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A History of Singing


  • Date Published: February 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107630093

£ 23.99

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About the Authors
  • 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
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '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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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2014
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107630093
    • length: 358 pages
    • dimensions: 226 x 150 x 23 mm
    • weight: 0.52kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    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

  • Authors

    John Potter, University of York
    John Potter's first book, Vocal Authority, was published by Cambridge University Press in 1998, and he is the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Singing (2000). His book Tenor: History of a Voice was published in 2009. He has contributed articles to many academic journals and chapters to other books, including The Cambridge History of Medieval Music (forthcoming) and The Cambridge History of Musical Performance, published in 2012. He is Reader Emeritus in Music at the University of York (having stepped down from his lectureship in 2010 to focus on his portfolio of freelance projects). As a singer John has partnerships with instrumentalists in various parts of the world, notably the Argentinian lutenist and vihuelist Ariel Abramovich, the American medieval harpist Jan Walters and the British electro-acoustic composer Ambrose Field. He also sings with Red Byrd, The Dowland Project (which will release a fourth album in 2012), the Gavin Bryars Ensemble and the German group The Sound and the Fury. His most recent venture is Cantum Pulcriorum Invenire, a research project at the University of Southampton, which will see the release of three CDs of twelfth-century music on Hyperion and a multimedia live version with tenor Christopher O'Gorman and video artist Michael Lynch. John spent 18 years with the Hilliard Ensemble (whose CDs include the million-selling Officium); his complete discography runs to some 150 titles. He also coaches vocal ensembles all over the world, and chairs the ensemble contest jury at the Tampere Vocal Festival (Finland).

    Neil Sorrell, University of York
    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 the author (with the sarangi player, Pandit Ram Narayan) of Indian Music in Performance: A Practical Introduction (1980) and 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. He has composed several pieces for the gamelan and is the author of A Guide to the Gamelan, 2nd edition (2000).

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