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Sight-Readings: Notes on "A cappella" Performance Practice

Author(s): Donald Greig

Source: Early Music, Vol. 23, No. 1, Flute Issue (Feb., 1995), pp. 124-127+129-132+135-136+139+141
Published by: Oxford University Press
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Donald Greig

Sight-readings:notes on a cappella

Inhis lucid andxxi

perceptiveessay,'The Englisha cappellaRenaissance'
outlines a
(Early music, (1993), pp.452-71), Christopher Page
broad consensus of critics, performersand musicologistswho sustain
the well tended tradition of English a cappellaperformanceof early
music. He goes so far as to suggest that the performersof this group
constitutea 'class',the characteristicsof which arethat they areEnglish,
often Oxbridge (certainly well educated), good sight-readers,quick
learnersand possessed of vocal abilitieswhich lend themselvesto the
performanceof medievaland Renaissancerepertory.Although I would
not claim to fulfil all the conditions of Page'staxonomy, I do regularly
performwith severalof the groups included in the discographyin the
appendixto his essay.
Page's essay confronts a particularconjunction of critic, performer
and musicologist.I intend here to supplementhis argumentsby draw-
ing on my experienceas a performerand on the specificmusicaleduca-
tion he sketches.This articleis also an expressionof my desire to find
answersto questions continuallyraisedduringthe performingprocess.
Pageproposeswhathe tentativelycallsthe 'Englishdiscovery'theory:
ItbeginsfromthepremissthatEnglish singersperforming a cappella
ableto giveexceptional performances of medievaland Renaissance polyphony
fromEngland andtheFranco-Flemish areabecausetheabilityof thebestEnglish
singersto achievea purityandprecisioninstilledby the discipline of repeated a
cappella singingin the choralinstitutionsis singularlyappropriateto the trans-
parency andintricatecounterpointof themusic.Fromthatpremissweproceedto
thetheorythat,in certainrespects,andespecially in matters to accuracy
relating of
tuning and ensemble,these performances represent a particularly
convincing pos-
tulateabouttheperforming of theoriginalsingers.(p.454)
The model which Pagesets up is a sort of unconscious of the English
early-musicworld, a set of drives and desires which are rarelyovertly
expressedbut which underlie and motivate a particularaspect of the
performanceof earlymusic. Concerningthe thesis that a 'good' perfor-
mance of a particularform of music providesus with importantclues as
Donald Greig is a freelance singer
and has lecturedin semiologyand
to its originalperformance,I contend that any similaritiesare mostly a
film studies. His e-mail address is happy coincidence, and that the particularskills of the British early- music singer can prevent a full appreciationof the demands of the


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1 Thechoirgalleryof theSistineChapel(photo@NipponTelevisionNetworkCorporation)

music and inhibit forms of expressionyet to be ex- and Oxbridgecolleges) are somehow responsiblefor
plored. I suggesttoo that modern a cappellaperfor- the a cappellarenaissance.Page demonstratesthat
mance may tell us more about currentculturalcon- 'an influential forum of scholars, critics and per-
ditions than about the originalperformance.This is formersin Englandhas felt a pervasivedesire to di-
not to say that I dispute the validityof the a cappella rect a good deal of medievaland Renaissancemusic
argument, that I line up on the side of those who ... towards the best voices to emerge from the
support the idea of the a cappellaheresy;'rather,I chapels attached to the Oxbridge colleges' (p.468).
have a fundamentaldistrust of the performer'sin- An elitist stancecannot be attributedto Page,but the
stinct (clouded by subjectivenotions of musical sat- approachfailsto providean account of other educa-
isfaction and pleasure) which might tell me that a tions and trainings which, to my mind, have an
piece 'works' in one way and not in another. Per- equal and corrective value to the (often narrow)
formers do, though, have their own perspective; cathedral/collegeapproach.
their arguments, as long as they take into account The history of the a cappellarenaissance,which
this dangerous and often misleading instinct, may Page'sessayhas inititated,will need a full account of
well have an increasingpartto play in the debate. the membershipof this 'class'and the variouseduca-
I hope to offera correctiveto one of the dominant tions which have contributedto it. A limited account
myths of the Englisha cappellarenaissance,a myth might well be seen retrospectivelyas paralleledby
which Page is at pains to refute but which, through the dominance of all-male groups over the move-
the act of elucidation,reconstructsitself.It is that the ment, and for the virtual exclusion of women from
choral institutions of England (the cathedralchoirs its critical history. It is refreshing to follow the


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nl t I-_- 1 4

2 TheTallisScholarsperformfromthechoirgalleryof theSistinechapel,9 April1994


success of the all-women group Anonymous 4, just some extent, political. Women do not enjoy full ac-
as it is not surprisingto see the somewhatphobic re- cess to choir schools (where girls remain the excep-
action of some sections of the Britishmusic press to tion), the cathedral institutions or the five main
that success." Oxbridge choirs.' The situation has, admittedly,
changedsomewhatover the last 20 years.Within the
t is well known that English a cappellachoirs are Oxbridge system there now exist several choral
excellent sight-readers:the reason generallycited scholarshipsfor women, and there has been a grad-
is their trainingin the choralinstitutions of Britain.3 ual correlativedecline in the all-men choir (as op-
Thereis little doubt that the rapidturnoverof reper- posed to the all-malechoir of boys and men). There
tory in these institutions is a major contributor to are, though, still no women lay clerks,where the re-
the development of what has become a prerequisite striction cannot be on voice rangealone, since other
skill for the professional singer of early music in vocal groups accept female altos. This limitation on
Britaintoday. That is not to say that such skills can the education of women is not based on ability but
be learnt only in these institutions: British early- on a combination of tradition, taste and, probably,
music groups also contain a number of people who prejudice.Thereis no feeling in the groups in which
have received their musical training outside the I work that the women are in any way inferior to the
Oxbridgeand cathedralsystems. Of these, many of men in sight-readingability,musicalideas, interpre-
whom received their education at music college or tation or knowledge. Indeed, one of the great plea-
non-Oxbridge universities,4the great majority are sures that such groups afford is their collective
women. The reasons for this are cultural and, to natureand the assumptionof equalityof singers.


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It would be disingenuousto discount the training cific periods. The experienceof a member of one of
in the cathedral and Oxbridge systems, just as it the busier English groups might well be paralleled
would be misleadingto suggestthat it is this training with that of, say, a singerin the SistineChapelin the
ground alone which is responsiblefor the high stan- 16thcentury.8
dards of the a cappellarenaissance.What is clear is I am not suggestingthat limited rehearsalis by any
that all the singers involved have had some experi- means ideal. It is a circumstancethrust upon these
ence of ensemblesinging, and that is a major re- groups for primarilyeconomic reasons. The ques-
source. However, we must not limit our search for tion must be asked,though, whether it is as a direct
the trainingof the early-musica cappellaperformer resultof the abilityof Englishgroupsto workquickly
to education alone, but must also view the experi- that subsidy is not forthcoming or whether an eco-
ence gained while singing within these groups as nomic determinism operates to produce this par-
part of the learning process. Groups have achieved ticularresponse. Groups cannot ask for large subsi-
their positions through a process of evolution that dies when the time allotted to any project is figured
includes the ongoing development of the skills of in hours rather than weeks. Specialist early-music
their singers. Group styles were not laid down in singerstend to work on a session basis;that is, they
stone when the group first performed but have are paid for each rehearsal,concert and recording
developed over a period;much of that development session, and receive no salary,pension, or share in
is due to an increasingfamiliaritywith the repertory any royalties. The reasons are legion, and include
and the particulardemands it makes upon singers. labour relations in Britain, freelance tax status,
Many groups have devoted themselves to a par- unionization of performersand the individual his-
ticular musical period6and have maintained a cer- tory of each group.9Many of the calls for new ways
tain continuity of personnel. In this concentrated of working may prove incompatiblewith this eco-
world of rehearsals,concert-giving and recording, nomic reality,in which there is a strong pressureto
the sight-readingskills of each singer have been re- performmore concertson fewerrehearsals.
fined to a level whereit is not just a transmissionthat Certainly the current situation among British
can be given at sight but an interpretation.7What is early-musica cappellagroupshas producedwonder-
at work here is not some mysticalsynchronicitybut ful resultsand a community of singers familiarand
the development of a series of sub-codes of expres- comfortable with the demands and rewards of
sion, a developmentof a sense of the use officta, and singing early music. The question remains, though,
an appreciationof the likely movement of lines, not as to what are the effects of the reliance on sight-
only intervallically,but also in their interactionwith reading in the performanceof this repertory.The
other lines and their potential for shaping. In short, most obvious problem is that the repertorycovered
singers who perform much music from the Renais- by these different groups is historically and geo-
sance (or who concentrate on any other period of graphicallyvast: ranging from 11ooto 16oo00, spread
music, for that matter) are likely to develop an ear acrossseveralnations, splitbetweensacredand secu-
for that music, or what has been usefully termed a lar,writtenfor a varietyof acousticsand occasions,it
'learnedinstinct'. is, from any perspective,stunninglyheterogeneous.
It is easy to characterizethe short rehearsaltime And, as an obvious correlative,the original singers
and large discographiesof English groups as evid- who performedthis music could not shareanything
ence of a cursoryknowledgeand appreciationof the like the unities sharedby the currentgroupof British
music, but this saturationin a varietyof music from early-musicsingers.Yet the success of the monopo-
a single period is a vital component in the develop- lization of this repertorythrough a cappellaperfor-
ment of the singer'sassimilationof its conventions. mance leads us to a homogenization of a period of
The high turnover of repertory, characteristicof music (and, of course,of the valorizationof the term
both cathedralinstitutions and of the early-musica 'earlymusic'), a homogeneitymade possible only by
cappellagroups in Britain,leads directly to a more the success of a particularcontemporarymode of
complete appreciationof styles and idioms of spe- performance.


