The Applicability of Russian Art Song on the Developing Male Voice
Rodriguez, James Diderot
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This essay offers insight into the efficacy of using Russian repertoire to help develop bass, bass-baritone, and baritone voices. The first section addresses the physiology of the male voice, the challenges of the Russian language, and a rubric for selecting appropriate repertoire. The second section applies the proposed rubric to analyze selected works. By having a basic understanding of the framework of the laryngeal anatomy (presented through diagrams of the major cartilages and muscles) as it relates to pitch, a voice instructor can select repertoire that both reinforces technical ideas and challenges the student to study new repertoire, such as Russian music. One of the greatest challenges of singing in Russian is the Cyrillic alphabet. With thirty-three letters and ten vowel sounds, it requires the production of sounds not found in other languages. Despite these difficulties, the demand for Russian repertoire in professional and academic settings has increased. This is largely because more resources are available to provide translations, transliterations, and pronunciation guides. With a plethora of repertoire to choose from, the works of three leading voice pedagogues (James McKinney, Richard Miller, and Clifton Ware) were consulted to create a rubric in order to assist teachers and students alike in choosing appropriate repertoire. The methodology considers the analysis of range, timbre, tessitura, passaggio, accompaniment, and language to selected works by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Modest Mussorgsky, and Sergei Rachmaninoff. Four songs by each composer were chosen to suggest repertoire for undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students. Songs with a range of less than an octave and a half, limited text, and accompaniments that aurally support the singer, are recommended for an undergraduate student. Songs appropriate for graduate and doctoral students feature a range of less than two octaves, longer texts, and accompaniments that behave more independently from the vocal line. Although this essay focuses on Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Rachmaninoff, the rubric could be used to study the works of other prominent Russian composers (Glinka, Balakirev, Borodin, Cui, and Shostakovich) as well as other Slavic languages such as Czech, Polish, and Bulgarian.