History of Genres and Technical Development

Classical

Classical singing can be traced all the way back to Machaut in the Medieval era when he started to clearly define notation. This continued all the way up through the Baroque and Renaissance eras when singing continued to thrive and develop. Singing classically really began to hit its peak in the Classical and Romantic eras.

Opera developed in the Renaissance era when a group called the Florentine Camerata discussed how to revive the art and music of antiquity. Jacopo Peri composed the first known opera in the late 1590s and by the early 1600s the well known works by Monteverdi followed. The Baroque era rose next and with it opera continued to flourish. Music of this era was typically much more florid and embellished in a style known as rococo. By the late 1700s Mozart and Beethoven came on the scene as prominent opera composers, their contributions helped opera develop in harmony, structure and plot. The orchestra began taking a greater role due to these expansions and helped add harmonic depth and variety. In the 1800s, after the French revolution it became commonplace to frequent operas that featured Italian composers such as Bellini and Rossini.

Gradually more Romanticism began to dominate the opera arena as seen in works by Wagner in the mid 1800s.  By the 1900s, composers like Debussy and Ravel began to explore impressionism by stretching tonality and form. They were followed up by composers like Stravinsky and Gershwin who had much more contemporary approaches. It’s amazing to examine the beginnings of the genre and to see where it has gone. This brief overview displays the vast expanse of opera and it’s versatility.  

Broadway

Broadway is known for it’s dramatic plots and belted high notes. It would only be fitting that a dramatic genre have a dramatic origin. Unlike opera, Broadway musicals are not all sung. Traces of this performance style can be found all the way back to antiquity – as early as fifth century B.C.E. These ancient performances included dramatic scenes, dance routines and accompanying orchestrations. By the Renaissance era these formed into commedia dell’arte which were basically clowns running around interpreting a plot line. By the 1700s, the genre started to become more distinct and recognizable. In the late 1800s the first Broadway, show The Black Crook, showed for almost 500 performances and was a massive hit. After that the audiences couldn’t get enough. Despite two World Wars and the depression, Broadway still held strong. Popular shows like Oklahoma! and Anything Goes were the types of shows that helped Broadway peak and develop into what we have as a genre today.

As mentioned earlier, there are three major areas of resonance. Unlike opera and classical music Broadway utilizes the chest and middle voice which creates a very dramatic sound. The chest voice and head voice have very distinct sounds and the middle voice is the bridge between the two. The middle voice is more often referred to as belting. It takes training and practice to master the intricacies of the middle voice, but it is essential to help preserve the voice. Singing in a constant chest or middle voice is very wearing on the throat and can cause damage within a matter of years so singers have to listen to their bodies.

Contemporary

Contemporary music is always changing and evolving from era to era and therefore doesn’t have an explicit definition. However, it can loosely be considered as something that is intended to be performed or listened to with largely conventional notation that musicians of the time can play proficiently. This working definition can be applied very liberally in the 21st century. There are many different forms and genres that are encompassed within “contemporary” music. Currently, vocalists approach music with a unique flair. It is commonplace to hear raspy singers,

high belting

And even more dramatic styles.

These individualized styles give people their “it factor”. Having a unique sound is what gives singers an edge in the music industry. Unfortunately, this raspy sound is unhealthy. Vocal folds produce a clear tone when used correctly and any other sounds are either artificially created (which causes damage) or the side effect of already existing damage.