Monday, February 16, 2009

Musical Androgyny - One Last Time

Rock music with chorused vocals is often very androgynous.

I tend to dislike the way most popular male singers sound. This is just a personal preference - I prefer altos and basses over sopranos and tenors generally. Most music features tenors, and most 'tenors' in pop music sound rather poor (they're often really baritones, singing out of their range).

Put enough singers together, and use enough vocal effects, though, and something curious happens:

This is the original, by Sweet:

This is a cover, by Girlschool:

Notice that the singing sounds almost exactly the same. It's at the same pitch, with the same inflection, and the same overall sound. (Even the hair is similar!) To be sure, you can still tell the difference between the two - the song obviously falls more easily under Girlschool's range, and they sing en masse the entire duration.

Why is this interesting? So much of music is focused, either directly or indirectly, on sexual attraction. Rock music in particular has this characteristic. A single voice is an individual. We can be attracted to that individual, and their voice. They will seem to be singing directly to the audience. Add another, and the effect diminishes, I think - but it still remains. When we get to the massed chorus effect present in these songs, though, and individual gender and sexual expression is completely gone, faded into the group sound. It's just a step away from the asexuality of the classical or church choir.

In this case, though, the music is still rock music, and it still has that sexual component. (As far as I can tell, Fox on the Run has something to do with groupies.) And yet, an all-female band and an all-male band can play it to essentially the same effect. Musical androygny.

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