Edmund Myer on ‘Local effort’

“The old Italian masters made singers because they taught the art of singing pure and simple. They knew little or nothing of the science of voice. Time passed on, and study and research, principally by scientists, not vocalists, gave us that which is known as the science of voice. Immediately there sprung up numerous teachers and writers who formulated their methods and theories based upon that which they called the science of voice. From these methods or theories grew the prevailing systems of the nineteenth century. These systems have been passed along and added to until to-day they should be called, as a whole, that which they really are, the modem local-effort school of singing.

The great mistake of the modern school is that it constantly strives to compel the phenomena of voice, the natural form, action and adjustment of the parts, by direct local effort, instead of studying the conditions which allow or let them occur in a correct natural way. Thus, under the cover of the science of voice, the modern school attempts to compel, by direct effort, that which Nature alone can do correctly and automatically. The modern school of the nineteenth century has had its day and has proven to be a gigantic failure. The trend of the best thought and effort of the vocal profession is away from it. The reaction, or rather the advanced thought or movement, is coming; it can be seen and felt in every direction. It will, no doubt, how ever, take years before the evils wrought by the modern local-effort school are overcome.

Perhaps in no other one particular or important point will the evolution of the vocal art work a more marked or radical change than in the fundamental principle of breath-taking and breath-control. The principle of automatic breathing and control, through flexible bodily position and action, as shown in this work, is a revelation to all who have tried it; especially to those who have tried to breathe and control according to the teachings of the old local-effort systems. This system of automatic breath-control is, for the student of the singing-voice, the most important problem solved, the most important discovery, one might say, of the nineteenth century. To the minds of those who have tried it and understand it, it solves, beyond a doubt, the far-reaching and all-absorbing question of right or artistic breathing in singing.

Every tone of the human voice is a reinforced sound. All artistic tone is the result of certain conditions. The problem then is to learn what the true conditions of tone are and how Nature intended us to use the forces with which she has endowed us, for the training, development and use of the singing-voice.

Myer, Edmund John. Vocal reinforcement. Recital Publications, 1984.

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