History of Singing
There have been distinct stages
in the development of music and particularly singing over the previous
hundreds of years. Looking back now we can easily see where certain things
interlinked to create a new style or method of singing.
From the western side of things,
the first significant frame was the operatic movement. This began in the
early 1600’s with the first ever Opera 1602. It was called Orpheo and was
written by Monteverdi. The singing style that existed between 1600 and
1750 was known as Baroque. Baroque basically referred to a pure sound without
verbrato. Some words to describe this is ornamental and florid. An example
of a composition from this time is Handel’s Messiah.
Between 1750-1800 was the classical
era with many famous composers emerging. One such composer was Mozart who
had success with his comic operas and the requiem mass.
1800-1900 was known as the Romantic
period. This period started to involve verbrato in the singing. This was
a big change from the previous eras as there was focus on a huge sound
rather than simplicity. The main element of the romantics was the drama
and emotion. A type of style from the Romantic period was Lieder, which
is German. Lieder were full of emotion and drama. It played an important
role in the development of opera and involved piano and voice duets. The
contrast between Romantic and Classical is that woman usually sang the
latter. On the other hand men mostly sang Romantics.
From 1900 onwards came diversity.
Opera expanded into different areas with once such area being called atonal.
As with many of these styles, the Germans devised this and it was a great
strain to the singers. Atonal was made up of non-singing things like shouting,
whispering, screaming, muttering and laughing. Once such 20th century vocal
performance in this style was Verklaerte Nacht (The Transfigured night)
by Sceoenberg. It was made up of a mixture of the usual atonal style and
also had no singing at all. Movement around the stage rhythmically was
This bizarre style of music ended
around 1940 and with Wagner plus his long Operas the musicals started.
Gilbert and Sullivan made themselves
famous by writing successful comical operas. This passed through with My
Fair Lady and Guys and Dolls all the way to Andrew Lloyd Webber and his
works. So opera became musicals.
The other major influence on today’s
music came from the Black American culture. Early on black slaves were
brought to America and introduced their music to Western culture by singing
in the churches etc. This developed the Negro spirituals and eventually
along came things like the blues. Artists like Louis Armstrong and Bessie
Smith grounded a new style of music.
Music styles in singing have split
up into a wide variety of directions during the 20th century. After Rock’n’Roll
came in during the 60’s many different ideas of music emerged with things
like R and B, Pop, Rap etc all emerging. There is now acceptance of new
sounds like an untrained voice singing harshly with Jimmy Barnes being
a prime example of this.
Music and Singing fashions with what’s
hot changes each year and it can all be traced back to opera in the 17th
century and the black slaves bringing their music to the other side of
the world. We have all benefited by this in some way.