Talk:How Sacred Harp music is sung

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Issues of balance[edit]

There is in reality a great deal of individual and regional variation in matters of practice. This article goes beyond its purpose of attempting to point out some of the regional peculiarities of Sacred Harp practice: It seems to be advocating only one specific way as 'correct.' Although the author's contentions that SOME "traditional singers" unconsciously raise sixths, etc., are likely correct, that should not be a prescriptive.

I think this article would be more balanced if it left out the stylistic judgments, and in fact the whole idea of addressing new singers, and just stuck to a few broad observations.

Amity150 23:42, 22 May 2006 (UTC)

Thanks to Amity150 for pointing out the possibility that the article could be interpreted as advocacy. This certainly was not my original intention, but one should err on the side of caution here. Therefore, I've rewritten all the passages I could find that risked being interpreted as advocacy.
The article still describes the issues involving newcomer singers, since I feel that they are an important aspect of contemporary Sacred Harp singing. I've put this material lower on the page and in a way that, I hope, makes no value judgments.
A final note: based on earlier drafts of Amity150's reply, I'm concerned that (s)he may have arrived at the impression that newcomer singers try to mimic Southern accents and voice quality. As far as I am aware, this is not so; such practices would be considered bad form among the newcomer singers whom I know.
Opus33 17:42, 28 May 2006 (UTC)

Thank you, Opus33. I appreciate your changes. Here is the reason I asked for the change: If one asks "traditional singers" whether, for example, they raise the sixth in minor songs, the invariable answer will be a bewildered "no," "I don't know," or "It doesn't matter." So by focusing on a quirk that it takes a musicologist to appreciate or understand, we are making SH into a musicological curiosity, an object of study, and introducing new values that are alien. It just seems very off-topic, rather like reading an article on William Shakespeare and finding a link to an article on how to affect a British accent. Meanwhile, there is nowhere any indication of how Sacred Harp is practiced that might give new singing groups elsewhere an idea how to get started on their own, covering leading, organization, etc. That is actually what I expected to find when I followed the link to this article, and I think it would be valuable to someone learning about Sacred Harp for the first time and hoping for info on how to sing Sacred Harp. Amity150 08:52, 4 June 2006 (UTC)

Hello Amity,
Please do remember that the Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, with the goal of complete coverage of all factual areas. In the area of musicology, we already have a great number of articles, and it would hardly make sense to exclude Sacred Harp, an important musical genre, from musicological discussion in these pages.
I agree with you that material on:
"how Sacred Harp is practiced that might give new singing groups elsewhere an idea how to get started on their own, covering leading, organization, etc."
would be a useful addition, perhaps entitled How Sacred Harp singings are organized? As the Sacred Harp article already says, the Denson edition contains useful material that could be mined for such an article.
Opus33 17:50, 4 June 2006 (UTC)
Postscript, same day:
Might I add that your claim
"the invariable answer will be a bewildered "no," "I don't know," or "It doesn't matter."
seems a bit hasty to me? If you'll look at the links I included in the article, or for that matter at the introduction to the Denson edition, you'll see that it's simply not true that all traditional singers are indifferent to the details of musical expression. Given your hypothetical question ("Do you raise the sixth in minor tunes?"), some traditional singers will reply "Yes, always" or will even help to teach you how to do it. You shouldn't assume that an interest in the details of singing is confined to musicologists; I think this underestimates the flexibility and power of the Sacred Harp tradition.
Thanks for listening, Opus33 05:50, 5 June 2006 (UTC)

Opus, would you consider at least putting in a qualifier that in reality you are talking about certain parts of Alabama and perhaps Georgia, and maybe nowhere else? I have transcribed every single song in the SH using Melody Assistant software, and Karen Willard herself made the changes to minors to reflect the dorian-aeolian controversy. When I play those songs sometimes the raised sixth does sound to me like what we are singing where I live (which is still mostly "traditional singers") and often not. When I went to Alabama to sing I thought I did hear a difference on some songs compared to how they are sung in Texas. In general here I don't hear new singers who can read lines and spaces (which I cannot) singing anything different from people who learned to sing as children, and I don't hear any dissonance on the sixths. I even have a book where I noted the sixths on many often-sung minors to test out this theory, and never noted anything unusual when they were sung. One does not need to make such a study of this if one simply sings what they hear other people around them singing, and this no doubt varies from region to region. Plus it is a theory that facilitates arguments between singers outside the south (I hope in the south we still just "shut up and sing!"). It seems an attempt to make an art into a science. Some "traditional singers" may have been absorbed into this raised-sixth doctrine themselves after hearing musicologists discuss it, but it seems nonetheless a tempest in a teapot. The beautiful thing about traditions is that invariably they evolve over time and present regional and individual variations. So basically I think you have improved this article, but I am still uncomfortable with the whole discussion. If some prospective new singer is going to read a couple thousand words about Sacred Harp I don't think I would include this, but leave it for down the line.... waaaay down the line. And yes, I will try to add other articles about Sacred Harp as I can, too, realizing that someone is going to come along and edit them, as well!  ;) Amity150 19:50, 5 June 2006 (UTC)

addendum: Consider whether new singers are going to be able to read lines and spaces well enough to even pick out the sixths to raise! Are we limiting new singers to those who can already effectively read music the conventional way? Even traditional singers are usually a little inhibited by this and can't demonstrate this principle if asked.