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here is an adagethat a good sight-readermakesa majordifferencesbetweenperformancesfrom origi-
badmemorizerof music,andviceversa.Thisop- nal notation and performancesfrom modern tran-
position between memory and is
reading initially at- scriptions."Froma linguisticpoint of view there is a
tractive.What it means is that the sight-readerwill primary level of arbitrarinessof the musical sign
alwaysbe reliant on the score, but that the memo- such that all readingof music is context-dependent.
rizer can throw it away after a couple of run- It is only our usageof these signs,their fixitythrough
throughs (having presumablylearnt the music by convention, that leads us to consider (to use Mar-
rote). But it is a dangerousopposition as well, for it garetBent'sexample)an F#dotted minim as possess-
denies the role of memory in sight-reading.Letus be ing a fixed signified.We arethereforetalkingabout a
clearthat no one sight-readsa piece in concert,bar- secondary level of arbitrariness,of context-depen-
ring extraordinarycircumstancessuch as a singer dency (and here we begin to talk about the more ob-
falling ill at the last minute and parts having to be vious graphical differences between original and
redistributed.Sight-reading,then, takes place in the modern notation), which means that even in mod-
rehearsalspaceand can reallyonly be said to happen ern notation there is a relativitywhich Bent does not
on the very first run-through.This may be of a very stress.
high level of accuracy,but as soon as the piece is The early-musicperformer,particularlythe per-
sung a second time we are already dealing with a former of music from before 1400, often quicklyre-
level of accretion of memory: this second run- covers this (seeming) context-dependencyof origi-
through is differentfrom and more assuredthan the nal notation through working with extreme
first. Memory is at work here, though the primary transpositions(e.g. down a 4th, down a major 6th,
aim is not towardsperformancefrom memory, as is etc.). Similarly,the more one gets to know a piece (in
admittedby the use of scoresin concert.A greatdeal rehearsal),the more one understandsthe relativity
of the rehearsaltime is spent in discussion of ficta, of note-valuesand often removeseditorialbeaming.
possiblespeeds,time changes,whetherto vocalizeor Indeed,the more one rehearsesa piece the more one
not, balance, dynamics, meaning of text-in short, comprehends its textual nuances. Which is, ulti-
interpretation.The modern score is thus something mately, to say that it is in the increase of rehearsal
of an aide-memoireto the sight-reader,the reposi- time that the development of the skills of the early-
tory of interpretativemarksand the site of the notes music singermight best be served.
to be sung."' We must not, then, look at the level of the signs
The musical education of the early-musicsinger themselvesfor any hints as to the differencesof per-
is gearedtowards modern transcription,and sight- formanceof the 'original'early-musicsingerand his
reading training is based exclusively on modern contemporarycounterpart.It is valid, however, to
notation. It is no surprise,then, that we find an al- discussbroaderdifferencesin the organizationof the
most universalpreferencefor transcriptionsover the scores. Modern transcriptionsdo not maintain the
reproductionof the originalnotation. Thereis, how- traditionof the separationof the individualpartson
ever, no reason why singersshould not learn earlier the page, but use a system of verticalalignmentthat
systems of notation and learn them very quickly. maintainsthe real space/timeof the parts.Whatever
(Indeed, I have witnessedseveralalmost miraculous the historical reasons for the development of this
conversions to some systems of original notation.) system, it is its maintenancewhich concernsus here.
For notation is simply a codification, a representa- Its continued use also marksthe centralityof sight-
tion in graphicalform of acousticintent. Thereis no readingto the performanceof earlymusic, bringing
reason why a crotchet should be representedby a with it the benefits of instant location for the singer
blackblob with a tail affixed,as opposed to, say, the within a harmonic world and an immediate tran-
image of a club on a playingcard. Musical notation scription (visualrepresentation)of that world. Con-
is a coherent, self-contained system in which the sider,for example,two singerswho have 16barsrest:
signs employed are inevitably arbitrary."I remain a singerworkingfrom a partbookwould be involved
suspiciousof argumentswhich suggestthat there are in a complex systemof cross-referencingto establish


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the note on which to enter;a singer using a modern The correlativeto this is the differenteducations
score, however, follows with ease the unfolding that these two sets of performerswould have en-
counterpoint and can see, in advance,the harmony joyed. Their respective methods of learning the
which his or her note will realize. chant repertorywill serve as an illustration.Aside
The originalsingerwas not as helpless as this sce- from the fortunatefew who learn a fair proportion
nario suggests,nor, for that matter,is the contempo- of the plainchantrepertoryas choirboys (and I use
rary singer as hidebound by the text. The former the genderedterm knowingly),17most singers come
would have been able to hear the other parts and to plainchantas a new notationalsystemto be learnt.
have relied upon them as a reference system. The For the original early-music performer, the chant
modern performer also has this system at his/her repertorywould have been learnt by rote across a
disposal, but has no need to rely on it. It is not sim- ten-year period. (Although with the gradual influ-
ply a question of bad habits, but of the tendency, or ence of the Guidonian hexachordsystem the learn-
degree,to which these contrastingperformerswould ing time was ultimatelyreducedto two years.)18This
have been relianton the respectiverealmsof written differencein musicaleducationrevealssomethingof
representationand acoustic memory. the dialecticat work in the figuringof graphicrepre-
I suggest that singers brought up on partbooks sentationand memorialsystems.We can see Guido's
and choirbookswould have a farmore acousticrela- hexachordsystem as a midway point between com-
tionship with the music than their modern counter- plete reliance on acoustic memory and logocentric
parts, in that their appreciationand understanding reliance on graphic representation.A full study of
of harmonyand counterpointwas primarilyan aural this might well include theories of linguistics and
one ratherthan the visuallyaided one of the modern cognition, of the neurologicalprocesses of learning
sight-reader.This approach would have been sup- and memory,which would throw light on the sites of
ported within a culture in which the everyday the brain used in the activitiesof improvisationand
notation of informationwould, by comparisonwith reading.19
the 20th century, have been severelylimited. Much The suggestion implicit here is that there is a
information which today we jot down on a pad of world of differencebetween the original performer
paper, enter into the Filofax or note on the Dicta- and his/her contemporary counterpart. This con-
phone would have had to be committed to memory. tention does not seem surprising,yet it is an argu-
Studies have shown the major role that memory ment which slipsby in ChristopherPage'sarticleand
played in medievalculture;13 the developmentof the which must be addressed,20 for any differencesin the
ability to fix acoustic memory would have been a process of realization of the same piece of music by
major tool for the singer. the respective performers begins to tell us much
Togetherwith this relianceon memory as the site about differencesin the performersthemselves.
of the musical text, improvisation and elaboration
were required skills of the singer. It has been sug-
gested that such skills were already central to the his discussionof sight-reading
alertsus to the
music collected in the Winchester Troper,14and as role of vision in performance.Music, an acoustic
late as the 16th century there was a tradition of im- medium, is never performed and rarely received
provisedpolyphony in the Sistine Chapel.15 This is a 'blind' (afterall, one pays to 'see' a group perform),
broad sweep, from the iith to the 16th centuries-- and an account of performancepractice is incom-
perhaps too broad to make for a convincing argu- plete without an account of the role of looking
ment-and it supports an even broader assertion within the performancespace.
about musical performance. What seems clear, In a cappella performance we are dealing with
though, is that, by contrastwith the logocentric20th at least two looks and sometimes three-the look
century,the status of the written note or the written of the audience, the look of the performerand the
musical text was not affordedthe same primacyby look of the conductor. There are variations of this
the originalperformersof earlymusic.'6 simple model (performerto audience, audience to


