Owning a house with a white picket fence has been the iconic dream home for generations of newly-weds. The image harkens to a world that is neat and tidy, well-ordered and nicely manicured. However, a closer look at that fence reveals rows of upright wooden sticks, each nailed to the cross piece to keep its place.
When singers encounter a series of even notes in a row, they tend to sing them like a picket fence . . . all the same, upright and nailed down. Tidy, but not very musical. Even, but not empathetic. Upright, but not at all expressive.
Picket fence singing happens when the singers only respond to the notes and the note values. Picket fence singing happens when singers are NOT thinking about words. Picket fence singing occurs when singers ignore the stress andrelease of the text, the natural flow of the meter.
And there is a visual thing going on here. Each page of music appeals to the eye differently. Each page contains a pattern of notes and note values which create a visual field eliciting a response from the musician. My theory is that a string of even notes, or a string of repeated notes of the same value tends to influence the singer subliminally, resulting in syllabic singing, PICKET FENCE singing! It’s almost as though they can’t help themselves. It looks so nice and even on the page, so tidy, to well-ordered. Their natural response, almost inevitably, is to sing in a wooden manner! Have you noticed this?
The answer is simple. Call it what it is. “Do you see all these even notes? We’re singing them in a wooden, picket fence manner! Let’s use the natural stress and release of the text to make our approach more pliable, more musical.”
Don’t get me wrong. I like picket fences. But they’re a nuisance to paint. And they don’t inspire musical singing. So, let’s not be wooden in our singing of even notes, anymore. Okay?