The Grain of the Voice  

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"Borrowing from the vocabulary of Julia Kristeva, Barthes [in "The Grain of the Voice"] coins the expressions phenosong and geno-song in order to mark the differences in vocal artistry between Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Charles Panzera, lamenting in the former the absence of corporeal diction which produces the quality of grain he admires in Panzera's singing: "With FD, I seem only to hear the lungs, never the tongue, the glottis, the teeth, the mucous membranes, the nose.""--Studies in 20th Century Literature


"In the 1950s, Gérard Souzay's style of singing became the object of some unexpected criticism when it was cited by Roland Barthes in one of his essays in Mythologies, "L'art vocal bourgeois". Referring to a recording of Fauré songs, Barthes complained that Souzay invested particular words with superfluous emotion by means of an exaggerated phonetic dramatisation, and that by imposing his own "signs" of emotion he stifled the meaning of the words and music. Not everyone has agreed with Barthes's description of the style, let alone with the force of his argument, but these are strictures which would attach to many other singers besides Souzay and go to the heart of how vocal performance should be approached. (Indeed, some years later, Barthes made similar criticisms against the singing of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. ("Le grain de la voix" in L'obvie et l'obtus, (Paris, Seuil, 1982), p.239)." --Sholem Stein


"If one looks at the normal practice of music criticism (or, which is often the same thing, of conversations “on” music), it can readily be seen that a work (or its performance) is only ever translated into the poorest of linguistic categories: the adjective. Music, by natural bent, is that which at once receives an adjective."--"The Grain of the Voice" (1982) by Roland Barthes


"Are we reduced to the dilemma of either the predicable or the ineffable?"--"The Grain of the Voice" (1982) by Roland Barthes

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

"Le grain de la voix" (Paris: Seuil, 1981) is the title of an essay and book by Roland Barthes. The essay is collected in The Responsibility of Forms and Image—Music—Text.

Excerpt:

« … le grain, c'est le corps dans la voix qui chante, dans la main qui écrit, dans le membre qui exécute... »), dans lequel Barthes était à la recherche de ce qui constitue l'essence granuleuse d'une voix ; Graindelavoix expérimente avec ce que l'on fait du « grain » : la réflexion autant physique que spirituelle de la voix.

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