A History of Singing by Dr John Potter

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Their survey bristles with facts. Though written for the expert, it is equally accessible to the amateur alto. Who knew, for example, that bel canto, an Italian opera term, came to define European classical singing mainly because the open vowels of Italian were easier to sing than French or German?
-The Economist

Synopsis

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 Dr John Potter

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John Potter's first book, Vocal Authority, was published by Cambridge University Press in 1998, and he is 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 (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, 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 eighteen years with the Hilliard Ensemble and 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 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 (second edition, 2000).
 
Published February 9, 2012 by Cambridge University Press. 358 pages
Genres: Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for A History of Singing
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Ian Bostridge on Apr 20 2012

The book ends with a fervent sense that somehow the limitations and boundaries that the history of classical music has imposed on singers can now be transcended.

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The Economist

Good
on Jul 26 2014

Their survey bristles with facts. Though written for the expert, it is equally accessible to the amateur alto. Who knew, for example, that bel canto, an Italian opera term, came to define European classical singing mainly because the open vowels of Italian were easier to sing than French or German?

Read Full Review of A History of Singing | See more reviews from The Economist

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