From death metal to throat singing to alpine yodelling, the experimental group is changing what it means to harmonize.
By Burkhard Bilger

In a throat, a note is forming. A puff of air, a pulse of the lungs, rushes up the windpipe and through the vocal cords, parting them like a pair of lips. As the cords begin to vibrate, they’re stretched taut by muscles to either side, raising the pitch. The diaphragm pumps more air, rocketing the note up the vocal tract, making its walls hum like the barrel of a woodwind. The sound ricochets back and forth as it rises, gaining resonance with each rebound, till it bursts into the hollow chamber of the mouth, the ringing cavities of the sinuses, and careens off the palate into the open air.

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February 21 at 10:58 AM

Peter Tork, a blues and folk musician who became a teeny-bopper sensation as a member of the Monkees, the wisecracking, made-for-TV pop group that imitated and briefly outsold the Beatles, died Feb. 21. He was 77.

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NEW YORK — Daryl Dragon, the cap-wearing “Captain” of “The Captain and Tennille” who teamed with then-wife Toni Tennille on such easy listening hits as “Love Will Keep Us Together” and “Muskrat Love,” died Wednesday at age 76.

Dragon died of renal failure at a hospice in Prescott, Arizona, according to spokesman Harlan Boll. Tennille was by his side. [Read More…]

Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, died Thursday morning at her home in Detroit from advanced pancreatic cancer, her family said in a statement. She was 76 years old.

The family said that the cause of death was confirmed by Franklin’s oncologist.

“In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart,” Franklin’s family said in the statement. “We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds.”

Franklin’s prolific career spanned six decades and included hit songs like “Respect,” “A Natural Woman” and “I Say a Little Prayer.” Even in her 70s, she was still performing. In 2015, her performance of “A Natural Woman” at the Kennedy Center Honors brought President Barack Obama to tears. [Read more….]

What kind of effect — if any — does loudness have on articulation? This question was bugging researchers at the University of Freiburg so much, they grabbed a world-class opera singer and tossed him into an MRI so they could analyze the voice at work. Baritone Michael Volle was the willing subject, and as he sang the aria “Oh Du, mein holder Abendstern” from Wagner’s Tannhäuser, the scientists were able to observe the workings of the human voice in real time.

Updated by Julia Belluz, Jun 20, 2015, 8:40am EDT

I’ve always had a raspy voice that easily burns out. A loud party or long day of talking can leave me sounding like Tom Waits. But is there any way to avoid this?

To learn more, I called Diana Orbelo, a speech-language pathologist at the Mayo Clinic who helps people with voice problems.

Over the phone, she almost immediately diagnosed me as a voice loser. “Usually the throaty, chesty, deeper voices are the ones that tend to get more into trouble,” she said.

Assuming I have a healthy larynx, when I lose my voice it means I’ve strained my vocal cords from too much use, causing them to swell up so they can’t vibrate as easily to get out sound. (Think of this as a repetitive motion injury.) [Read more.]

joyce-didonato

Joyce DiDonato, one of the world’s greatest opera singers, is inspiring maximum-security prison inmates with her voice. Sing Sing is one of the most notorious prisons in the world, and it’s there that DiDonato has broken stereotypes and created a bond with prisoners using classical music theory. [video]

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Just heard the very sad news that Weston Noble has passed away today. I sang under him in the Nordic Choir at Luther college from 1978-1980. My dad even played trombone under him in the Luther Band from 1951-1953. I can’t imagine how many young musicians this man influenced and mentored. The number must be in the tens of thousands. At the very least, the heavenly choir has a new conductor. RIP Dr. Noble, you will be greatly missed.

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen performing in Brooklyn in 2012.

Leonard Cohen, the Canadian poet and novelist who abandoned a promising literary career to become one of the foremost songwriters of the contemporary era, has died, according to an announcement Thursday night on his Facebook page. He was 82. [Read more.]

Bob Dylan

Val Wilmer/Redferns, via Getty Images

Half a century ago, Bob Dylan shocked the music world by plugging in an electric guitar and alienating folk purists. For decades he continued to confound expectations, selling millions of records with dense, enigmatic songwriting.

Now, Mr. Dylan, the poet laureate of the rock era, has been rewarded with the Nobel Prize in Literature, an honor that elevates him into the company of T. S. Eliot, Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison and Samuel Beckett. [Read more.]