Hello Amity - So you're the Amity who made the Melody Assistant Website!!! Say, that's a really great resource and I appreciate your having done it.
I try not to edit during the work-week, but I promise a longer reply for you on the weekend addressing the issues at hand. Yours very truly, Opus33 22:21, 5 June 2006 (UTC)
Hello Amity - Ok, I've tried to make it more accurate. If you can take a look and tell me what you think I would appreciate it. I am particularly struck by your own testimony that the sixths that you raise are not the same as the sixths that Karen Willard raises.
On a couple other points you made:
--On the question of whether visitors to a traditional singing should just "sing what they hear other people around them singing", I agree. I would see this as a matter of courtesy, as well as avoiding clashing notes.
--However, when a group consists entirely of newcomer singers, then there really is a question of what to do. I think that raising the sixth consistently may be the best way to avoid wasting time on tedious discussions (You used the phrase "shut up and sing" -- and I agree completely!). I think that the Denson edition, by recommending a consistent practice, does indeed help newcomers to shut up and sing.
--Lastly, the article is pretty clearly not meant for "prospective new singers", but only for people who are curious about these matters. That's why I put it in a separate article, and not as part of the main article Sacred Harp. Your Melody Assistant site, which is now an External Link, would clearly be more helpful for actual teaching purposes.
Yours very truly, Opus33 23:30, 11 June 2006 (UTC)

Thank you very much, Opus Amity150 00:31, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

Positive feedback[edit]

This is a really great article - an excellent introduction. Thank you everyone! (talk) 19:20, 17 July 2008 (UTC)

Inclusion in main article[edit]

This is a good article, but it needs to somehow be integrated into the actual Sacred Harp article. In other words, put a brief synopsis in the appropriate place in that article, and include a link here.

The title will probably need to be changed, however, or risk being deleted as a how-to article. I could see it being titled Raised Sixth (Sacred Harp) or Sacred Harp Singing Method. Or even Altered Notes in Sacred Harp. — trlkly 18:42, 21 September 2008 (UTC)

Hello, Sacred Harp is already a quite long article and I think it should not be made any longer. Many topics on WP use the "main article/satellite article" system, in order to present a great deal of material without getting disorganized.
Re. title change, if this really needs to be done I would recommend "Sacred Harp: performance practice"; that's the usual terminology for this kind of material. Opus33 (talk) 19:47, 21 September 2008 (UTC)
Postscript: Hmm, perhaps I misunderstood you. Re. "put a brief synopsis in the appropriate place in that article, and include a link here", I would say that this has already been done; Sacred Harp currently says: "The music is usually sung not literally as it is printed in the book, but with certain deviations established by custom; see: How Sacred Harp music is sung." If you think more is needed, please specify. Opus33 (talk) 16:25, 22 September 2008 (UTC)

Move notice[edit]

If no one objects in about a week from now (or offers other ideas), I'll be moving this to Rendering Sacred Harp music, which fits in the title scheme of related articles like Leading Sacred Harp music and Pitching Sacred Harp music and also avoids clashing with WP:NOT#HOWTO. ~ Jafetbusinesspleasurevoicemail 10:38, 3 October 2008 (UTC)

Hello, I think "rendering" wouldn't really have any precedent in professional writing about music - it sounds a bit like an imported computer term in this context. I suggest instead Sacred Harp music: performance practice, which certainly have many precedents in the fields of musicology and ethnomusicology. See, for instance, the online Oxford Companion to Music, which says: "Performance practice. A term borrowed from the German 19th-century Aufführungspraxis to describe the mechanics of a performance that define its style." Opus33 (talk) 21:25, 3 October 2008 (UTC)
Thanks for replying. On the other hand, use of a colon in this way has few precedents in the wiki mainspace, as far as I know. How about Performance practice of Sacred Harp Music? ~ Jafetbusinesspleasurevoicemail 15:16, 4 October 2008 (UTC)
Hello, sorry to sound like your teacher, but I would consider "Performance practice of Sacred Harp music" to be bad English prose. The music is being performed, not practiced, so to say "practice of Sacred Harp music" is misleading to the reader.
There's really no reason not to use a colon in a title; it's common in professional scholarship, even if not so common on WP. Yours sincerely, Opus33 (talk) 17:57, 4 October 2008 (UTC)
"Performance practice" is neither "performance" nor "practice"; it is, as you quoted,
"[...] the mechanics of a performance that define its style."
Thus "performance practice of X" should be perfectly legitimate. ~ Jafetbusinesspleasurevoicemail 09:43, 5 October 2008 (UTC)

Moved to performance practice of Sacred Harp music. ~ Jafetworkplaywatch 06:16, 19 October 2008 (UTC)

