Colours and why do singers like to darken their sound?

I’m reading a book about colour and textiles, a history of dyeing fabric in Europe and the world. I am fascinated by the way artists and weavers and embroideries know so much about colour, how to make it from different dye stuffs, natural and synthetic. And then there are the names of all the colours in an artists’s palette. I am just beginning to get to know these myself as I dabble in painting. Such wonderful names for all the greens, blues and reds. Then there is the symbolism of colour and the ability of colour to denote power.
Is this power ‘thing’ the same in singer? If I sing Harsh a bye instead of Hush a bye, or “Margnificart” instead of Magnificat, yes choir singers are just as prone as solo singers to darken their vowels…am I doing this darkening because it sounds good inside my head?
It emphasises the deeper resonances anyway in my head but this darkening of the vowel does it even more and I feel strong and important, more masculine dare I say? We all know how Mrs. T darkened and lowered her speaking voice to gain authority.
But if we really think about the setting of a mother singing a lullaby or Mary saying the Magnificat, it is exultant and bright, ringing, yes and soothing but not about power and might.

I heard Richard Goode play the piano live in a concert years ago and heard so many colours from the keyboard I was astounded. Why had no one explained about this when I was learning the piano for all those years? And when I hear a singer who has truly examined every colour in their timbral palette to give life and energy to all those consonants and vowels we have to sing, then I am excited!

We do not do enough on colour voicing, it is so important to make the music come alive. When we get so involved in painting our sounds we can forget our nerves, it becomes a creative exploration of a performance, not a dull regurgitation of previous artist’s interpretation. Yes I know that when we sing in large opera houses we have to maximise the resonance and volume but not to the detriment of the beauty of the sound or the emotional meaning we are trying to convey. We need to make our audience listen!

I have struggled all my singing career to understand the acoustics of singing but something that happened years ago when we sailing across the channel at night looking at the beautiful start gave me food for thought. Not just about our wonderful creation but the sound of the self steering equipment kept ‘talking’ to me. That’s when I realised that all the sounds we make when we speak and sing are down to vibrations, vowels are just a set of different vibrations made by the way we arrange our tongue and soft tissue in the tube above our vibrating folds. No, the self steering wasn’t talking to me but it gave me something to chew over! We need to understand the science behind what we do but not to the detriment of the beauty of sound. When we see the many vibrations that make up a vowel on programmes that show the spectrographic analysis then we should see how many more nuances we can create in our voices.


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