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Interlude 4 The Issue of Straight Tones

The most controversial vocal question of the Baroque and Mozartian era is that of singing with what is called “straight tone.” Straight tone is, as the name would imply, singing with no vibrato. Such singing is used at times in nineteenth-century lieder and twentieth-century opera to indicate emotions ranging from weary to deranged. It is sometimes called for with indications like “tonlos” (literally “without tone”). A perfect place for such a coloration would be in the beginning of the Schumann lied “Ich hab im Traum geweinet” (“I’ve wept in my dreams”), from Dichterliebe. There the world-weary, lovelorn singer is in deepest despair, and straight tone conveys this easily.