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performer, performer to conductor, performer to shot for the Tallis Scholars, commenting that the
performeretc.) and there is a history of the organ- 'eyes down' approachpromotes an image of 'the es-
ization of the look and looking in performance.In sentially literate and punctilious nature of trained
this section I shallconsiderthe differentfunctionsof musicianship in Britain' (P.459). This is certainly
the look that might be deduced from a comparison true, but what is also at work here (aside from the
betweenoriginalperformersof earlymusic and their fact that performancewhich relies on sight-reading
contemporarycounterpartsand the implicationsof will always,of necessity,producesingerswho haveto
those differencesfor aspectsof ensemble. I shall use look at their copies) is an ambivalencein the look of
as a model for this discussiona hypothetical(sacred) the performer.To use another opposition, that be-
performance of a Palestrina Mass in the Sistine tween the orchestralplayerand the vocal soloist, the
Chapelin the 16th century and a real (secular)per- former never acknowledgesthe audiencewhile per-
formanceof music by Palestrinain a concert by the forming and the latter is in a state of constant ad-
TallisScholarsin the same venue.2' dressto the audience.The early-musicperformerof
In the earlierperformancethe singersaregrouped sacred music is caught somewherebetween the two
aroundthe music desk in front of a singlecopy of the as a transmitterof music and expressionbut also as
music. The immediate focus of the singer's look is readerand contemplatorof sacredtext (and the ad-
the music itself, though one can only surmise as to jective can applyto both words and music).
the direction of the singer's individual look. The This differenceof the organizationof the look is
choir is placed in a gallery situated some six feet not simply cosmetic;rather,it is one of context, the
above the ground and effectivelyhidden from view former being a sacredcontext and the lattersecular,
by a wooden screenwhich surroundsthe singersat a though in both casesthe music sung is the same. The
height of some five to six feet. The choir desk itself is issue of the look also pertains to the way that the
above eye-level;thus the look of the singeris already music was performedor, more accurately,to the or-
awayfrom the listeners,inclined towardsthe ceiling ganizationof the performance.Thatis to say, singers
of the chapel. There are, therefore,severalphysical groupedarounda singlesource have much scope for
constraintson any visual contact with the congrega- visual cues, clues and directions,whereasin a mod-
tion. The congregationwould have had the experi- ern concert the look between performersis reduced
ence of hearing a sourceless sound, concomitant to a single relaythrough the conductor to the audi-
with the general theory that the choir would have ence.
been actingas representativesof Everything Good ensemble singing is always a compromise
about this performing space is angels.-
geared towards the between the individual expression of single lines
invisibility of 4he choir, towards a carefullymain- balancedwith the need for synchronizationof those
tained balance between their actual presence and a lines. There is no such thing as a metronomic per-
suggestion of their absence.23This organization of formance of this music, just as there is no one tun-
the performancespace has several advantages,not ing system in operationat any one time. These may
least of which is that it leavesthe singersfree to look be the aims of many early-musicgroups, but there
at each other and thereby encouragescommunica- is, nevertheless,a recognition of the limitations of
tion.24For music so reliantupon ensemblethis is of strict tempos and an accommodation of flexibility.
obvious benefit. Singers achieve this mainly through listening to
The contrastwith the modern performancespace other parts, but also through the (anachronistic)
is informative.A group faces the audience and ac- presence of the conductor. For a group hidden
knowledges their applause with, appropriately, awayfrom view there is not only the acoustic aid to
nothing other than the look. Once the music begins, ensemble singing but also the visual aid of nods, of
however,there is a shift towardsa hesitant acknow- body movement, of conducting (by any singer) and
ledgement of the audience, though the look of the even of touching This might seem a small
singersis directedmainly to the music. Christopher advantage, but think, for a moment, of the lack of
Page notes the direction of the look in a publicity physical movement that singing entails. The singer


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of classical music is encouraged to be still at all vidual would stand in front of the choir desk and
times ('look over the heads of the audience to the conduct. (In no illustrationsof singersat choir desks
back'), to avoid the expressionof the voice through is anyone shown doing this; in the Sistine Chapelit
the body ('keep your head still') and to reduce the would have been physically impossible.)28 Thus
physical effort of singing in favour of a position of there would be no focus for the singers other than
repose ('don't raise your shoulders when you the primaryone of the music itself.
breathe'). This is a matter of degree; yet contrast There is furtherstudy to be done here on the role
any performerof pop music with any singer of clas- of the conductor in early-music performance.An
sical repertory and the distinction is clear. Com- historical survey might well show that the develop-
pare, too, the movements of singers and those of ment of the conductor is matched by a general
any instrumentalist. The latter, by virtue of the movement towardsthe aggrandizementof the indi-
physical manipulation of the instrument, is imme- vidual over the group (well supportedby the rise of
diately giving a series of visual indicationsabout the humanism), which culminates in the 20th century's
attack of any note, be it through fingering,bowing seeming inabilityto comprehendthe notion of col-
or striking. With singers, the most obvious clue is lective activity.This is sustainedby marketingstrate-
the shape of the mouth as it forms the consonants gies which focus on an individual-the conductor.
and vowels. But if the mouth is visible only to the The responsibility of the singer has become dis-
audience and not to fellow singers then the visual placedand refoundin the role of the conductor.The
cues must be provided by a third party, which in realityof singinga cappellamusic is not so much that
most cases is the conductor. Clearly there is a of an individualdeterminingthe shapeof individual
delimitation of a whole set of sub-codes of expres- lines (musicaldirection)but of the collectiveactivity
sion and timing caused by performanceby the con- of the varioussingers.
temporarysinger of early music in a cappellaform, I have not drawn a distinction between these two
a delimitation which, we can assume, was not pre- modes of deliveryof Renaissancemusic to illustrate
sent in many earliercontexts.26 some loss of authenticitywhich we face by virtue of
There is a general rule that the more performers performingsuch music in concert. To return mod-
there are, the greater the need for the conductor. ern-day performanceof medieval and Renaissance
This is simply because the only physicalclue that is music to its original sacredcontext is obviously im-
left for the performerswho look out at the audience possible. However,we may have much to learnfrom
rather than among themselves-breathing-is re- performing this music in the original venues with
duced in direct proportion to the increasein num- due attention to the organizationof the performers
bers. This is at least one of the reasons why the within that space. If the originalacousticscan be re-
smaller early-musica cappellagroups perform with created then performing music in the venues for
no conductor (Gothic Voices, Hilliard Ensemble, which it was intended may tell us much about, for
Orlando Consort) and why largergroups rely upon example,the limits of tempos.29
(and are often promoted through) a conductor Similarly,the use of choirbooksand the organiza-
(Peter Phillips-the Tallis Scholars;Harry Christo- tion of performersaround one score may well pro-
phers-The Sixteen;AndrewParrott-the Taverner mote a more acoustic relationshipwith the music
Consort). and aid ensemble.Unquestionably,the currenttext-
For the singersin the SistineChapel,hidden from based approachcannot be seen as without affect;a
view, there would be little need for a conductor. It certain pressure has alreadybeen exerted by musi-
seems that pieces would have been startedby the se- cologists upon performers to develop the kind of
nior singer of the relevant part and that tempos skills with which their original counterpartswould
would have been conveyed by visual or physical have been familiar.3o However, it is primarily the
cues. The role of the maestrodi cappella,who would acousticrelationshipwith the music in which I place
himself havebeen a singer,seems to havebeen basic- my own performing faith, and not necessarily in
ally administrative.27It is unlikely that any indi- learningits originalcodification.31


