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A Brief History of Singing

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Karin Mausser

on 24 January 2013

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Transcript of A Brief History of Singing

The Prehistoric Voice A Brief History of Singing The voice is the original instrument
The earliest singing was a simple imitation of sounds heard in nature
Unknown when singing became meaningful, way to communicate
Simple melodies -> pitch matching -> call-and-answer -> sense of a tonic and scales
3500 - 500 B.C.: music was considered an art, and writings mention both professional musicians and liturgical music •1700 B.C. - 64 A.D.: Music was important
in the religious and social life of Egyptian,
Greek and Roman Empires Ritual and music inseparable
Borrowed music from other
religions to develop a form of
liturgical chant
Plainchant: melodies of narrow range and unmetered rhythms sung as solos or in unison by unaccompanied male voices
The Roman Catholic Church controlled Western music for the next 13 centuries and tried to suppress secular singing Thirteen Centuries of Sacred Music unison -> polyphony (more than one voice) = complex choral style (Palestrina)
9th century: specialized singers, ornaments, range
10th century: modern staff developed
11th century: soprano, alto, tenor, bass The Rise of Polyphony •Middle Ages shows singers with
strained expressions, furrowed brows,
protruding veins and exaggerated mouth
positions which suggests an effortful,
possibly nasal quality
•Straight tone was used, with vibrato only used for ornaments • 14th century: Introduction of rhythmic notation, as well as bolder
harmonies and more interesting rhythms (no bar lines until 16th)
• 15th century: the church tried to restore purity to the liturgy by
outlawing elaborative musical material Higher treble voices needed, but the church
would not allow female voices
Used boys with unchanged voices
or mature male voices in falsetto
Castrati from Spain could sing
soprano and alto parts Castrati •Baroque music (1600-1750) introduced homophonic music: one melodic line and accompaniment
•Homophony used in the church during the Reformation movement (in the language of the participating congregation) Homophony •Elaborate, expensive entertainment
allowed royalty to display their wealth
•Composers could be expressive
•Offered singers new challenges
•Middle class rose in European society
= first public opera house (Venice in 1637)
•Composers had to tailor opera to the singers' capabilities
•Operas usually not performed elsewhere or by another cast (if so, composer must quickly rework score in short-hand to fit new singers and fill in on harpsichord)
•Singers’ training was devoted to vocal flexibility and ornamentation
•Dramatic intensity and excitement was expressed with rhythmic motion, not extreme range and dynamics Opera (1590-1760) •Recitative: sing the text using the rhythms of speech over simple, sustained chords
•Aria: expressive melody which allowed soloists the chance to display their expressiveness and virtuosity
•Da Capo Aria: opening section of aria repeated, singer would display imagination and virtuosity even more with ornamentation (never sing as written)
•Opera singers were becoming internationally renowned
•Comic opera developed out of the intermissions of opera: entertaining characters, realistic plots, emphasis on entertaining rather than the singing Opera continued... Revolution and political changes affected artists and their works
Singers adding elaborate embellishments, lengthening works and displaying vocal skills at the expense of the drama and music
Comic opera brought entertaining action, spoken dialogue, happy endings, and the importance of the work over the performer
Vocal ornamentation decreased and controlled by the composer
Librettists wrote natural and realistic characters and situations in their plots
Arias no longer addressed to the audience, but became communication between the characters
Acting more important as a skill for the singer
The chorus had a more active role Classicism (1750-1820) Operas and singers were becoming internationally recognized
The public wanted to hear the works that had been successful elsewhere; therefore, they now had longer lives and were produced in more than one place
Their composers could not always be present for the production so they made more complete scores with lots of detail
The conductor started replacing the composer
The orchestra more important
Recitals and concerts introduced and a miniature vocal form, the song, was becoming popular. Classicism continued... Early Romantic operatic composers had to choose between amplitude and flexibility
Through-composed songs popular for expressiveness
The song ("Lied") allowed for emotion and expressiveness, but didn't extend the boundaries of the voice
In opera, expansion of the full-voice range
Vibrato now used in all singing
High and powerful quickly replaced agile and ornamental
Castration was outlawed by Napoleon in Italy in 1806 Romanticism (1820-1900) • Opera houses and orchestras grew larger to
match larger voices
• Old operas reworked to conform to
current practices (female artists
wore armor and false moustaches
to sing the castrati roles)
• Singers hired for specific productions, rather than
entire seasons, and their agents could bargain for roles
• Germany, France and England making worthy
contributions to opera, not just Italy Romanticism continued... • Advances in science, technology, and law
had an impact on the voice
• Laryngoscope: can observe of the
functioning of the vocal cords
• Phonograph created in 1877
•Royal courts of Europe fading, and
with them the patronage of artists
•Income for composers now from copyright protection
•In 1889, created the official standard of 435 vibrations
per second for the pitch of A. Science, Technology and Law After WWI, the public, including composers, wanted to forget the past and enjoy the present
Composers experimented and explored away from traditional music and conventional harmonies
New complex rhythms, atonality and experimentals orchestras were not what the public wanted = audience decreased
Sprechstimme: style midway between speech and song, extreme vocal range and large intervals
Composers explored outer limits of the voice in their quest for previously unused expressive sounds Modernism (1920-present) • Put off by unattractive modern classical styles, the public turned to jazz, blues and swing
• These new styles helped by technology as phonograph recordings and wireless broadcasting brought music into the home
• Vocalists had to choose between classical and popular styles
• Lyric-voiced singers called “crooners” became popular (e.g. Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett) The Rise of the Entertainment Style • Pre-1925 voices easier to record = people listened to songs and arias by the best singers
• Television increased the importance of physical appearance: the visually attractive singer preferred now
• By mid-century a singer had to have outstanding talent or possess a particularly rare vocal ability to gain entry into opera without regard for appearance
• Post-WWII technology included the tape, which made it easy to edit (cut and splice) mistakes
• The tape recorder was better at
recording 'live' recordings and captured
artist interacting with the audience
• Tape useful for singers in study and training situations More Technological Advances •Rock and roll took off with the help of the invention of the electrical guitar
•Rock, unlike ragtime and jazz, is based on the song format (textless rock songs are very rare)
•Its style is defined by both standard and electronic instruments, conventional harmonies, electronic amplification and a driving rhythmic beat
•Emotionally intense and rebellious texts are addressed to the adolescent 'market'
•Rock concerts include heightened amplification, complex lighting effects, unusual costuming and manic movements by the performers; the quality of the singing is not as important to the success of the performance A New Entertainment Style - Rock • Background music is everywhere: shopping malls, washrooms, elevators, medical waiting rooms, etc..
• Vocal music amplified everywhere for financial purposes (even opera)
• Singing synthesized since the 1960’s and advances continue to bring remarkable developments
• Vocal-tract surgery or hormones for aesthetic reasons may be possible in the future
•Worldwide communication and transportation may cause integration of vocal concepts and singing styles (common standard of language, musical style and vocal production?) The Future
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