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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Extended From What?: Tracing the Construction, Flexible Meaning, and Cultural Discourses of "Extended Vocal Techniques"

  • Author(s): Noble, Charissa Joann
  • Advisor(s): Miller, Leta E.
  • Beal, Amy C.
  • et al.
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Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License

This study traces the usage and development of the concept of “extended vocal techniques,” [EVT] from its early appearances in musical discourse in the 1970s to the present. Though many authors suggest a long lineage for EVT, the actual term is relatively new. In fact, this term is virtually absent from scholarly or journalistic literature before the 1970s. Vocal pedagogues and music scholars have contributed substantially to the discussion concerning which vocal practices, artists, and performance literature might be considered part of the EVT tradition. Musicological work more specifically focused on EVT has profiled individual performer-composers working experimentally with their voices, and many have woven critical theory into their analyses of these artists’ vocal practices. Curiously, few of these musicological studies have attended to their own acceptance of the EVT label, commonly applied to artists such as Meredith Monk, Joan La Barbara, and Pamela Z, among others. The oversight of the historical and critical issues underpinning the term itself has allowed EVT's definition to be tacitly shaped by each author’s cultural assumptions. These unacknowledged assumptions drive various definitions and responses to EVT, forming a hidden transcript that this project seeks to unearth.

By locating the appearances of the term EVT in musical discourse from earliest to latest, this work specifies the time period, social context, institutional affiliations, and musical background for each contributor to the EVT record and profiles representative artists from different social-historical contexts who have been frequently associated with EVT. Through an investigation of EVT’s various historical definitions, cultural implications, and power dynamics, I formulate a rhizomatic account of the development of EVT as a concept. Moreover, I examine how its differences and similarities over the years indicate our shifting perspectives on voices, bodies, music, and identity. Recasting EVT as a culturally-situated mode of listening holds the potential to move conservatory singing toward a more flexible, inclusive understanding of vocal practice that celebrates different bodies, abilities, and backgrounds.

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This item is under embargo until April 9, 2021.