Manuel Garcia II and Cornelius Reid on Control

A topic of conversation that often arises in my work is the issue of ‘control’ of the voice and establishing said control in the effort to gain ‘technique.’ Students wish to be told what maneuvers they should engage in to effect an improvement in their vocal technique. This reduction of singing to “button pushing” is against the wisdom of the organic nature of the singing voice. Students want instantaneous improvement, but we must wait on Nature to reveal herself over time.

Two authors who wrote on following the path of Nature and the relationship to psychological issues of control were Manuel Garcia II, writing in the 19th century, and Cornelius L. Reid, writing in the 20th century.

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Manuel Garcia II (1805-1906) looked back upon decades of pedagogical thought and declared the things to be concerned with in learning to sing were simple: “The actual things to do in producing tone are to breathe, to use the vocal cords, and to form the tone in the mouth.”

 

Manuel Garcia II was interviewed by Frederick Root in 1894 for Werner’s Magazine when Garcia was 89 years old (he lived to be 101 years old). At this late stage of his life, he had enough time to look back upon DECADES of teaching and reflect on the various pedagogical thoughts of his day.

I have sought out a few of those best known in the United States, among others the Nestor of the profession, Signor Manuel Garcia. His great experience and his scientific habit of mind give unusual weight to everything that he says. He was very emphatic in his recommendation to avoid all these modern theories, and stick closely to nature. He also does not believe in teaching by means of sensation of tone. The actual things to do in producing tone are to breathe, to use the vocal cords, and to form the tone in the mouth. The singer has nothing to do with anything else. Garcia said that he began with other things; he used to direct the tone into the head, and do peculiar things with the breathing, and so on; but as years passed by he discarded these things as useless, and now speaks only of actual things, and not mere appearances. He condemned that which is spoken of nowadays, the directing of the voice forward or back or up. Vibrations come from puffs of air. All control of the breath is lost the moment it is turned into vibrations, and the idea is absurd, he said that a current of air can be thrown against the hard-palate for one kind of tone, the soft-palate for another, and reflected hither and thither. He drew a picture of the throat, and scouted all that. With regard to the position of the larynx higher or lower or the more or less raising of the palate, he said that the singer need only follow natural emotional effects, and larynx, palate, and the rest will take care of themselves. Speaking of breathing, he said ‘Do not complicate it with theories, but take an inspiration and notice nature’s laws.’

These ideas of observation of nature, and allowing control to manifest indirectly was also echoed in 1983 by Cornelius L. Reid in his Dictionary of Vocal Terminology. I’m reproducing his entry in full.

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Cornelius Reid echoed Garcia 89 years after Root’s 1894 article that the work of singing is to follow nature. Only by letting go of the psychological need to control the voice will the proper controls establish themselves.

Control: the ability to direct or restrain the functioning of the vocal mechanism.

Basically, there are four types of vocal control:

  1. That which is governed by hearing;
  2. That which is regulated by an awareness of sensations of vibration;
  3. That which is made possible by the arbitrary positioning of volitionally operable parts of the vocal mechanism, such as the tongue, mouth, and uvula, especially those having to do with the breathing apparatus, and
  4. That which is based upon instinct, an understanding of natural movement, and the functional logic by which the vocal mechanism is governed.

Of the four approaches listed above only the first and last, used conjunctively, are essential to the development of legitimate vocal control. These are discussed below under their appropriate headings.

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For many pedagogues, especially of the Old School, hearing and listening were the means whereby vocal control could be gained. The ear was the guide to the art of singing as the eye was the guide for the painter.

HEARING

The kind of hearing necessary for the attainment of this objective is a special talent which must be carefully cultivated. Instead of “producing” qualities which reflect an aesthetic preference, the singer must learn to recognize the innumerable combinations of tone quality yielded as a result of the exercise patterns projected by the teacher. An essential feature of these exercises is to induce, essentially through the mechanics of registration, new and unfamiliar qualities. These qualities represent important changes in the response pattern of a complex of laryngeal muscles whose movement lies beneath the threshold of consciousness, and which are consequently inaccessible to direct control.

