Nuance ~ Beyond the notes and the rhythm ~

Who has the time to consider the details, much less demand them?

With enough practice, anyone can learn to sing the pitches, the rhythms, the text in the correct tempo. Is that all there is? I find that too often, we’re so focused on manufacturing the sound that we haven’t stop to consider anything else. Music that speaks to the core of the soul must also consider:

  • Silence created by the rests
  • Intonation: Relationship between pitch and harmonic structure as well as to other pitches
  • Modification of the vowel
  • Timbre of the ensemble
  • Consideration of when the note should reach its highest amplitude, the front end, the back end, the middle?
  • Syllabic stress (which most often occurs naturally from well-constructed rhythm)
  • Agogics? Tenuto?
  • Articulation – Staccato, Legato, Marcato, and everything in between
  • Geometry embedded in the crescendo and decrescendo
  • Dynamics – are all voice parts equal when f is written above the staff?
  • Ensemble Dynamics vs. Personal Dynamics
  • Vibrato cycle – more shimmer or ?
  • Placement of voices for balance and blend~ to whom is the choir listening? who is the choir hearing?
  • Arrangement of singers for maximum acoustic benefit

The list goes on.  All of these elements and more can be summed up in the meaning of nuance. If only we had the time, we would care. If only we cared, we would take the time. If we knew all of these things mattered, would we learn the notes quicker so we could delve deeper?

So much of our preparation time must be managed according to the schedule. Why! We have a performance to give! Who has the time to talk about details? Besides, all of that doesn’t really make that a big difference does it?  The Zhuhai Classical Children’s Choir is working on it. . . albeit slowly, but certainly.  Still, pretty darned impressive to be singing multiple languages not often heard or spoken, much less understood.

Published by

Lynn Swanson

Executive Artistic Director Milwaukee Children's Choir

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