Wagner’s Inner Operatic Scientist

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When sopranos sing high notes in operas, they can be really hard to understand. To get the power they need to reach the operatic heights, the singers are forced to adjust their vocal tracts, which can make certain words extremely difficult to pronounce. In 2004, scientists tested opera singers and found a way to get that problem by pairing specific vowels with high notes, giving singers power and intelligibility.

More than 100 years earlier, Richard Wagner seemed to understand this concept without the help of science. According to Seed, scientists have found a statistically significant correlation between the vowels Wagner wrote for high notes and the ones scientists identified as preferable for singing. Wagner’s skills developed over time, too, suggesting that he had a scientific understanding of the way voices work that even he wouldn’t have been able to communicate. According to Seed:

Just as Jackson Pollock incorporated fractals into his splatter paintings, Wagner seems to have used vowel-pitch matching in his operas–a concept that scientists wouldn’t formally explain for well over a century.

To hear Wagner’s scientific understanding in action, watch a clip from Die Walküre below:

Source: Seed

Image by bmann, licensed under Creative Commons.

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