Published: 22 June 2023

Barbara Gentili records Tosti

Barbara Gentili (soprano) recorded ‘F.P. Tosti, ‘Che dici, o parola del saggio?’ during the first symposium of the network (12th September 2021, University of Huddersfield) with recording engineer Duncan Miller.

Barbara Gentili, soprano. F.P. Tosti, ‘Che dici, o parola del saggio?’


Listen to Barbara’s cylinder in a digital transfer (mp3)

Barbara’s commentary on the experience

Did you have any experience of using mechanical recording technologies before?

Yes, I did use these technologies for listening to and analysing early vocal recordings since my doctoral study in 2015. I was fortunate enough to encounter people who would be playing early discs on restored gramophones. I befriended several collectors and the experience of listening via these technologies allowed me to hear some specific qualities (timbre, vibrato, specific gestures) of the singing voice far more clearly than is possible in the digitised transfers. 

How did you like the experience of recording on a phonograph?

I am not sure I can respond to this question yet. It was such a rich and overwhelming experience that I need time to process it. I was certainly shocked at first! Not being able to listen to my voice, sucked away by the horn, and having a very loud piano playing right behind me was disorienting. I lost all acoustic reference points and had no idea of what I was doing. The feeling of being together with the accompanist was also gone. However, through several trials of singing in and out of the horn, some sense of control was restored.

Did you need to change certain aspects of your playing/singing? 

I tried to keep my projection as simple and direct as I possible. I found that the phonograph did not capture the richness of my tone – at least not the voice that I can hear when I make digital recordings. I exaggerated the dynamics because I wanted to test the sensitivity of the machine to piano and soft singing. To my amazement the horn does capture p and pp when one sings!

Did this experience influence the way you will listen to phonograph recordings in the future?

All famous singers made 78rpms rather than cylinders, so I did not analyse cylinders and cannot respond to this question. It would be very interesting to make a disc though and see if that changes my way of listening to early discs! 

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