How Music Works by David Byrne

David Byrne
David Byrne

How Music Works (2012)

Really good book.  I am enjoying learning so many things from this book.

Here is a sample passage on p. 86 on the topic of vibrato.

Vibrato, the slight wavering in pitch, is often employed by contemporary string players, and it is a good example of the effect of recordings, because it’s something we take for granted as always having been there. We tend to think, “That’s how violin players play. That’s the nature of how one plays that instrument.” It wasn’t, and it’s not. Katz contends that before the advent of recording, vibrato added to a note was considered kitschy, tacky, and was universally frowned upon, unless one absolutely had to use it when playing in the uppermost registers. Vibrato as a technique, whether employed in a vocal performance or with a violin, helps mask pitch discrepancies, which might explain why it was considered “cheating.”  As recording became more commonplace in the early part of the twenty century, it was found that by using a bit more by vibrato, not only could the volume of the instrument be increased (very important when there was only one mic or a single huge horn to capture an orchestra or ensemble), but the pitch – now painfully and permanently apparent – could be smudged by adding the wobble.”

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