The 21st Century Voice, 2nd edition

The 21st-century Voice. Contemporary and Traditional Extra-Normal Voice, 2nd edition
by Michael Edward Edgerton
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 230 • Size: 8 3/4 x 11 1/8
978-1-4422-4824-3 • Hardback • April 2015 • $100.00 • (£70.00)
978-0-8108-8840-1 • Paperback • April 2015 • $58.00 • (£39.95)
978-0-8108-8841-8 • eBook • April 2015 • $57.99 • (£39.95)
Subjects: Music / Instruction & Study / Voice, Music / Printed Music / Vocal
In The 21st-Century Voice: Contemporary and Traditional Extra-Normal Voice, Michael Edward Edgerton considers contemporary vocal techniques within an acoustic and anatomical framework. Throughout, he proposes new directions for vocal exploration. Much more than a historical treatise on 20th-century masterworks or vocal science, The 21st-Century Voice explores experimental methods of sound production, offering a systematic series of approaches and methods for assessing, engaging, and, in some instances, overcoming the assumed limits of vocal singing.
Appearing a decade after the publication of the first edition, this second edition draws on and advances our current understandings of voice production. Divided into four parts—air flow, source, resonance/articulation, and heightened potentials—Edgerton considers crucial matters affecting vocal production, such as:
  1. Registral challenges
  2. Filtering
  3. Airflow modification
  4. Combinatorial, multiphonic principles
  5. Extreme voice possibilities
  6. Multidimensional vocal issues

With more than 250 illustrations, 150 associated audio tracks, an extended appendix on voice science, a glossary of key terms, and lists of representative compositions, The 21st-Century Voice will appeal to composers and performers interested in exploring the ever-broadening range of vocal possibilities. Its engagement with the complexities of vocal production should also be relevant to students and scholars of voice science, acoustics, linguistics, computer modeling, and more. 

Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Tables
List of Recordings
Part I: Airflow
Chapter 1: Airflow
Part II: Source
Chapter 2: Vocal Folds
Chapter 3: Laryngeal Semi-Periodic Source
Chapter 4: Registral
Part III: Resonance/Articulation
Chapter 5: Filtering
Chapter 6: Turbulent To Absolute Airflow Modification
Part IV: Heightened Potentials
Chapter 7: Combinatorial, Multiphonic Principles
Chapter 8: Extremes
Chapter 9: Multidimensional Voice
Part V: Appendices
Appendix A: Voice Science
Appendix B: Glossary
Appendix C: Representative Compositions
About The Author
Audio tracks referenced in Michael Edgerton’s The 21st-Century Voice:Contemporary and Traditional Extra-Normal Voice, Revised Edition may be found at the following link:
For additional insights into the voice techniques and issues discussed in The 21st-Century Voice, visit the collection organized by the author found at the following link:
Review by Elizabeth Terrel
The Voice and Speech Review, the official Journal of the Voice and Speech Trainers
Association Issue 5: Voice and Gender and other contemporary issues in professional voice and speech training, August 2007
The 21st Century Voice: Contemporary and Traditional Extra-Normal Voice
Michael Edward Edgerton
Lanham, MD
Scarecrow Press, Inc.
The 21st Century Voice by Michael Edward Edgerton is an indispensable guide to vocal techniques and practices used in non-traditional voice work, focused on the singing voice. This is a book about the extreme potentials of the human voice, placed within the biomechanical framework of vocal technique with which we are all familiar. Its 200 pages are packed with illustrations, charts, graphs, and sheet music examples. An audio CD allows the reader to hear examples of the techniques discussed.
This book is a needed reference as extended voice work becomes more prevalent and moves into the mainstream. Edgerton does an admirable job of citing and reporting recent findings in voice research.
Be warned: this book is not light reading by any stretch of the imagination. This is a technical manual of voice production that reads like a dissertation. While some of it seems to be more grammatically complex than necessary, it is admirable that Edgerton did not skimp on his explanations in order to make it accessible for all audiences.
As mentioned, Edgerton places non-traditional singing techniques within the traditional structure. He examines the processes of vocal production one section at a time and then ties them all together at the end. Part I deals with techniques involving Air Flow (egressive and ingressive breathing, and source and duration of airflow.)
Part II deals with Source and issues related to vocal fold use. He covers techniques ranging from the familiar (vibrato) to the less familiar (including pressed voice, damped sound, laryngeal manipulation, glottal whistle, and sub- and supra-glottal sound production.) He relates the technical aspects of gender related voice production and addresses issues related to controversial vocal registers, citing techniques used in Korean P’ansori singing, to which he refers several times throughout the book.
