Have we made ourselves clear? Singers and non-singers’ perceptions of the intelligibility of sung text

Philip Fine, Jane Ginsborg, Christopher Barlow

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Published conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

The intelligibility of sung text is an important component of listeners’
enjoyment of vocal music and a central concern for singers and, for example, choral conductors. Expert listeners such as singers and singing
teachers may be better than non-singers at perceiving sung text. We replicated and extended an earlier study investigating the intelligibility of
semantically and non-semantically meaningful words performed solo
and by a small group of trained soloists by carrying out an experiment in
which we manipulated listening expertise, type of text, number of singers, and time of hearing. Participants listened twice to four songs with
meaningful and “scrambled” lyrics, sung in unison by a choir and solo,
and wrote down as many of the words as they could discern. Singers were
better at the task than non-singers; more words were recorded on the
second hearing and when the words were meaningful. Sung text involves
distortions of consonants and vowels to which singers may be more accustomed, so that they find it easier to discern texts even when scrambled. Choirs may be harder to understand than soloists because their
phonemes are more variable and less clear. In future research we will use
operatically trained soloists and polyphonic choirs.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Symposium on Performance Science 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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    Fine, P., Ginsborg, J., & Barlow, C. (2011). Have we made ourselves clear? Singers and non-singers’ perceptions of the intelligibility of sung text. In International Symposium on Performance Science 2011