Astrologer Wendy Stacey



Articles

Pop Divas, Vocal Range and Whistle Tones

As the daughter of a rock musician, I couldn’t resist taking a retreat from writing on the houses and contributing to a journal issue dedicated to music!  Listening to extraordinary female vocalists has been a lifetime hobby of mine.  I still recall, at the age of four, sitting in concert halls, listening to cover versions of songs and waiting in anticipation for the local divas to come out and sing, to hear the magic of their vocals and high pitched tones. 

There are several factors which ‘define’ a pop diva today.  It is not just the ability to sing (and well), or to be able to belt their voice or hold a note, but, increasingly, the vocal range of female singers defines their status as a diva, particularly those who can sing a whistle tone, also known as the whistle register and once reserved only for sopranos in operas.  To possess all these qualities is quite rare.

Divas such as Yma Sumac (13 September 1922 – 1 November 2008), a phenomenal Peruvian singer, remarkably with no professional training, was extremely popular throughout the Americas for her incredible voice range that spanned over five octaves.  She also held several whistle tones (similar to a bird sound) through the course of her career.

Minnie Riperton (8 November 1947 – 12 July 1979), singer of the hit ‘Lovin You’ in 1975 and who died at the young age of 32, was known to have a vocal range which extended over five and a half octaves.
Mariah Carey can be seen as the contemporary equivalent to these divas and holds the record for the highest note ever recorded in a live performance to date while singing ‘Emotions’ at the MTV award in 1991.  Her vocal range also spans an incredible five octaves.

Christina Aguilera is another diva who sings in whistle tones and whose vocal range spans over four octaves.  Both women have also been highly acclaimed for their ability to achieve chest belt notes and for holding them for up to twenty seconds.

Some others, such as X-Factor winner Leona Lewis and Pop Idol winner Kelly Clarkson have also hit the whistle tone, but do not carry the same high voice range as Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera.  Lewis’s vocal range is just over 3 octaves and Clarkson’s is just under 3 octaves.

Divas such as Whitney Houston (vocal range of five octaves), Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Diana Ross and Beyonce Knowles have hit incredibly high notes, but these are belted and held notes.  Although they have not reached the high vocal range of their other contemporaries, these women have still contributed to setting an impressive benchmark in the industry.

Brazilian singer Georgia Brown holds the Guinness record for the highest note ever recorded and is believed to have a vocal range which extends 8 octaves.  Australian and Spanish singer Adam Lopez holds the Guinness record for the highest note a male has ever recorded.  Unfortunately, both singers’ birth details have been unobtainable.  Although these records have since been challenged, they have yet to be verified as beaten.

So, let’s take a look at the charts of the divas mentioned and see what they may have in common.

I have often found that those with Mercury in Taurus or those with Mercury-Venus conjunctions tend to have good singing voices.  Taurus, which rules the throat, or Venus which adds beauty and harmony to the Mercury expression can often manifest in talented vocals.  Before studying the charts of the singers mentioned, I expected to find these configurations along with a lot of Leo as, after all, they are all divas!  Leo would love the fame and recognition and the opportunity to perform on stage. However, neither of these signatures was apparent. The most commonly shared theme in the charts of these divas is Mars and Aries – these factors are present in all the charts we will consider here, particularly through the luminaries – the Sun and Moon.

The prevalence of Mars in these charts could indicate the pioneering, driven and crusading quality in them all. Mariah, Leona, Celine, Aretha and Diana all have the Sun in Aries, while Whitney and Celine have Aries Moons.  Christina has Moon trine Mars (as Leona may have), and Minnie and Diana have Sun square Mars (Yma had this aspect too, but widely squared).  Celine has Moon conjunct Mars.  Kelly, Beyonce and Leona have minor aspects (semi sextiles or semi square) between their Sun and Mars, and both Mariah and Whitney both have an unaspected Mars (even from minor aspects).  Out of all of these charts, only Aretha had a major aspect (square) between her Mars and Mercury.

