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Title: Breaking the bel canto - straight tone false dichotomy: What composers have to learn from Dolly Parton
Authors: Socolofsky, Annika K
Advisors: Trueman, Daniel
Contributors: Music Department
Keywords: Composition
Subjects: Musical composition
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: There exists a pervasive subscription to a false dichotomy in vocal music among composers today; this dichotomy asserts that a vocalist must perform exclusively in either a straight-tone style or in a bel canto style. This way of thinking is harmful to the artistic and expressive potential of the voice, and effectively silences the interpretive agency of the vocal performer in their work. The belief in this false dichotomy is sourced in a fundamental ignorance of how the voice functions on a physiological level and how a single vocalist can embody a plethora of vocal colors in a single instrument. Once stripped of this belief in the false dichotomy, we realize that the dichotomy was in fact our only extant framework with which to understand the voice. And so, we are in of need a new framework: one that allows for a variation of color, inflection, style, and technique that still uses a specific language that composers can employ in dialogue with vocalists. Dolly Parton is a shining example of how far vocalists can push themselves in the pursuit of technical variety. Her vocal interpretations occupy a compositional mindspace, in that she crafts her vocal performances in such a way that they cannot be truly separated from the composition itself. Just how does Parton do this? What is it about her voice, interpretation, and song writing that elicits such intense emotional response? These questions can be answered with a deep dive into applied voice science through spectral analysis informed by physiological understanding. There is an air of general mystique surrounding the voice and vocal production, and rather than revel in the wonderment of the unknown, we can choose to revel in the bliss of this newfound knowledge—and of course, then learn to employ those findings so that we might also be able to connect with others so intimately and directly as Parton does. Composers have a lot to learn from Dolly Parton. There are several supplementary files included with this work, which are as follows: Audio Sample 2.1 – Vocal demonstration of velum open and closed Audio Sample 2.2 – Electrolarynx demonstration of three vocal qualities Audio Sample 2.3 – Vocal demonstration of oral and nasal twang Audio Sample 3.1 – Vocal excerpt from “I’m Gonna Sleep with One Eye Open” demonstrating nasal twang Audio Sample 3.2 – Vocal excerpt from “I’m Gonna Sleep with One Eye Open” demonstrating mid-constricted false vocal folds Audio Sample 3.3 – Vocal demonstration of true vocal folds, true vocal folds sounding with false vocal folds, and then only false vocal folds Audio Sample 3.4 – Vocal demonstration of smooth and glottal runs
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Music

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