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Natural voice

July 29, 2011

This is a brief post and something of a click-fest, riffing a little on last week’s Saturday quote from the dedication found in Pierre de Ronsard’s Livre des mélanges, 1560.  Ronsard specifically mentions “the sweetness of the natural voice,” and we don’t want to let this point pass unnoticed.

We miss no opportunity to stress that, from all the germane historical evidence,  a natural singing voice is the ideal voice type for singing 16th century music for solo voice and lute.  Early music audiences of today have grown accustomed to hearing a produced sound from early music singers that, while it may sort of work for extrovert solo arias of Monteverdi (circa 1620), it has no place in the intabulations for solo voice and lute of madridals by Verdelot (circa 1540).

Not only that, our reading of the sources reveals that, even in the mid-nineteenth century opera house, loud wobbly voices were not necessarily what the composer wanted.  There should not, of course, be any qualitative comparisons drawn between an astoundingly agile operatic voice like that of Kathleen Battle and the calm, measured voice appropriate to early music.  But comparisons happen.

We would like to thank Paul Schleuse for drawing our attention to this article from the Thursday 28 July 2011 online edition of the Guardian, “Can opera singers sing pop – and vice versa?” The point is that different genres have different demands.  And our point is that 16th century music works better with a natural voice.

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