Exploring Twentieth-Century Vocal Music: A Practical Guide to Innovations in Performance and Repertoire

Exploring Twentieth-Century Vocal Music: A Practical Guide to Innovations in Performance and Repertoire

Exploring Twentieth-Century Vocal Music: A Practical Guide to Innovations in Performance and Repertoire

Exploring Twentieth-Century Vocal Music: A Practical Guide to Innovations in Performance and Repertoire

Synopsis

The vocal repertoire of the twentieth century--including works by Schoenberg, Boulez, Berio, Larsen, and Vercoe--presents exciting opportunities for singers to stretch their talents and demonstrate their vocal flexibility. Contemporary composers can be very demanding of vocalists, requiring them to recite, trill, and whisper, or to read non-traditional scores. For singers just beginning to explore the novelties of the contemporary repertoire, Exploring Twentieth-Century Vocal Music is an ideal guide. Drawing on over thirty years of experience teaching and performing the twentieth century repertoire, Sharon Mabry has written a cogent and insightful book for singers and voice teachers who are just discovering the innovative music of the twentieth century. The book familiarizes readers with the new and unusual notation systems employed by some contemporary composers. It suggests rehearsal techniques and vocal exercises that help singers prepare to tackle the repertoire. And the book offers a list of the most important and interesting works to emerge in the twentieth century, along with suggested recital programs that will introduce audiences as well as singers to this under-explored body of music.

Excerpt

My undergraduate days as a voice student were steeped in repertoire from standard, traditional vocal literature. However, I was fascinated with new music and would often search the music library for anything that looked remotely modern. I delighted in perusing the unique scores and trying out all of the unusual notations and vocal directions found in them. Occasionally, I would bring the new works to the attention of my voice teacher. She had a marvelous voice rooted in the traditional repertoire of both the concert and opera worlds and was not known for singing contemporary, experimental music. So it was not surprising to find that she was less than enthusiastic about the pieces I wanted to study. Her advice was to stick with tried-and-true repertoire and forget about this “bizarre” music. I stopped taking the “strange” pieces to voice lessons, but they became even more interesting because they were forbidden. I continued to sing a wide variety of traditional repertoire during my studies. But over time, I discovered that when I sang certain pieces, my voice became freer, my mind more imaginative, my interpretation more natural, and my vocal self-confidence more bold. At some point, I realized that most of the pieces that brought out those positive effects were pieces written since 1900. They were not always in English and they did not always contain experimental vocal techniques, but they contained a spontaneity that eluded me in much of the traditional repertoire I had been singing. So my interest grew.

It is almost universally accepted that there has been a wealth of fine vocal repertoire written since 1900 in several languages, especially in English. Much of that music is traditional in its use of the voice, though the harmonies may be unlike Schubert and the text settings quite unlike Debussy. There is also a considerable body of repertoire, mostly written since 1950, that uses what are called . . .

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