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The melodrama, a genre combining recitation with music, flourished with particular vigor at the dawn of the 20th century. By that time, it had outgrown it's original 18th-century form: no longer simply alternating between music and speech, late 19th-century melodramas (and their descendants) mainly consisted of texts declaimed over a nearly continuous and elaborate musical accompaniment. To avoid being overwhelmed by the accompaniment and yet remain declamation as opposed to singing, the vocal part requires a particular style and great skill, as described by composer Stanley Hawley in an essay titled Recitation-music (1912): "Any colloquial quality of voice is undesirable, and is strongly to be condemned; something more than mere speaking is required for success. The natural conversational tones of the voice do not blend with the pianoforte, for a thin speaking voice has not sufficient body of it's own to afford support to a musical accompaniment, and moreover, cannot impart strength of rhythm to the poem. [...] The quality of the voice required is that golden mean between speaking and singing, which does not possess the monotony of a chant nor the affectation of what is best described as 'sing-song', but that sympathetic tone that can be colored by the soul; for the tone expresses feeling, words define it." Wentz and Belogurov have taken Hawley's advice to heart, searching out in the melodrama a dual art that merges words with music in the hope of revealing just how moving the genre can be, why it was so popular, and how it may be revived today.
The melodrama, a genre combining recitation with music, flourished with particular vigor at the dawn of the 20th century. By that time, it had outgrown it's original 18th-century form: no longer simply alternating between music and speech, late 19th-century melodramas (and their descendants) mainly consisted of texts declaimed over a nearly continuous and elaborate musical accompaniment. To avoid being overwhelmed by the accompaniment and yet remain declamation as opposed to singing, the vocal part requires a particular style and great skill, as described by composer Stanley Hawley in an essay titled Recitation-music (1912): "Any colloquial quality of voice is undesirable, and is strongly to be condemned; something more than mere speaking is required for success. The natural conversational tones of the voice do not blend with the pianoforte, for a thin speaking voice has not sufficient body of it's own to afford support to a musical accompaniment, and moreover, cannot impart strength of rhythm to the poem. [...] The quality of the voice required is that golden mean between speaking and singing, which does not possess the monotony of a chant nor the affectation of what is best described as 'sing-song', but that sympathetic tone that can be colored by the soul; for the tone expresses feeling, words define it." Wentz and Belogurov have taken Hawley's advice to heart, searching out in the melodrama a dual art that merges words with music in the hope of revealing just how moving the genre can be, why it was so popular, and how it may be revived today.
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The melodrama, a genre combining recitation with music, flourished with particular vigor at the dawn of the 20th century. By that time, it had outgrown it's original 18th-century form: no longer simply alternating between music and speech, late 19th-century melodramas (and their descendants) mainly consisted of texts declaimed over a nearly continuous and elaborate musical accompaniment. To avoid being overwhelmed by the accompaniment and yet remain declamation as opposed to singing, the vocal part requires a particular style and great skill, as described by composer Stanley Hawley in an essay titled Recitation-music (1912): "Any colloquial quality of voice is undesirable, and is strongly to be condemned; something more than mere speaking is required for success. The natural conversational tones of the voice do not blend with the pianoforte, for a thin speaking voice has not sufficient body of it's own to afford support to a musical accompaniment, and moreover, cannot impart strength of rhythm to the poem. [...] The quality of the voice required is that golden mean between speaking and singing, which does not possess the monotony of a chant nor the affectation of what is best described as 'sing-song', but that sympathetic tone that can be colored by the soul; for the tone expresses feeling, words define it." Wentz and Belogurov have taken Hawley's advice to heart, searching out in the melodrama a dual art that merges words with music in the hope of revealing just how moving the genre can be, why it was so popular, and how it may be revived today.
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