Contextual Considerations


To understand older styles of singing, we need to imagine those times before:

     •  large concert halls (2000 – 4000 seats) had become the norm

     •  the modern grand piano

     •  conductors

     •  large, loud orchestras

     •  the metronome

     •  musicians prized “literalness,” “evenness of expression,” and invariable tempo

     •  the “school of sensuously pretty voice-production” dominated the vocal soundscape (bel suono instead of bel canto)

     •  the lowered-larynx technique and vowel modification became common

     •  people knew anything about formants


and recognise times when:

     •  performance spaces were smaller

     •  instruments were quieter

     •  scores were never meant to be read literally

     •  composers sometimes wrote down the notes they did not want vocalists to perform instead of the ones they wanted them to sing

     •  performers personalised the music through all sorts of modifications to the notated text and completed the creative process the

             composer had merely begun

     •  singing was based directly on speaking, and rhetorical principles of spoken delivery governed sung delivery

     •  singers performed with the larynx in the neutral position used for speaking and retained the vowels of speech

     •  the voice was regarded as a registral instrument and tonal contrast was the norm

     •  singers felt that an “addiction” to vibrato, as well as “forcing” the voice, would rob music of its emotional significance

     •  messa di voce, rhythmic rubato, tempo pliability, and prosodic delivery were the pillars of good style

     •  improvisation was the crowning glory of all training

     •  singers applied the devices of expression flexibly to suit the emotional content of the text.