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The Anatomy and Physiognomy of Early Modern Vocal Identity

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Date: Monday 29th September 2014
Time: 9:30-10:30
Venue: The Rex Cramphorn Studio, Department of Performance Studies, The University of Sydney. The studio is on Level 1 of the John Woolley Building, A20, and is accessed from Manning Rd, down the concrete steps opposite the Old Teachers' College. View map here.

In 1600, two lavish books were published in Northern Italy, each revolutionary: Julius Casserius’s huge Anatomical History of the Organs of Voice and Hearing with its famous detailed woodcut engravings of dissections and the comparably detailed musical score of Ottavio Rinuccini’s and Jacopo Peri’s Euridice – the earliest modern through-sung play in music, which is nowadays considered to be the first genuine opera. Each in its own way was an attempt to represent in print that which could not, in fact, be recorded – the human voice. And although the ‘images’ of the voice which each of these books contains appear to us somehow easily and timelessly translatable, seeing as our own voices must surely be physically identical with those of people in 1600, in reality both books were conceived and born within a set of paradigms about the voice quite different to our own, especially the ways in which the connections between voice and ‘identity’ were understood. This paradox is the starting point for an exploration of the question ‘how might an understanding of the medical, philosophical and social conceptions that shaped early modern vocality affect how we attempt to read its silent traces today?’

Richard WistreichProfessor Richard Wistreich is Director of Research at the Royal College of Music, London. He is an internationally renowned performer of both early and contemporary music. He has made concert, radio and television appearances worldwide, and recorded more than 100 CDs. In 1989 he co-founded the ensemble Red Byrd, dedicated to performing both old and new music, often side-by-side in the same concerts. Prior to his current appointment, he was Dean of Research and Enterprise at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester. Richard is a scholar and teacher with wide-ranging research interests, and a particular interest in vocal music-making in Europe.