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A History of Singing


  • Page extent: 358 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.52 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9781107630093)

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.

• The first book to consider singing as a universal human activity, enabling readers to gain a perspective on singing in many cultures and periods • Written in a lively and accessible style, with a detailed separate reference section for those who want to explore the topic further • Spans a large historic and cultural breadth, rather than just focusing on Western classical singing, therefore will appeal to a global readership


Introduction; 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.


'A fascinating book … the authors are good at suggesting the social and political factors that influenced how singing evolved. And they vividly evoke those seminal moments when Western art-singing changed for ever.' Richard Morrison, The Times

'Fascinating … Potter and Sorrell are imaginative and acute with sometimes fugitive evidence.' The Guardian

'[Adopts] an attractive narrative style.' Opera

'This isn't just a good book for anyone interested in vocal music: it is an essential one.' Literary Review

'… it quickly becomes clear that the joint authors share an engaging prose style …' Gramophone Magazine

'Compulsive reading for anyone who wants to see and appreciate singing on a world stage.' Methodist Recorder

'The book is an impressive achievement … fascinating fragments of knowledge are dispensed.' Classical Guitar

'… there is something to fascinate in every paragraph …' BBC Music Magazine

'Considering a vast scope of subject matter that is difficult to cover in a single volume, this book provides important historical perspectives on many aspects of singing.' Choice

'… bristles with facts. Though written for the expert, it is equally accessible to the amateur alto.' The Economist

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