Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

“He was despised” in writing and performance: A study of vocal ornamentation in one aria from Handel's “Messiah” using objective and subjective listening practice
by Silverberg, Misoon Ghim, D.M.A., Temple University, 2010, 135; 3390637
Abstract (Summary)

A two-fold analysis of the vocal ornamentation in Handel's aria, "He was despised" from Messiah, was conducted employing objective and subjective forms of listening practice associated with the analysis of recordings methodology.

It is this author's hypothesis that prosody, born of the semiotic processes of rhythm, pitch and accent, and which is also reflective of the subjective understanding of the performer, will be present during the moment of an ornament—if it is present at all in any performance. Ornamentation is shown to be an entry into the world of subjectivity in Baroque vocal performance practice as well as a window into the oral tradition and the primacy of the singer's expressiveness that relates back to the Italian school to which Handel subscribed.

The method of study in this monograph consists of examining scholarly writings, scores, notations and most importantly, applying listening practice to 38 different renditions of "He was despised," executed by female altos or male countertenors, under the direction of various conductors, dating from 1927 through 2006.

The first of two listening practices is an analysis of recordings to identify and review the nature of the non-notated sung ornaments found in the recordings. The author develops a system of defining and categorizing the types and units of nonnotated, aurally observed vocal ornaments executed in each performance.

In the second phase of this study, the author incorporates a postmodern philosophical approach and notes her own subjective experiences during the analysis of recordings. This phase examines the idea that prosodic elements are associated with the subjective experience of emotional meaning, elucidation of text, and illumination of subtext in this aria from Handel's Messiah. Results include noteworthy findings about the interplay of the singer's subjectivity with ornamentation in affecting the listener's subjective reaction to the performance (e.g., narrator viewpoint, beautifying versus emphasizing subtext).

In conclusion, the author explores the relationship between a performer's prosodic and non-prosodic executions of ornamentation and proposes specific recommendations to singers who wish to execute ornamentation in a manner that is both historically informed as well as prosodically expressive of subtext.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Anderson, Christine L.
Commitee: Bolton, Beth, Cho, Philip Y., Zohn, Steven
School: Temple University
Department: Music Performance
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 71/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Music
Keywords: Analysis of recordings, Aria, Early music, England, Handel's Messiah, Handel, George Frideric, Historically informed performance, Messiah, Ornamentation, Postmodern subjectivity, Vocal, Vocal ornamentation
Publication Number: 3390637
ISBN: 978-1-109-60168-8
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