A Voice of Frustration -- Ashley Ericson

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.

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