Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/514

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502

��SINGING.

��the mouth incompatible with good voice-produc- tion, and it has to be slightly modified, without however destroying its individuality, by making that large pharynx so dear to those who have to do with the voice. The French normal a is in the same direction, but not quite so flat, while the English a in ' past,' etc. brings us on the road home to the normal vowel. With an assiduous cultivation of the ear while studying positions, and a careful avoidance of convulsion, and a keen sense of how small a deviation from a good position may entirely ruin a sound, there is no reason why a good pronunciation of a foreign language should be an insurmountable difficulty. No. 6 is a vowel that must be well observed in English singing ; also the fact that the difference of position between short M T and A, is not very great, while the difference of sound as a question of

a real difficulty is the management of our double vowels. They must be treated and sung as given in the Table of Vowel-sounds. The most trouble- some case is that of the combination ire. With two notes to the second syllable of 'desire' it is very common to hear

��thy heart's de - - sA-iyers This syllable must be rendered

��de - - sA - - iers

i.e. one inflected syllable, the inflection being got over as quickly and smoothly as possible after the two notes have been vocalised on the first com- ponent part of the . The r having produced the above inflexion, and having, in other cases changed the sound of the vowel, we consider it has done enough, and do not pronounce it at all as a final. The mechanical formation of conso- nants might be considered for the most part the same in civilised languages if all nations spoke equally well. But we are sadly careless, and in singing English perhaps the most serious fault of all is the neglect of finals. We have so many words, monosyllables especially, pronounced precisely alike in all respects except the last con- sonant sound ; e. g.

hark life

heart lied

harp like

harm lime

hard line

hearth light

Resulting in a JV

senseless sound lltne

All resulting m without final. Resulting in

bay without u e without

final. final.

The last column brings to mind what is not tin- frequently heard in the oratorio of the Messiah 'The people that walked in darkness have seen a great lie. 1

It is not at all unusual to hear the English T and D pronounced with the under side of the tongue. This gives something of a Somersetshire

��babe bade bake bale bane bass bait baize

��SINGING.

burr, and is adopted by the Italian actors when they imitate the English. These consonants, in English, must be pronounced with the upper side of the point of the tongue, just under the ridge terminating the vault of the hard palate in front. The Italian T and D have the point of the tongue lower down, fitting into the angle formed by the teeth and gums. The importance of pro- perly pronouncing the nasals cannot be over- estimated. The necessary management of the soft palate, and the general absence thereof, rightly emphasised by Herr Behnke in his * Me- chanism of the Human Voice,' was probably the foundation of M. Wartel's system (pushed to extremes) of vocalisation with the closed mouth. The freedom required in opening the nasal pas- sages for these sounds is equally required to close them when singing vowels. These sounds when defective are often called nasal, when in fact they are not nasal enough, and sometimes not at all. It borders on the ridiculous to hear ' for the wigs of a dove.'

The mechanism of the Italian double consonants will be facilitated by taking a Latin word, pectus, for example, from which an Italian word, petto, is derived. The double t will occupy exactly the same space of time as the ct. This mechanism has to be introduced into English where the final of one word is the initial of another, e. g. ' when near,' 'with thee,' 'all lost,' 'if fear.' These details, though savouring of the instruction-book, serve to point out how dependent voice-produc- tion and pronunciation are upon each other, and also how great an advantage the Italians have over other nations in the matter of language, and how their school of singing must have been in- fluenced thereby. Mr. Ellis's book, 'Speech in Song,' should be read carefully by students of singing.

Though foreign singers are often indistinct, radical faults of pronunciation are rare with them when singing their own language, and this on account of the less complex character of their respective tongues, and the greater simplicity of their orthography. The difficulties of English, as will be seen from the tables given, are consider- able, but this does not excuse the irritating indif- ference of many English amateurs and would-be artists, in the matter of languages generally. It is not at all unusual for a student when training for a singer's career, to study a large amount of foreign music, extending over a considerable time, the words being always carefully translated to him, the roots explained, and the analogies be- tween the foreign language and his own pointed out, in the hope that at least a little might be ' picked up ' in the time, and yet, in the end, the student shall exhibit total ignorance even of the definite article. In some cases the pronunciation has been more than fairly acquired, which makes the other failure the more unpardonable. Nor is the common utterance of blind prejudice par- ticularly edifying. It is frequently said, ' Ob French is a horrible language to sing; it is all nasal ! ' or ' German is a wretched language to- sing ; it is all guttural ! ' A language is in a

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