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Voice Map Method : enhancing composer-singer communication

Miika Hyytiäinen

Communication issues often occur between singers and composers in the context of creating new vocal music. The Voice Map Method (VMM), developed here, facilitates more fluent communication and thus supports the artistic process. The VMM consists of two parts: a computer-aided Voice Map Analysis (VMA) and a questionnaire entitled List of Good Questions. This systematic process involves collecting information about a specific singer’s voice; it reveals some of the most essential aspects of the singing voice, which is particularly beneficial to less experienced composers. During the VMA stage, the composer listens to the singer’s voice, to get to know it acoustically. Afterwards, both parties read through the VMA together and proceed to discuss it.

The VMA is based on the Voice Range Profile (VRP), an analytical tool used in voice studies to efficiently collect numerical data on the voice. The result of the VMA, the Voice Map, reveals the possibilities of the singer’s voice in visual form, indicating each area (‘area’ being analogous to ‘register’) and the dynamic range (range of sound pressure levels) of each tone. Lastly, the singer’s formant is analysed automatically and the audio is stored for later reference.

Field tests involving different voice types validate the technical functionality of the VMA and optimise the analysis process. Nevertheless, since the VMM is designed to improve communication between artists, the ultimate testing and validation happens in the artistic context, in the form of composing three operas.

The development is iterative: questions arising from the artistic work are analysed against the theoretical background for creating a new version of the VMM. This is then used in a new artistic work. The development project is grounded in communication theory, collaborative creativity (as per Keith Sawyer), and the analysis of the composer’s work. Furthermore, the voice studies provide a theoretical background for the vocal registers, singer’s formant, vibrato, voice range profile, and the German Fach system. While the Fach system itself is a fundamental component of the opera industry, it is often misapplied outside of that context. Structural gaps in the standard training programmes cause inexperienced composers to resort to the Fach system in an uninformed way, often composing unidiomatically and too vaguely for a voice type.

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