It’s a lovely idea, but

There’s an NPR story here about music being used as a therapy to aid chronic pain sufferers or the dying.  Anecdotal reports are good, but there are no scientific, double-blind, replicable studies yet to back it up.  I have my own concern about the practice.  I like listening to music, but I hate opera and the operatic style of singing (meaning I writhe when I hear opera singers try to sing popular songs operatically).  I imagine that, if I were dying or in great distress, hearing that irritating voice would increase my sufferings.  Of course, if Ella Fitzgerald could be resurrected to come to my bedside, that would be another story.

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  • Trish Olsen

    I understand your disgust with the sound of an operatic voice. Fully 90 % of them are truly ugly ugly ugly! Why so many operatically-trained voices are taught to produce a FAKE so-called operatic sound is beyond me. (I suspect the talent was very tiny, in the first place, so these people had to try & MANUFACTURE a sound — which cannot be done with any real beauty.) But there ARE, or have been, a few voices that are the exception. Maria Callas & Luciano Pavarotti would be at the top of that list. They have NATURALLY produced, Bel Canto voices that are (were) truly rare & beautiful. If you ever get a chance to hear either one of these two on a good recording, I think you’d be surprised at the difference. Did I mention, I have a degree in opera performance & used to sing many operatic roles? And I did it the right way — which is never ever “forced.”

  • Trish Olsen

    There have been studies supporting “improved emotional health & lower blood-pressure rates” for those who attend church & sing hymns regularly. I believe it’s true. Music can be such a balm, especially when one is a participant. Tastes vary widely, of course — some prefer jazz, some rock, some show tunes, some classical symphonic music etc. etc. — EVEN the dreaded opera! :) But the principle is the same. (Maybe hymns “connnect” especially well because they’re almost always messages of hope, Love & forgiveness.) Anyway, why wouldn’t “music therapy” be a real tool in calming pain-levels for the very ill or dying? Sounds like a logical transfer to me. At any rate, I’d happily order up Ella for you, Bookworm, when your time comes — & I’m sure she wouldn’t mind your singing along WITH her! :)

  • jg

    Trish, who doesn’t cherish the supreme beauty of the female soprano voice? I’m not an opera fan– but those marvelous voices..! We know them from concerts outside the opera and from (hurrah!) Christmas music.

    Let me vote for 1–Leontyne Price 2–Kiri Te Kanawa–but there are so many others. And, being chauvinist, you will note that the appearance of the singer DOES affect the nature of the performance. Some are beguiling.

    Most of the modern sopranos do not please me as much as those of another generation.

    We once had the privilege of hearing Dame Te Kanawa in concert. She is very tall and athletic. To a noisy American audience she was firm: “You must be quiet so I can continue.”

    David, of course, soothed the madness of his king, Saul, with both harp and voice. The place of harp in western music is secure. And, hopefully, the art of that ‘heaven-blessed’ voice is as well!

  • zhombre

    I hope to kick hearing Duke Ellington’s “Take the A Train.”

  • judyrose

    Having trained as a classical singer many years ago, I heard plenty of voices that sent me reeling, in and out of class.

    My then boyfriend (now husband) and I created a simple commentary for singers.

    Sopranos: Just because you CAN reach the note, doesn’t mean you should.
    Altos: Who gives a shit?
    Tenors: Not really worth the aggravation.
    Basses: Cool!

  • Ymarsakar

    I like Andrea Bocelli’s voice.

    I’m one of those people who can hear things quite well, but is only annoyed by two specific sounds (that I know of). High pressure bass sounds like the high pitch (loud decibel) sould of an air break being applied, as well as when you crush the white foam used for packaging, the ones that create the chalk board screetching sound. In both cases, it is loud, high pitched, screaming and chaotic noises that cause my ears pain. Every other sound, and I mean every other sound up to including loud bass car stereo music and trains, I can eventually block out using sub-conscious routines.

    If a soprano can modulate their voice to the right vibration pitch to shatter crystal, that doesn’t bother me.

