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Reviewer 1’s Comments

I want to think this is worth including as it is provocative and interesting. It is also certainly tremendously flawed, but it seems to me the symposium could be a good place to present this – an opportunity for peer-review and some of the discussion that the presenter says she is after. A difficult phrase for me, though, was the notion of a “true golden age of singing”; this tends rather to discredit global traditions over millennia and certainly privileges one particular ethnic and terribly classed musical tradition over all others. My discomfort at this phrase was intensified when the presenter mentioned a “great race of singers”. I want to give her the benefit of the doubt, but for such a carefully constructed and rather slow-moving video, this seems at best to be a very careless use of words. Is she saying that Western European singers are ‘racially’ superior to singers in all other musical traditions anywhere in the world over time? I hope not, but everything else about this video seems so intentional that it is very hard for me to see past or to “un-hear” these two adjacent comments in the video. I think I would want to get back to the presenter and ask her to reconsider these words and these ideas, as they smack strongly of racist Eurocentrism and colonialism. I am also not sure about the claim of there being “the [i.e. one] true bel canto sound”. Surely each singer was different in their approach. It’s like trying to pin a “rock sound” on the drums – Moon and Bonham and Appice and Grohl and Wilk are similar, yes, but also so distinct that to group them as has having one sound would feel disingenuous; this is a crude and perhaps unhelpful comparison, but I think the analogy works to help make my point. The methods are also terribly unclear (whence did these comments come, over what period, and in response to what questions or provocations from the researcher?).

Reviewer 2’s Comments

This works as critical viewpoint and performance art. This piece very explicitly juxtaposes deductive and inductive and the winding paths these reasonings can yield. Also, it addresses the concepts of historically informed performance vs. modern aesthetics by shifting focus to the idea of throwing out convention and trying new (old) things with experimental abandon and fresh intellect. I like the critical confrontation component and I think this addresses the themes very well. This is sure to spark discussion and I want to know more after watching so I think it is a very valuable contribution.

See video of Zoom discussion on 2nd May 2020 for further discussion of this piece with the creator

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Ziazan
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Ziazan

As the creator of this film, I would like to respond to Reviewer 1. Thank you for your comment. As I stated in the first lines of the script, I am focusing exclusively on western classical singing (so the living tableaux are based on western classical art), and intend to draw no comparisons or make any allusions to other disciplines from around the world. What I did not make clear, as you have pointed out, is that the language which you have highlighted was directly quoting historical sources discussing singing. In the 19th century, music historians, singers, and critics spoke… Read more »

Hannah
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Hannah

I enjoyed this thought-provoking contribution, which seems to embody the theme of this symposium, but from those tricky moments further down the line, when a paradigm shift is required. It is a scholarly piece of performance art, drawing explicitly on the words, sounds and descriptions of great western art singers of the past few centuries, and giving them a voice. The presentation is brief and schematic, but also evocative and practical, which is a rare combination. It appeals to scholar and layperson. The explicit parallels with the famous series of paintings and sculptures depicting censure, censorship and suppression that she… Read more »

Reviewer 3
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Reviewer 3

This is such an interesting submission which challenges how musical traditions have induced upon our current learning practices. The video is a strong and creative presentation of the research.

James
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James

I very much enjoyed this piece and found the notion of the inductive route to the rediscovery of a lost performance style fascinating. I would love to know more about the factors that led to the formation of your style. You mentioned during the online discussion how it is common for those not already involved in operatic circles (which certainly includes me!) to prefer the bel canto sound. I am sure I am stating the obvious when I say that I assume this is because it would have been developed within a smaller, more intimate setting, and hence did not… Read more »

Ziazan
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Ziazan

Thank you for your comment, James. Firstly, you have brought up a common misconception about the difference between the old and the modern techniques! The bel canto technique has immense carrying power, as is proved by numerous reports of singers giving outdoor performances to large crowds without the microphones that our modern opera stars make frequent use of. There is so much evidence to disprove the hypothesis that historically singers sang more softly for smaller settings and quieter instruments that I think I will make a video about it on my youtube channel, so thank you for giving me the… Read more »

James
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James

Hi Ziazan. Thank you for taking the time to write such a full answer! Fascinating stuff. I look forward to hearing more from your findings at some point! 🙂