It is in this way that the singer learns to equate the numerous tone qualities he is capable of producing with their corresponding functional origins. Through careful cultivation, it is possible thereby to grow into an understanding of the qualitative properties associated with the two register mechanisms, the relationship between a wide assortment of tonal colors and their functional origins, and the specific nature of the adjustments formed by the throat parts – whether open-throated or constricted, too “heady” or too “chesty,” ”thick,” ”dry,” ”ringing,” ”brittle,” etc. Simultaneously, the singer will have gained a profound insight into his own natural tone quality.

Other advantages are to be gained from attentive listening. Differences will be discerned in the tonal pulse, and the singer will soon learn the types of tonal oscillations, together with their variants, perceived of as a vibrato, tremolo or wobble.  Attentive listening will further enable him to detect the slightest imperfection in vowel quality, and most important of all, to “hear” that the voice is capable of moving from pitch to pitch without the aid of overt, prepared, or consciously controlled movement.

Since a valid subjective attitude toward quality is exceedingly rare as a natural gift, “trained listening”  must be inculcated under the guidance of a skillful teacher. When properly developed, these perceptions will refine concepts and encourage natural movement, two essentials to vocal progress. For the talented, this will lead to an understanding of the functional logic by which the vocal mechanism is governed.

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According to Reid, a childlike spontaneity in vocal expression will lead to more insightful inner function in the vocal mechanism, so that singing will be predicated upon a spontaneous utterance, and not something to ‘produced,’ ‘prepared,’ or even ‘controlled.’

INSTINCT

The fourth category is as important as the first, for it is the release of the “singers instinct”  through improved function and encouragement of spontaneity that allows free, natural tone production to be developed.

Controls growing out of spontaneity and understanding of natural movement are diametrically opposed to all others in principle. This is because the singer, not having prescience, cannot know how to control and use his instrument properly until after he has learned to sing freely and naturally.  In essence, for a long period of time, the only controls one is capable of putting into effect or the very controlled to be relinquished.

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Both Garcia and Reid (as well as other pedagogues such as Herbert Witherspoon) rejected the concept of teaching by the sensation of tone. This is due to the fact that until the singer feels a sense of freedom in the voice, sensation can be deceptive.

SENSATIONS OF VIBRATION

Attempts to control function through the duplication of sensations of vibration thought to be desirable can be marginally successful at best. First, if the sensation one is attempting to duplicate is one’s own, the procedure arrests progress, since it is only through change that improvement can be made. If sensations of vibration (which are ultimately the products of compensatory tensions)  are not allowed to change, the coordinative process which produced those sensations will not be able to improve, and technical progress will again be at a standstill. The perfectly sung tone is a coordinative act which is free and exhilarating as a total experience, and notable for a lack of localized sensation. Second, if the sensations one is attempting to duplicate or someone else’s, progress is even less likely. In this instance, the singer is not only limited by the technical efficiency of the example, but also by the fact that a physical symptom (e.g., a sensation of vibration) is always the reflection of a physical condition.  Thus, in order for the sensations of vibration experienced by one individual to be felt by another, the two would have to be emotionally, psychologically, physiologically, kinesthetically, and functionally identical. The probability of this happening is remote.

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The ability to ‘let go’ and allow a spontaneous vocal response is the only means whereby any semblance of control can be attained in the singing voice. Only when freedom is discovered will the singer understand instinctively what ‘control’ really is and that controlled singing usually feels very uncontrolled.

ARBITRARY ADJUSTMENTS

Mechanistic controls are at best minimally helpful. The vocal problem centers around the fact that all important muscle groups involved during phonation are involuntary. These cannot be directly energized, and to attempt to do so inevitably invites muscular interference and compensatory tensions. Arbitrary tongue and mouth positions will sometimes predispose interior muscles to react differently, but this procedure fails to exert a profound influence on the coordinative process. Special techniques for breathing exacerbate technical problems by encouraging stiff, self-conscious physical attitudes that inhibit natural movement.

