Saturday, 25 April 2009

Syllabicity

Now, some years ago I submitted a piece to a competition and the comment came back that my word setting was too syllabic; i.e. 1 note per syllable, rather than setting a syllable across a number of notes. I must confess that at the time I didn't really think about it, but last year a writer I was working with commented on the same thing. They suggested that, my having set their text, they would go back and remove some words/syllables so that the setting was had more than one note per syllable. I experimented with this in some songs and made a determined effort to write in a rather more melismatic manner. The result was successful, in that one of the songs won a competition. But the mechanism for doing this feels wrong, I have to struggle against my instincts each time I'm setting a text.

Currently I'm working on a short opera/oratorio which has long sections of recitative. Again the syllable thing came up and I have made a conscious effort to increase the number of notes. Often I've being doing this by repeating so that the words get the setting I want and are then repeated more melodically. This is something I'm going to have to continue to experiment with. Its obvious that people don't see/hear the relation between text and music in the same way that I do. I could, of course, ignore this but each time I set a line of text I start worrying that it comes over as too syllabic. In some ways, maybe, this is a good thing as it makes me thing again about the relationship between text and music.

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