Do We Hallucinate Vowels with Ian Howell

The manner in which vocal tract formants interact with voice source harmonics is perhaps the most important aspect of acoustic science to be under-utilized by voice teachers. Dr. Howell believes that this is due, at least in part, to the manner in which formant/harmonic interactions are currently presented in the vocal pedagogy literature, based on the model of the spectral envelope of speech-level vowels. Absent an understanding of the psychoacoustics governing singing voice perception, such models produce images that do not look like vowels sound. This presentation uses affordable software to demonstrate that that the spectral envelope may be productively broken into smaller units of timbre, and that this aural framework may be beneficially integrated into the vocal pedagogy classroom. He will present new models that incorporate relevant psychoacoustic phenomena into the teaching of formants, and demonstrate ear training exercises that bring clarity to our perception of a well-registered voice—with especially practical implications for the female (and countertenor) secondo passaggio.

About the Presenter

Praised by the New York Daily News for his “rich voice, capable of great dramatic force,” and San Francisco Classical Voice for the “heart at the core of his soulful sound,” Dr. Ian Howell sings with a warm and seamless tone rarely heard from countertenors. He has sung with Florentine Opera, New York City Opera, and Opera London, and with most major North American baroque orchestras. Dr. Howell has recorded for the American Bach Soloists, Warner Classics, Rhino, and Gothic labels. He can also be heard with the all male chamber choir Chanticleer on multiple albums, including the Grammy award winning “Lamentations and Praises.” Dr. Howell teaches voice and vocal pedagogy at the New England Conservatory of Music where he directs research in the NEC Voice and Sound Analysis Lab. He was educated at Capital University, the Yale School of Music, and the New England Conservatory of Music.