The inherent danger in all methods of direct control is that they tend to discourage natural movement. In fact, the feeling of being able to control one’s voice by overly acting upon the mechanism is not necessarily desirable. While such controls may be reassuring, they are usually related to habits which should be discarded. Risk is an inherent factor in vocal freedom, and if progress is to be made, one must venture upon uncharted seas in search of new experiences. Imposed controls are self-limiting; those associated with freedom are not. It is therefore essential to abandon all controls during training, for only then can progress be made.

To learn to sing freely, one must learn to “let go:” to respond, instead of attempting to master a series of learned responses. The best kind of control is that which finds the mechanism functioning as a self-regulatory instrument, and operating in accordance with procedures founded upon a belief that organic activities are inherently rational. The ultimate vocal control, therefore, is that arrived at after contact has been made with the logical movement potential of the mechanism. Outer-imposed disciplines do not lead to that kind of control.

 

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

 

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is something that I try to make young artists aware of as they begin their lives in the arts. It bears a striking resemblance to the chakra system of Hinduism.

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When we start out as young musicians and artists, we have spent a great deal of time in the highest point of the pyramid (Self-Actualization)  because we’ve had the benefit of parents or academia to provide the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy. Once we enter the ‘real world,’ it can create an imbalance in the pyramid if we are worried about the rent bill coming up or lack of ability to pay for lunch on our own.

The romantic idea of the starving artist is something that needs to die, a remnant of the nineteenth century through works of art and literature. Artists are human beings first, and they must see to it that their hierarchy of needs is in proportion. The composers and artists of the past had patrons that supplied the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy. That is no longer true in our current modern system.

There is nothing more detrimental to one’s art than housing or food insecurity. The stress and anxiety from this experience can lead to desperation in auditioning and performing that affects how one ‘comes off’ publicly. It creates artistry that is predicated by fear and keeping the wolf away from the door. I once heard a casting director say that they can smell desperation in the room. If you are food or money insecure those feelings are at their peak because so much need is placed on getting the acting or singing job.

This is not to deny the reality of the struggle of many people in pursuing art, but an understanding the importance of Maslow’s levels can go a long way in helping an artist attain balance for the duration of a career. What’s present? What’s missing?

For many artists, our pyramid is inverted. We spend a lot of time trying to get respect for our work and self-actualization while leaving other lower levels out of the equation. For example: do you have a good budget behind you? Financial security gained through good money management goes a long way to give one a sense of stability – even if you’re not raking in thousands and thousands of dollars. As Jesse Mechem, the creator of the budget system You Need a Budget often says, “More money doesn’t solve money management problems!” Getting a good budget behind you will help you feel grounded and a daily inventory on where your money is going. I cannot stress the importance of this for young artists. 

Do you spend enough time with supportive friends and family? A musician can often self-isolate which leads to a deadening of one’s social health and wellbeing. Sharing one’s journey with a sympathetic ear can go a long way to relieving feelings of stress and overwhelm.

I encourage all young artists to contemplate how Maslow’s hierarchy maps to their own lives. Where is there balance or imbalance? It can offer a useful self-correction to give one a greater sense of wholism in life.

In the personal sphere, Maslow’s pyramid remains a hugely useful object to turn to whenever we are trying to assess the direction of our lives. Often, as we reflect upon it, we start to notice that we really haven’t arranged and balanced our needs as wisely and elegantly as we might. Some lives have got an implausibly wide base: all the energy seems directed towards material accumulation. At the same time, there are lives with the opposite problem, where we have not paid due head to our need to look after our fragile and vulnerable bodies.