The raised sixth[edit]

I think there is a slight problem with the explanation of the raised sixth in minor mode, specifically that in the harmonic minor scale the seventh in downwards motion should not be raised - compare the melodic minor where this is done correctly (i.e. the seventh is a natural G instead of G#). I don't know how to generate the picture or the sound file, does anybody else feel like fixing this? Lord Lizard (talk) 21:17, 10 January 2009 (UTC)

Hello Lord Lizard, could you please tell me where you read that in Sacred Harp singing the sixth is not raised in downward motion? I've never heard of this before. Thanks, Opus33 (talk) 01:38, 11 January 2009 (UTC)
Hi Opus33, when talking about the raised sixth, I was only referring to the name of the paragraph where the error occurs. Additionally, I am not talking about the performance of Sacred Harp singing per se, but about the background information provided in said paragraph. Specifically, the part that talks about the harmonic minor scale. If you compare the illustrations of harmonic minor scale and melodic minor scale, you'll notice two differences: First, in melodic minor, sixth and seventh are both raised in upwards motion, while in harmonic minor only the seventh is raised - second, while both sixth and seventh are then lowered again in downwards motion for the melodic minor scale, this is not the case for the harmonic minor.
All I'm saying is that this difference is not warranted and that for the illustration of the harmonic minor, the downwards motion should go across a natural G, not a G# (and of course for the corresponding sound file as well). Lord Lizard (talk) 10:57, 11 January 2009 (UTC)

Explaining revert[edit]

Hello, I'm moving this to the Talk page (it was inserted by a well-meaning anonymous editor):

The process of raising the 6th degree of a natural minor scale can also be seen as changing the key of the scale. Were the notated melody in the key of C, for example, the sharpening of the 6th would mean that it is actualy being sung in the G Dorian mode.

I think this is just not good music theory. The key of a piece is determined by its tonic note, not its signature. To use the anon's example, the Dorian mode on C is not a form of the key of G, it's still the key of C. If it helps to see this point: often at a Sacred Harp singing, half the people are raising the sixth and half of them are not. But they're still all singing in the same key. Opus33 (talk) 16:51, 14 July 2009 (UTC)

Dotted notes[edit]

I find that the section on "dotting" may be misleading, especially the score examples. The "lilting" sound of unequal eighth-notes is a natural result of the musical "accent" or differing emphasis in the various modes of time. The suppression of all stress on unaccented eighth notes often leads to a slight inequality in length as well, but this is only a by-product of proper accent, and, like the similar quality in French baroque music, is difficult to quantify. In any case, the musical examples imply a more pointed rhythm, while neglecting the issue of accent. Perhaps this section could be revised or omitted, and the musical examples deleted? Finn Froding (talk) 05:43, 22 June 2010 (UTC)

I think calling it dotting is reasonably clear way of describing what is going on, and the article already says that the degree of rhythmic inequality varies a great deal (please read to the end of the section and you will see this).
The way you propose to put it is incompatible with WP editorial policy. The unequal note durations are a physically measureable quantity. But saying that the duration inquality is "a natural result of accent" is a theoretical claim, going too far in the direction of original research. Let's just stick with facts, all right? Opus33 (talk) 16:14, 22 June 2010 (UTC)
Thank you for your reply. My statement was not based on "original research" as in WP:NOR. It's a theoretical claim supported by the latest relevant and reliable research into the stated practice of past and present singing teachers and the published rudiments in the songbook itself, viz., Thomas B. Malone. "The Rudiments As 'Right Action': Pedagogy and Praxis in the Traditional Sacred Harp Singing School" (D.M.A. diss., Boston University College of Fine Arts, 2009), pp. 91, 173-189. I agree with you that the phenomenon is analagous to notes inegales in French baroque music, but that too may be called a variable but inevitable result of proper accentuation; see Patricia M. Ranum, The harmonic orator: the phrasing and rhetoric of the melody in French (2001). Both authors are firmly grounded in their respective styles.
Your own analysis might equally be called "original research" if it's no more strongly supported than the brief observation cited in the current article. If I revise, I'll try to phrase it as a recent analysis of the historical sources and the current situation while leaving the basic section intact, but I still find the musical illustrations exaggerated and misleading. Finn Froding (talk) 01:18, 24 June 2010 (UTC)

New sidebar + Please discuss organization[edit]

For reasons I've explained more fully at Talk:Sacred Harp#Internal Inconsistencies and Ongoing Issues: Origin of music, scope and organization of coverage, I've added a sidebar to this page.

There are some big issues about the overall organization of Wikipedia's coverage of this subject matter and how to organize it into various articles. I think it's really important for editors involved in this group of articles to discuss the subject and come to a consensus, because the current state of affairs can be very confusing in some respects. Various people have occasionally brought these problems up on various talk pages, but I'm hoping everyone might congregate at the talk section above and figure out some solutions to disentangling these interrelated topics and organizing them into a sensible group of articles.

LiberalArtist (talk) 02:43, 2 November 2014 (UTC)