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On the Art of Singing$
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Richard Miller

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780195098259

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780195098259.001.0001

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Words or Sentences? Notes or Phrases?

Words or Sentences? Notes or Phrases?

(p.110) 33 Words or Sentences? Notes or Phrases?
On the Art of Singing

Richard Miller

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the correspondence between the role of words and sentences in spoken language and of notes and phrases in singing. A word, or even a syllable, may last several seconds during singing (whereas it would be quickly disposed of in speech), so there is a risk that sung syllables will assume an individual existence detrimental to logic. This literary pitfall may cause the singer to stumble. The singing of individual syllables and words often interferes with both vocal timbre and phrase direction. A false assumption is that it is artistically desirable to customize each syllable or word in order to enhance it. Some singers treat syllables and words like long swags of link sausage. In place of vocal line and dramatic sensibility, the vocal sausage-maker gives us words, not sentences; notes, not phrases. This chapter argues that every singer should not confuse heavy syllabification with expressive singing.

Keywords:   words, sentences, spoken language, notes, phrases, singing, syllables, singer, vocal timbre, syllabification

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