How can you accelerate the speed, accuracy, and quality of learning songs for performance situations?

On this blog I share my 'learning adventures' as I continue to improve my performance as a singer.

I share web resources I find helpful, and reflect on my experience using various technologies and ideas.

Monday, January 5, 2009

PRACTICE - Samuel BARBER, 'Sure on this shining night'

This performance demonstrates the early stages of my learning a new song. I began learning the lyrics one week ago - before learning the tune. Currently, I am working on getting correct timing, and matching the words to the melody.

I am not concerned about interpretation emphasis, and voice quality. Those effects will come later after I have memorised the song.

Postscipt: I have received feedback on my recording that I have "jumped a step". Before matching the words to the song by singing, I should first sing the song to "ah", getting good sound quality, breathing, posture, and timing. After this step, one adds the words. That makes sense to me. I've been too impatient!!!

For an example of my singing to a "performance" standard, see this posting of "Gute Nacht".

Sound recording
In order to get maximum feedback from my voice coach, I record the voice with no equalisation or other modifications. However, I did transpose the song down five semi-tones from its original starting note of "d" ("Sure"). I learn in a lower transposition then raise the pitch as I become more confident with all elements.

I record using Garageband and an old video camera shotgun mike through a Peavey micro-mixer (PV6) into my Macintosh.

The accompaniment might sound mechanical. It is! It is produced using Smartscore after having scanned in the musical score. (Schirmer, New York, copyright 1941.). I create a midi version of the song in Smartscore, then transfer the midi version into Garageband, where I complete the transposition.

Learning to perform from other's performances
On iTunes you can find some beautiful performances of the song. I bought a version performed by Robert White & Samuel Sanders.

I listen to performance versions very, very infrequently whilst I'm learning a new song, so that I can develop my own interpretation. I might listen once towards the end of my rehearsal to note hints of things I might be missing. I usually have at least two performances that I like.

I invite you to share comments about interpretation of the song and vocal production. (....more support on the top notes - I know!)

Researching the song's context and composer
I am also curious to know more about the context of lyrics poem written by James AGEE. You can find the lyrics (an a performance) on this website dedicated to Art Song: http://lottelehmann.org/artsong/bios/bio_Barber.shtml

Information about James AGEE is on the PBS website: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/ihas/poet/agee.html.... According to the pbs site, Agee appears to have been a somewhat James Dean character (?): "Poet, novelist, journalist, film critic, and social activist, Agee would lead an unorthodox, hard-driving life that would result in an early death."

I'm rather intrigued by the man. Like me he has Huguenot heritage. And he died one day before I was born.

The images are from a fireworks display in Auckland, February 2006.

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