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Thread: Tempo, sonority, vocality in 9th century music

  1. #16
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    This discussion reminds me of something Christopher Page wrote in The English A Cappella Heresy about the discipline of the English choir system, about how it prepares the singers who have been educated in it to give performances of early polyphony.

    The collegiate and cathedral tradition in which many English singers their training is comparable in some respects to the context in which medieval (and Renaissance) singers received theirs. It is one in which a repertory a large a cappella element is cultivated on a daily basis by men and (usually )boys, all of them relatively young, who hold positions in a cathedral or chapel (often for a relatively short time) for which there is much competition. They are singers for whom singing and rehearsal are constant duties that are not (to say the least) touched by concerns of high art. The prevailing notion among them is one of a versatile, professional competence, constantly kept in trim by a cappella performance, that can be readily be turned to music more ambitious and enjoyable when liturgical duties are over. The process of rehearsal draws a training which often reaches back into the singer's boyhood, which provides him with the directed quickness of mind and the vocal stamina he requires, and which ensures that the choral results are generally quite passable — and sometimes excellent — despite the constant absences, deputizations, hirings and firings that always threaten the homogeneity of what can be achieved. It's a tradition where instrumentalists — apart from organists — are apt to seem like a different breed of musician altogether.

    I tentatively suggest that this is, in some measure, the world of the medieval and early Renaissance singer of polyphony, and the implications of this resemblance, whatever they may be, deserve a reflective study to themselves.

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  3. #17
    Junior Member anahit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by premont View Post
    I am sure, that neither the members of the Orlando consort nor Paul Hillier turn up for sessions with a 100% clear idea of how the music should sound. They have to try some options.
    absolutely agree. yet there are some options, not democratic voting options.
    the op asked "when these people sing, how do they make their decisions", once more it is not that they decide, it is someone. even with string quartets, there is always an alpha-musician who leads or thinks more, ..of course there are opinions.
    but in chamber groups and larger ensembles it is not that "they" decide.
    And also "How on earth is the leader to know what the musical possibilities are unless he lets the musicians try things out together" - once again they don't need to "try out before". for sure, a leader has some doubts or options, but there is no democracy, and the leader should know the things before going to his job.

    a striking difference between amateur and professional ensembles is that when you see rehearsals with amateurs there is always to much noise, everyone has opinion, and a lot of discussion - constantly.
    Last edited by anahit; Sep-14-2019 at 06:12.
    მუსიკა გადაარჩენს მსოფლიოს.

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    Quote Originally Posted by anahit View Post
    absolutely agree. yet there are some options, not democratic voting options.
    the op asked "when these people sing, how do they make their decisions", once more it is not that they decide, it is someone. even with string quartets, there is always an alpha-musician who leads or thinks more, ..of course there are opinions.
    but in chamber groups and larger ensembles it is not that "they" decide.
    And also "How on earth is the leader to know what the musical possibilities are unless he lets the musicians try things out together" - once again they don't need to "try out before". for sure, a leader has some doubts or options, but there is no democracy, and the leader should know the things before going to his job.

    a striking difference between amateur and professional ensembles is that when you see rehearsals with amateurs there is always to much noise, everyone has opinion, and a lot of discussion - constantly.
    What I would really love is a blog of all of this. That’s to say, a sort of diary showing the process by which a chamber ensemble come to their performance decisions. For someone like me - I’m not a performer and I’m interested in music where performance style is not at all well understood - it’s a great mystery.

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    Quote Originally Posted by anahit View Post
    but there is no democracy, and the leader should know the things before going to his job.

    a striking difference between amateur and professional ensembles is that when you see rehearsals with amateurs there is always to much noise, everyone has opinion, and a lot of discussion - constantly.
    A problem for the singers and musicians may be, that the leaders opinion isn't but opinion in quite a lot of questions, because we do not know the facts. This is why I am convinced, that Early music groups work in a more democratic way (even with help of musicologists) than Symphony orchestras. It is well known that many Early music groups have a collective "leadership" e.g. La Morra, Piffaro - already I Musici (di Roma) boasted about their musical democracy.

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    There's a documented example of this process of collaboration, it's the use of vocalise for untexted music in c14 motets by Gothic Voices. I'll try and find the citations later, but I remember they took a long long time trying out different vowel sounds, moving the technique to different types of music etc.

    Another documented example concerns Marcel Peres, and the way he experimented with singers to find ways of making sense of Roman chant material. Again I can find the details later, it's in one of his books.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Sep-14-2019 at 19:00.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    This underscores the appeal of classical music, compared to popular: we can see a work performed in different incarnations, in different ways.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Sep-15-2019 at 13:09.

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    And also the problem, a philosophical one, of saying what, if anything, the work is.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Sep-15-2019 at 14:38.

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    One could say that a work can be found in many different versions, which in the most pronounced cases may have surprisingly little in common. Ideally, they should at least have the simple score in common, but even as to this there is most often disagreement about the interpretation. So a work is no absolutum, and it is continually changing like everything in life, even oneself.

  11. #24
    Junior Member anahit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by premont View Post
    This is why I am convinced, that Early music groups work in a more democratic way (even with help of musicologists) than Symphony orchestras.
    i would believe that that the general consensus about how to perform such old music would result in the same output. let us assume that there are 320 singers. their total opinion about how to perform a certain music would result in one way of performance because of the consensus democratically chosen; and so, splitting these singers in, let us say, 10 choirs of 32 people, would result in the same or very similar performance.
    i have played in an ensemble for old music and there was a leader (violin) who had made a deep research about music we played (composer, history, life). she has chosen people to play with and she decided almost 80% of the performance.

    this: professional ensemble musicians like to work with strong leaders.

    Quote Originally Posted by premont View Post
    It is well known that many Early music groups have a collective "leadership" e.g. La Morra, Piffaro - already I Musici (di Roma) boasted about their musical democracy.
    for sure. but the musicians they choose to play with are those with similar way of thinking. they would never accept into ensemble someone who has radical or different idea how to perform music, thus that kind of "democracy" is already limited. if that is the case their recordings would result in radically different outputs.
    მუსიკა გადაარჩენს მსოფლიოს.

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    Quote Originally Posted by anahit View Post
    i would believe that that the general consensus about how to perform such old music would result in the same output. let us assume that there are 320 singers. their total opinion about how to perform a certain music would result in one way of performance because of the consensus democratically chosen; and so, splitting these singers in, let us say, 10 choirs of 32 people, would result in the same or very similar performance.
    i have played in an ensemble for old music and there was a leader (violin) who had made a deep research about music we played (composer, history, life). she has chosen people to play with and she decided almost 80% of the performance.

    this: professional ensemble musicians like to work with strong leaders.


    for sure. but the musicians they choose to play with are those with similar way of thinking. they would never accept into ensemble someone who has radical or different idea how to perform music, thus that kind of "democracy" is already limited. if that is the case their recordings would result in radically different outputs.
    Apparently you've never tried to start a rock band. Personality chemistry is everything.

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