Throughout this class, we have listened to music from an incredibly wide range of voices, cultures, settings, purposes, and places around the world. In listening to the music for this class, I found myself connecting each piece through one particular thing: emotion. While each piece we listented to was unique in style, quality, tone, and other musical attributes, a common thread was that each piece displayed some type of emotion. For example, the yelling, singing, and chanting of Zulu dancers and the ululating of audience members dsiplayed an emotional tone of high spirits and excitement. Funeral laments and other sounds of wailing we listened to carried a very different emotion: sadness and dispair. Songs of resistance, such as Triptych, held a tone of anger, determination, and seriousness.
The strong connection between music and emotion can be explained by the fact that music is an art form widely used as a medium of expression. It is this dimension of music that I find captivating. After exploring emotion expressed through many songs in this class, I wanted to expand my understanding of emotion as an element of voice to cover the area of spoken voice. Thus, I chose to make the theme of this project emotion in spoken voice.
In intially planning this project, I hoped to explore different emotions in spoken voice. I wanted to compare and contrast the aspects of emotion in spoken voice with those of emotion in singing (since many of the sounds we listened to in this class conveyed emotion through song). This proved to be too broad of a scope, however, so I narrowed the focus of my project down to one emotion: frustration.
In the first and main recording below, I present frustration in spoken voice as perfromed by an amatuer actor. I note that, even though the actor doesn't truely feel frustrated, she is able to use her voice to convince listeners that she is. In subsequent recordings, I delve into how she does this. I explore what vocal techniques she uses. In doing this, I also discover what aspects of the voices we hear convey emotion to us.
In recordings 2 and 3, I compare the amateur actor's voice with other frustrated voices. In the second recording, I provide a comparison between the amatuer actor and the professional. They prove to use the same general techniques to convey frustration, but they also take slightly different interpretations of the character they are playing, and thus create different representations. In the third, I use a recording of a non-staged display of frustration to compare true frustration to imitated frustration. I found that, again, the techniques used are the same, while the degrees of interpreted distress differ, creating two displays of frustation which are not quite the same.
In recordings 4 and 5, I ask the amateur actor to explain the techniques she uses to create emotion and to specifically create frustration. She describes techniques that can be detected in the earlier recordings of frustration. In addition, she demonstrates the techniques she uses for frustration with contrasting ones (ones that cna be used for other emotions). With these demonstrations, it is easy to hear clear changes in conveyed emotion by the simple vocal changes she makes.
In the final recording, I present a frustrated voice that is sung. With this recording, I was able to analyze the similarities and differences in the same emotion when spoken and sung. I found that vocal techniques such as volume and pitch are necessarily similar between the two, while other techniques, such as ones that create fluidity, can be adujusted to way the voice is presented (either spoken or sung). In the future, it would be interesting to analyze whether this concept applies to other emotions.
By exploring these recordings, I discovered that the aspects of a voice which convey an emotion such as frustration are largely the same between context and performer (the truely emotion, the amateur actor, the professional actor and the singer). Both actors and singers use the same techniques that people naturally use to convey emotion through voice. Connecting this back to our class, I am now able to fully explain why emotion was the connection point between as the music we listened to this semseter. Between different genres, cultural norms, and styles, the underlying emotions in most different pieces are understood through sounds that are common to many voices across the world.
In this recording, Ashley and her scene partner Peyton perform a scene from the Play Hedda Gabler. Ashley's character, Thea, is a distressed woman who has recently left her husband. Her friend, Hedda (Peyton), is just finding out and asks Thea about it. Hedda's questions bring up Thea's frustration with her marriage and now ex-husband. This frustration, if acted well, comes out in the voice of Thea's performer. I chose Ashley's performance of Thea's frustration as my main captivating voice becuase Ashley is able to convey Thea's frustration with her situation in such a way as to make her frustration seem real. In this recording, the listener can tell that Ashley's character is frustrated with her situtation. Through the following recordings, I will explore how Ashley uses particular techinques to convince listeners that she is really frustrated.
