest research, and through supporting the latest methodologies for teaching and learning.







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