Also, 13-14º of Taurus was a significant point in many of the charts.  Mariah and Leona have Mars at 14º Taurus, Celine has Mars at 13º.  Christina has her Moon at 14º Taurus (conjunct Chiron) and Diana has her Moon at 13º.  Kelly has her Moon at 18º Taurus in a stellium with Mercury and Chiron.  This may be an interesting degree to watch out for when looking at astrological signatures of vocal range.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Mercury aspects to Pluto are another common signature in these charts, with Whitney and Kelly having Mercury conjunct Pluto, Celine has Mercury opposite Pluto, Yma and Minnie have a square between Mercury and Pluto and Christina has a sextile between these two planets.  Mercury aspects to Pluto may indicate an ability to draw the breath from deep within, hold it and give power to the voice and expression.  Sue Tompkins writes of Mercury-Pluto aspects; ‘the individual can express themselves with great power ... to the extent that they render others overwhelmed, speechless’ (Tompkins:1989, 178).

Mercury aspects to Chiron were also evident in a majority of the charts, with Minnie and Mariah having Mercury conjunct Chiron and Yma and Whitney having Mercury opposite Chiron.  This may manifest as the unique gift and the burden that accompanies the experience of owning such a voice, along with the strain and the pain they endure (as well as in their songs) with both the expression in their voice and the words that they sing.

What I found most surprising was that, besides Leona, none of the other charts had Mercury close to the Sun.  As Mercury and Venus always remain close to the Sun, they have a higher probability of conjoining the Sun and each other.  Leona’s Sun is only 14 minutes from her Mercury.  Minnie and Mariah have conjunctions of about 4º and 5.5º, the rest have no conjunctions at all.  Similarly, only Leona and Celine have Mercury conjunct Venus – the others have no conjunctions or even sextiles between the planets.  Curiously, in the charts of more than half these women, Mercury is more than 20º away from the Sun.  It is almost as if Mercury is more able to express itself in such a unique way if it is distant from the Sun – this is something I wouldn’t have expected to find but was interested to discover.
Only Minnie and Leona have Mercury retrograde. This is another interesting point –  that Mercury direct is a common theme for these women.  Minnie’s Mercury would have gone direct by progression at age 9, which is the age she started her voice lessons.  Leona’s Mercury would have gone direct at age 4-5, when she started at the Sylvia Young Theatre School. 

Many of the birth times for these charts could not be found, so the angles and houses could hold further clues about what these divas have in common.  Possibly a few Leo Ascendants and Midheavens might be expected, as would planets (particularly the Sun) around the 10th house and MC, although, as with the rest of their charts, the results may not be as we might expect!

Of course, there are several other female divas that we have not considered here, and several male voices as well.  If readers have more data or information on this subject, I would be very interested to hear from you.

References
Tompkins, Sue, Aspects in Astrology: A Comprehensive Guide to Interpretation  (Element, Great Britain, 1989).

Websites
Yma Sumac Biography and Birth Details (source: birth certificate), at http://www.yma-sumac.com/biography.htm#Yma_english [Website accessed 30 December 2008].

Minnie Riperton, at  http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Minnie-Riperton-Biography/AC559ACE33FEC41248256A16001F13AB [Website accessed 30 December 2008].

Data
Yma Sumac. Birth details: 13 September 1922, Cajamarca, Peru. Birth time unknown, noon chart used. Source: birth certificate from above website.
Minnie Riperton. Birth details: 08 November 1947, Chicago, Illinois.  Birth time unknown, noon chart used.  Source: website above.
Mariah Carey. Birth details: 27 March 1970, Long Island, New York, Birth time unknown, noon chart used. Source: Wikipedia .
Christina Aguilera. Birth details: 18 December 1980, Staten Island, New York, 10.46. Source:  Frank Clifford.
Leona Lewis. Birth details: 03 April 1985, London, UK, Birth time unknown, noon chart used. Source: Wikipedia.
Whitney Houston. Birth details: 09 August 1963, Newark, New Jersey, 20.55, Source: Clifford data.
Celine Dion. Birth details: 30 March 1968, Charlemagne, Canada, 12.15, Source: Frank Clifford.
Aretha Franklin. Birth details: 25 March 1942, Memphis, Tennessee, 22.30, Source: Clifford data.
Diana Ross. Birth details: 26 March 1944, Detroit, Michigan, 23.46, Source: Clifford data.
Kelly Clarkson. Birth details: 24 April 1982, Fort Worth, Texas, 12.00, Birth time unknown, noon chart used. Source: Wikipedia.
Beyonce Knowles. Birth details: 04 September 1981, Houston, Texas, Birth time unknown, noon chart used. Source: Wikipedia.

 


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