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VOICEVocal Aesthetics in Digital Arts and Media$
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Norie Neumark, Ross Gibson, and Theo van Leeuwen

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780262013901

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262013901.001.0001

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Vox Humana: The Instrumental Representation of the Human Voice

Vox Humana: The Instrumental Representation of the Human Voice

(p.5) 1 Vox Humana: The Instrumental Representation of the Human Voice

Theo van Leeuwen

The MIT Press

The question of authenticity is relevant to writing about instrumental representations of the human voice. This chapter examines “modality theory,” an approach that asks how “authentic” voices have been represented and not whether they actually are “authentic.” It demonstrates that musical representations of the human voice have always been relatively abstract, perhaps seeking to provide a kind of discourse about the human voice, rather than seeking to be heard as realistic representations of human voices. The chapter describes how musical instruments have evolved over time, from mechanical contraptions to modern digital instruments that sound like the human voice. The goal of instrument makers was not to deceive the ear, but to create a discourse of “humanness,” and a sound that would musically express subjectivity, individuality, and emotionality. The chapter also explores how the modern Roland piano imitates the human voice by briefly recapitulating the theory of “modality.”

Keywords:   Roland piano, modality theory, subjectivity, individuality, emotionality, musical instruments, musical representations, human voice, authenticity

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