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Johan Sundberg, Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden: "The voice as a musical instrument"

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  • Distinguished Lecture
When Jan 22, 2009
from 04:30 PM to 06:00 PM
Where Strathcona Music Building, 555 Sherbrooke St. West, Clara Lichtenstein Recital Hall (C-209)
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Johan Sundberg's presentation is available online for those who were not able to attend his talk: SundbergPresentation.pdf

By varying the air pressure in the lungs, the length and tension of the vocal folds, the glottal adduction and the shape of the vocal tract the human voice can be continuously varied along three perceptual dimensions: loudness, pitch, and timbre. In this sense the human voice is the more flexible than any other music instrument. Contributions to timbral variation emanate from both the vibrating vocal folds and from the resonatory properties of the vocal tract. The presentation will review some investigations of how singers use these means for the purpose of vocal economy and musical expressivity.


Johan Sundberg, born 1936, had a personal chair in Music Acoustics at the Speech Music Hearing Department at KTH (Royal Institute of Technology), Stockholm, Sweden, 1979 to his reiterment 2001. Originally a musicologist, he early turned to acoustical aspects of music, starting with a doctoral dissertation work (1966) on organ pipes. Since then, the singing voice has been one of his main research topics. He has published a great number of articles in international journals and book chapters on various aspects of singing including resonance, vocal fold function, breathing, choral singing, perception and expression in singing. He summarized research in this area in Röstlära (3rd edition 2001, translations: The Science of the Singing Voice, 1987 and Die Wissenschaft von der Singstimme, 1997). Other research topics have been music theory, perception, and performance. He has also written a book on music acoustics (Musikens Ljudlära, 2nd ed 1989, translations: The Science of Musical Sounds, 1991 and Öpetus muusikahelidest 1995). As the President of the Music Acoustics Committee of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music (1975-91) he edited or co-edited 11 volumes in a series of Proceedings of public seminars on music acoustic themes arranged in Stockholm since 1975-93. He has also had extensive experiences of performing music as a choir and solo singer. He has studied singing with Dagmar Gustafson and made his public debute with a Lieder recital on his 50th birthday. He is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, of the Swedish Acoustical Society (President 1976-81) and a fellow of the Acoustical Society of America (Silver Medal in Musical Acoustics, 2003). In 1996 he became Doctor Honoris Causa at the University of York, UK.



APA video citation:
Sundberg, J. (2014, April 29). The voice as a musical instrument -
CIRMMT Distinguished Lectures in the Science and Technology of Music. [Video file].
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