Maslow was pointing us to the need for a greater balance between the many priorities we must juggle. His beautifully simple visual cue is, above anything else, a portrait of a life lived in harmony with the complexities of our nature. We should, at our less frantic moments, use it to reflect with newfound focus on what it is we might do next.

 

Bells Cannot be Unrung

Manuel Garcia II once said:

All control of the voice is lost once the cords become vibratile.

This quote always bothered me. There were all kinds of things I could ‘control’ in my voice once I started singing, i.e., moving the tongue, messing with the soft palate, altering the shape of the mouth and jaws, adjusting the vertical alignment of the larynx, and futzing with the back wall of my throat. So this statement didn’t make any sense to me for those reasons.

However, I recently read a quote in Douglas Stanley’s 1933 book The Voice, its Production and Reproduction: A Treatise on Voice Training, Production and Reproduction and it clarified Garcia’s quote. Stanley argues that the student who alters the voice after the tone has begun makes it impossible for the teacher to do any positive work with the technique:

Once the attack has been initiated, everything that the singer can do to produce a good tone has been done. Interference with the adjustment for the purpose of improving the quality which he himself hears is always destructive. From the teacher’s point of view it is fatal, because he cannot correct a tone when the adjustment is constantly being altered. Even when the pitch is faulty, it is better for the pupil to leave it so than to develop the habit of adjusting it by ear. Usually the proper direction by the teacher should correct the intonation without his even mentioning the fact that the tone is off-pitch. The vital point is that the singer must attack the tone definitely from a PRECONCEIVED CONCEPT of the characteristics and hold it absolutely constant in all characteristics. When a singer can attack a tone properly, and not until then, he knows how to sing that tone. Knowing how to sing a tone is primarily a psychological, not a physical, process.

There is a pearl of so much wisdom in Stanley’s quote. It makes sense to me as a teacher, too, because so often students will self-correct but their timing is TOO LATE. The inverse can also be true: the student pre-tenses and anticipates the response, thereby creating more tension and/or constriction. Pitch quality, vowel quality, or intensity can suddenly shift after the singer has launched into phonation. 

AHA Moment:

The time for the correct action is before the sound has BEGUN. This is what Manuel Garcia II was referring to in his quote, not the manipulatory things I was doing after the fact. 

Tosi alludes to the same idea in his book Opinioni de’ cantori antichi e moderni from 1774 (!), albeit Tosi’s attention is drawn to the pronunciation of the vowel. As a matter of fact, until you learned this proper pronunciation of the vowel (pre-phonatory set up) Tosi thought you hadn’t even gotten out of your FIRST LESSON!!:

23. Let the Scholar be obliged to pronounce the Vowels distinctly, that they may be heard for such as they are. Some Singers think to pronounce the first, and you hear the second; if the Fault is not the Master’s, it is of those Singers, who are scarce got out of their first Lessons; they study to sing with Affectation, as if ashamed to open their Mouths; others, on the contrary, stretching theirs too much, confound these two Vowels with the fourth, making it impossible to comprehend whether they have said Balla or Bella, Sesso or Sasso, Mare or More.

What we’re trying to do in voice training is not deal with the sound AFTER it has been emitted, but before it has BEGUN!!! This really is (as Stanley noted) a PSYCHOLOGICAL and not a physical undertaking. Once phonation has begun, the conditions which brought about the original setup have passed. It’s over. What we’re trying to do as teachers is create the stimulus for the response of the vocal mechanism BEFORE it springs to life.

Our work is TRULY in the crucial milliseconds before the voice ‘fires off.’ If the conditions are not met from the start, the voice either 1.) does not match the singer’s conceptualization, or 2.) the instrument has atrophied or is sluggish in its response. Both would require different approaches in pedagogy.

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Once the ball has been thrown, all control over its movement is lost. So it is with the singing of a vocal tone. 

