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Freya Jarman

Freya Jarman is a Senior Lecturer in the music department at the University of Liverpool. She is especially interested in cultures and ideologies of the voice, and is the author of Queer Voices: Technologies, Vocalities, and the Musical Flaw (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), in which her three case studies are Diamanda Galás, Maria Callas, and Karen Carpenter. Her current projects are loosely connected by the theme of high notes in vocal music.

“Voice, Affect, and Ideology at Christmas, or, What I Was Left Pondering When My Figgy Pudding Had Settled”
Amongst the many ideological impulses in which music played a role in 19th century England were those surrounding the family and the construction of childhood, particularly within the context of Christianity. The rise of Methodism and its role in both imperialist and charitable missionary work were accompanied by a soundtrack of congregational singing, useful in solidifying new Christian communities. Meanwhile, legislative changes relating to employment and education helped define concepts of childhood, and particularly in terms of the ‘innocence’ of childhood as being in need of protection. Such legislation extended benefits to the working conditions of boy choristers, whose voices still represent today ideas of the ‘angelic’ and ‘pure.’

The place of the boy treble in Christmas music, much of the canon of which is from this period in history, is therefore particularly interesting; on the one hand, the hymnody speaks of congregationalism and builds community, whilst the soaring descant lines and occasional solos are untouchable by the average singer from the pews, instead voicing the purity of mortal childhood and embodying a divine chorus of angels. This paper takes as its case study “Once in Royal David’s City,” as used as the processional hymn in the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College, Cambridge. The song has been used in its present arrangement every year since 1919 to open the service, which has been broadcast live on BBC radio every year since 1930.

Building on recent work on music, affect, and subjectivity (Biddle and Thompson, 2013; Kassabian, 2013), as well as scholarship on the role of the BBC in popular culture (Baade, 2011; Hajkowsi, Noonan, 2008; Wolfe, 1984) and on male voices (especially Ashley, 2009), I am interested in situating the relevant ideologies and practices in contemporary culture and the affective frames around this music in order to understand how young, male, ‘angelic’ vocalities undertake their cultural work.

“Voice, Age, Gender” 
This panel explores relationships between voice, age, and gender in popular music and its attendant discourse. Subjects covered include sound recording, Auto-Tune, slow history, and youthful, angelic, and aging vocal grains. Musical subjects covered include Aretha Franklin, Pastora Pavón, Bing Crosby, Grace Jones, Taylor Swift, and choirboys singing Christmas songs. 


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