The Supernatural Voice

September 2014
3 black and white, 14 line illustrations
254 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Library eBook
Boydell Press

The Supernatural Voice

A History of High Male Singing

Simon Ravens

eBook for Handhelds
Covering a period from the Ancient World to the present day, the book suggests that until very recently, falsettists and counter-tenors have been distinct vocal genres.
`The use of high male voices in the past has long been one of the most seriously misunderstood areas of musical scholarship and practice. In opening up this rich subject (to readers of all sorts) with refreshingly clear perspectives and plenty of new material, Simon Ravens' well-researched book goes a very long way to rectifying matters. Ravens writes damnably well, and if the story that emerges is necessarily a complex one, his treatment of it is always engagingly comprehensible.' ANDREW PARROTT

Tracing the origins, influences and development of falsetto singing in Western music, Simon Ravens offers a revisionist history of high male singing from the Ancient Greeks to Michael Jackson. This history embraces not just singers of counter-tenor and alto parts up to and including our own time but the castrati of the Ancient world, the male sopranists of late Medieval and Renaissance Europe, and the dual-register tenors of the Baroque and Classical periods. Musical aesthetics aside, to understand the changing ways men have sung high, it is also vital to address extra-musical factors - which are themselves in a state of flux. To this end, Ravens illuminates his chronological survey by exploring topics as diverse as human physiology, the stereotyping of national characters, gender identity, and the changing of boys' voices. The result is a complex and fascinating history sure to appeal not only to music scholars but to performers and all those with an interest particularly in early music.

Simon Ravens is a performer, writer, and director of Musica Contexta, with whom he has performed in Britain and Europe, regularly broadcast, and made numerous acclaimed recordings. Ravens had previously founded and directed Australasia's foremost early music choir, the Tudor Consort. Between 2002 and 2007 his regular monthly column Ravens View appeared in the Early Music Review, to which he still regularly contributes.

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Keywords: Music

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Declaration of Disinterest
The Discovery of Alfred Deller
The Ancient World to the Middle Ages
Renaissance Europe
Late Medieval and Renaissance England
Baroque Europe
Baroque England
The Nineteenth Century
The Early Twentieth Century
The Modern Counter-tenor


Here is everything you always wanted to know about the voices we today call "countertenor" . . . . It is a fascinating study. AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE

This is a significant book. EARLY MUSIC REVIEW

A well-balanced historical and cultural study of the high male voice from ancient Syria to the present day. BBC MUSIC