The Open Voice: Vocality and Listening in Three Operas by Luciano Berio. / Brady, Clare.

2017. 254 p.

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis





The human voice has undergone a seismic reappraisal in recent years, within musicology, and across disciplinary boundaries in the humanities, arts and sciences; ‘voice studies’ offers a vast and proliferating array of seemingly divergent accounts of the voice and its capacities, qualities and functions, in short, of what the voice is. In this thesis, I propose a model of the ‘open voice’, after the aesthetic theories of Umberto Eco’s seminal book The Open Work of 1962, as a conceptual framework in which to make an account of the voice’s inherent multivalency and resistance to a singular reductive definition, and to propose the voice as a site of encounter and meaning construction between vocalist and receiver. Taking the concept of the ‘open voice’ as a starting point, I examine how the human voice is staged in three vocal works by composer Luciano Berio, and how the voice is diffracted through the musical structures of these works to display a multitude of different, and at times paradoxical forms and functions. In Passaggio (1963) I trace how the open voice invokes the hegemonic voice of a civic or political mass in counterpoint with the particularity and frailty of a sounding individual human body. Un re in ascolto (1983) presents the open voice in the multitude of sounding, singing and performative voices of the opera house tradition, their potential aesthetic and interpersonal capacities, and their construction in each individual listening encounter. Altra Voce (1999) frames the open voice in the complex interactions of voice with written text, and their seemingly paradoxical intersections with time, location and memory. I consider the usefulness of this model of the open voice in musicological terms, and review the importance of looking to musical practice, both historical and current, to inform our constantly evolving understanding of the human voice, and its place and role in music.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Thesis sponsors
  • Arts & Humanities Res Coun AHRC
Award date1 Nov 2017
Publication statusUnpublished - 2017
This open access research output is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

ID: 28730673