This ex-ante concept is a TOTALLY different way of thinking about the singing voice. The RESULT of the work done by the voice is carried in the sound AFTER it has happened. Our attention is always on the sound the voice is making, but that is the EFFECT of a CAUSE.

For example, if a student has a habit of slurring up to a note and then correcting it after a few seconds, we would say the onset is faulty. But I hear you say, “The student ‘corrected’ the pitch, isn’t that the goal?” No. Because if the behavior of the slurring is not addressed and the onset perfected, the student will have a habit of ‘misfiring’ the voice and then correcting it after, and they will accept that as the correct ‘feeling.’ They have not had the proper FEELING of singing the note in the middle of the pitch, so the response is still faulty. This goes along with Stanley’s assertion that the singer hasn’t experienced the correctly sung tone.

Herbert Witherspoon in his 1925 book Singing wisely said on achieving the proper sensation:

Correct sensation may be a guide after it has once been experienced by correct singing; it cannot be obtained except by correct singing. We may ask a man who has never eaten an olive what an olive tastes like, or what is the real “taste sensation” of eating an olive. He will promptly voice his ignorance, and say, “Let me eat an olive and I will tell you.” The sensation then becomes a guide for future eating.

This is why I believe the long tone was the first prized exercise of the Old Italian School. You were able to fix the emission of the voice FIRST. The establishment of proper habits was done from the beginning. As I have said in many posts, the long tone affords a wealth of pedagogical advantage: the onset, the physical alignment, the subtle teaching of breath management, the establishment of the registers, the vowel sound, the pitch, and the intensity. Mastering these elements can be done on single tones, in which the attention and the ear only has ONE particular goal to deal with.

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The long tone was the first exercise in nearly all Italian treatises on singing for several hundred years. This example has been taken from the Grammatica of Anna Maria Celoni, one of the few early female Italian pedagogues. Numerous other examples can be found in Spontini, Crescentini, Aprile, Corri and Crivelli (who taught messa di voce first!), Bassini, Rossini, Marchesi, and countless others. 

And speaking of the ear, Daniel Shigo has written extensively on the importance of the ear in singing – and I firmly believe that he is on to something of prime importance. The ear – and especially the MIND’S ear – is the true watchman of the voice. In the same way, the eye is the watchman of the painter or pianist. But the ear must hear the sound before it has begun – the tricky part of building a new concept of vocal tone. David Clark Taylor knew this as early as last century in his writings.

In order to find a freer response, the student (and teacher) need to allow for a process of starting the voice predicated upon a spontaneous reaction to a pattern of pitch, vowel, and volume – even if the RESPONSE is WRONG!!!!

For this reason, I’m convinced that instead of a student fearing ‘being correct,’ they need to develop more ability to ‘let go’ and then observe after the fact. Otherwise, there is no way to teach the correct sensation of singing well.

Here’s an example: Sally sings flat or sharp. If Sally gets too focused on being ‘right’ she will usually tend to constrict the voice in an attempt to sing in tune. She’ll be bringing all that pre-tension into her singing from the start. Suppose, however, we simply ask her to sing a single pitch, vowel, and dynamic, and then ask her to ‘let go’ – release any inhibition, EVEN if the pitch, vowel, or intensity is WRONG.

In this way, she will be building a ‘singer’s reflex’ which is the whole aim of training anyway. This is why some pedagogies work from speech into singing, to create spontaneous utterances. Mary Saunders Barton’s work includes much of this in building the chest voice in her singers.

Cornelius Reid outlines a similar concept when he described the process a singer could undertake to find a freer vocal response before the fact. I refer to this list often with students to achieve a more organic way of approaching this pre-phonatory aspect of pedagogy:

  1. Assume an erect, comfortable position.
  2. Conceptualize the exercise projected solely in terms of a particular arrangement of pitch, intensity, devoid of any qualitative properties associated with “my quality” or a teacher’s aesthetic preference.
  3. a) open the mouth naturally, b) breathe amply without concern for how the breath is inspired, c) think the vowel form and exercise pattern at the same time, and d) allow the tone to emerge out of the thought form.
  4. Sing the phrase on the vibratory impulses initiated with a strong, rhythmic elan.
  5. Listen to the textures of the new qualities that emerge as a product of this discipline and identify with its accompanying sensations – recording each, not as a definitive good, but one among many textural modifications that occur spontaneously and can lead to the discovery of an intrinsically natural tone quality.

