Friday, January 8, 2010

High Men!

If I could go back in history in a time machine I would like to go to the 18th century and listen to Carlo Broschi, known as Farinelli, sing. He was supposed to the greatest of the castrati singers with amazing technique, phenomenal breath control, artistic brilliance and the ability to make the ladies swoon. Despite being robbed of their testes at a young age in order to become a castrato singer, the castrati were sex symbols of their time.

So what is it that's so sexy about men singing in high voices. It shouldn't be sexy should it? Men who speak with high voices are considered ridiculous but a man singing in a high register, whether naturally or in falsetto, has enormous erotic allure. I recently watched a video of a Russian singer called Vistas teasing his mainly female audience by singing in a natural male voice before launching into a male soprano voice they had all clearly been waiting for judging by the loud sighs and use of programmes as fans.

I was listening today to a band called The Wild Beasts where one of the singers uses his falsetto voice to great affect, sounding bizarre yet oddly louche, as if he were recovering from a bout of exhausting love making. Jeff Buckley's beautiful high voice touches me both viscerally and spiritually, at once incredibly sexy and yet other worldy. Don't get me started on counter tenors like Andreas Scholl.

So what is it that makes men singing in high voice so attractive. I think it feels slightly dangerous and on the edge for a start, vocal risk taking. Then there is the quality of the male voice at that register. It's still manly and strong but with this great beauty when done well and utterly different to a woman singing at the same pitch. Ultimately though, I think it's a matter of tension (which is surely the key to all eroticism) - it's not at all effeminate or emasculating because it always essentially male yet playing on the dangerous margins of what that means.

I can completely understand why the 18th century ladies fainted over Farinelli and his ilk. My time machine can't come quick enough!

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