Posts Tagged ‘vocal music’

Brian Eno on singing

January 29, 2009

Brian Eno wrote this essay on a capella group singing earlier this year. His points about the power of group singing are important, but I’m more interested in his views on harmonizing. He notes that songs with complex chord progressions are not conducive to spontaneous harmonization and that long vowels are where the opportunities are for the harmonies to express themselves. His also describes the experience of harmonizing:

It’s thrilling to get the rhythm of something tight and sing it well together. The second is tone. To hit the same vowel sound at a number of pitches seems unremarkable, but it’s beautiful when it happens.

His reaction is similar to the one I’ve had when singing with a group and everything comes together just right on a particular note or phrase. I think some listeners experience the thrill and beauty, too, and that that is what draws them to particular kinds of songs, especially ones by groups like the Everly Brothers, Simon and Garfunkel, Loggins and Messina, etc.

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Duets in Broadway shows of the 1940s and 50s

January 26, 2009

I promised this a while back. Go here for a list of the duets from the most popular of the Broadway shows of the 1940s and 50s. 

An explanation about which shows are in my list: The Internet Broadway Database reports over 150 musicals that opened on Broadway between 1950 and 1959, including revues and revivals. I have chosen only the ones that had significant runs after opening, were revived during the 1950s, or had a film adaptation during the 1950s or later. Certain less successful shows are included because the composer and/or lyricist are important figures in American music, such as Leonard Bernstein, or in American musical theater. The list is not meant to be comprehensive but rather representative of what Americans were hearing and seeing on stage and in the theater during the 1950s.

Making the connection between American musical theater and duos

January 26, 2009
Muttering to myself…
  • Vocal duets are inherently dramatic. Two voices suggests two people. The voices interact, even if they sing in unison. That interaction defines the dramatic elements and adds a layer to the interpretation of the text. 
  • Duets can be found throughout opera and other forms of musical drama but less so in other forms of vocal art music, such as lied or chanson. Duets in American popular music are directly connected, historically and paradigmatically, to musical theater. This is due in part to the fact that popular music in America, at least until the advent of rock and roll, was intertwined with musical theater–Broadway, revues, variety, vaudeville, minstrelsy.
  • Musical theater, for a long time, provided the model (as well as the material) for the musical and rhetorical structure of duets. For example, voices in alternation suggest a dialogue. If the same text is sung by both, then two viewpoints (possibly in opposition) exist. The point at which the voices join implies a connection or a reconciliation.

Carmina Burana

August 10, 2008

One of my favorites!