Performance Practice of Baroque Vocal Technique Essay

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Performance Practice of Baroque Vocal Technique

When approaching a performance, accomplished musicians often consider the historical context from which a piece originates. They most often think of such considerations in the application of that context as it pertains to early music that is, the Baroque era or earlier. For any era, such historical considerations are called performance practice, and may include the use of vibrato, ornamentation, dynamic levels, tempi, instrumental timbres, performance setting, and balance. Vibrato and ornamentation are two important areas of consideration that vocalists must explore when aiming to give an authentically Baroque performance.

'Ideal' Baroque Vocal Technique: The Assumed Ideas
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In The Interpretation of Music, Thurston Dart writes: 'it is very unlikely that any vibrato was used in the ensemble singing of earlier times; the few theorists who mention it condemn it' (51). In light of the intricate counterpoint employed by Renaissance and late medieval composers, it is natural that clear intonation would have been vital to the clarity of their multi-voiced compositions. David Wulstan suggests that in singing the decorated Baroque songs, singers surely had to provide contrast between trilled and untrilled notes: 'Baroque singers could hardly have sung in such a way that trills were indistinguishable from the surrounding gelatinous wobble' (179). Singers today, in an effort to project their voices in huge performance venues have to use their voice in way that produces, in most cases, a large vibrato. Large vibratos can make it difficult, at times, to hear a distinct pitch, and therefore trills (alternating quickly between two adjacent pitches) are also difficult to hear. Thus, it is easy to idealize a pure vocal quality so that there is a clear contrast between trilled and untrilled notes. Contrast is, after all, one defining characteristic of Baroque era musicÑthus, the amateur assumption has a reasonable basis.

In regards to the decoration of Baroque music, amateurs often think that Baroque music is extremely ornamented. This practice is a more recently acceptable practice: scholar Ronald

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