"Boyes are apt to change their voice at about fourteene yeeres of age": An historical background to the debate about longevity in boy treble singers

Ashley, Martin and Mecke, Ann-Christine (2013) "Boyes are apt to change their voice at about fourteene yeeres of age": An historical background to the debate about longevity in boy treble singers. Reviews of Research in Human Learning and Music, 1. pp. 1-19. ISSN 2162-2213 DOI https://doi.org/10.6022/journal.rrhlm.2013001

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Abstract

Historical sources and longstanding custom suggest that boys’ voices “break” during their fifteenth year. This event, when experienced boys leave the treble sections of choirs, represents a significant musical loss to the choir and potentially significant disruption to the boy’s musical career. In recent decades, increasing attention has been paid to research that highlights more subtle staged changes to the voice rather than a sudden “break.” A pedagogical consequence has sometimes been for boys to leave treble sections at younger ages. Even more recently, concern with a trend toward earlier puberty, termed “secular” in the medical profession, has exerted further downward pressure, leading to expectations that age twelve rather than fourteen might be the time choirs lose their most experienced trebles. Potential impacts include the need to simplify repertoire or commence the training of boys at younger ages. The paper reviews existing research in order to probe the unlikely scenario that the age of voice change has only recently dropped to as low as twelve after being consistently at fourteen for over two thousand years. The conclusion is that a lack of conceptual clarity, wide variations in choral practice and inconsistent attempts at measurement in the past demand both skepticism and further research.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
M Music and Books on Music > MT Musical instruction and study
Q Science > Q Science (General)
Divisions: Performing Arts
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Date Deposited: 10 May 2013 10:08
URI: http://repository.edgehill.ac.uk/id/eprint/5023

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