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In either event, an approachwhich foregrounds performanceis much the same as that achieved in
the apparatusof ensemble offers a subversionof the rehearsaland that the presenceof the audiencecan-
conventional codes of the concert hall and reveals not in anyway influencethe true transmissionof the
the gap between the original performance of this scholarlywork.
music and the cosmetic niceties of the modern con- Other groups' publicity photos often use a par-
cert hall. Here we begin to addresssome of the cul- ticular architecturalspace to connote this image of
tural constraintsof the reception of this music and scholarlinessand providethe reassuranceof histori-
begin to draw attention to cultural determinants cal research.A recurringmotif is an arch, against
which may, ultimately,be both responsiblefor this which the performersare often set.33 The primary
efflorescenceand, at the same time, placelimitations connotation is of sacredness,for the (usuallyGothic)
on a cappellaperformance.It is in this context that I archesare often part of the exteriorof a church. But
shall next consider the critical perception of a cap- there is a secondarylevel of meaning in the sugges-
pella performance. tion of collegiatelife, of life in the quad.
This image of performeras scholarbrings certain
have alreadytouched upon representationsof the assurances:that the performanceis well researched;
performerof earlymusic. A seriesof complemen- that the performeris true to the music ratherthan to
tarydiscourses--pressreleases,codes of concertper- his/her muse; that the performer is subservientto
formance,publicityphotos, culturalcodes-accrete the music. In short, it is implicit that authenticityis
around the figureof the singer an image which may respectedeven if does not achieveprimacy.(Thatso
be some way from the realitywhich any one singer many publicityphotos are taken in informaldress is
feels. The primaryimage in this constellationis that an admission that the performers are individuals
of the 'scholar',of the studentwho has graduatedto and that their individualityis not completely sub-
become a learnedperson. Some performersdid in- sumed within the scholarlyenterprise.)The inclu-
deed begin their careersas choral scholars,and the sion of old buildings is a literal and metaphorical
epithet is also valid for some who are editors and background,an admissionthat the past is at work in
scholarsin their own right.The TallisScholarsis the the presentand an invocationof a historicitylacking
clearestexample of the appropriationof the term: I in countriessuch as the USA and Japan,where such
do not know why the name was chosen, but, given groups enjoy particularsuccess.
that the group originallyconsisted of severalchoral The arch functions also as metaphor.It forms an
scholarsand dedicateditselfto Renaissancemusic, it entrance: we are accorded admission by the per-
is not difficultto see its attractions.Yet today a spe- formers, who are the guardians of the portal and
cific knowledgeof Tallisor his contemporariesis not guarantorsthat the account of the past to be found
a prerequisitefor membership,nor is prior experi- beyond is a truthfulone. The image is both an invi-
ence as a choralscholar.The connection is still made tation and a contract:as such, the look of the per-
in much publicity material, though, and the link formersis directto camera.
with furthereducation is one found in other early- The archis not so much a door as a window offer-
music groups.-) ing a view of the past and the world of early music.
But the image of the scholar is not promoted sim- The performanceis transparent,uninterruptedby
ply through the written word. As ChristopherPage surplusnoise and undisturbedby excessesof expres-
noted of the publicityshot of the TallisScholars,the sion or opinion. This helps explain the sobriety of
visual discourses involved in the promotion of the these photographs,34where the performersare in-
group also play on the image of scholarlinessin the volved in the serious business of revealing funda-
'eyes down' approach.The lack of engagementwith mental truths about the music. This is paralleledin
the camera is an assuranceof the performer'sen- the dress codes: in many groups the standardseems
gagementwith the music, of a concentrationwhich to be tails (a convention borrowed from the 19th-
must not be disturbedby such petty concerns as the century orchestra) or, in the cathedralchoirs, the
presenceof an audience.The implication is that the full cassock.3 Both photographic codes and dress


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codes work to efface individual expression and to Roland Barthes'sessay 'The grain of the voice'.36
therebyconnote an imageof a collectiveeffortwhose The essay, inspiredby Barthes'spersonal searchfor
primary aim is true to an academic project. Both an explanationof his own predilectionfor the voice
photographsand dressare assurancesof a noise-free of Panzera over that of Fischer-Dieskau,is an at-
signal, of an accuratetransmissionof data shorn of tempt to render music criticism more scientific, to
individualexpressionand conflict of ideas. In short, rescue it from 'the poorest of linguistic categories:
the photographsare a coded guaranteeof authentic- the adjective'.37 The argumentis dense and challeng-
ity. This guaranteeis now, more than ever,a market- ing: some understandingof the semiotic and post-
ing ploy exploited by recording companies rather structuralistprojectwill assistthe reader.38 The focus
than by groups themselves;authenticity,as an acad- becomes the elaborationof a theoreticalabstraction
emic argument,no longer holds centre stage. which Barthesterms the 'grainof the voice'. This is
So far, then, I have discussed the training of the located at the point where one can perceivethe body
personnel, the working methods of the groups, the of the performerin the action of performance,the
discourse of the look within the modern perfor- moment of utterance glimpsed behind or through
mance space,and the marketingof those groups.But what is heard.'The "grain"is the body in the voice as
the sum of all these parts still does not explain the it sings, the hand as it writes, the limb as it per-
groups'extraordinarysuccessboth in concertand as forms.'39Whatis being establishedhere is a kind of
recording artists. Christopher Page has noted the image of the performerwhich the listener him/her-
nostalgic tug of English a cappellaperformanceof self perceivesand, perhaps,constructs;'the image of
early music, its ability to 'turn the memories and the body (the figure)given me'.4oThe relationshipto
dreams of a social class into sound'. But nagging the performer is more than simply acoustic and
questions still remain, as so often when one is at- more than visual: it is a relationshipwhich is also
tempting to trace the rhythmsof popularity--ques- real at the psychic level. In this context Barthescan
tions of pleasure.We must therefore addressthe a talk of an erotic relationshipto the performer(and
cappellarenaissanceas a cultural production of the this does not mean a sexualone):
20th century. If I perceivethe 'grain'in a pieceof musicandaccordthis
'grain'a theoreticalvalue(theemergence of the textin the
performance has an appeal which goes work),I inevitably setup a newschemeof evaluation which
beyondthe dictatesof musicologicalresearch. willcertainly beindividual-Iamdetermined to listento my
relationwiththebodyof themanorwomansingingorplay-
Something ultimatelyelusive and evasiveis at work. andthatrelationis erotic-butin noway'subjective'
I do not propose to write a history of a cappellaper- ing ...41
formance,but we might note a few historicalpoint- Barthes'sessay has a double value. On the one
ers.A cappellaliterallymeans 'as in the chapel':from hand it establishesthat the relationshipto the voice
this we might deduce that there is something about is always more than acoustic, that what is also in-
the voice which inclines towards the realm of the volved is a relationshipwith the perceivedbody of
sacred.And-to takeonly one of the sites of this per- the performer.In this respectit alertsus to a psychic
formance, the Sistine Chapel-there is something realitythat is at play in the appreciationof all mu-
about the Christianmyth that alerts us to the close sical groups.On the other hand, it points us towards
association of the problematic of sexual difference a reconsiderationof the metaphors in the critical
with the voice itself, a problematic which finds its discoursesthat define these groups. For he demon-
most 'vocal'expressionin the troublingfigureof the strates that between the actuality of performance
castrato.I shall offer a few observationson the par- and the criticaldiscoursewhich purportsto describe
ticularconjunctionof the voice, the body, and sexual that realitylies a gapwhich speaksfor the presenceof
differenceand, in so doing, outline something of the the Unconscious. Hence, throughan examinationof
contributionthat psychoanalysismight have to offer the most frequentlyused metaphorswe can begin to
to this debate. locate something of the intrinsic and specific plea-
The opposition between body and voice is central sure of the a cappellatext.


