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Vocalists yesterday, today and tomorrow.

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An interesting thought came to me while I was listening to some music the other day. What changes have there been and why has it occurred in the various genres of music? Also what changes will there be for future vocalists. I think the first difference I noticed was in Broadway Musicals. It seems that vocalists used to be selected because of the uniqueness of their voice. Jimmy Durante, Ethel Merman, Carol Channing are some who quickly come to mind. Today while listening to a Revival of most Broadway Musicals it would seem that some of the "character voices" are being replaced with what I would have to call "pretty voices". "Pretty voices" makes it easier to sing along with the music. That doesn't explain why this change has come about. Yes peoples' tastes in music change but again does that explain this change? From my limited knowledge I would hypothesize that a significant reason for the changes is due to electronics revolution in the music industry. Before there were stage microphones and such a vocalist had to be able to heard throughout the theatre. With the introduction of body and stage microphones singers could concentrate more on the beauty of the music and not as much on making sure the last row in the nosebleed section could hear them.

Another change I've noticed through discussions with friends and other vocalists is the change in vocalists in operas. It is not the sounds that have changed necessarily but the singers themselves. Todays opera singers not only have to sing their arias with supreme technical difficulties but in many instances have to actually act in the opera. With having to act the singer has added duties and must appear to "fit" the part. While a friend once said "Opera was the Broadway of Yesteryear I wonder overall how this change is effecting opera on the whole. Unfortunately having only performed in an opera but never actually having attended one I do not know exactly how this changes the performances.

I could go on with country, rock, etc. and some of the changes there but I believe most can understand where I am coming from. With the technological advances in recording studios, microphones, and other electronic gadgetry it makes you wonder where we are headed. A scary view for me was recently while watching a particular "reality show" and an individual sang (??) and recorded their song. With the benefit of electronic mixers etc. the song became one of the top downloaded songs. I used the ?? sign to indicate uncertainty of the singing of this individual. So with the advent of new technology does that mean that artistry, pitch, tonality, etc. will be left by the wayside in the musical journey we call life?


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