Ten Conclusions from Clara Doria

AFTER making a close study of the voice in singing, for over a quarter of a century, a study which has included not only the mechanism of tone-production, but also acoustics and psychology — particularly physiological psychology in its relation to the art of singing — the conclusions I have reached are these.

First: That the training of voices to day is usually pursued on wrong lines, and the whole theory thereof misunderstood, owing to confusion of cause and effect.

Second: That this misunderstanding and the consequent misdirection of effort are coincident with the application of laryngoscopy to singing as an art.

Third: That laryngoscopy, while it has proved invaluable to throat specialists, in enabling them to form intelligent diagnoses of pathological conditions of the vocal organs, has been in many ways misleading to both singers and teachers.

Fourth: That the mechanical training, which has been the direct outcome of an incomplete knowledge of the vocal processes, has had the effect of weakening the power of sound-perception, on which singing — as an art — chiefly depends.

Fifth: That the larynx, which is the organ of voice, needs little or no special training, when in its normal condition, to fit it for performing the behests of the singer; that failure on the part of the singer to obtain such sounds as he is capable of conceiving is mainly due to perverted ideas respecting the vocal processes and their relation to the singer.

Sixth: That a special training of the ear, the musical perceptions, and the dramatic faculty — which includes cultivation of the imagination — are the principal desiderata in the education of singers.

Seventh: That the perception of sound can, through education and exercise, be improved to an astounding degree, and that its medium, the ear, can become so sensitive as to recognize the concomitant parts of each sound quite as clearly as the reader perceives the letters c-a-t in the word cat.

Eighth: That this power of sound-analysis, or the power of reducing a vocal sound to its component parts, is easily achieved through the attention being persistently concentrated on sound, as such; on sound as distinct from the physical organs which produce it, or the physical sensations which accompany its production.

Ninth: That as soon as the singer has reached the point where he can conceive a perfect tone on any vowel or word — and conceive it as a unit — he possesses the absolute, if indirect, control of all the vocal processes. He is complete master of the situation. The reason of this is, that having gradually learned to note the different qualities (not causes, mark well!) that go to make up perfect tone, he now is able to demand intelligently — with one fiat — a sound which in its completeness brings into play, cooperatively, all the different processes which produce it.

Thus, the intelligent demand for a completed vocal tone must necessarily include its perfect mechanism, inasmuch as the one cannot possibly exist without the other.

Tenth: That aim, or purpose, is the formula through which will rules the physical machine. It is singleness of purpose which constitutes the definiteness, the absoluteness of will, as a compelling force; and again, it is fulfillment of purpose which adds strength and impulse to will.

 

Rogers, Clara Kathleen. My Voice and I: Or, The Relation of the Singer to the Song. AC McClurg & Company, 1910.

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4 thoughts on “Ten Conclusions from Clara Doria

  1. Fiat…one of my favorite words, used by several authors of Clara Doria’s ilk, writing in the late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century. According to Merriam-Webster: Fiat…”a command or act of will which produces something without, or as if without further effort.” Isn’t this what we want…EFFORTLESS singing? Fiat is from the Latin “fiat”, which means “let it be.” LET the voice sound, don’t MAKE it to do so. Better to create the sounds of singing out of one’s imagination (will), than to PRODUCE them through (direct?) mechanical manipulations, contrivances and controls. In the end, the EAR.

  2. Several of your recent posts from the early 1900s sound like they were written yesterday. The abandonment of a scrupulous and refined listening process, in favor of mechanical and imagery-based means of vocal control makes me crazy. It is crucial to learn how to listen for vocal qualities and know what they mean. Acceptance of mechanical rules for singing can close down people’s ears, making getting out of the mess difficult until some kind of “rock bottom” crisis occurs.

    Long live the free voice!

  3. I can’t imagine imagining anatomical/physiological “directives” to prompt/control my voice. For me it’s always been about the ear and one’s imaginative capacities in regard to sound itself. To what extent, though, are today’s singing apprentices taught to “think” (imagine) musically, linguistically, and emotionally.

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