For Your listening


In 1625, all of the sopranos in the Sistine Chapel choir were castrati who had been castrated as young boys to achieve a unique singing voice. Castrated before puberty, they would retain their boy soprano voice but sing with the strength and breath capacity of a man. Part of their necessity was the fact that at that time, women could not sing in church choirs, but the men were said to be extremely popular and have the "voice of angels". "During the 17th and 18th centuries in Italy, some 4,000 - 5,000 boys were castrated annually for the purpose of singing alto in the church choirs." By 1640, castrati were used in choirs throughout Italy. The practice was officially banned by Pius X in 1903.
The only audio recordings of a castrati is of Alessandro Moreschi (1858-1922). Critics say Moreschi was past his singing prime wen he made this recording. Because the style of music has changed so much, keep this in mind: "Many of the seemingly imperfect vocal attacks, for example, are in fact, launched from as much as a tenth below the note - in Moreschi's case, this seems to have been a long-standing means of drawing on the particular acoustics of the Sistine Chapel itself."
Here Morschi sings Ave Maria.
Here he sings Domine Salvum Fac.
Source. Source.
Georgia Brown is a Brazilian singer who holds the Guinness World Record for singing the highest recorded note. Her vocal range spans 8 octaves. A word of warning on the audio link. It is, how to put it, all very very high notes. Here. is her song. For a smaller dose of high notes, here is a video where she only sings high at the end.


In 1877, Thomas Edison recorded the first sounds for play back. He recited Mary Had A Little Lamb. Here is the recording which is very clear. Up until recently, Edison was thought to have made the first recording, but an 1860 recording of "Au Clair de la Lune" by French inventor Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville has been found. Scott recorded by "etch[ing] representations of sound waves into paper covered in soot from a burning oil lamp." The distinction is that Scott's recordings were not designed to be played back. Here is the recording. Source.


Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944) was famous for being a terrible singer. Despite this, or because of this, she managed immense popularity and was able to draw 5,000 people to a 3,000 ticket Carnegie Concert performance. It is agreed that Jenkins was sincere in her belief in her singing, dismissing laugher as "professional jealousy." Her balls and recitals each had a theme. Between every song, Jenkins would change costumes. Both Enrico Caruso and Cole Porter were admirers. Cole Porter never missed her concerts. "He apparently screamed with laughter all the way through . . . but at the end he was the first one to stand up and scream and shout 'bravo'." While making this recording here, she allegedly only snag the song one time. She told the sound engineer it was perfect so no second try was necessary.
Source. Source. Source.

For more audio, you can visit here, and also here for such recordings as: Einstein explaining E=mc^2, Ted Bundy confessing, King Edward VIII abdicating and Neville Chamberlain's declaration of war.

By the way, I am currently on vaccation. I scheduled this to post automatically. (creepy music) Hope it works correctly.

8 comments:

Baba Doodlius said...

A couple of things:

1) Good thing they didn't wait until those boys' voices were in the middle of changing before doin' the ol' "snip-snip" - it would suck to have that broken voice for the rest of your life.

2) I wonder how she would sound singing "Sweet Georgia Brown"?

3) "Her balls and recitals each had a theme." This is like me - my ba... no, not gonna go there.

Debbie said...

I'd heard of Jenkins before, and have to admit to being a little curious about her. Definitely an interesting story. Thanks!

satire and theology said...

I scheduled this to post automatically. (creepy music) Hope it works correctly.

It can be 'iffy', and has only worked 2/3 times for me.

Russ:)

satire and theology said...

Your blog is like an interesting museum...the first recorded sound.

Georgia Brown...yikes!:)

AY@tes said...

I'd hate to live in the same house as Georgia Brown. There would never be any glasses left... though if I could sing like that I'd sit around all day destroying things with my voice. Its like having a superpower, and I'm all about superpowers.

*Up, up and away!*

AY@tes said...

I'm glad to see you're creepy "auto posting while you're not home" thing worked.

i beati said...

How did you uncover my lost tape ?/I thought I had destroyed all the copies!! sk

日月神教-任我行 said...
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