  • anna27

    My eclectic mix:
    the works of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman
    Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”
    Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Etta James, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Keely Smith, Dinah Washington, Ray Charles, Muddy Waters
    Classical – preferably Mozart (Piano Sonatas and Concertos), but Beethoven, Bach, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky will work, too.
    Manhattan Transfer (their early stuff)
    Eagles (early stuff)
    Santana (early stuff)
    Big & Rich

    Pretty much any of that would make me happy! I have put on the album (CD) Killer Queen and cannot help feeling happier!

  • Trish Olsen

    Jg — Yes, the sound of a naturally beautiful soprano voice can be such a gift to almost any ear. But so many (particularly opera) singers today do NOT seem to have that “pure timbre” any more — their voices, instead, sound painfully artificial, contorted, downright ugly! Maybe the talent, these days, just isn’t what is used to be. It’s puzzling. But I agree — Kiri Te Kanawa is truly an exception! What a lovely, lovely instrument! Did you know she is the favorite voice of Prince Charles?

    I also tend to favor voices from the past — Maria Callas, Renata Tibaldi (truly the voice of an angel), Franco Corelli, even Nicoli Gedda. These people were absolute gifts to anyone who had the honor & privilege of hearing them in concert or on the operatic stage — which I did, with the exception of Callas. And nope, I wouldn’t call it “chauvanistic” at all — to recognize that appearance DOES matter in opera because it is a VISUAL, as well as a musical, medium.

    Like Anna, I love all kinds of music beyond classical. Ella Fitzgerald is totally cool — especially when she starts scattin’! Other favs: U2 (big time), Enya, Norah Jones, Peggy Lee, The Pointer Siters, Prince, Don Henley, Lou Rawls, Sting, Elvis, Gladys Night & The Pips (Midnight Train to Georgia.)

    Ymarsakar: The first time I heard Andrea Bocelli was on a TV ad, while I was busy doing something else in the house — and I wondered just WHO belonged to that voice? Very nice…
    And Judyrose: your commentary on singers was hilarious; I hear you!

    “I hope to kick hearing Duke Ellington’s ‘Take the A Train.'” :)

  • Bookworm

    Trish, you’re so right about the strained voice that characterizes modern opera. It’s also the same reason I dislike modern pop: The endless pressure behind a voice such as Mariah Carey’s or Whitney Houston’s just puts me off. I like relaxed voices: Ella Fitzgerald is the top, but I’d really go for all the other 1940s vocalists, when cool, clear, unpressured singing was the style.

  • Ymarsakar


    Bocelli transcends to another level when he operates in duo. With a woman singing with him, his voice and hers transcend both of their personal limitations.

    The harmony was great, and I think I first heard it in that um, animated movie with the blind hero and the compassionate heroine(Quest for Camelot). It was in the ending credits. The song’s name was Looking Through Your Eyes, I believe, with LeAnn Rimes (not sure). There is a visual component to musicality. I can hear songs on mp3s, but it was NEVER as enjoyable as seeing it performed in person. Greensleeves sung by one of my high school soprano vocalists, infused me with the feelings of serenity, sadness, and loss. She looked and felt so forlorn singing on that stage, with the lights dimmed, and the audience absolutely quiet. It is not the same when you hear it recorded.

    The same is true for anime soundtracks. It’s never as good recorded on mp3, it’s much better if you see the opening animation along with the music.

    Chrono Crusade’s opening title theme music was good even on mp3, but it was another experience entire if you saw the pictures as well. The Japanese are producing some good music. Funny that PM Koizumi came over here to gush about Elvis Presley 😉

    I like Japanese music because I can’t understand the lyrics. So it never gets boring. My ear tends to tune out consistent noises, (sub-conscious block), so that even the most pleasant music repeated a 100 times will grate on my nerves. The effect is a lot less with foreign music, because I don’t understand the words.

    That’s an interesting way to phrase it, trish, a person belonging to his voice, heh.