The Psychology of Music: A Survey for Teacher and Musician

By Max Schoen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 10
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF ARTISTIC SINGING

IN 1902 SCRIPTURE (93) WROTE that "Songs are never sung--or intended to be sung--exactly as written. Even the most mechanical popular tune is rendered differently by each individual, the difference lying mainly in the duration of the elements, in the stress assigned to them, and above all in the attack by the voice and the utterance of each sound. In artistic performance all these sources of variation are employed, mainly unconsciously, to express the thought or emotion of the singer. Concerning just how they are varied and how they are employed there are at present no experimental data." (93, p. 485)

Today the situation is quite different. We have a large accumulation of data on many of the conscious or unconscious variations mentioned by Scripture, and on many other phases of artistic vocal rendition. These data were gathered objectively, mainly in the psychology laboratory of the University of Iowa, by means of recording instruments possessing high degree of precision and accuracy. Specimens of singing under normal conditions have been analyzed into their structural and functional elements, and classified, described, and explained in a thoroughly scientific manner. This procedure is made possible by the fact that whatever is conveyed vocally or instrumentally by the performer to the listener as music reaches the listener through the medium of sound waves. These sound waves can be recorded with a very high degree of precision and analyzed and studied from every angle.

The first such objective study of what actually goes on when a song is rendered by a great artist was made by Schoen. His study concerned itself with pitch intonation, and with the nature and significance of the much disputed vocal phenomenon known as the vibrato.

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