Burning the House Down to Roast the Pig

Pupil. — You have defined method, as “a proper application of natural laws.” Do not all singers before the public make use of certain laws in using their voices ?

Teacher. — Not all; or rather, I should say, that all have not definite laws, explainable by themselves, for the government of their tones. I remember at one time in California, when, a rivalry existing between two Italian primo tenors, one said of the other, “Whatever my shortcomings may be, I have at least a school, which Signor B has not, and never will have.” By school, he meant what we call method. He was right. Signor B had no school, and foolishly fancied that he sang well enough without it ; but one could hardly help wishing, when listening to his forced tones, and continual flatting, that the Signor had some law for his proper direction.

Pupil. — You speak as though it would have been enough for him to have had some law. Can there be a variety of schools, or methods, and all right ?

Teacher. — We must remember that the whole of truth never yet lay in any one direction. People may arrive at similar conclusions by different roads. You will remember, that, according to Charles Lamb’s theory, the Chinese, having discovered the excellence of roast pig by means of the conflagration of a house, adopted the method, for long after, of obtaining all their roast pig in the same way. An expensive, and not altogether a judicious plan; for the pig would have cooked better at a smaller fire, and the expense have been reduced; but, as it was, the builders’ trade was benefited, though the pig was no better.

Pupil. — A little obscure ; but I think I take your meaning. Do you, then, think some methods injurious ? I hope you do not include the Italian method in your denunciation.

Teacher. — What Italian method ? Whose Italian method ? During the eighteenth century, the genuine old Italian method was taught in its purity by Porpora, who left Bernacchi, Caselli, and others, to continue his work ; and these two left Mieksch to still further carry it on. Marvellous singers resulted from their work; but delicacy and beauty of singing were striven after, rather than the shouting which seems now so essential. The old Italian method was very pure; but, were men to sing in that delicate manner now, they would be voted tame.

Daniell, William Henry. The Voice and how to Use it. JR Osgood, 1873.