Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Domo arigato, Mr. Legato

I forgot to mention it until now, but I've been writing scripts for Peformance Today all summer. My last one airs Friday at noon in the Twin Cities, and lots of other times on local affiliates. If you hear some crazy verbal flailing about Vivaldi and Legrenzi sonatas, that's me.

Today I was researching Sibelius, but since I had the Grove Dictionary "S" volume out I also happened to see this, re: one Sinatra, Frank.

The crucial innovations in Sinatra's approach were based (unwittingly) on the Italian bel canto tradition, particularly his legato attack (known to his detractors as 'mooing'), his handling of portamento and rubato, and his sensitive modulation of vowel sounds. Like Crosby, he made full use of the microphone, but with a new awareness of its potential as an 'instrument' for achieving a wide range of dynamics and for magnifying the expressive effects of singing at medium volume. His lightness of breath and 'forward' vocal production permitted an extraordinarily clear enunciation and allowed him to concentrate on shading and nuance.

I'm really sick of everything under the sun reminding me of Morrissey, but I'm swearing to you, the comparison makes sense here. If you take Sinatra, Anglicize him, intellectualize him and make him watch Elvis's 1969 Comeback Special about a thousand times, you've got Ringleader-era Morrissey--or his vocalisms, anyway. The mooing, the weird bel canto influence, the confident rubato--it's all there. It also makes sense, I think, because neither of their voices is naturally strong or technically impressive. What they lack in power they make up for in phrasing and interpretation.


smelly mcsmellsmell said...

you know how once you find out about, like, sexism and racism and shit and your critical consciousness turns on and you can never turn it off? like you can't sit down and watch bridget jones 2 because your mind can't shut up and just enjoy a trifling movie and you just end up deconstructing the whole thing?

your critical consciousness is morrissey.

Lizzie said...

Thanks, Becks, that's an awfully flattering way of putting it. In actuality I think he's really more my Suzi Quatro.