Amanda Johnston, English and German Diction for Singers: A Comparative Approach. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2011 . Cloth, xiv, 295 pp., $49.95. ISBN 978-0-8108-7766-5 www.scarecrowpress.com
Lyric diction resources that contain several languages are not an innovation. Diction by John Moriarty (Boston: E. C. Schirmer Music Company, 1975) and Diction for Singers by Joan Wall et al. (Dallas: Pst . . . Inc., 1990) focus upon four and six languages respectively. A Handbook of Diction for Singers: Italian, German, French by David Adams (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008) studies three languages, while Richard Cox presents a pair in The Singer's Manual of German and French Diction (New York: Schirmer Books, 1970). Aside from a chart in the Moriarty text that gives examples for IPA symbols, however, these diction books place minimal emphasis on comparison. Amanda Johnston, who is collaborative pianist and vocal coach at the University of Mississippi, Oxford, proffers a comparative approach to lyric diction for English and German by drawing upon the shared heritage of the languages.
English and German Diction for Singers is intended as a text for undergraduate and graduate courses in English and German diction, either simultaneously or consecutively. The book is divided into four broad sections. The first contains an introduction to the study of diction, including an overview of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). The second and third segments are separate studies of English and German diction, while the final part identifies commonalities between the languages. Throughout the volume, there are exercises in IPA transcription and pronunciation, with an answer key at the end of the book.
The opening section presents the IPA symbols and sounds, as well as the name for each symbol. (The importance of the latter is often underestimated by authors of diction textbooks; information is imparted more quickly and more clearly if the name of the symbol can be communicated orally as well as visually.) General information about diction-vowel classification, the organs of speech, and points of articulation-accompanied by corresponding diagrams makes the opening section an excellent introduction for beginning students. The author categorizes vowels according to emotional impact, employing the descriptors "bright," "central," "dark," and "R-less." For each language, Johnston recommends resources for guidance in pronunciation. English speakers are probably familiar with General American and Received Pronunciation for their native language, but they may be unaware of language reforms recently adopted by German speaking countries. Aspects of this Neue Rechtschreibung include the reduced use of Eszett (ß), and the separation of compound words. …