A Conversation for Sol-Fa - The Key to the Riddle of Staff Notation

"Shape Singing"?

Post 1

Steve K.

Good entry. It rang a vague bell for me, a lecture course I attended years ago which combined folk music and "classical" music topics. One topic was "shape singing", still used in parts of North America, typically by church choirs in rural areas (I think - its been a while).

I have a book "The Notation of Western Music" by Richard Rastall of Leeds University, 1983. In the section on "Old English Sol-fa", he writes: "This four note system travelled to North America, where its use became general under the name Fasola. In the late 18th century a modification was made to staff notation so that there should be a visual connection between each note and the relevant syllable. ... different note-head shapes were associated with the four syllables used. [This led to] 'Shape-notation' [as] an exact graphical parallel to the Tonic Sol-fa system. Shape-notation is still in use in parts of the United States."

I think shape-notation and shape-singing are basically the same thing. The lecturer had some recorded examples of shape-singing, sounded great.

"Shape Singing"?

Post 2


Only just seen this, sorry for the delay replying. Hadn't turned on the auto-notify.

Yes, shape-singing is a fascinating offshoot, and it grew its own style of composition, stoutly refusing to be finicky about parallel fifths and such shibboleths. I gather it also grew its own style of singing, belting out the hymn tunes.

Shaped note-heads are an option available in Sibelius and possibly also other notation programs.

"Shape Singing"?

Post 3

Steve K.

My wife & I drove in to Houston to attend a concert by "Anonymous 4", a female quartet that is known for "Shape Singing" and similar music. It turned out it was their farewell concert as they are disbanding, and tickets were $50. So ... back to www.amazon.com and a search on "Anonymous 4" ... sounds pretty good, e.g.:


We did attend a concert by Allison Brown and her group, featuring roots/jazz banjo ... smiley - cdouble She used to play with Allison Krauss, who I think did some of the music on "Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou". That soundtrack of American roots music got a Grammy for Best Album ... take that, Justin and Janet ... smiley - biggrin

"Shape Singing"?

Post 4


Wow. I always associated Anonymous 4 with medieval music but it doesn't surprise me that they were into shape-note singing as well.

There is another female singing group taking over their position of excellence, trained by John Potter, but I've gone and forgotten the name.

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