Part III covers issues of resonance and articulation, vocal tract mapping (notably the Edgerton Model of Filter Articulation, which he covers in great detail.) This section includes IPA, language issues, and techniques involved in the modification of airflow.
Part IV on Heightened Potentials deals with issues such as multiphonic (more than one pitch at a time) sound; extreme vocal use (shouting, screaming, rasping, etc.); and the variety of ways in which the human voice can interface with other forms of media and instrumentation.
In Part V Edgerton discusses how the covered techniques are placed in the context of an artistic framework. Part VI is the Appendices, Glossary, and Index, which are comprehensive. Additionally, each chapter of the book has an extensive list of Suggested Readings and References. One potentially problematic issue is the availability of replacement copies of the CD. The publisher states that it is not available separately. Secondly, the book’s print is quite small, particularly in some of the charts and music samples.
This book is a valuable addition to any voice trainer’s library. It’s thorough and provides concrete
examples with a tremendous amount of information in one place. It is a much needed treatise on the
power and potential of the human voice.
Elizabeth Terrel is a Voice trainer, Acting teacher specializing in movement and release work, and Oral
Communications instructor. She is a Fitzmaurice Voicework instructor (certification 2008), certified QEST
Practitioner, and the founder of Authentic Voice Design. Elizabeth earned her MFA in Acting (Meisner Technique) from Northern Illinois University and her BA in Theatre Arts with a Performance Emphasis from San Diego State University. She is an alumnus of the Moscow Art Theatre Intensive Program and has studied at the Hungarian Theatre Institute in Cluj, Romania. Elizabeth’s performance background includes musical and straight theatre (receiving three San Diego Patte´ awards) and cabaret performer.
musicworks – #95 summer 2006
Reviewed by Chris Tonelli
Michael Edward Edgerton. The 21st Century Voice: Contemporary and Traditional Extra-Normal Voice.
Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8018-5354-X.
When books like The 21st Century Voice come on the market, there is cause for celebration. Michael Edgerton has toiled for years, doing all the dirty, meticulous, scientific observation he could to bring about a better understanding of the way voices do what they do. Alongside that aim, Edgerton also wants to ensure that new music composers understand just how much voices can do. Twenty-first Century Voice is a thorough, well-researched shopping list of possibilities for unconventional vocal expression.
The book’s introduction is a throwing of the gauntlet. From the title, it is obvious that “complex” and “extra-normal” vocalization is being constructed as the future of vocal expression. … Rather than allow extra-normal vocalization to remain the domain of those composers, performers, and improvisers who believe in the uniqueness of each musical event, as opposed to the authority and timelessness of the score, Edgerton sets out to provide … “a clear and concise framework into which all possible means of sound production may be placed.”
For composers, for whom this book was primarily written, Edgerton’s list of vocal and non-vocal oral techniques includes many practical suggestions for methods of notation for variables such as dental, lingual, and bilabial position, pitchair ratios, and complex multiphonic combinations. I can’t imagine a better way to provide composers with both an awakening of the potential of extra-normal vocal composition and the practical tools needed for composition. Performers of new music will, whether they like it or not, have no choice but to use this book as a reference when composers start using devices like the “Edgerton Model of Filter Articulation” in their scores. Nonetheless, they will appreciate that, at the end of each section, Edgerton does provide his reader with a bibliography of further readings for each area, and he directs readers towards his more pedagogical writing. … I must admit that as I type this, I¹m covered in saliva from attempting all of the items on the Edgerton list – there are certainly benefits that come from working with Edgerton’s thorough
observations about the potential of different techniques. His compendious approach surely holds interesting new possibilities and insights for even the most seasoned vocal performer.
In his quest to provide a total framework, Edgerton divides the book into sections on the differing options for airflow: the breadth of vocal fold behaviour; the larynx as a sound source; theory and practice of normative and unusual register; language-based and non-habitual vocal-tract options for filtering and articulating vocal sound; vocal-tract options for airflow modification; multiphonic combinations; extreme vocal behaviours and vocal health; vocal interface with instruments, machines, spaces, and ritual practices; and the contexts that have employed the voice for differing social functions. Edgerton provides diagrams for mapping tongue placement in relation to the palate; charts that outline the kinds of sounds possible from airflow modification by the various parts of the upper vocal tract; excerpts from a number of scores that have developed notations for extended techniques, and an accompanying CD that illustrates the various techniques he discusses.
