How much does pitch matter?

Normally I would say it matters more than anything. There are all sorts of voices out there, many not traditionally beautiful, but we love them anyway. Actually, come to think of it, someone can have a downright ugly voice, but if they sing with enough heart we want listen to them. But if someone is out of tune, that just never works.

Last night, however, when Shirley Bassey belted out Goldfinger, her pitch was all over the place, and at first I cringed. Then, just as quickly, it didn’t matter. First, her voice still had power, she can still really belt it out. But the main thing was, she was just so game. She gave it everything, and didn’t hold back anything, regardless of the result, and she was only pitchy here and there. Most of it was stupendous. This is what music is about. I doubt there’s a handful of people in the world who would be able to pull that off, but only the most fussy would have missed the art in that performance and why she got a standing ovation. She was big, strong, fearless and fabulous.

The usual. Bleeck is blissful to be near the love of his life, Finney looks like he’s plotting murder.

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

3 thoughts on “How much does pitch matter?

  1. I grew up listening to lots of opera in our house (too much at times, I thought!) but a debate raged over the comparison of the voices of Renata Tebaldi and Maria Callas. Tebaldi always was on pitch but seemingly lacked much emotionalism, while Callas was so dramatic and “involved” in what she was singing that pitch was sometimes sacrificed. (I’m such a devotee of Maria Callas and actually got to see her in performance twice…once in her prime, and then when she did a “farewell tour” with Giuseppi di Stephano.) I loved the recognition you gave to the “art of performance” and its importance in singing.

    By the way, looks as if Bleeck is not about to give up on winning Finney over.

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