James G. Smith and Percy M. Young
[choir](from Gk. chorosFr. choeurGer. ChorIt., Sp. coro)
A group of singers who perform together either in unison or, much more usually, in parts; also, by extension, a work, or movement in a work, written for performance by such an ensemble (e.g. the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus in Handel's Messiah). In the performance of part-music a distinction is generally observed between a group of soloists (one singer to each part) and a chorus or choir (more than one singer, usually several or many, for each part); this distinction is not, however, without its exceptions (e.g. the solo petit choeur of the 17th-century French grand motet). The designations ‘chorus’ and ‘choir’ are often used in conjunction with qualifying terms indicative of constitution or function (e.g. mixed choir, male voice choir, festival chorus, opera chorus). Moreover at various times and places certain types of chorus and choir have been generically designated by terms lacking the words ‘chorus’ and ‘choir’ (e.g. ...
(pl. flores) (Lat.: ‘flower’; Fr. fleuretis)
A species of vocal embellishment. Jerome of Moravia (late 13th century) gave this definition: ‘est autem flos armonicus decora vocis sive soni celerrima procellarisque vibratio’ – an ‘ornamental vibration of the voice, or a very rapid rippling of the sound’ – that is, a shake. He described three types of ‘flowers’: long, open and sudden. ‘Long flowers’ resemble a slow vibrato, taking the note a semitone above the note to be graced. ‘Open flowers’ are slow, taking the tone below. ‘Sudden flowers’ begin slowly and gradually gather speed, using the interval of a semitone. Describing these ornaments in connection with plainchant, the author warned against applying them indiscriminately. Five notes are singled out for embellishment: the first, last and penultimate notes to be graced with long flowers, the second note of the first syllable with open flowers, and the long plica with sudden flowers. Singers may insert several short notes between this ornamental plica and the next note ‘to make the melody more elegant’....
Port de voix (i)
(Fr.: ‘carrying of the voice’)
In Baroque vocal and instrumental music, an appoggiatura, particularly one that resolves upwards by a tone or semitone. Deriving from late 16th-century Italian improvisatory practice – Bovicelli's Regole, passaggi di musica, madrigali et motetti passeggiati (1594/R) contains written-out examples – it became one of the most important graces of French Baroque music. In France it was rarely printed before the late 17th century, but was left to the performer to add extempore. Bacilly explained in his Remarques curieuses sur l'art de bien chanter (1668/R, 4/1681; Eng. trans., 1968) that the accessory note anticipated the beat and took value from the preceding note. Perfection, he continued, lay in its also taking ‘some of the value’ of the note of resolution, as this enabled one to linger on the accessory note.
In his Méthode claire, certaine et facile pour apprendre à chanter la musique (...
(It.: ‘first musician’)
In the 17th century, Musico meant a professional singer or musician of either sex; it later came to mean a castrato. With the decline and then the disappearance of the operatic castrato after 1800, the practice of assigning a leading male part (primo uomo) to a high voice continued from about 1800 to 1850 with a woman singing in breeches, described as primo musico (or simply musico). As with the older primo uomo part for castrato, the primo musico role was usually that of a lover or aristocratic friend (such as Tancredi in Rossini’s opera or Maffio Orsini in Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia). A musico was often but not invariably a contralto or mezzo-soprano; Giulia Grisi had a contract as both prima donna and primo musico and demanded that it be rewritten to specify primo musico soprano (to Alessandro Lanari, 9 July 1830, I-Ms Coll. Casati 659)....
(Middle Eng.: ‘quadruple’; from Lat. quadruplus or quadruplex, modified by analogy with ‘treble’ from Fr. triple)
A voice or part pitched somewhat higher than the treble, occasionally designated quatriplex in polyphonic sources such as the Eton Choirbook ( GB-WRec 178). Here the usage is clearly related to the Latin quadruplum in its sense of a fourth voice, above the triplum, in a motet (Franco of Cologne: ‘Qui autem quadruplum vel quintuplum facere voluit’). In the ‘quatrebil syghte’ of improvised discant, as taught in Leonel Power’s ...
(Middle Eng.: ‘fivefold’; from Lat. quin[que] and ‘ible’)
A voice or part apparently pitched even higher than Quatreble. But the 15th-century English treatises which refer to the quatreble do not mention the quinible; and although quintuplum can mean the fifth voice of a motet, or the five-part motet itself (Franco of Cologne: ‘Qui autem quadruplum vel quintuplum facere voluit’), the English word seems to be used only in the general sense of a high-pitched song or voice (Chaucer, ...
Owen Jander, Ellen T. Harris, David Fallows, and John Potter
Singing is a fundamental mode of musical expression. It is especially suited to the expression of specific ideas, since it is almost always linked to a text; even without words, the voice is capable of personal and identifiale utterances. It is arguably the most subtle and flexible of musical instruments, and therein lies much of the fascination of the art of singing.
Because it imparts to words a heightened expression that they do not have when merely spoken, or even declaimed in a dramatic manner without musical pitch, singing (or incantation) played a vital role in many early forms of religious ritual, and in the early theatre. Even outside religion, singing has long been held to have moral and cultural value. Aristotle quoted the bard Musaeus, ‘Song is man's sweetest joy’, and went on to warn against using musical instruments, such as the aulos, which interfere with or prevent the act of singing. Athenaeus (...
revised by Anne Beetem Acker
Sound-effects device developed by the fiction writer and radio operator Gilbert M. Wright in Los Angeles in 1939 and manufactured by Wright-Sonovox, which was affiliated with the radio station representatives Free & Peters in Chicago. A sound is transmitted to the larynx of a trained ‘articulator’ through two earphone-sized loudspeakers that are placed against the throat; the sound is modified by movements of the tongue and lips to produce speech-like articulations. The Sonovox was much used for radio drama and films, including Walt Disney’s The Reluctant Dragon (1941) and Leith Stevens’s score for the film Destination Moon (1950). The voice of Casey the Train in Walt Disney’s Dumbo (1941) was created using the Sonovox. It was very popular for radio station identifications and advertising jingles. The rock band The Who used the Sonovox on their song ‘Radio London’ (1967), in which guitar chords seem to speak the days of the week. Later it was replaced by the more versatile vocoder....
A textless vocal exercise or concert piece to be sung to one or more vowels. The vocalise derives from two traditions. One dates from the early 19th century, when it became customary to perform and publish solfeggi and essercizi with piano accompaniment (e.g. Domenico Corri, The Singer's Preceptor, 1810; Manuel García, Traité complet de l’art du chant, 1840–47/R); by the middle of the century there were numerous publications of this kind. The singing instructor Heinrich Panofka, for example, published during his years in Paris five volumes of vocalises. The idea was that with a piano accompaniment even the most mechanical exercises would be performed in a more artistic manner. The other tradition was that of using existing compositions as vocal exercises without words. In 1755 Jean-Antoine Bérard provided, as a supplement to his L’art du chant, 20 compositions by Lully, Rameau and others, selected for the technical problems they offered (‘pour les sons tendres, légers, maniérés, majestueux’ etc.), and he added specific instructions as to how these problems were to be solved. In the 19th century most instruction manuals for the voice included original compositions specially composed for the same purpose: ‘melodies without words, offering the pupil a union of all the difficulties of song’ (García). Unlike the accompanied ...
Voce di petto
(It.: ‘chest voice’; Fr. voix de poitrine)
One of the two primary registers of the singing voice. The voice resonating from the chest is lower in pitch and bigger and darker in sound than that resonating from the head (see Voce di testa). Beginning in the 18th century, singing tutors discussed these registers at length, taking various positions on how to unite the break (...