Going forward, I will be curious to explore these ex-ante psychological components in the training of students. It begs some salient questions:

  • How do we get a singer to a BETTER concept of pitch, vowel, and intensity through purely PSYCHOLOGICAL means?
  • How can we improve a faulty self-conceptualization?
  • Where do we confuse CAUSE with EFFECT?
  • How do we bring more ATTENTION to this ex-ante area of pedagogy? Voice science seems more interested in post-facto analysis. We as teachers need to realign our attention back to the ex-ante because that’s where teaching pedagogy rests. (At least if we are interested in improving vocal responses before they occur.)
  • How can a singer experience a correct sensation of tone if they have NEVER felt it in their voice? (This is THE pedagogical question IMHO)
  • How can we sing a sound we have never heard ourselves make?

 

“Knowing” and “Understanding” Singing

A recent book acquisition has done much to help me sweep away some of the clouds that have nagged me for some time in the pursuit of knowledge about the singing voice, as well as how skills for singing are acquired – or at least – how to think about them more practically.

Particular to the arguments were clarifications on usages of language around singing which continue to be a constant problem for the voice training profession today and cause much strife in online forums and discussions. Mostly the fuzzy lines between what has come to be known as “procedural” versus “propositional” knowledge.

Author V. A. Howard in his 1982 book Artistry: The Work of Artists has helped me to clarify some of the miscommunications that are rife within the voice training vs. voice science communities. It’s a dense, erudite, but highly recommended read for those in search of an academic (and at times philosophical) glance at the acquisition of artistry. He uses the singing voice as his model throughout the text, which I found delightful and intriguing.

On the question of “knowing” about singing (the purview of the scientist) and “understanding” singing (the work of the singer), Howard had some rather brilliant statements to make on the subject.

I’m including the notes from Howard’s book.

*****

Husler and Rodd-Marling conclude their book (Singing, The Physical Nature of the Vocal Organ, 1965) on this leading note:

Knowing is not understanding, nor is understanding knowing. The exact Scientist (who knows all), and the perfect Singer (who does and understands all) – neither will find it easy to unlock a singing voice unless they learn to complement one another. (1 – see footnotes below)

As the previous section may have helped to clarify, the singer’s “technical” jargon to a large extent reflects his “understanding” of singing (without constituting it, since anyone can learn to TALK like a singer), whereas the jargon-laden statements (where true) of the voice physiologist constitute his “knowledge” of the voice. The difference between “knowledge” and “understanding” in this context is illustrated by the fact that hardly anyone would expect the scientist to be able to sing merely on the basis of what he “knows” about the voice – whereas, somebody who talks like a singer is more likely to be expected to be able to sing, on the assumption that he “understands” what he is talking about.

This distinction between “knowledge” and “understanding” overlaps with one philosophers are accustomed to draw between two kinds of “knowing”: PROPOSITIONAL “knowing-that” and PROCEDURAL “knowing-how.” (2) Though contingently related in innumerable ways and contexts, their logical independence is demonstrated by showing that neither one implies the other. For example, knowing how to ride a bicycle may be explained as a constant adjustment of the curvature of the bicycle’s path in proportion to the ratio of the unbalance over the square of the speed; (3) but clearly, knowing that bit of physics is neither necessary nor sufficient for knowing how to ride. Similarly, a singer may know how to produce an “open,” well-projected tone by “placing” the voice on the upper edge of the chest bone without knowing that this is “the most effective way of influencing the Closers (lateralis and transversus muscles in the larynx) but also the safest because the chest bone-shield cartilage muscle draws and anchors the larynx downwards. (4)

