Captivating Voices

Instructor with Megaphone

This exhibit considers how specific voices command listeners’ attention and compels their response. In so doing, each voice becomes captivating. We include collective and solo voices in a wide variety of contexts like spoken word poetry, motivational speaking, sporting events, and musical styles like opera and blues. Some of the vocalists make their statements compelling through what they say (the referentiality of language), while for others paralinguistic features are especially artfully employed (that is, how they use their voices). While there is no one model or one combination of factors that makes a voice captivating, one recurring theme is that these are voices that prompt multiple interpretive angles. Furthermore, these voices often elicit a response because they deviate from the norm of a particular cultural context; thus, the notion of “captivating” is largely dependent on the context of a voice and on the ears of the listener. Each section of the exhibit examines a particular voice and provides five sound excerpts exploring the voice’s sonic aspects.