Original sound?

Discussion in 'Classical Music' started by Rodrigo de Sá, Jun 28, 2006.

  1. Rodrigo de Sá

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

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    Authentic sound??

    For a very long time, now, I felt that in old northern Europe, people sang in a very different way from southerners. The reason I think this happens has to do with a particular organ stop called “human voice”. Vox humana, Voce umana, Voz humana, Voix humaine are the usual names for this stop.

    In northern Europe the vox humana is a reed. Not a sweet reed, but a kind of regal, a little softer, but rather harsh for Southern European ears. In Southern Europe, the vox humana is a very different affair. It is usually made from two principals (and the southern principals are rather mild) which beat slightly.

    There is an example I know of a reed vox humana in the south. It is called Vox Hum. Belª, which is not Voz humana bela – beautiful human voice – but “Vox humana bélica”, that is, “War human voice”, which means shouting; it is a kind of Schalmey.

    So far so good: everybody knew that: the Mediterranean vox humana is mild, the northerner vox humana is harsh.

    Only, many organ builders and also many organ experts of the 18th Century agreed that several “human voices” were quite similar to the actual human voice. This is, at the very least, astounding. Did the singers shriek?

    In a way, that is very possible. One of the best known German tenors from after the war (Krebbs) had an intensely reedish voice, which I always found impossible. There were many tenors singing in this way. Also, it is very rare to listen to somebody speaking with a reedish voice in the Mediterranean (it happens, but it will be remarked as a peculiarity) but this kind of voice is current in Germany (a good example for musicians would be Karajan’s voice) when someone wants to be incisive; it was also common in France. It is seldom used in England.

    So my point is this: when singing German music, must one copy the sound of the German “Vox humana”? This is rather startling, because if we do the result will be impossible to our ears.

    If we don’t, all the considerations on ‘true’ sound must be thrown out.

    Any comments?
     
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    Rodrigo de Sá, Jun 28, 2006
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  2. Rodrigo de Sá

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

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    Bump.

    When I wrote this, it was in earnest. It is a question I really ask myself. If the vox humana (and the Voix humaine) were considered accurate, how should we sing 17th Century music?

    So, I was not being provocative: I'm asking you for your views on a very puzzling question.
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Jun 30, 2006
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  3. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

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    Dear RdS

    I think we have to distinguish more between church song and secular song, than between southern and northern song. I have big problems in believing that people in the medieval age actually shouted in the church even in the north, whereas it seems perfectly probable, that they did so in much secular song in the north as well as the south. Some folk-song traditions seem to indicate this. And listening to secular song interpretations by David Munroe´s group and Musica Reservata (Jantina Normann first and foremost) convinces me, that a degree of shouting may be rather effective in parts of the secular repertoire. But maybe they sang differently, whether it was about a tender love song, or if it was about a song about war or a drinking song.

    The Voce Umana in Italian organs tells about the organ-builders there using the - I was almost writing celestial song, as their model. In the north maybe they took the folk-song tradition as their model. And I think I remember, that the Voce Umana in Italy is exclusively linked with church organs (I suppose Landinis organetto was a one rank principal register) and very old Italian and Iberican organs contain none or only one reed stop -whereas the Vox Humana or similar reeds are well represented in northern secular organs (the famous Compenius chamber-organ an apt example, if a late example). And did they actually become common in church organs in the northern countries before the renaissance orchestra-organ broke through, which, in the context of the topic of this thread, is relatively late? The so called Bible-regals, I think were most used in secular contexts.

    Regards,
     
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    pe-zulu, Jun 30, 2006
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  4. Rodrigo de Sá

    pe-zulu

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    Afterthought:

    The supposed secular-song - church-song distinction reminds me of a related point. In the protestantic north the singing was generally executed as congrational singing, probably causing influence upon the singing style from folk-traditions, whereas the singing in the catholic south was executed by a professional or semiprofessional choir of monks or nuns without secular singing traditions. This may have been of importance too, at least from 1550 and onwards. What about France? I suppose the French organ style is something of a fusion of southern and northern priciples, so France doesn´t count in this context.
     
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    pe-zulu, Jun 30, 2006
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  5. Rodrigo de Sá

    Rodrigo de Sá This club's crushing bore

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    Dear Pe-Zulu:

    I think the secular music thing is probably the answer. It is a fact that Schütz did not ask for particularly sweet voices when he returned to Germany after studying with Gabrielli, and at that time he was quite italianized. (At leat I don't remember Schütz asking for mellower voices, but I may be wrong: Schütz has not interested me for a very long time).

    Even so, in terms of organs, the little information there is on registration techniques suggest that we would really shudder at the sound. You certainly know about a registration that was given for the St Jacobi organ: reeds and mutations in the right hand, 32' posaune and such and 'for the soft middle part', principal octava. Even the very historically correct Vogel avoided using such a combination.

    If I find the time (this is a very big if, because I must complete a terribly boring paper until the end of summer) I will try to couch my ideas about historic playing in a new thread.
     
    Rodrigo de Sá, Jul 27, 2006
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