By the year 1500, a unique relationship between composers and boys that would last 500 years had been established. That relationship no longer exists. Society has changed, culture has changed, views of gender have changed, and boys have changed. “Turning point” is a less dramatic way of defining what for choral traditionalists has been a crisis. A book published in 2009 by the author of this new volume asked How High Should Boys Sing? There are today many living boys who love singing. Their love overcomes many obstacles. They will continue to sing, but what repertoire and how high? In the range of a sixteenth century medius voice? in the range of a Bel Canto soprano voice? perhaps in the unique range of a twentieth century cambiata voice? Thoroughly in tune with the living boys of today, this book is a detailed empirical study of how they grow, how their voices work at different stages of growth and how they want to use them. Intrigued by the fact that boys are almost never chosen for historically informed performance, the author sees the relationship between dead composers and living boys in need of development.
1. Turning Points and a dilemma
There are many fine boys’ choirs around the world and many excellent recordings by boy soloists, but do boys exist just to produce these recordings? Is it a boy’s destiny to be discarded by the age of fourteen? The author has long argued that the primary purpose of boys’ involvement in choral singing is the ongoing process of education. A focus upon vocal parts reveals that changes are needed in long-cherished choral practices.
2. Perception and Measurement
One of the most significant changes to affect living boys has been the rise of voice science. The old masters used their ears. The work of many voice coaches today is informed by scientific instruments such as the electroglottogram. Perception and measurement often have different stories about how high boys should sing.