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o characterizethe specific sound of English a were, from the space above the vocal chords, from
cappellaperformancePage employs the Middle the throat or head alone. 'Clear'-as synonymssuch
Englishword clanness: as 'unblemished','transparent'and 'cleansed' sug-
gest-is concerned with images of non-materiality,
clannessis the qualityof somethingthat is pure (likea pearl) or of materialitypurgedto a degreethat negatesthe
or of fine and preciseworkmanship(like an elaborategob-
let). Clannesscan characterizethe vessels used in the
terrestrialand corporeal.'Blend'(a word much used
Eucharistor the goblets which serve men and women of by practitionerswithin the a cappellatradition) is
exalteddignityin theirbanquets;it blursthe edgesof earthly concernedwith reduction,of diminution of many to
things with a nimbus of heaven,in other words,and yet it one, with a disavowalof the production of sound by
can makewhatis celestialseem clearerto humansense. ... I
believe many Englishsingersof the a cappellarenaissance many to the implicit originationof sound from one,
have captured this quality. (pp.466/468) non-identifiable source: unanimity here confirms
anonymity.'Pure'connotes images of innocence, of
Page'saccount of reviewsin (mainly) Frenchand virginity,of the non-corporealproductionof sound.
Spanishjournalsand newspaperssupportshis read- The figure around which all these adjectivesco-
ing and confirms that, for many, the perception of here and the metaphorthey promote and sustain is
British a cappellaperformanceis, above all, 'clean' that of the angel. The angel is the sacredfigure in a
and 'clear'.In reviewsof the TallisScholarsthe most secular society, the representative of heaven on
common adjectivesused to describe the sound in- earth. The angel is also often portrayedas the mu-
clude 'pure','blend', 'clear'and 'vibrato-free'or 'vi- sical expressionof the word of God. In the same way,
brato-less'.42It is evident, particularlyin the neolo- singersof sacredmusic fulfilthis function, and there
gistic tendencies of the last two words and in Page's is often a conflationbetweenthe metaphoricrole as-
own recourseto MiddleEnglish,that the strugglefor signed to singerswith the connotationsthat the par-
appropriateterms for description of this mode of ticularvocal deliverysuggests.There is nothing new
performance marks a series of assumptions about about this conflation:through a nice historic irony,
singing. Singing is often 'impure', works towards the same deliberate confusion is found in Bede's
distinction and difference, is 'unclear', and, cru- anecdotalaccount of Gregorythe Great'spun made
cially, employs vibrato. It is not my concern here to betweenAngles (the English)and angels.44
question the various reportsor contest the observa- Clearly, critical accounts of a cappella perfor-
tion that singers sing without vibrato (though, for mances do not bother to separatethe connotations
the record, it is a question of degree).43What con- of sacrednessfrom the actualityof the performance,
cernsme is the sense that the perceptionof a cappella but that is not to say that the performancesdo not
performance always tends towards a denial of the also playon this expectation.It is interestingthat an-
physical presence of the singers themselves, a sense other aspect of angels also finds its way into the re-
that there is a perceptionof the voice as the markof ception of a cappellaperformance-their asexuality.
the denial of the body itself, that the 'grain of the For angels do not possess gender, do not bear the
voice' is denied or repressed in a cappellaperfor- marks of sexual difference, marks which must be
mance. Further,we move to a broaderoutline of the borne on the body. We begin to see that the very
perceptionof corporealityat work in these observa- negation of sexual difference, which I suggest is
tions and the implicationsthat this has for the issue characteristicof reviewsof a cappellagroups,is also a
of sexual differencewithin the earlymusic a cappella negation of the materialityof the performer.45
renaissance. We must first,though, returnto the particularor-
Let us analyse these adjectivesmore closely. 'Vi- ganization of sexual difference within the Catholic
brato-free' is a term that marks the denial of the church.Thoughthe followingdiscussionis necessar-
body in the voice, a denial of the production of ily limited to the performanceof sacred a cappella
sound or of the inflection of sound by the body (the music my conclusions still have resonance for any
chest, lungs-the volume of the body); the voice is form of a cappellamusic. I am struckby the lack of a
(impossibly!)not producedat all, but emanates,as it cappellagroups of mixed genderwithin the world of


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popularmusic, as if the foregroundingof sexualdif- bolic order. The Symbolicis the realm of the law in
ference (so obviously the domain of pop music) all its forms-juridical, paternal, linguistic, eco-
alreadyanswersthe questionsposed by the voice.46 nomic, scientific,religious.It is a pre-existentorder,
a defined realm into which every human subject
is a fundamentally patriarchalinsti- must enter and find or be given its place.This order-
tution. The terms of its organizationare a clear ing, so clearlyexpressedin the overdeterminationof
indication of the empowerment of men over the all-maleperformanceof sacredmusic in the 16th
women;the heightenedevaluationof the motherfig- century, has alreadybeen subvertedby the modern
ure of Marytestifiesto its relianceon the male Oedi- secularizationof its music. It may well be seen that
pal dramaas psychicsupportto its statusas myth.47 the reala cappellarenaissancehas been the introduc-
The exclusion of women from employment as tion of female voices into this realm, and that this
musicianswithin the church alertsus to a hierarchy new vocal productmay well be a text which has only
which is evidence of an idealizationof an all-male become possible in a post-modern culture.
environment. The need for an extension of vocal What, then, of the secular context in which this
rangewas achievedby the most drasticexpressionof music is performedtoday?More importantly,what
the law-the exercise of castration. There are, of of the psychicimplicationsof the introductionof the
course, examples of women as composers and per- figure of woman into the performance?I have al-
formers even within this sacred environment,48but readypointed to what I considerto be a denialof the
the suspicion remains that the hierarchydemands materialityof the performers,amountingalmostto a
the complete segregationof the sexes,that sexualdif- denial of sexualdifferenceitself. The problematicof
ference in this context representsa form of corrup- sexualdifferencein psychoanalysisis centredaround
tion. If this is true, then we are confrontinghead-on the Oedipus, around the moment when the child
what Lacanianpsychoanalysis49 has termedthe Sym- first begins to realize that sexual difference exists.
This realizationinitiates the painful and confusing
process of (re-)identificationand realignmentalong
DOLMETSCH the axis of sexualdifference(representedby the par-
ents), which leadsto the organizationof his/her sex-
SUMMER SCHOOL uality. This moment, in the fictional account of the
at child's development,marksthe movement from the
THE ROYAL NAVAL SCHOOL FOR GIRLS Imaginaryrealm to the Symbolicorder. The Imagi-
HASLEMERE, SURREY naryis crystallizedby the stagedescribedas the Mir-
ror Phase-Lacan's account of the child'srealization
14th-20th AUGUST 1995 of him/herself as a unified body/image-and refers
Courses for recorder and early keyboard to the child's comprehension of him/herself as a
plus optional classes for chamber orchestra, complete body. There is no sexual differencein the
choir, chamber music, music in education, Imaginary:the realm is characterizedby a primary
recorder orchestra, conducting, identification with the mother, a period of oneness
composition and arrangement,
and plenitude with her. The Symbolic order rup-
tures this primarynarcissismand marks the neces-
cori spezzati and viols
sarydevelopmentof the child to a speakingsubject.
Details from the Secretary,Heartsease, Guy Rosolatohas tracedthis particularwell worn
GrayswoodRoad, Haslemere,Surrey, path in terms of the child's aural development and
GU272BS,England has theorizedthe particularplay between the Imagi-
tel:01428-643235(officehours) naryand the Symbolicin terms of the voice.5"In the
tel:01428-651473(outsideofficehours) realmof the Imaginary,the mother'svoice (identifi-
fax:01428-654920(24 hoursperday)
able by the child as earlyas ten weeks) is warm, all-
enveloping, reassuringmaternalsignifier.The cries


