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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Voice, androgyny & gender

We've been busy rehearsing Left Hand of Darkness (our adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin's epic tale, which we are co-producing with Portland Playhouse). 

The story takes place on the planet of Gethen, a place where human beings are neither female nor male and society is not defined by sexual difference. So as you can imagine, gender and androgyny are coming up a lot -- particularly how singing and speaking relate to gender.

We have done a lot of vocal work in Hand2Mouth over the years, but we've never focused on the "maleness" or "femaleness" of our voices especially. So it's been fascinating to see what happens when you take the same notes in a song, but sing them through one time "as a man" and then "as a woman." Or have a man sing the high harmony part that a woman might normally sing, and have a woman sing a low drone.

In light of this, we were digging this post we came across today, about androgyny in speech and singing, which is full of interesting ideas about voice & how it communicates maleness, femaleness and everything in between: 
Pitch is not the only signifier of gender – intonation, speech patterns, range, choice of words and degree of chest resonance are all factors. If we’re in that overlap then the way they speak, like an accent, is what causes people to read their voices as female or male.
One of the best parts about this post is its list of "androgynously toned singers" to mimic -- what a fabulous resource! Singers like Tracy Chapman, Antony Hegarty, Mama Cass, Nina Simone. This got us to thinking: who are some more singers who sound either androgynous or the "opposite" of their gender (whatever that means)?

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