Friday, July 03, 2015
The Farmer's Evening Entertainment
I came across this gem in the IMSLP, and thought I'd transcribe Solomon Howe's "Miscellaneous Observations" from 1804 and share them here.
Miscellaneous Observations on Music
VOCAL Music is the easiest of all Arts, if the Performers have an accurate perceptions in distinguishing the semitones, and are favor’d with seasonable and careful instruction. Tho’ Music appears mysterious to a beginner, yet the difficulties soon vanish after trial. They, who wish to sing gracefully, should observe the following Directions, with care, viz.
1. That none continue to sing, who cannot, on sufficient trial, sound the half notes, exactly.
2. That all parts sing equally as to strength, or _____: and have all parts well proportioned.
3. That the Teacher be very careful, to get the highest and clearest voices, at 7, 8, or 10, year’s age, males, or females, for Counter; which should always be sung, with what is call’d; a child’s voice, viz. as little children naturally sing at 7, &c. before they learn to imitate a woman’s voice; for it spoils a tune, to have both Treble and Counter sung with feminine voices.—There should be (almost) inexpressible delicacy in pronouncing, accenting, emphasizing and cadecizing (?) Counter; A strong, harsh Counter, especially in glad key’d tunes, destroys the whole beauty of the Music.
4. Care should be taken to soften the voice, by all possible art, viz. by shunning colds, coughs and all occasions of hoarseness, which will be the case in winter, if people are not careful. N.B. To drink warm, sweet tea often, or sweeten’d water, while singing, will render the voice musical.
5. The Teacher, or Leader should be always watchful, that the parts do not overpower each other, by loudness, or fail in time, and he should proportion the parts exactly according to the height and depth of the voices.
6. When string instrument are us’d, the players should stop the sound exactly according to the time, by putting their fingers on the string, or otherwise.—There would be but little need of Instruments, if people would learn and practice music, in the early part of youth.
7. a large close chamber, is vastly the best for a school, as it frees from noise and tumult, and affords the best opportunity of instruction. N.B. The native bashfulness of children is oft so great that they expect freedom.
8. Accent is the general force of voice, with which we pronounce one word stronger in speaking and fingering, than the other intermediate words of syllables; and the music should always be composed to the words and not the words to the music; tho’ this is not always the case.
9. Emphasis is the peculiar stress which some important word requires, or the pitch and situation of the parts of the tune may properly admit. N.B. This must be judged by the leader.
10. Cadence is that softness and weakness of voice (united), which are necessary, in particular high notes of the Tenor, or other parts, which, if sung loud, would be injurious to the music, especially at the close of a flat key’d tune.
11. As Music is design’d to please; every one must watch himself and sing pleasantly, else there can be no satisfaction, in the performance.
12. The Master should never let his scholars sing a tune, by word ‘’til they can sing the Notes accurately by memory. N.B. Many masters ruin their schools by such foolish license.
13. Sobriety and solemnity, should be inculcated in a school; but the Master should, by no means, be austere, proud, or assuming; for pride and tyranny destroy music.
14. Let Master and Scholars remember, that Music is given us for our happiness, by GOD the infinitely generous AUTHOR of our faculties, and it is our duty to employ our voices to his glory, in this world, if we wish to be blessed in the next.
Solomon Howe 1804 (Greenwich, MA)