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Grant number like: FA-52397-06

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Bonnie Gordon
University of Virginia (Stony Brook, NY 11794-0001)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2007 – 5/31/2008

Voice Machines: The Castrato, the Cat Piano, and Other Strange Sounds

Produced by surgical alteration and rigorous training, castrati represented stunning feats of early modern technology and art. Their stunted but muscular vocal cords resonated through expanded ribs. Perfected with rigorous training, these voices animated the most astonishing vocal ornamentation of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This project considers the castrato's voice as an artifically manipulated natural phenomenon that played out musically the contemporaneous melding of science and art, technology and nature. The ambiguities resulting from the early modern fascination with such meldings provides historical context for the intense pleasure castrati brought to audiences of that time.