Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday Cyberspace Recital - Nina - and Learning to Make a Style Sheet

I have sitting on my lap here a book I'm very interested in called Song: A Guide to Art Song Style and Literature, by Carol Kimball.  I had no idea what I would find inside this book, but something that is right in the beginning is of great interest to me and I am excited to begin learning about it.  The book is introducing me to information about "Style."  The author starts everything off with a discussion of the components of style, and then there is a section that shows a singer how she can make a "style sheet" for a song she is studying.

(By the way, I choose the pronoun "she" often when talking about "a singer" because I think typing "he/she" is cumbersome, and so I have chosen my own self, a female, as the model every-singer, and thus use "she."  Once in a while I'll throw a "he" in there for variety, and when it is not cumbersome, I will use "he/she")

Excited by this new idea of making a style sheet, I had a grand and ambitious plan for today's Friday Cyberspace Recital.  I would study the chapters in the book Song, then apply my new knowledge about style toward making a style sheet for this week's selected Italian Song, "Nina."

Well, it took me a great deal of time to only begin to learn about one of the first components of style discussed in the book:  MELODY.  There was so much information packed in just a few short paragraphs, that it took me a while to digest what I was reading.

So, it appears that the study of style is going to take more than a morning!  (Hmmm, why couldn't I foresee that?)  I really didn't expect to learn everything about style in one morning, I hope you realize.  In fact I didn't even think I was going to learn everything about style from just a few paragraphs in one little book from one little person.

However, I thought I would get an overview that might get me started, and I would be able to make a rough draft of what a style sheet might look like.

What I have discovered this morning is that I have some knowledge of style already, but I didn't know it.  There have been "things" I've been noticing about music all along as I've studied songs. I might not have been able to articulate these "things," but I observe and am aware of all kinds of "things."  I sometimes don't see "things" right off the bat, but little traits and characteristics and components of style have been there, revealing themselves to me, making themselves known to me just by their mere presence.  I just didn't have names for them.

What I have lacked is clear conscious definition of these little musical "things."  What I have lacked is vocabulary and language -- vocabulary and language in which to speak about style.

This book, Song, in its opening paragraphs about the components of MELODY, is giving me some basic vocabulary with which to start off.  This morning, taking out of the paragraphs of the book, I wrote out a melody vocabulary list for myself, words I can now use to explain the musical "thingies" that I see and hear.
I made it into a little picture to make it more interesting than just a boring list.

Just like I was talking about the language of vocal science yesterday, studying a vocabulary of style will help me analyze  my songs better, helping me to understand what is important, which will then guide my choices. (As my singing technique develops, I will have more expressive choices!)

Since it has taken me so long this morning only to just begin to grasp the idea of the components of melody, I have decided to begin my style sheet for "Nina" with solely the "Melody" part filled out. What I have done is grabbed a few of these vocabulary words and tried to use some of them to describe the melody of Nina.

Please remember that even though I am a middle-aged woman, my music level is like that of a young music student who doesn't know too much and is taking a class at school and learning about all this cool music stuff.  My first attempt to try to describe the melodic style may be very immature.  On top of it, I am "homeschooling" and have no professor to look over my work.

Still, I place it here as an example of  how much we can still attempt to learn on our own, even without formal schooling.

To go along with this, I have posted "Nina" in Frescamari's Performance Space.  I was worried, due to the issue of stamina, that this was going to be the first week that I would have to put one of the 24 songs up in two halves.  However, even in just this week and a half, my stamina for this song has improved enough that I was able to post it all in one piece.

For next week, I've gotten a head start on "Alma del core"  Maybe I will be able to go further in a style sheet for that song by next week.
To hear this week's selection of the 24 in 24 project, click here:  "Nina"
To hear beginning work on next week's selection, click here:  "Alma del core"
Bonus:  Is "Nina" like "Lazy Mary?"  Italian, but from a different time period and a very different STYLE? I'm a little bit afraid that poor Nina might be dead, but in case she's just lazy, here's her friend, Lazy Mary (have to listen to two verses to get to the "Lazy Mary" verse:


  1. Guess what?!? I am reading Song as well! I got it for Christmas but just started reading it in bits and pieces. I'm actually skipping around in the rep section right now.

    I totally get what you're saying about the vocabulary and language of style. Any listener can appreciate and enjoy a piece of music. But for those of us who must go deeper and analyze it, take it apart, and compare it to other music, we need a vocabulary for doing that.

    Of course, there are also those performers who gain instinctive mastery of a style without necessarily having a complete vocabulary for describing it!

  2. My 17yo son keeps insisting that if I can't explain it in words, I don't fully understand something yet.

    Then, just last night, in a book Notes on Cooking: A Short Guide to an Essential Craft by L.B. Costello and R. Reich, the authors listed a bunch of adjectives that describe food and said "Food is never really finished until you talk about it."

    In a way, that's a theme song for my life. I don't feel like I have full knowledge of something or have fully experienced something until I can talk/write about it. Guess that's why I want to blog about my singing.