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of the child, answeredby the mother, are responsible rary soprano, a drama played out across this trou-
for the creationof an 'acousticmirror',an extension bled line of sexualdifferentiation.I contend that the
in auditoryterms of the MirrorPhase and responsi- denial of gender which the male castratoor prepu-
ble for grantingto the child the sense of a coherent bescent boy represents is found, displaced, in the
ego upon which all future identifications can be image of woman in the early-music scene. Sexual
built.5'The voice plays a centralrole in the develop- difference, which (within a patriarchalsociety at
ment and articulationof the child'ssense of space in least) is representedby the image of woman, is ef-
the exchange of the cries of demand issued by the faced by and replacedwith a form of sexual neutral-
child and the answering maternal voice. In Roso- ity. This neutralitycan be located in a series of dis-
lato's scenario,the cries of the child also initiate the courses which concern the representations of a
presence of the mother, whose voice effects a 'uni- cappella singers, most notably those of critical re-
son' which becomes, for the child, the mark of plea- views and publicity;it finds its clearestexpressionin
sure. The mother's voice becomes the primary the varied employment of images of unity, non-
model for all futureauditorypleasure.The voice also difference and non-corporeality. Significantly,
playsits partin the moment of accessionto the Sym- women's voices in modern early-musicperformance
bolic, for this moment, crystallizedby the presence are often describedas being like boy's voices (this is
of the father as initiator of the Oedipal struggle, is often offered as a compliment), yet it is quite clear
achieved through the action of the father'svoice as that they are the voices of adults. It may be true that
voice of interdiction,the voice of the law. they employ less vibrato than equivalent voices in
Rosolatosees at playin the voice an oscillationbe- opera, but this is also true of male singers,who are
tween the two realms. He suggeststhat this oscilla- never spoken of in these same genderedterms. It is
tion is found not only in vocal music but in all as if the introduction of sexual difference into this
music, for it is this originaldrama,playedacrossthe realm of all-maleperformanceproducesa defensive
parentalvoices and the bodies that they represent, responsewithin accounts of that same performance
which providesthe model for harmonyitself. that representsan attempt to return that difference
The harmonic and polyphonic display can be seen as a suc- to neutrality,to in-difference.
cession of tensions and resolutions, of unisons and disso-
a coda I shall add a few commentson the
nances of tiered parts which interact to form chords and ulti-
mately to resolve into the simplest unity. It is therefore the
historicalrise of the CD as a condensation of
complete dramatization of the separation and reunion of the foregoingdiscussion.The two historiesof the ef-
bodies which underlies harmony itself.52
florescenceof Englisha cappellagroups and the as-
This representsa particularlyfortuitous conjunc- cendanceof the CD as therecordingformatgo virtu-
tion for the study of the a cappellatext, and it is easy ally hand in hand. The CD will be seen within a
to hear the echo of the Oedipus. This approachsug- history of industrial design as the quintessential
gests that the presenceof female voices in a cappella product of the 198os-clean, shiny, a beautifulobject
performanceprovides the final term of an Oedipal in itself which createsa perfect,pure sound. It is the
triangle such that the religious connotations of the ultimate fetish object which allows the listener the
originaltext are displacedand relocatedin the secu- ideal state of disavowal of the body of the per-
lar context.53(Barthes'scomments on the Oedipusas former.55The particularideology of sound of the 8os
central to all narrativeprefigurethis observationof was one of purity and cleanliness,of static-free,in-
the universalityof certain textual pleasuresthrough terference-reduced,pristinebrilliance.It is precisely
recourse to this central issue within psychoanaly- this ideology which the English a cappellagroups
sis.)54The inclusion of women in a cappellaperfor- represent.It remains to be seen whether this sound
mance of sacred music marks a surprisinglyradical and the ideology that sustains it can be maintained
textual strategywhen viewed from this perspective. in the face of demands for a new performanceprac-
This drama is also replayed in the (historical) tice or whether the current recording/performance
movement from the male castratoto the contempo- practicewill in turn make its own demands.


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I wish to thank the followingpeoplefor Cambridge, Christ Church, Oxford,
A. ERIC MOULDER theirgeneroushelp and invaluablesug- Magdalen, Oxford, and New College,
RENAISSANCEWOODWIND gestions, observationsand comments: Oxford.
TessaBonner, Sally Dunkley, Paula Hig-
INSTRUMENTS 6 There are many exceptions to this
gins, Daniel Leech-Wilkinson,Christo-
rule, but the dominant image is of
The workshop pher Page and David Pascoe.
many of these groups as early-music
produces a full range of 1 For a brief but excellent account of specialists. The Hilliard Ensemble, The
high quality the history of the a cappelladebate see Sixteen and the Taverner Consort all
9. instruments including C. Page, 'The English a cappella regularly perform modern repertory.
heresy', Companion to medieval and
CURTALS (DULCIANS) Renaissancemusic, ed. T. Knighton and 7 1 use an opposition suggested by
Daniel Leech-Wilkinson in his contri-
CRUMHORNS D. Fallows (London, 1992), pp.23-9.
SHAWMS bution to 'The limits of authenticity: a
The article is of added interest in that
discussion', Early music, xii (1984),
RAUSCHPFEIFEN many of the ideas prefigure Page's later
MANY OTHERS 8 The list of music cited in J. Lionnet,
2 If an admission that all male groups
'Performance practice in the Papal
constitute the norm against which all
COMPLETE Chapel in the 17th century', Early music
comers must be judged then look no
OVERHAULAND xv (1987), pp.4-15, is not dissimilar to
further than Anthony Pryer'sreview of the amount of music performed by the
On YoolisNight: medieval carolsand Tallis Scholars in a calendar year.
Further details from: mnotets by Anonymous 4 in Musical
175 BUXTON RD, times, cxxxv (June 1994). He writes 9 Some may be surprised to learn that,
'The four anons are all women (is this with very few exceptions, specialist
a political statement?) ...' I have yet to early-music singers cannot survive on
see an all-male group be accused of early music alone. (And it still comes
ST13 6NF to many singers as a surprise that it is a
making a political statement through
Tel: 0538 385323 their existence: the comment alerts us surprise.) All work as singers in other
to a particularlydesperate state of fields-as teachers, choral conductors,
affairs. performers of much later music, 'ses-
sion singers'-which perpetuates a sys-
3 '... many insular musicians ... pos- tem wherein time spent must be
sess a remarkableability to produce an rewardedby payment. In a world
Nicholas Keeni,
accurate performance virtually at sight, where you are only as good as your last
BA Cantab, BPhil, ARCM
a skill acquired by many singers during concert and where you can be dropped
years of preparing services under pres- from any group there is bound to be an
CLASSICAL sure in cathedrals and Oxbridge underlying current of standardization
HARPSICHORDS chapels' (Page, 'The English a cappella and repetition of successful formulae
renaissance', p.464-5). The point is achievable by short-cuts, a situation
made elsewhere by Howard Mayer which is further complicated by the
Clavichords,Spinets, Brown and quoted by Page in a foot-
Virginals,Fortepiano, imperatives of the recording industry.
Pedalboardinstruments note '... the training the various choral
foundations provide explains more io '... the musical sign, which is a
Individuallyproduced kits.
Catalogue4 x 1st class stamps. than anything else the extraordinary graphic element, is neither music, nor
its reflection, but a solely mnemonic
't I r0 t high standards of ensemble singing in
t_ Britain today, since many collegiate device' (Siohan, 'La musique comme
choral scholars and boy singers go on signe', Colloquesur le signe et les sys-
to take up professional singing careers.' tmnesde signes, Royaumont, 12-15 April
(P-471,n.8) and in 'Pedantry or libera- 1962, EPHE 6th section, 9, typescript
tion', Authenticityand early music, ed. summary, p.22, cited in J.-J.Nattiez,
ORGANS Music and discourse(Princeton, NJ,
2 to 4 manual & pedal N. Kenyon (Oxford, 1988), p.41.
1990), p.71).
VATnot charged 4 An informal poll of singers in The
Visitorsby appointment Sixteen and the Tallis Scholars revealed 11 I am borrowing here from the struc-
tural linguistics of Ferdinand de Saus-
LAMEL TOWERS that, of the total number of 'core'
sure, the founder of semiology, who
singers, half were Oxbridge and half
81 HULL RD, YORK YO1 3JS were redbrick/music college. proposed the idea of the arbitrary
nature of sign in language, where there
5 These five are generally recognized as is no relationship between the sign and
King's College, Cambridge, St John's its referent other than that found in the


