Layers of voice between Quran reciters in Egypt and opera singers in the West – Mohamed Riad El Ashary


Posted in: Friday, May 7, 2021 – 10:20 PM | Last update: Friday, May 7, 2021 – 10:20 PM

The recitation of the Qur’an in the minds of Muslims is associated with Ramadan, as many of them are keen to recite it during the month of fasting, and the voices of its readers occupy radio and television stations before breakfast and at dawn.
But what distinguishes the voices of the reciters of the Qur’an from other people?
Readers of the Qur’an do not differ from other people in using their voices in ordinary speech in their daily life, and their daily conversations do not reveal any of their vocal abilities and performance skills. Understand when they go about their normal lives at home, the market or with their peers, they use the natural pitch of their voices, or what is known as the natural (layer) of voice, which each of us uses in his speech.
And people differ among themselves in the natural sound pitch of each of them. The voices of women in that class – as well as the voices of children – are sharper than the voices of men. And the voices of the elderly are characterized by heavier or rougher than the young. And between this and that, the natural pitch of voice varies for each of us in terms of intensity or magnitude for other organic reasons, other than gender or age.
The average person does not exceed this degree (or pitch) of the voice in most cases during speech, and this is what made phonologists call it the term “natural pitch” for this or that person. The degree of this layer can be measured by knowing the number of two vocal string vibrations per second during speech. The higher the number of these vibrations per second, the more intense the sound, but if the number decreases, the sound is more tender.
But what distinguishes the voice of the Quran reciter, and the voices of singers and singers, from the ordinary person is that the reciter and singer have the ability to transcend his natural pitch – during reading and singing. It can do this in two ways:
• Either upward (ie, increasing the pitch of his voice, equivalent to a complete musical scale or octave above his natural pitch), and this is what is known in Arabic music as the “answer” degree,
• Or downward (that is, an increase in the loudness of his voice by an amount equivalent to a whole musical scale below the level of his natural pitch), which is known in musical terms with the degree of “decision”.
The distinguished and distinguished Quran reader can also move smoothly and sweetly from one phoneme to another, that is, from “decision” – for example – to “answer”, or from “answer” to “decision,” without his voice being exposed during the performance to any “crack”. In the voice, or – as the reciters of the Qur’an say themselves – without “losing” his voice. This is what characterizes the performance of most professional Quran reciters.
And some distinguished reciters and singers – and these are few – have a higher capacity than their relatives in reciting and singing, which enables them to reach the answer of the answer upwards (i.e. intensity), or the decision decision downward (i.e., reverence).
Professional readers attain this level of proficiency in performance only after long learning and training. This is what differentiates between professionals and non-professionals.
The listeners can know the professional, glorious, unprofessional and inexperienced reader during the performance, by checking his performance and how he moves from one vocal layer to another, and whether this transition has any crack in his voice or not. But the main factor that distinguishes a professional reader from a non-professional reader is his ability to use more than one pitch, as the area of ​​ u200b u200bthe voice of most professional readers exceeds a whole musical scale (a full octave). In fact, some of the most distinguished among them can exceed the area of ​​two musical scales (Octavin).
For non-professional readers, their vocal abilities cover less than a single scale. Most of them are not able to reach the answer layer up, but some of them can sometimes reach the decision layer down. Unprofessional readers miss the smooth transition from layer to layer, and their voices often betray them when they try.
Professional Quran reciters therefore have superior vocal ability, and wide performance that enables them to use three or four vocal layers:
1- The natural pitch (a middle layer often used in normal speech)
2- The decision layer (which is the lowest acoustically stratified),
3- The answer layer (which is the most acoustically intense layer),
4- The answer answer layer, or decision decision (for few readers)
As for non-professionals, they only use two layers in their reading in most cases:
1- The natural pitch
2- The decision layer
What also distinguishes the recitation of the recitation of the Qur’an is the prevalence of the phenomenon of Ghina, which is the pronunciation of some sounds through the nasal passages, especially the nun and mim sounds.
