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Book Chapter

Alignment of prosodic weight and musical length in Finnish vocal music textsetting


Kentner,  Gerrit
Department of Linguistics, Goethe-University ;
Department of Language and Literature, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;

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Arjava, H., & Kentner, G. (2022). Alignment of prosodic weight and musical length in Finnish vocal music textsetting. In M. Scharinger, & R. Wiese (Eds.), How Language Speaks to Music. Prosody from a Cross-domain Perspective (pp. 161-190). Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter. doi:10.1515/9783110770186-007.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-000A-ECB1-4
In the study of textsetting, i.e., the alignment of lyrics to music in song writing, the rhythmic treatment of prosodic syllable weight in relation to note length has so far received less attention than other areas of prosody, such as stress prominence and pitch. This study offers an exploratory analysis of textsetting in a Finnish song corpus, focusing on the alignment of note length in music
with the prosodic weight and segmental filling of the corresponding syllables. Music is rhythmically exceptionally versatile, and the present perspective on Finnish is original in that it allows to study the relationship of prosodic weight and note length in textsetting while controlling for lexical stress and musical
prominence. Here, note length is conceived not only in terms of absolute note values
but relative to neighbouring note values as well, with long notes considered
particularly long when followed by short notes. The results of the corpus analysis
suggest that song writers align prosodic weight and musical length, with light syllables
particularly avoided on notes that are long both in absolute as well as in relative terms. Over and above prosodic weight, sonority and certain segmental features are shown to affect the alignment of syllables with notes. In sum, this study regarding the phonological choices in textsetting sheds light on how song
writers align the durational prosody of lyrics with musical length in vocal music.