The only other book that shares many of Edgerton’s goals is Trevor Wishart’s On Sonic Art, yet they are very different beasts. Edgerton’s book lacks the poetry and esotericism of On Sonic Art, but is infinitely more practical and easy to use. Edgerton draws much from Wishart’s work and uses much of his language, but offers a very different final result. If you run into Edgerton, take your hat off; he’s worked hard to give us something quite wonderful.
Reviewed by Stefaan Van Ryssen
Hogeschool Gent
Jan Delvinlaan 115, 9000 Gent, Belgium
The 21st-century Voice. Contemporary and Traditional Extra-Normal Voice
by Michael Edward Edgerton
Scarecrow Press, Lanham, MD, 2005
224 pp., illus. b/w, with audio cd. Paper, $42.95
ISBN: 0-8108-5354-X.
Anyone with even the slightest interest in traditional and world music, avant-garde, pop and classical will surely has noticed the sheer endless variety of vocal techniques that are available to today’s performers. Shouting, humming, multiphonics, inhaling, whispering and whistling are just a few of the tools in their toolbox. All this certainly makes for fascinating music, but it leaves composers, ethnographers and musicologists with the daunting problem of categorizing and noting what is in the air and performers with nothing less than a moral duty to expand their repertoire if they want to stay in trade.
Composer and performer Michael Edward Edgerton has undertaken this Herculean task with enthusiasm, insight, and a lot of common sense. Building on such diverse sciences as phonetics, physics, organology, and linguistics, he describes and analyzes any vocal and paravocal sound imaginable–and some of them unimaginable if you rely only on your inner ear and your past experience. Even better, he has collected hundreds of fragments from scores and 99 audio samples to illustrate the many techniques and practices he describes. Do not expect to hear some Klingon or an outlandish dialect spoken on Tatooine though. The collection is limited to what the human vocal tract can reasonably produce, and that is an awful lot on its own account.
Sensibly, the author hasn’t tried to categorize sounds by what you hear but by how they are produced. And, again sensibly, this means he has to start with the basic element of sound: airflow. From this he moves on to the source of vocal sounds: the human voice itself, how it is built, what its characteristics and limitations are and how its potential may be tapped. Next comes articulation and resonance or the formation of intelligible and unintelligible sounds during speech and song. ” . . . [A]s this text is about potentials for sound production, it was clear that a model needed to be developed that would account for all regions and manners available for human sound production that practically should retain the qualities of flexibility and ease of absorption and retention. The result was the development of a mapping of vocal tract articulation for filter-like, turbulent and absolute airflow modification” (p. xxiii, emphasis by the author).
Multiphonics in all its disguises has a chapter of its own, leading to some reflections on where it all might end (‘extermes’) and what to do if things go wrong (’causes and treatments of vocal disorders’). Of course, the voice in itself can be amplified, modified, and augmented by means of classical and modern (electronic) instruments. This is what Edgerton calls ‘interfaces’, and it naturally and logically leads to the question of how people listen or rather how sound is perceived in different contexts.
This is, by far, the most comprehensive text ever published on vocal techniques. Its many illustrations both graphical and auditory-and its clear and concise writing makes it an invaluable sourcebook for composers and performers as well as a fun read for those who just want to enlarge the repertoire of their solitary shower performance. Mind your arytenoid cartilage!
2001 – anonymous reviews
1. Michael Edgerton’s The 21st Century Voice provides rich information about the use of the Voice (“singing” and “speaking”). It contains a rich vein of “how to” information, both in terms of composition and performance with examples pertinant to the development of any self-respecting singer studying today. The recorded examples are a great inhancement to the text and should act as a lure to learn these “extra-singing”techniques for both composers and performers.
2. The 21th Century Voice presents information that has not been gathered together in such a useful and catagorical manner before. I know of no books approaching its wealth of information. All composers and singers studying today would do well to acquaint themselves with the material in the book.
3. The 21st century Voice is a monumental achievement demonstrating SUPERIOR scholarship.
4. There is nothing in print like The 21st Century Voice.
5. This is an enormously important book, a kind of “dictionary” of vocal techniques and sound possibilites that enchance a singer’s palate of colors.                                                                                                                                              6. The addition of an introduction helps a great deal and I think the book should be published as is, now.
7. The illustrations are very informative, easy to follow and replicate.
8. (see # 6)
9. (C ) Every university library should have at least once copy, all teachers of singing , and all students of singing at all interested in the music of today should own a copy at least to use as a reference book.
10. I would think the book should be a requirement for all graduate students both of music composition and of voice. I would require it of my Music 232 (Advanced vocal instruction) students (6 students this coming year.)
11. I strongly recommend the publication of The 21st Century Voice. It is a VERY useful work for all students, teachers and composers of vocal music today and in the years to come.