Sunday, July 3, 2011

How to Sing, from Estonia to Lady Gaga

The Estonia Song Festival is one of the largest amateur singing events in the world. I'm grateful for the youtubes online that give a sense of what goes on there. The newest one apparently took place yesterday.

What I like about this video is that it shows what strong, bold, confident, declamatory singing is like.

Inspired by this video, diversion follows:

Christian liturgical singers could learn something from watching this. The pathetic and insipid stylings of "Christian contemporary" music has infected this generation of singers, so that they come to their Church choirs with that affected, wispy, vulnerable sound that is (I gather) supposed to represent a kind piety. It does not. It suggests something else entirely.

If popular styles eventually make their way into our Churches, and surely they do, there is probably good reason to be optimistic about other changes that are taking place in pop music. The astounding popularity of Lady Gaga here could eventually have a good effect. She rejects that wispy, affected sound completely.

With Lady Gaga, we similarly find this forthright, full-voiced, text-driven declamatory style, an approach that is (ironically) much more suitable for a liturgical approach than what passes for "praise music" today.

An additional interesting fact about Lady Gaga: as the composer of her own music, she is pushed back to a rhythmic style that places the metric emphasis on beats one and three (such as we find in Josquin and Palestrina) rather than on two and four (such as has dominated popular music since the big band age). It is also helpful that despite her obvious shortcomings in the moral area (I can't even link a video), she is the most articulate pop musician since Benny Goodman, so perhaps she will start something here too: the use of the mind rather than pure emotion.

Indeed, Gaga's music is complex enough to be fugued: