Definition and background:
A vocal exercise that is sung without words, typically using different vowel sounds. The practice of vocalization (the singing of vocalise) can be traced to the early 19th century. These exercises were published with piano accompaniment. It was felt that the piano accompaniment provides a more artistic way to practice technical exercises for the voice. Another similar vocal exercise used existing compositions without words. At some point, composers began to write vocalise that could be performed in concert and were truly compositions that were more than mechanical exercises. Vocalise op. 34, no.14 composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff in 1912 and Three Vocalises for soprano and clarinet composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1958 are two well-known examples of the vocalise. A similar vocal technique is also used in jazz and is known as Vocalese. See also Vocalization; Vocalese. a vocal work, whether an exercise or not, that has no words. there is a well known and frequently transcribed vocalize by Rachmaninov, and vocalization is also called for in an orchestral context with the chorus parts of Neptune in Holst's suite the planets.
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Wikipedia - Glossary of Musical Terminology
Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
ORB -- Medieval Music Glossary