When a picture is worth a thousand words

A certain opera company’s website recently featured photographs of their young artists singing in a concert.

I was immediately struck by the physical postures of the male singers in the photograph. Visual images of singers in the act of singing can be highly illuminating as to how the voice is being used psychologically and physically.

In the photo two men have intensely rigid body stances, coupled with what might be called a ‘turtled’ head position, with the head thrust down into the torso. The shape of each singer’s mouth is tense and muscled. Their chests are flared and tightened, braced forward in an intense posture of aggression.

Without hearing these men sing at all, my first thought is that they are VERY likely to be lower voiced male singers. It is very common in baritones and basses to structure their sound in a way that is muscled, darkened, and what I might call ‘over-masculinized’. Their singing tends to be armored to fit the mold of the lower male classical voice. This is where the psychological element comes in: for these TWO unrelated men to adopt similar physical approaches speaks to the fact that there is an approach to the ‘way’ of singing classical music that these two have adopted. They are obviously ‘MAKING’ a vocal sound built upon the EXPECTATION OF THE SOUND DESIRED.

Physical freedom in singing was always a prerequisite of Old Italian schooling. For Garcia, before tone was emitted posture was to be addressed. Tensions on the outside mirror tensions on the inside – including the psyche. The Masters of bel canto always talked about following Nature. To me, this includes the body – the body exists IN Nature, and should be flexible, free, and dynamic. The position of the head and neck should be lifted, open, and the face should be, as Daniel Shigo says on his blog, ‘open’. Constriction TRAVELS in the body, and causes muscles that should be available for movement to LOCK and become cold to the touch in time.

It would be interesting to view photographs of singers in the act of singing. What you SEE is sometimes as informative as what you HEAR.

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