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A singer’s perspective on Sirens and singing: An interview with coloratura soprano/conductor Barbara Hannigan

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The Sirens appear in one of the most iconic literary episodes on music-making and music-hearing, in Homer’s twelfth book of The Odyssey (2018: 194), singing an irresistible and lethal song. While the myth of the Sirens’ song has continued to exist for almost three millennia in various formats, this Voicing queries the relevance of the myth as a reference for the practice of singing and examines the experiences of a classical singer who works within contemporary music and has embodied Sirens in performance. Following a short scholarly introduction that questions the role of the singing voice in the Siren song, practitioner-scholar Sophia Edlund interviews Canadian interpreter of contemporary music, soprano/conductor Barbara Hannigan, specifically asking her to consider the meaning of the Sirens and their symbolic value for singing. In this interview, Barbara Hannigan compares her music-making practice with the speculative practice of ‘Siren-ing’, pointing to similarities, such as being in a state of metamorphosis during singing, as well as divergences in terms of how singing is practised and understood.

Keywords: Barbara Hannigan; Sirens; channelling; music; presence; singing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Exeter 2: Soprano and conductor

Publication date: April 1, 2019

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  • JIVS provides a forum for scholarly and practice-based engagement with voice as a phenomenon of communication and performance, and a methodology or metaphor for analysis. This peer-reviewed journal draws on an interdisciplinary series of lenses, including cultural studies, critical theory, performance studies, inter-culturalism, linguistics, visual culture, musicology, architecture and somatics.
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