The Art of Embellishment in Renaissance Vocal Ensemble Music
- Thursday, November 8, 2018 from 11:00am to 11:50am
- Howard Hall, Reynolds Recital Hall - view map
Increasingly, today’s choir teachers strive to lead singers in historically-informed performances of music from earlier centuries. When performing music from the 16th and early 17th centuries questions regarding pitch and tempo must be answered because they were not standardized at that time. In addition, when looking at source material, it is common to find discrepancies in text underlay (different syllables assigned to different notes or missing entirely) and in accidental markings (indications of sharps and flats). Original singers of this music were accustomed to making decisions regarding text underlay and musica ficta (accidentals) based on rules codified in singing manuals and learned through regular practice. Another topic discussed extensively in singing manuals and often mentioned in accounts of performances is the use of embellishments. At that time, singers would typically add notes to the music they were singing according to rules common in their region. Today, many choral editors are creating editions of early music taking into account new information uncovered by musicologists related to pitch, tempo and the distribution of text so that modern performers can understand how the music was intended to sound. Today’s choirs can readily adjust to new choices of pitch, tempo, and word underlay; however, it is more difficult for them to add embellishments to their singing because today there are typically many more singers performing each part (soprano, alto, tenor and bass). Even so, it is unwise to ignore embellishments because according to these original sources that modern choral editors are turning to for guidance on other issues, artful embellishment was crucial to enlightened vocal ensemble performance. In this lecture-demonstration, one of our vocal ensembles, the Montanans, will perform Tomas Luis de Victoria's motet "O Magnum Mysterium" with embellishments based on instructions found in Lodovico Zacconi's Prattica Di Musica (Venice, 1592), a treatise in circulation where Victoria was active as a composer. Kirk Aamot, Associate Professor of Music, will share his research on the art of ensemble embellishment, which he continued to explore while on sabbatical last spring.
- School of Music