This recording is from the 1981 version of the movie Hedda Gabler, of the same segment of the play which Ashley and Peyton perform in the main recording. Ashley and Peyton wathched this performance before learning the scene. Since Ashley used these actors as a starting point from which to pick up the tones and emotions of the lines, there are certian siliarities between Ashley's performance, and that of the actor that played Thea in the movie. Forexample, they both use a matter-of-fact tone to show acceptance of and peace with what their character had done.
While it was their initial inspiration, they both chose to use a different style and vocal technique than the actors in the movie, and thus presented the scene with a different emtional tone. In particular focus for this project, Thea in the movie does not display as much frustration in her voice as Ashely does. While the actor chose to take on a somewhat dissmissive tone, Ashley chose to put more roughness in her voice and create more of a feeling of frustration.
This real-life recording of a child expressing blind frustration with his parents provides an interesting comparison with Ashley's acted frustration. The similarities between this instance of true frustration and Ashley's imitation of frustration show draw on the vocla techniques that Ashely conciously uses to convey frustration. The child in this clip is almost screaming, with the voice coming from very low in his throat, creating scratchiness. While Ashley's voice is not so low and scratchy as to convey the level of distress that this child is feeling, Ashely does make her voice more rough than normal to create feelings of distress and frustration. In addition, this child is vocalizing at a volume much louder than normal speech. In the same way, Ashley raises her voice to convey the intensity of her frustration. Thus, my imitating some of the same vocal effects that are present in true frustration, Ashley is able to convincingly act frustrated.
Here Ashely explains the vital use of volume and pitch change in acting out emotions. Using first the example of happiness, she explains that, in acting out happiness or other similar emotions, using a pitch and volume higher than that which you would use in everyday speech imitates the real vocal to effect of happiness. From her demonstration, the listener is able to understand that she is expressing joy solely on her elevated pitch and elevated volume. Opposingly, using a pitch and volume both lower than normal speech imitate the emotion of saddness. Again, Ashley's demonstration clearly conveys saddness to the listening simply with a drop in both pitch and volume. Finally, frustration can be performed with a low pitch and high volume. When Ashley performs frustration, her decreased pitch and increased volume have the effect of a rougher and more intense sound, indicative of the roughness and intensity of the emotion of frustration.
Ashley now explains the use of other vocal techinques to convey the "lower" emotions and specifically frustration. She describes these emtions as lacking lightness, fluidity, and softness. Instead, these emotions are indicated by a more gravely quality of voice. She says that she draws out this gravely quality by making her voice more throaty. In addition, she explains the difference between "head voice" and "chest voice" and states that using chest voice is also important for portraying frustration. When she changes her voice from "head voice" to "chest voice," the listener can almost feel the drop from a higher and happier emotional state to a neutral to low emotional state. This can be related to the drop in the main recording from Ashley's almost neutral emotion to deeper frustration by the end of the clip. Based on this explanation, Ashley would have dropped into a deeper chest voice to create this emotional drop.
This recording, a clip from "No Good Deed" on the CD soundtrack of the musical Wicked, demonstrates frustration through song. The main character of the play, Elphaba (played by Idina Menzel in this track), sings this song after the love of her life has been killed. In this song, she exclaims that, through all of her best efforts to do the right thing, she has been hurt by the loss of people close to her. Thus, she releases her frustration through singing this song.
To compare and contrast this with Ashely's performance in the main recording, the two performers use some of the same ideas to convey frustration but use different techniques to fit their mediums of presentation. When either of the performers emphasize their frustration, they lower their vocal pitch and raise their volume. Ashley does this most clearly in the last line of the main recording when she exclaims, "They can think whatever they damn well please!" Menzel demonstrates this when she sings the lines "No good deed goes unpunished." Their difference of technique can be understood in relation to Ashley's explanation of "head voice" versus "chest voice." In spoken frustration, Ashley uses her "chest voice," drawn from deep in her chest to convey the deep feeling of frustration. Menzel, on the other hand, uses a voice that is closer to a "head voice" in order to keep the sound fluid and smooth enough for singing and in the pitch of the song.