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interdependence of the terms used. See only a sketch to be completed during
F. de Saussure Coursein general linguis- performance, not during rehearsal. It
tics (London, 1974) as well as the seems to me that it is the acoustic rela- robert
accounts of Saussure's work in R. tionship to the music that we must try
Barthes, Elementsof semiology (Lon- to recover; calls for performance from deeganr
don, 1976) and J. Culler, Saussure original performing materials might
well be misplaced. This is not to say
(London, 1976). For a full discussion of Instruments
the problems of the Saussurian concept that the project is not worth while, for
of the sign with regard to a semiology it will inevitably aid the particular andRestorations.
of music see Nattiez, Music and dis- acoustic relationship between perform- VAT.notcharged
course,pp.3-37. ers for which I argue. This argument is
made, in passing, by Margaret Bent: Colourbrochure
12 See M. Bent 'Editing early music: 'There has been a deep reluctance to
the dilemma of translation', Early assume that the near-absence of early
music, xxii (1994), pp.373-92, for fur- scores might mean that its first creators
ther comments on the problems of and performers managed quite well
'translating' original manuscripts into without them, and hence that we had
modern notation. better do so too if we are to master
their musical language and the essen-
13 See M. Carruthers, The book of
tials of their musical thinking
memory (Cambridge, 199o), and L.
Treitler, 'Homer and Gregory:the processes.' Bent, 'Editing early music',
transmission of epic poetry and plain- P-373.
chant', Musical quarterly,lx (1974), 17 Few Catholic choral institutions
PP-333-72. employ girls as choristers (Brompton
Toinage arlehouse,
14 See S. Rankin, 'Winchester poly- Oratory is the exception which proves St.Georges
the rule), though there are some which Lancaster,LI IRB.
phony: the early theory and practice of
use women in the choir.
organum', Music in the medieval Eng- tl. (0524)60186
lish liturgy:Plainsong and Medieval 18 '[Guido's] new learning method
Music Societycentennial essays,ed. S. reduces the time for learning the chant
Rankin and D. Hiley (London, 1993):
repertory to two years (previously ten
'In performance, a thinking (and lis- were required). A boy can learn a new
tening) musician must have been faced chant in three days.' (D. Hiley, Western
by situations which stimulated more
than one appropriate response, and
plainchant: a handbook (Oxford, 1993), Syarw anal'Y'4
had to make decisions in favour of one
"procedure"instead of another, or 19 Leo Treitler has suggested certain
between a "rule of behaviour" and a directions for work in the field of Covers
musical response naturally suggested memory as related to improvisation
by a unique melodic contour.' (p.96); ('Homer and Gregory', PP.344-7). It
'these written-down organa themselves would also be interesting to apply the
kind of historical approach found in High quality canvas covers
provide evidence of a continuing ad
hoc practice at Winchester' (p.99). Michel Foucault's work to the various and bags, padded and lined,
musicological discourses from the 12th made to measure for
15 See Lionnet, 'Performance practice century to the present day to see
in the Papal Chapel in the 17th cen- whether it is possible to talk of musical Harpsichords, other
tury': 'For solemn feasts, the whole ?pistemeswith regard to musical per- keyboard instruments and
Mass setting was sung, and the singers formance and cognition. See M. Fou-
improvisedthe counterpoint on the cault, The orderof things (London, Harps.
chant of the Offertory and a number of 1970), and M. Foucault, Madness and
antiphons, particularly the one preced- civilisation (New York, 1965). For a
ing the Magnificat at Vespers. The clear definition of epist~me see an inter- Prop:DORIS BURRIDGE,
papal singerswere veryproud of their view with Raymond Bellour in Les 40 CHURCH HILL,
skill in improvisation,a common prac- livres des Autres, 10/18 (Paris, 1978),
tice in Rome throughoutthis period.' HOXNE, Near EYE,
(PP.4-5) (my emphasis). SUFFOLKIP21 5AT.
20 In his outline of Page's 'discovery
16 The closest equivalents today to the Tel: 01379 668 484
theory', quoted in full above, it is the
original performers are jazz musicians, final term of his argument which con-
for whom the musical text, or 'chart', is ceals this particular point: 'we proceed


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to the theory that, in certain respects, employment of instruments by the 26 See, for example, J. Dyer 'A thir-
and especially in matters relating to angels ...' Lionnet, 'Performance prac- teenth-century choirmaster: the Scien-
accuracy of tuning and ensemble, these tice in the Papal Chapel in the 17th cen- tia ars musicae of Elias Salomon',
performances represent a particularly tury', p.5. Musical quarterly,lxvi (198o),
convincing postulate about the per- pp.83-111.Dyer describes some of the
forming priorities of the original 23 Even today there is an almost uni- methods by which singers would have
singers.' Page, 'The English a cappella versal set of rules for the performance communicated during performance,
renaissance', p.454. of sacred music in the cathedrals of including the very public means of
Britain. These are drummed into chil- whispering musical directions into the
21 The performance took place in the dren in the cathedral institutions and ear of another singer. The rectorwould
Sistine Chapel on 9 April 1994 as a
may be summarized as follows: look at have been the main controlling force,
celebration concert for the completion the conductor; if there is no conductor but it is not just his beat which dictates
of the restoration of Michelangelo's then look straight ahead; do not look at ensemble: 'the rectoris indispensable to
frescoes. The concert, sponsored by the congregation (or, when television Salomon's idea for a successful perfor-
Nippon Television Network Corpora- cameras are present, do not look at the mance, for the others must follow the
tion in collaboration with RAI, was articulation and observe the pausae just
broadcast live in Italy and one week as he indicates them with his right
later in Japan.The real benefit of this 24 When in the Sistine Chapel we were hand. Moreover,allfour singersmust
event was that afforded to the singers fortunate enough to be allowed into have visual contact with each other.'
of singing from the original choir the choir gallery to perform the verse (P-97) (my emphasis).
gallery. sections of the Miserereby Allegri. The
22 'The main restriction placed on the four singers could not be seen from the 27 See Lionnet, 'Performance practice
main body of the chapel and could in the Papal Chapel in the 17th cen-
musical performance of the papal
thus look at each other for signs and tury', and R. Sherr, 'Performance prac-
singers was that they should sing with- tice in the Papal Chapel in the 16th
out any instruments. The pope repre- gestures to aid ensemble singing.
sented Christ on earth and thus the century', Early music, xv (1987),
cappellawas regarded as the angelic
25 I am indebted to Andrew Parrott pp.452-62. Dyer and Waesberghe pre-
for this point and for the accompany- sent evidence that the same system was
choir around God's throne. Since there
ing reference. See J. S. van Waesberghe in operation much earlier:'In an ideal
are no biblical references to the
'Singen und Dirigieren der Mehrstim- situation, according to Salomon, the
migen Musik in Mittelalter', Melanges rectorought to be one of the four per-
offertsa Rene Crozet,ii, ed. P. Gallais formers.' (Dyer, 'A thirteenth-century
and Y.-J. Riou (Poitiers, 1966), choirmaster', p.101.)
pp.1,345-54.Waesberghe offers an 28 The choir desk is mounted on the
analysis of several sources from the balustrade of the balcony, some 16 feet
MADRIGAL SINGING 12th to the 15thcenturies, including
above the floor of the chapel.
several sculptures and drawings. 'The
physical/psychological accord of the 29 The performance in the Sistine
singing groups is quite obvious in [the Chapel told us little about this issue, as
miniatures from] both periods. In the the original carpet and tapestries are no
first period [c.12th-14thcenturies] pic-
longer present. This led to a very
tures show that the singers looked each
'swimmy' acoustic; though, when
One-weekcourse 23-30 July other in the eye during performance;
singing from the gallery, the clarity of
to sing some of England's furthermore, the written and pictorial voices was markedly improved. The
evidence demonstrates that the "direc- Tallis Scholars have also performed
finest music and explore
tor" or precentor, who often sang as music from the Eton Choirbook in
the beautifulDordogne well, guided and corrected the collec- Eton College Chapel. We could not
rivervalley. tive singing with gestures, with pres- understand how such intricate music
sure of the hand [Handdruch] or by could have been written for such a
whispering into the singer's ear ... In building until it was revealed that the
the second period [c.15thcentury] original wooden roof had been
?200, includinghalf board "looking into each other's eyes" disap- replaced by a stone one, resulting in
pears, but the physical/psychological the present bathroom acoustic. Any re-
rapport is maintained ... often a singer creation of original performance spaces
would beat time on another singer's might well be a costly enterprise!
ContactMrs P. M. Gallon, shoulder with his hand or fingers, or
47 St Katharine'sAvenue, would put his arm around the neck of 3o 'We may reasonably hope that the
another singer ...' (p.1,349) Many next generation of early-music singers
Bridport,Dorset DT6 30E thanks to Julian Podger for help with will advance on the present in not
the article and for the translation. needing full instructions on the opera-