The prevalence of this phenomenon has shifted from reading the Noble Qur’an to modern Arabic singing. The composers took advantage of it as a phenomenon beloved to the Arab ear, so they began to intonate and lengthen their melodies while performing the sounds of the meme and the nun, because they are two sounds that open the airway during their speech, and this allows the singer to stand and prolong their speech A good example of this is the song of Umm Kulthum (Haseebak for Time), and there are similar examples in Farid Al Atrash’s songs.
Have the books of intonation presented to the phenomenon of layers of sound?
The person familiar with the books of Tajweed – one of the most popular among students in the field of Qur’anic recitations is the book “Publishing in the Ten Recitations” by Ibn Al-Jazari (died 833 AH), notices that Tajweed scholars focus their interest in them on single Arabic sounds, such as the sound of the Baa (b) or the Seine (S) ) Or the meme (m) or others, and they describe the exits of these sounds and trace their different qualities, such as thinning and amplifying, for example, then they indicate what might be exposed to those sounds of a change in the qualities due to their proximity to other sounds that affect them.
This focus on the singular sounds led the Tajweed scholars to neglect other important phenomena in recitation, such as:
• “Intonation” (which is the manner of pronunciation in which we differentiate in speech between telling, interrogating, exclamation, calling, etc.),
Registers (like decision and answer),
• and “The degree of loudness and lowness of the voice – volume”,
• “Speech speed – Tempo”, and others.
This motivated me to study some of these phenomena that were overlooked by intonation scholars in an audio research published some time ago in the English language in Britain.
Interests of modern linguists:
This phenomenon was not only overlooked by the ancient researchers, among the scholars of Tajweed, but also by modern linguists from the Arabs, because they focused their phonological research on analyzing the sounds used in speech, as most phonological studies today take from the sounds of spoken speech as a material for research. In this regard, multiple phonological studies have been completed on the sounds of classical Arabic, and the sounds in a number of contemporary Arabic dialects. Therefore, modern Arab linguists have not been scientifically exposed to the sounds as they are used in singing, or in the recitation of the Holy Qur’an, or in the recitation of Bible verses, or as they are used in theater, radio, etc.
This was another motivation for researching this phenomenon in a new branch of linguistic phonology, the science of singing voice, which studies the sounds of a language during singing as used by singers. Most of the research in this science in the West revolves around the performance of opera singer. Among his famous figures is the Swedish scientist Johan Sundberg, whose book The Science of singing voice has become a pillar in this delicate scientific field.
What distinguishes the reciters of the Noble Qur’an from opera singers in the West?
The comparison between the results of Western studies conducted on opera singers and the results that I reached on the reciters of the Noble Qur’an in Egypt showed that there are common vocal features between professional opera singers in the West and professional Qur’an readers in Egypt (in terms of vocalizing the sounds and the method of producing them during singing or recitation) .
These features are evident in the ability of a professional opera singer, as well as a professional Quran reader both, to listen to all audiences, even if they are at the farthest reaches of the hall in which they meet. This ability is not, of course, available to non-professionals in both Western and Arab cultures due to the non-professionals losing the training component.
The answer layer in the Qur’anic recitation is distinguished for professional readers – despite its high volume – that it is a lower degree in terms of the number of vocations in it than that of the professional opera singer in the West, whose answer layer is characterized by a higher frequency. But readers and opera singers all agree on the decision layer.
The method of professional Quran reciters in pronouncing sounds is also characterized by the presence of a relatively narrow airway in the larynx area, while the method of opera singers in producing sounds is characterized by a kind of “hissing” so that researchers compare the voices of an opera singer during their performance with the sound of the flute.
Among the other phenomena that distinguish between Qur’an reciters and opera singers is the prevalence of the phenomenon of singing in the recitation of the Holy Qur’an, to which I have referred.
However, this phenomenon is not desirable for western operatic singing in particular, and western singing in general. Therefore, it is a phenomenon that the western listener’s ear may denounce, or even despise, and it is worth discussing in an independent article.


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