Propositional knowledge is expressed in statements conforming to logical standards of belief, truth, and evidence, (5) whereas procedural knowledge consists of skilled performances, activities rather than statements, confirming to quite different standards of achievement as variable as skills themselves and their purposes. Though measured by different standards, judgment and intelligence nevertheless are still required to “know how.” In other words, “know how” in the sense of intelligent action refers to a trained ability, keeping in mind that not every ability is trained, for instance, one’s ability to see colors, feel a pinprick, or digest cabbage.

Now however many reflex responses and other untrained abilities may be involved in singing (e.g., the ability to discriminate pitches, to experience certain physical sensations, and the like), the singer’s “understanding” would seem to encompass at least this much: intelligent, trained ability or “know how” as directed and described and, to an extent, explained by the “technical language of the ear” – which is to say that the singer “understands” both through his actions and their effects AND “propositionally” in the terms of his own special language; that is, whenever the singer or trainer uses that language to utter a declarative sentence about the voice. Otherwise, the singer’s “understanding” embraces far more in the realms of sound, sensation, emotion, and musical performance that can ever be circumscribed by trained procedures, and still less by the strict logical conditions of propositional knowledge whether “technically” or “theoretically” expressed. I wish simply to observe here, and further on to argue, that “understanding” so construed may be involved at all stages of a complex skill, even the most elementary. It is a considerable feat of imaginative concentration and motor control, for example, merely to import a particular vocal achievement, say, that of the “supported falsetto” or “head tone,” (6) painstakingly built up over many months, into a simple musical phrase with its “complications” of variable consonants and vowels; not to mention textural sense or expressive dynamics.

 

FOOTNOTES:

1. Citing Pierre Buteaux: “Knowing is not understanding. Science does not lead of itself to comprehension. To arrive there requires a great leap with the strict scientist’s methodological principles prevent him from making.” Mutation der Menscheit (Frankfurt, 1963).

2. See Gilbert Ryle, The Concept of Mind (London: Hutchinson, 1949), ch. 2; and Israel Scheffler, The Conditions of Knowledge (Glenview: Scott, Foresman, 1965), ch. 5

3. The example is Michael Polanyi’s in Personal Knowledge Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy (London: Routledge & Kegen Paul, 1958), p. 50. Polanyi’s comments on skills (ch. 4) are particularly apropos of Husler and Rodd-Marling’s researches.

4. Husler and Rodd-Marling, Singing, The Physical Nature of the Vocal Organ, A Guide to the Unlocking of the Singing Voice, illustrated by Frederick Husler, revised edition (London: Hutchinson, 1976).

5. See Sheffler, op. cit., p. 21.

6. See Husler and Rodd-Marling, op. cit., pp. 59-62, for the physiological description.

Quote of the Day

“An important fundamental principle in teaching voice is that direct control over any narrow group of muscles used in the act of phonation is impossible, while conscious control over groups of muscles actuating members which should not be used in this act is possible of accomplishment. Upon this fact and upon the psychological side of the subject rests the possibility of really training the voice.”

Douglas Stanley, writing in 1933

**It’s VERY easy to manipulate muscles that SHOULDN’T be used in the singing act. What is more nuanced is the training of those muscles which SHOULD be involved. Many of the muscles which are terra non grata usually give the singer a sense of accomplishment that ‘something is being done’  – that they are learning to sing.

What is really being learned?

Manipulation. Great accomplished manipulation.

It is far more nuanced, elusive, and time-consuming to search for those responses which are beyond direct control but CAN be stimulated to make a beautiful (as well as powerful) singing voice. Interestingly, a voice built in this way becomes more responsive to the coloration of the psyche than a lifelessly manipulated voice which is very comme il faut, and lacks any influence of psychology upon the singing act. 

Rome was not built in a day.

– Justin