I'm embarking on a new project. Starting today, I have decided that I am going to explore and learn all the 24 Italian Songs and Arias in the book, the standard ones that we cut our teeth on as we begin to study singing. Of course, over the years I've learned quite a few of them, but there are all those mysterious ones lurking on the pages I have yet to visit.
There are two recent influences that combined to make me to think of this project for myself. The first was found in the pages of a book I am reading, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, by William Zinsser. Even though I purchased this book to learn about and improve my writing, specifically for this blog, I have been finding inspiration for my vocal development as well.
In the chapter on "Unity" in his book, Mr. Zinsser said, "You learn to write by writing ... The only way to learn to write is to force yourself to produce a certain number of words on a regular basis"
Well, if you know me by now, you know I have the habit of transposing sentences like this from other disciplines for a singer. So I heard, "You learn to sing by singing ... The only way to learn to sing is to force yourself to produce a certain number of songs on a regular basis."
The second influence came as a statement from my voice teacher. She said, "Do you notice that you are learning songs faster?"
This reminded me of more of what Mr. Zinsser had said. He claimed that if a writer went to work for a newspaper that required the writer to write two or three articles every day, that person would be a better writer after six months: "You wouldn't necessarily be writing well; your style might still be full of clutter and cliches, but you would be exercising your powers of putting the English language on paper, gaining confidence and identifying the most common problems."
Well, what could I do in singing that would be the equivalent of workng for a newspaper and churning out two articles a day? I realized that the 24 Italian songs and arias would serve this purpose well, and that my newly developed ability to learn songs faster would make a project of learning them all in six months a suitable one to undertake.
"All writing is ultimately a question of solving a problem. It may be a problem of where to obtain the facts, or how to organize the material. It may be a problem of approach or attitude, tone or style. Whatever it is, it has to be confronted and solved. Sometimes you will despair of finding the right solution -- or any solution. You'll think, "If I live to be ninety, I'll never get out of this mess."
According to the synopsis on the Barnes and Noble site "For well over a century ... 24 Italian Songs and Arias of the 17th and 18th Centuries has introduced millions of beginning singers to serious Italian vocal literature ... it is likely to be the first publication a voice teacher will ask a first-time student to purchase."
I believe that those 24 Italian Songs & Arias contain most of the most common problems singers will encounter. I also believe that working on solving the problem of each of those songs will exercise the powers of expressing one's self through a singing voice. Since I'm now able to learn songs faster, I am betting that if I learn these songs, I will improve even further in this regard.
I wish I had this realization when I was in my 20s and my first voice teacher kept making me sing "Caro mio ben" week after week, month after month, and -- if my memory serves correctly -- year after year, over and over again? I didn't really practice it because I couldn't relate to the song, so it seemed like those vegetables your mother makes you sit at the table and eat. But if I had really understood what the vegetables were doing, maybe I would have been more enthusiastic about them.
Well, I'm enthusiastic now! Better late than never.
Unlike the newspaper reporter writing two articles a day, I don't think learning two songs a day would be beneficial, due to the nature in which the voice develops and grows and the time it takes a song to sink into a voice. However, one song a week should do the trick, while I'm working on all my other vocal stuff. I have an accompaniment CD for all these songs, so at the end of each week I will try to put a "performance" of the song in a new space I am unveiling this week called "Frescamari's Performance Space."
I have decided to start with the song "Sebben crudele." You can find it in "Frescamari's Practice Room." You'll hear my first read-through of the song -- and I was quite surprised at how more quickly I was reading the melody of a new song -- and then the second read-through adding words. You'll also read about why I have selected this song to be the first one. See you there! (Click "24 in 24 -- Number 1 -- Sebben crudele")
Follow Up and Hear the Results:
Week 01 -- Sebben Crudele
Week 02 -- Per la gloria d'adorarvi
Week 03 -- O Cessate di piagarmi