The contemporary countertenor in context: vocal production, gender/sexuality, and reception
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This dissertation highlights the importance of vocal registration/production in the ongoing discussion of how the material qualities of the singing voice transmit socially constructed meaning. Using the modern-day countertenor as an example, I show how falsetto singing can act as a marker for gender/sexuality. The first chapter of the project explains the anatomy and physiology of the singing voice, particularly as it applies to the falsetto register and the contemporary countertenor. Then, a brief look at how singing and gender fit within the burgeoning field of voice studies ensues. Chapter 2 inspects theories of vocal gender, identity, and sexuality in regards to vocal embodiment and applies them to the voice, singing, and the contemporary countertenor. Chapter 3 looks at the reception theories of Hans Robert Jauss and Wolfgang Iser in order to pinpoint ways in which social norms can be inscribed on the voice, especially that of the countertenor Klaus Nomi. The last three chapters apply the theories purported in the first half of the dissertation to the contemporary countertenor in three countries–the United States, England, and Japan. Examining the use and appreciation of the countertenor in these different societies provides examples of how the falsetto register, singing, and norms of gender/sexuality are connected in the different social contexts. The epilogue projects how this type of academic inquiry can extend to other types of singing and societies.