Men, Boys and Singing

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Humans have, since the dawn of time, engaged with singing. Scientists, anthropologists and philosophers have speculated that our pre-modern human ancestors sang as a form of expression and communication prior to the development of language, and that this pre-verbal singing even facilitated the development of language, thereby aiding in the survival of our predecessors and the ultimate success of homo sapiens. The role of singing in the lives of men, and the role of male singing in aspects of culture and society have been documented and explored for hundreds of years, and the acknowledged decline and absence of males in western choral singing has been researched in some detail over the last century. The last 20 years has seen studies into the interplay of sex, gender and sexuality and the last 5 years have seen the emergence of studies into music and men outside the Western Art music tradition. This chapter sketches some of the main research trends to date, and highlights some of the gaps in the literature. The absence of quantitative studies into males’ engagement with singing is acknowledged, and confusion of contested terms such as gender and sex is addressed. Concepts, ideas and structures to be explored through the volume are introduced, and an outline for the volume is presented.