The cradle of bel canto

Children derive a keen pleasure from the free spontaneous use of their voices in the singing of pretty melodies. They sing naturally, just as their musical instincts prompt them. They have no thought about the nature of the voice as a musical instrument, how it is produced, how the breath is controlled, or where the tones are reflected. The songs which they have heard and enjoyed well up in their minds and find ready expression through their voices. This is a purely natural form of singing, with regard to both the instincts which prompt it and the manner in which the voice is produced. The old masters took this natural manner of singing as the starting-point of artistic vocalism. They never called upon their pupils to abandon the natural way of using the voice and to put some artificial form of vocal control in its place. Their plan was on the contrary to refine, develop, and perfect the natural instinctive manner of singing.

Only one kind of vocal practice was known in the old method. This was the singing of pure tones in exercises, scales, and vocalises. Moreover, the only purpose which the students were instructed to have in view in their practising was to sing pure, true, and correct musical tones. The correctness of a tone was judged solely by its musical features. If it was sharp or flat, throaty or nasal, harsh or unmusical, it was held to be incorrect ; the student’s attention was called to the fault in the sound of the tone, and he was told to sing it again without the fault. No attention whatever was paid to the physical basis of faulty tones. Nothing but the actual sounds of the voice was ever considered. No attempt was made by the old masters to get back of the sounds of vocal tones, whether correct or incorrect, and to see how they were produced.

Taylor, David C. “New Light on the Old Italian Method.” (1916).

H/T to Nick Scholl, who runs the YouTube Channel Trrill for recommending this particular book, which will be HEAVILY featured on this blog over the next several weeks.

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