Archive for singing

Why go to an opera house?

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Have you ever met anyone who greatly prefers to experience opera by listening to complete audio recordings at home as opposed to seeing the whole theatrical event in an opera house?

There seem to me to be two different breeds of opera goer, albeit with some overlap. There are those, like me, who basically go for the total experience, music, drama, and production, and we are often disappointed. The other group can accept shortcomings in some aspects, as long as the singing is good, in fact some opera fans are really just enthusiasts for their favourite singers, the voice is all.

It’s now some time since I went to ENO or Covent Garden, as I have endured so many perverse productions that I really cannot face any more. It would be nice if recorded opera made up for my loss, but recent offerings have been disappointing, mainly due to multi-mic balances and other forms of over-produced sound engineering. I still enjoy opera sets from the late fifties and sixties more than recent ones.

This is a very complex subject. Perhaps part of me rather resents the emphasis on opera at the expense of orchestral and chamber music, especially when you consider how few decent large concert halls we have in this country.

While the music is by far the most important part of opera for me, I still go to live opera as often as I can, despite the fact that I sometimes do not like the productions. The sound of live opera simply cannot be replaced for me. I have relatively good stereo equipment, but there is something completely different about the sound in the opera house and the thrill of hearing the orchestra and singers live. I love to see productions that enhance the music for me, but often I would simply be happy if the production did not make it hard for me to concentrate on the music.


Stephen Fry Loves Wagner

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , on September 24, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

“Isn’t Wagner fantastic?”

Do you find it hard to get into Wagner? Stephen Fry has some advice for you:

If anyone asks me, “How do I listen to Wagner? How do I get into it?”, I say: “Just go to the first act of one of them and follow it.” Nobody sings on top of each other, it’s all nice and straightforward. It’s a drama. It’s a story. It’s fantastic.

Thanks, Stephen! Now I feel more comfortable about penetrating Wagner’s Ring.

Are you tone deaf?

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

So does “tone deafness” exist? And why do some people prefer crap music despite their intelligence and education?

When I was about 10 we all had to audition for the school choir. I was one of the very few who wanted to join – most of the other boys deliberately ruined their chances of being selected. Unfortunately, the music teacher said to me: “It’s funny how some people (meaning me) just cannot follow a tune!” and that was that.

Since then I’ve been in various singing ensembles (being a tenor it’s easy to be accepted) but never for long as I find week after week of “note bashing” rather boring. I’ve even had solos in musicals. I don’t know whether tone deafness exists but I think anyone, unless he has a medical condition, can make an acceptable sound with a little effort and encouragement.

As for taste in music, I am never impressed by anyone over the age of 30 whose musical horizons are limited solely to pop music. Then again, some people prefer tinned salmon to any other variety, what passes for chocolate in this country to the real stuff, and mass-produced lager to real ale. I suppose there’s no harm in having what you fancy rather than pretending to like something you don’t just because you think you ought to, just as long as you are open minded enough to give things a fair chance.

However, we could be more restrictive (or is it extensive) about tone deafness. What about those incapable of splitting a chord they hear into the different notes being played? More difficult, what about those incapable of hearing the first harmonics of a given fundamental? This goes far beyond education. It is here indeed a matter of intelligence. Not of course a matter of level or amount of intelligence but indeed a matter of form of intelligence, i.e. analytical v. synthetic, sensitive v. discursive.

Even more difficult – what about a musician incapable of hearing, hence not playing in accordance with, not the music he is playing, but the music the public is listening to when he plays. I would personally call this tone deafness … for a professional musician of course.

Education can help in many ways but there are probably some gifts which you either have or don’t have, such as perfect (or absolute) pitch (although some would argue that this can be acquired).

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