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Journal Article

Subvocalization in singers: Laryngoscopy and surface EMG effects when imagining and listening to song and text


Bruder,  Camila
Department of Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;
Institute for Systematic Musicology, University of Hamburg;

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Bruder, C., & Wöllner, C. (2021). Subvocalization in singers: Laryngoscopy and surface EMG effects when imagining and listening to song and text. Psychology of Music, 49(3), 567-580. doi:10.1177/0305735619883681.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-5170-1
Subvocalization has been described as a series of attenuated movements of the vocal tract during silent reading and imagination. This two-part study investigated covert laryngeal activations among singers during the perception and imagination of music and text. In the first part, 155 singers responded to an online survey investigating their self-perceived corporal activation when listening to live or recorded singing. Respondents reported frequent corporal activation in their larynx and other body parts in response to live singing and, to a lesser extent, recordings. In the second part, an exploratory experiment was conducted to investigate physiological correlates of subvocalization in singers during the perception and imagery of melody and text stimuli, using simultaneous measurements of laryngeal activation both externally, with surface electromyography, and internally, with nasolaryngoscopy. Experimental results indicate the occurrence of subvocalization during imagination—but not during listening—of both stimuli and suggest that laryngoscopy is more sensitive to detection of subvocalization in singers. The results may point to vocal resonance or empathy in the perception of singers.