During a visit to the coffee shop with Ulrik and Ketil recently, I learned that in the renaissance the zink/cornetto and the oboe are described as the instruments that are closest to the voice, so one can speculate if singing technique has changed from very nasal in the renaissance to a more “classic” ideal that is closer to the flute when Quantz writes On playing the Flute.

While discussing embouchure (Chapter 4, page 55) Quantz notes how close the flute is to the human voice and saying that working with chest voice and falsetto is just like tightening the lips when playing the flute (in his view it is this that makes the flute a natural instrument), he comes with the funniest attack on the French and their singing:

“The Italians and several other nations unite this falsetto with the chest voice, and make use of it to great advantage in singing: among the French, however, it is not customary, and for that reason their singing in the high register is often transformed into a disagreeable shrieking, the effect of which is exactly the same created when you do not cover the mouth hole sufficiently on the flute, and when you try to force out the high notes by blowing more strongly.”

Unfortunately I haven’t heared many (only one comes to mind) recordings where the singers have experimented with using shrieking or very nasal singing. Perhaps the contemporary ways of baroque singing is still too nice?

Categories: Discussion