March 28, 2014

The Janet Spencer Contralto Recordings From Hidden In Plain Sight: The Hermann Klein Phono-Vocal Method

Hermann Klein 
Some amazing things have happened in my life, one of them being twenty rare contralto recordings falling into my lap after publishing Hidden In Plain Sight: The Hermann Klein Phono-Vocal Method Based Upon The Famous School Of Manuel Garcia (2013). 

I still pause and practice a little gratitude when I think about it, having waited two years to hear a handful of soprano recordings at the Yale Library, which, to my knowledge, are still unavailable to the public. That I got to hear them at all seemed a miracle at the time.

All good things come to those who wait? I certainly hope so! I know you have waited to hear Janet Spencer since I first mentioned the recordings many weeks ago, and am now making good on my word. 

So, without further ado, I would like present the historic recordings of Janet Spencer, who was trained in the legendary vocal method of Manuel García by his student Hermann Klein. The twenty surviving recordings from 1909 reveal Spencer's agile, disciplined, full and free voice, each one captured in one take. How many were made to obtain the result you hear? We will never know. We do know, however, that Spencer stood in front of—if not in—the horn, which must have been rather claustrophobic. Oh, the trials that composer and singer must have endured, the recording process being in its infancy. It soon becomes clear that the exercises themselves are not for the faint of heart—another complication. But Spencer doesn't miss a lick, singing in time and tune, making key changes with aplomb. The woman had real skill and technique, her trill alone astonishing in its certainty. Who today sings with this kind of exactitude? That's a good question, which only goes to show that, despite our thirst for scientific knowledge, there is no substitute of the principles of the Old School. 

You can listen to Janet Spencer here at the "Author" page for my studio website. The recordings will also be posted on a separate site for the book, which will appear soon. 

For my Kickstarter supporters who helped make this project possible, I cannot thank you enough. I also want to thank John Wolfson, who's generosity in making the recordings available still takes my breath away. 

6 comments:

  1. You really should consider posting the recordings to YouTube! They'll be found much more easily on a platform already being used by people looking for recordings of historical singing and pedagogy. You can use the description to promote the book itself. The information is too valuable not to be widely available!

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    1. Thank you, Nick! What you suggest is already in the works. I appreciate your comment.

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  2. What wonderful treasures, Daniel. Thank you for bringing them to those of us who love Historical Singing!

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  3. How much fun! Number 14 is a Panofka vocalise! What a remarkable find! Thank you, Daniel!

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    1. This doesn't surprise me in the slightest, since there is evidence to show that the García School made use of the best available materials. Thank you for your excellent ears, Justin!

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