UT Researcher Investigates Singing Voices

KNOXVILLE — A University of Tennessee scientist has received a Fulbright Fellowship to study the human singing voice at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

Dr. Molly Erickson

Dr. Molly Erickson

Dr. Molly Erickson, a voice physiologist in UT’s audiology and speech pathology department, will use a special synthesizer to study how listeners “hear” and group different voices.

“I’ll be trying to see whether listeners group voices based on the standard categories: soprano, alto, tenor and bass,” Erickson said. “I hope to develop a perceptual model of the classical singing voice.”

Erickson said the sophisticated voice synthesizer would allow her to modify vocal acoustic characteristics and understand how listeners distinguish between different voices.

The research could provide helpful data for singers, she said.

“If we can develop a good model, we can help young singers avoid the misclassifications which could jeopardize their careers,” she said. “It also has implications for cognitive psychology in terms of how we perceive sounds.”

Erickson, who sings soprano for the Knoxville Opera Company, holds a master’s in music from the University of Southern California, a clinical master’s in speech pathology and a Ph.D. in speech science and technology.