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Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews -- For those who like their news and truths frank and sharp

Countertenor, a false voice category, just falsetto?

I’m not teaching here. I’m only expressing what I notice and (dis)like.

I have a low base voice and was a little schooled by an amazing coloratura soprano. I didn’t become a singer, but she did improve my speaking voice.

There are many things to say about high male voices. I refer you to:

***

I can’t help myself. I hate singing from men who can’t sing in tune. They still can be called brave and amazing. But for me, it’s like bitter food. So, I will ignore those recordings because here I want to discuss successes.

So, pick your preferences.

I will not discuss performances where I find the singing out of tune.

***

The charm of men singing high, I think, comes out when they sing with ease. So, I will also ignore recordings where I find that the singer screams.

Also, when they’re ‘only’ practicing, I find it beautiful throughout.

See also the Jacek Laszczkowski Special.

***

Now, we are told that countertenor is not a voice type necessarily.

I noticed that all the beautiful countertenors we get presented are young, muscular men who know how to relax their voices and attitudes enough.

Some can, with great ease, even switch between their two voices.

The Hebrew Bible tells us that G^d created humanity, male and female. Some (erroneously) translate: created a human, male and female. And then, one of the Sages suggested that this was a hermaphrodite. But, if he would have heard the above clip, he wouldn’t have needed to say so. Seriously, men and women have so much in common that we can easily say that men are also female and females are also male.

Taking about the Sages of the Talmud, they explain that there are kosher alternatives that resemble enough what is forbidden. So, there would be a fish that supposedly tastes like pork. And duly prepared udder would still taste like a (forbidden) milk/meat mixture. Now, for those who hold that men should not listen to women’s singing, they can have countertenors.

***

But, then I heard a famous countertenor who got 10 years older. Gone was his enormous vocal strength. Gone was the ease with which he used to sing. He put on some weight. But, in interviews, he has a beautiful low bass. To hell with old fame. From now on, let him sing low-bass pieces.

A decade ago, Philippe Jaroussky seemed about the only countertenor around. That has greatly changed. In no time, one can find a dozen on YouTube. But, these brave young men, I think, deserve a cautioning.

I think that singing coaches should warn boys ready to sing countertenor that it will only work for a couple of years. They should be ready to switch to their natural voice when the highest register is over its glory.

We’ve heard famous opera singers (women) who weren’t anymore singing as beautifully as when they became famous. But we still were celebrated for their interpretations, nuances, and depth of personality.

Not so for countertenors, it seems to me. A prepubescent boy inevitably will go through puberty; a countertenor will lose his signature ability too.

We don’t find that countertenor stars of the distant past continued with great fervor as countertenors after their young years. But, he could continue his career if he’s prepared and ready to switch to his lower register. His real, natural voice. And all the hard work, discipline, and character he built as a countertenor will be a great asset to him.

If this is also true for men who can sing 8-9 octaves, time will tell.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, previously a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. He doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and educations contribute to his visions. * This year, he will prioritize getting his unpublished books published rather than just blog posts. Next year, he hopes to focus on activism against human extinction. To find less-recent posts on a subject XXX among his over 1500 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe, here: https://mmvanzuiden.wordpress.com/ or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. However, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people when don't deserve that. (Yet, we all make honest mistakes, which is just fine and does not justify losing support.) He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight reality), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * Chronologically, his most influential teachers are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. This short list doesn't mean to disrespect others who taught him a lot or a little. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. When he can, he loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. Read his blog on how he attempts to bridge any tensions between those ideas or fields. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), born in 1953 to his parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too, and decades more to admit to being a genius. But his humility was his to keep. And so was his honesty. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. He hopes to bring new things and not just preach to the choir. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, powerful therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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