Elements of a Future Vocal Gesture Theory

Guerino Mazzola, René Guitart, Jocelyn Ho, Alex Lubet, Maria Mannone, Matt Rahaim, Florian Thalmann

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Gesture Theory has been first developed using the pianist’s gesture as paradigm. However, the analytical techniques and the results found can be applied to other musical situations, once symbolic and physical gestures have been identified. For this reason it is possible to develop a gesture theory of voice. Voice teachers explain vocal technique also via gestures and references to imaginary movements of the voice through the resonant cavities of the body: we can think, as just a first example, of the passage from the di petto register to di testa register. For voice, there really are some inner movements, of larynx, vocal folds, tongue, as well of the diaphragm. Thinking of imaginary movements, the singer effectively changes the real shape of his or her phonatory system, obtaining the desired effect. These movements, connecting (imaginary once, and then embodied) points, are gestures. In fact, there are gestures that help one sing, but the singing is itself a gestural activity. Moreover, we can adapt to the modern gestural math-musical formalism a powerful instrument of the past, the neumes. The neumatic notation is the ancient way to notate the shape of the voice singing Gregorian melodies. This system successively evolved into a precise notation of pitches via points (square notes) in a four-line staff, and finally evolved to today’s notation of (round) notes in the five-line staff. Explicit reference to gestures are also used in textbooks about the didactics of the Gregorian chant. We end the chapter with the proposal of a new neumatic notation for voice didactics and composition that can complete the information given by the musical score.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationComputational Music Science
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages19
StatePublished - 2017

Publication series

NameComputational Music Science
ISSN (Print)1868-0305
ISSN (Electronic)1868-0313

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature.


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