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Subscriber: null; date: 02 March 2021


  • Owen Jander
  • , revised by Tim Carter

In music, the relation between verbal stress and melodic accent in the setting and delivery of a text. Clear and appropriate text setting, measured by quantity or quality, was extolled by humanist thinkers in the Renaissance on the basis of classical precedent, and it was central to the emergence of recitative and the ‘new music’ in Florence during the late 16th century. Throughout the Baroque period, the notion of the musician as orator, persuading and moving an audience, depended on proper declamation. The subject was often discussed by theorists, particularly as clear declamation became threatened by the more musical demands of the aria. J.G. Walther (WaltherML) applied to music the rationalistic concept of declamation, which originally dealt with speech, and focussed his attention on recitative. J.J. Rousseau (Dictionnaire, 1768) dealt with declamation as the relationship between musical and linguistic accent, which had been much discussed in French singing treatises, such as Bénigne de Bacilly’s Remarques curieuses sur l’art de bien chanter (1668). Declamation as an aspect of artistic singing (particularly in the performance of recitative) remained in the forefront of French vocal pedagogy until the 20th century. A. de Martini (‘Traité de chant’, EMDC, II/ii (1926), p.928) listed the qualities of declamation as ‘delivery, articulation, pronunciation, slurring, accent, phrasing, style, slancio etc’.