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tion of ficta ... Scholars and perform- ticular architectural backdrop. 42 I take as my source a collection of
ers need to learn the language(s). This reviews of concerts given by the Tallis
means learning to read fluently directly 34 See Page's analysis of the pho- Scholars in America over the past seven
from, and in the first instance to sing tographs of instrumental groups with years, though I am convinced that this
from, original notation in facsimile.' their altogether more 'wacky'
sample is valid for Europe as well.
(Bent, 'Editing early music', pp.382, approach. The clearest and most bril-
391.) '... it will be a significant achieve- liant example to my mind is that of 43 It is actually impossible to sing
ment when the finest professional Charles Daniels on his ten-speed bike without vibrato and, I would suggest, it
in a publicity photo for the Gabrieli is often a question of the speed rather
groups regularly give their concerts at
their favoured pitch and in their Consort. than the degree of vibrato that is being
favoured voicing from a full size repro- noted.
duction choirbook on a great lectern in 35 'Subtle clues to the changing status
of early music ... will inevitably reflect 44 I am indebted to Christopher Page
the midst of their singers.' (B. Turner, for furnishing me with the exact details
itself in the choice of concert dress as
'The editor: diplomat or dictator?', of this reference.
early music performers exchange their
Companion to medieval and Renais- down-home, artsy, or Bohemian garb
sance music, p.254.) 'Modern perfor-
for tuxedos and evening gowns.' (P. 45 It is also interesting that the word
mance practice of pre-16oo music clannesswhich Page uses is defined by
could benefit substantially from the Higgins, 'From the ivory tower to the him using exactly the same
restoration of solmization as a living marketplace:early music, musicology, sacred/secular opposition we have seen
and the mass media', Currentmusicol-
practice.' (R. Wegman, 'Musicaficta', repeated in reviews of the Tallis Schol-
ogy,no.53(1993).) ars in America.
Companion to medieval and Renais-
sance music, p.274.) 36 R. Barthes, 'The grain of the voice', 46 I am grateful to Rex Brough, some-
31 Attempts to become familiar with Image, music, text, selected and trans. S. thing of an expert in the vagaries of
Heath (London, 1977), originally pub-
original notation are currently being lished as 'Le grain de la voix', Musique popular music, for confirmation that
undertaken by the various singers of there are remarkablyfew mixed-gen-
the Clerks' Group, who are to work on en jeu, no.9 (1972).
der, a cappellapop groups.
Ockeghem's Missa Prolationem from 37 Barthes, 'The grain of the voice',
original manuscripts and will record 47 For an audacious de(con)struction
the results for ASV in 1995.Other work p.179. of the Christian myth see Ernest
is also taking place in developing the 38 Barthes's essay alludes to the work
more acoustic relationship with music of Jacques Lacan in its easy appropria-
and performance through working tion of the term 'Imaginary', employs
with jazz ensembles. The Hilliard Julia Kristeva'sopposition of pheno-
Ensemble have been working with Jan and geno-text to postulate the theoreti- MarkStevenson
Garbarek,a noted jazz saxophonist, cal opposition of pheno-song and
and continue to perform a series of geno-song and assumes an under-
concerts over the coming year. The standing of Kristeva'snotion of signifi-
Orlando Consort begin a collaboration ance. All this should be set within the
with The Perfect Houseplants in 1995 context of Barthes's own work, which
with the intention of developing a is too rich and varied to be summa-
working knowledge of modes, particu- rized satisfactorily in a footnote. See
larly through its application in plain- Structuralismand since, ed. J. Sturrock
song, and, at the same time, with the (Oxford, 1979), T. Hawkes, Structural-
aim of learning improvisation tech- ism and semiotics (London, 1977), and, -~
niques. This project has only been for a specific account of Barthes's con- /

made possible through funding from tribution to the field of music criticism
the Arts Council of Great Britain. We see B. Engh, 'Loving it: music and criti-
may have to wait a long time for these cism in Roland Barthes',Musicology
practices to become a standard part of and difference:gender and sexuality in
the education of early-music singers. music scholarship,ed. R. A. Solie
(Berkeley, CA, 1993), pp.66-79.
32 The Sixteen makes explicit refer-
ence to its Oxbridge credentials. Until 39 Barthes, 'The grain of the voice',
quite recently publicity for the Tallis p.189. Copperfield
Scholars did the same. 20 Pratt Street
40 Barthes, 'The grain of the voice', Soham, Cambs CB7 5BH
33 The Hilliard Ensemble, Gothic p.189.
Voices, the Tallis Scholars, the Orlando
Consort and the Gabrieli Consort have 41 Barthes, 'The grain of the voice',
0353 721000
all used publicity photos with this par- p.188.


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Jones's various essays on this subject, 50 See G. Rosolato, 'Lavoix: entre tems which tell of this process of ideal-
in particular 'Psycho-analysis and the corps et langage', Revuefran(aise de ization and which lead towards a fore-
Christian religion' and 'A psycho-ana- psychanalyse,no.38 (Jan 1974), grounding of the voice itself. (Hence,
lytic study of the Holy-Ghost concept', pp.75-94. This article was first brought for him, the essay is always also about
Essaysin appliedpsychoanalysis,ii to my attention by the account in M.- opera.) The notion of the sacred he
(London, 1952), pp.198-211,358-73. A. Doane, 'The voice in the cinema', establishes goes some way to explain-
YaleFrenchstudies, no.6o (1980), ing the recent popular success of sacred
48 See J. Bowers, 'The emergence of PP-43-50. music in a secular context. For Roso-
women composers in Italy, 1566-1700', lato the sacred/secular opposition is
Women making music: the Westernart 51 See also D. Anzieu, 'L'enveloppe not at all clear-cut. Note, also, how
sonore du soi', Nouvelle revuede psych- close we are to the nostalgia of which
tradition,1150-1950,ed. J. Bowers and J.
Tick (London, 1986), pp.116-67;and analyse, no.13 (Spring, 1976). Page writes: 'We can detect a nostalgic
A. B. Yardley."'Ful weel she soong the aspect of musical pleasure, an inclina-
52 Rosolato, 'La voix', p.82 (my trans- tion towards an origin.'(p.88)
service dyvyne":the cloistered musi- lation).
cian in the Middle Ages', ibid.,
54 'Doesn't every narrativelead back
pp.15-38. Despite the strong tradition 53 For Rosolato both the sacred and to Oedipus? Isn't storytelling always a
of performance of sacred music by the voice are concerned with the search
both women and men, there seem to way of searching for one's origin,
for origins and the idealization of ori-
be almost no examples of polyphony speaking one's conflicts with the Law,
gins. He suggests that they are indissol- entering into the dialectic of tenderness
performed by both sexes together in a ubly linked at the psychic level, which and hatred?'R. Barthes, Thepleasure of
sacredcontext. explains the strong tradition of sacred the text, trans. R. Howard (New York,
vocal music: 'Vocal music has always
49 For a fuller account of Lacan and been bound up with prayer, with reli-
the ?colefreudienne see A. Lemaire, gious or sacred celebration which glo- 55 Note that within Freudian psycho-
JacquesLacan (London, 1977),J. Rose, rifies a historic or mythic past, and also analysis, fetishism describes the (male)
Introduction to Feminine sexuality with tradition, from Vedic chant to the child's disavowal of sexual difference
(London, 1982), and J. Rose, 'The Liturgyof the Mass ...' (p.89). How- itself: see S. Freud, 'Fetishism', On
imaginary', The talkingcure (London, ever, Rosolato wants to extend the sexuality (Harmondsworth, 1977),
1981). notion of the sacred to include any sys- pp.351-7.

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