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Answers To Questions

Edited by LOUIS C. ELSON

Q. I have been singing in a choir for some years and have been earning quite a little by so doing. Now I have a chance to learn the cornet and join a good band. Kindly tell me whether playing the cornet will injure the singing voice?

A. Teachers will tell you that cornet playing is considered bad for singers because it stiffens their lips, which should he left flexible for vocal work. At the same time, many singers are taught to obtain clear effects of enunciation by holding the lips firm. The lung exercise should be beneficial in both cases, in spite of the different rates of breath emission. By all means accept the chance that is offered to you. It can be given up later, in case of need, but we do not anticipate any such need with the amount of work you mention. Should you, however, ever become ambitious to attain a very high position in either field of execution, one or the other must be given up.

Q. Have there been many instances of marriages between famous singers such as was the case with Mario and Grisi? Have the children of such couples ever developed marvelous voices?—Student of Heredity.

A. There have been many instances of marriages between singers, though in no cases were both parties so famous as in the union of Mario and Grisi. It was their children that the Czar of Russia called “the pretty Grisettes,” whereupon Grisi replied, “No, they are my Marionettes;” but none of the children became great singers. The Garcia family, however, did have vocal ability in at least three generations. Manuel Garcia, the tenor, was the father of Mme. Malibran and Mme. Pauline Viardot. Garcia’s wife was a singer too, and we read of the whole family going on that ill-fated Mexican tour where bandits relieved the tenor of his money and then added insult to injury by making him sing. Mme. Viardot’s daughter. Mme. Héritte, now carries on the musical traditions of the family. Patti’s father Salvatore Patti, was a famous singer, and her mother scarcely less renowned; so that Adelina and her sister Carlotta certainly inherited vocal excellence. There is no reason why singers’ children should not follow their parents’ career, with all the advantages of environment in their favor. But very often the musical activity will take the form of composition or instrumental performance. In this more general view there are many examples of musical heredity, such as the families of Bach, Purcell, Couperin, etc.

Q. I am told that a great many German words of expression are now being used in the new editions. Are these German terms ever likely to supersede the Italian terms? Are there any German terms which have a wide use and any which are indispensable?

A. It is not likely that the German words will supersede the Italian, though Germany’s great influence in music may give them some vogue. It was Hanslick who wittily remarked that Italy “was the cradle of music—and remained the cradle.” Italy gave the world opera, oratorio and harmony, and the Italian tempo marks came into use at the start of this new development. An adagio (misspelled “adazio”) in one of Frescobaldi’s works, was the probable beginning of real tempo-marking. Schumann and Wagner introduced German words, and Berlioz used French terms; but it will be seen that the Italian tempo marks had the field to themselves for over two centuries. It is also evident that if Wagner may use German words, or Berlioz French, or Macdowell English, then composers of other nations may use Russian, Norwegian, Polish, Hungarian, and so on. Musical notation is in itself a universal language, and the tempo marks should be no less universal. The Italian terms are understood everywhere, the others not. (See Elson’s “Mistakes and Disputed Points in Music,” pages 45 and 95.)

Q. I have no knowledge of harmony or counterpoint, but I can read music and play the piano fairly well. I have frequently heard the word “passing-note.” Will you kindly explain this term so that I may understand it clearly. (E. S. D.)

A. A passing note is one that is not really belonging to the chord but is merely a connecting note to the next chord. It forms an unprepared discord which is not repugnant to the ear because it gives the effect of a bit of scale-progression. The passing note therefore has a degree of the scale, above and below, on each side of it. There are diatonic and chromatic passing notes, according as the chromatic or diatonic scale is (fragmentary) presented. The passing notes are generally on unaccented parts of the measure. When occuring on accented portions of the measure they are called auxiliary notes.


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