Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/510

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498

��SINGING.

��ment, we have the magnificent combination of music, poetry, and scenery of the present day.

Though in the music of Palestrina the doctrine is exemplified and carried to its conclusion, that to be truly beautiful Polyphonic music must be melodious in all its parts, still this form was im- practicable for the purpose immediately in hand. In all times of reaction the vibration of the chain of events throws it far out of its centre. Hence the almost immediate abandonment of the Poly- phonic in favour of the Monodic form, instead of a healthy combination of the two.

The first true Italian opera was the ' Euridice* of Giacopo Peri, given in 1600 on the occasion of the marriage festivities of Henry IV. of France with Maria de' Medici. The first result of the movement was the recitative, in something very like its present form ; and in no other form can the various phases of the changing passions and affections be adequately expressed. But the out- cry against the so-called interruption of dramatic action by the introduction of the aria, set con- certed piece, and formal chorus, is only reasonable when directed against the abuse of these means of expression so legitimate in their proper place and at their proper time. In every-day life (the prin- ciples of which, in an exalted and artistic form, must be the basis of all dramatic action), events, though they succeed each other quickly, have their moments, if not of repose, at least of the working out of their immediate consequences, and these give the opportunity for the expression of the (for the time) dominant state of thought and feeling. Even musical decoration (of which later), wisely chosen and put together, adds im- mensely to the general significance. What then, besides the creation of opera, were the causes of the great development of the art of singing in Italy, its stage of perfection for a time, and its deterioration let us trust for a time also ? Italy, inheriting the proud position, from Greece, of foster-mother to the arts, could not neglect music as one of her foster-children. But while other countries vied with her, and at times surpassed her, in musical science, the tide of vocal sound, the power of using the voice, could not but flow into the channel prepared for it by nature and art. The gradual evolution of the Italian out of the Latin language, the elimination of every hard sound, where practically consistent with the exi- gencies of articulation, and its refinement to a state of almost perfect vocal purity, brought about a facility in producing vocal sound pos- sessed by other nations only in so far as their respective tongues contain the elements of the Italian. The Italian language is almost entirely phonetic, and is pre-eminent in the two respects of vocal purity and amount of vocal sound. Its vowels are not only Italian ; they are the pure elements of language in general, resembling in idea the painter's palette of pure colours, and offering therefore the material by which to gauge the greater or less purity of other languages.

A short enquiry into the difference between speaking and singing in the five languages to which the largest amount of vocal music has been

��SINGING.

composed, namely Italian, Latin, French, Ger- man, and English, will not be out of place. Of all languages, the Italian is most alike in singing and speaking English the least. The four essential points of difference between speaking and singing are, first and foremost, that in speaking (as in the warbling of almost all birds) the isochronism of vibration is never present for a period long enough to make an appreciable musical note. A sympathetic speaking voice is one whose production of tone most nearly ap- proaches that of the singing voice, but whose inflexions are so varied as to remove it entirely from actual music. The word ' Cant' not improb- ably has its origin in puritanical sing-song speak- ing, and the word has been transferred from the manner to the matter, and applied to hypocritical expression of sanctity or sentiment. In sing- song speaking the exact opposite of the above combination is generally found namely, an ap- proximation to musical notes, and an abomin- able tone-production. The second distinguishing point is the fact that in ordinary speaking little more than one third (the lower third) of the vocal compass comes into play, while in singing the middle and upper parts are chiefly used. A tenor with a vocal compass of

��will speak principally upon the part of the voice indicated by the crotchets, and most voices will end their phrases (when not interrogative) with a drop to the lowest sound that the vocal organ will produce, a sound lower in most cases than would be attempted as a note, basses and con- traltos sometimes excepted. If the tenor were to speak as high as middle C he would be speak- ing in a decidedly loud voice, if he spoke naturally. The third point of difference, and that which most especially distinguishes singing from speaking, in English, is that short syllables (that is to say with the accent falling on the concluding consonant) cannot exist, as such, since the accent in singing is upon the vocal portion of the syllable. (See double vowels, later.) This, indeed, is the case in reading Italian, and even in carefully speaking it. Lastly, singing tends to preserve intact the relative purity of a lan- guage; speaking, to split it up into dialects and peculiarities.

Italian, then, takes the first position as having the purest vocal sounds and the largest amount of vowel. Latin, as sung, comes next. Its vowels are the same, but it has more conson- ants. The classification of French and German requires qualification. In amount of vocal sound French takes the third place, the custom of pronouncing, in singing, the (otherwise) mute syllables preventing consonants from coming together, and words from ending with hard con- sonants, but the quality of some of the vowels requires very great care to prevent its marring the pure emission of the voice. The proper management of the final n and nt must be also

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