DFG HfM Weimar Voice and Singing in
Popular Music in the U.S.A. (1900–1960)


Martin Pfleiderer, Tilo Hähnel, Katrin Horn, Christian Bielefeldt (Ed.)
Stimme, Kultur, Identität
Vokaler Ausdruck in der populären Musik der USA, 1900-1960

[Voice, culture, identity: Vocal expression in popular music of the United States of America, 1900-1960]

Bielefeld: transcript, 520 pages, ca. 100 fig.,

The book deals with voices and singing styles in popular music of the United States. The contributions describe in detail how vocal expression of singers from vaudeville, gospel music, blues, American popular song, musical, jazz, country music, folk music, rhythm & blues, rock'n'roll and soul has developped across genre boundaries and how it reflects images, cultural stereotypes and collective identities. The combination of approaches from music analysis as well as cultural history will stimulate new research on popular music and popular singing.

Content & Introduction (german)


About the research project

How does one appropriately describe and interpret pop voices and singing styles? How do vocal expressions relate to the complex of lyrics and musical composition, of performances and images of singers, of processes of identity construction and cultural stereotypes?

Guided by these questions and using examples of singers from Vaudeville, American Popular Song and Musical, Gospel Music, Blues und Rhythm & Blues, Jazz, Country Music und Folk Music as well as Rock'n'Roll and early Soul, the research project Voice and Singing in Popular Music in the US (1900-1960) analyzes and illustrates how vocal expressions have developed and influenced each other across genre divides, and how they have influenced and reflected images, cultural stereotypes and collective identities.

The research project focuses on these central concerns:

Additionally, the software Vocalmetrics has been developed. It allows its users to visualize similarities and differences between means of vocal expression in over 200 representative sound examples from the history of US-American popular music; Vocalmetrics will be made available as freeware and can be used for other musical genres and research questions.
The research project has been funded from December 2011 to November 2014 by the German Research Foundation (DFG).  

last update: 15.02.2017