Singing is a enjoyable activity for both the performer or singer and the audience. The singing voice is something that leads to many discussions, sometimes extremely passionate, about the most expressive, touching or vibrant style of singing, the better singers with the richest voices and the better vocal domain or the most effective teaching methods. But no one can answer those questions because they depend on many factors such as the cultural environment or personal preferences.
What is singing?
According to the definition provided by the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy: «to sing it is to produce melodious sounds forming words or without forming them» (RAE, consulted electronically 22nd ed.). But it is necessary to explain the term «melodious sound». Melodious, according to this edition of the RAE dictionary, means: «gifted with a sweet and pleasant melody to the ear».
However, there is no agreement on what is a «sweet and pleasant to the ear» melody. Think about two completely different styles as opera and rock. Does a rock singer produce a «sweet and pleasant to the ear» melody? So what are the most suitable styles for producing a «sweet and pleasant to the ear» sound? If the sound doesn’t produce a good feeling in the audience, what does it mean? Maybe those performers are not considered as singers? And, the most important, what is «sweet» or «pleasant»? Does art have to be «sweet» or «pleasant»?
Singing is art. And art is expression. Nobody can impose a feeling. And regarding to the concept of melodious sound, it may depend on the socio-cultural environment. Here we have a few examples of what some cultures consider «sweet and pleasant to the ear» although could be surprising for other cultures.
Singing is what we listen to in Peking Opera, of course, but it’s another concept of opera, quite different from Western opera:
This is Kargyraa traditional singing style:
In Sardinia, we find the famous cantu a tenore:
And what about the traditional Inuit singing style?
Or the Xhosa tribe singing style:
What’s wrong with our definition of singing? The subjective considerations should not have place in a neutral definition of singing. The consequence would be to relegate or despise those different styles. Perhaps we should update the definition and understand singing as the production of sounds musically modulated by the voice. It’s essential to understand «musically» not as a synonym of «nice». Musically comes from the word «music», the art of combining sounds to convey emotions through rhythmic, harmonic, melodic and timbral elements. In this sense, all the subjective considerations will be removed from the definition of singing voice.
This post was written by Pilar Lirio