MUS 105 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Bel Canto, Vibrato, Melisma
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Week Two: Describing Vocal Music
Reading one: Cowell, H. Liner Notes to The Worlds Vocal Arts. Ethnic Folkways Library.
1. What is the basis for “the western [art] tradition”?
Vocal art varies across the world and are affected by language and tradition – different ways of
civilization. Western music originates from Italy “bel canto”, perfected singing of Italian songs
and opera and a church style of singing. It was spread and taught all over the western world. In
the 17th century and the 18th century, attempts were made to apply in to other European tongues.
Out of this came different styles from France, German and Russia while England adopted Opera
singing as a standard.
2. List five of its key elements.
Five Key elements of western traditional music are; tone quality, major and minor scales,
operatic tenor, Rapid vibrato, high notes forced into robust burst tones.
3. Cowell mentions several elements of the “other vocal worlds” outside of Europe at various
points in the notes, list them.
“Other vocal worlds” elements goes as follows; Sliding tones/ highly cultivate, trills and shakes
that include artistic bleating and the influence of language and highly individual modes or
4. One of the elements he mentions is ornamentation. Which ornaments, specifically, does he
The vocal ornaments that he lists are a form of artistic bleeding, where they are using the same
tone back and forth where the tone can be interrupted in the middle of the trill. Some of them
are based on microtones, some are slow while others are fast.
Reading two: Zemp, Hugo. 1996. Notes to Voices of the World: An Anthology of Vocal Expression.
Musee de L'Homme
1. There is no existing typology for vocal techniques, so Hugo Zemp's group decided to try to
create one. What are their nine categories of vocal techniques?
The nine categories of vocal techniques goes as follows:
1) Calls, cries and clamours
2) Voice and breath
3) Spoken, declaimed sung
4) Compass and register
5) Colours and timbres
6) Disguised voices
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