Still Carrying A Torch for the Nineteenth Century?

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 the 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 modern 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, however, take years before the evils wrought by the modern local-effort school is overcome.

Myer, Edmund John. Position and Action in Singing: A Study of the True Conditions of Tone: a Solution of Automatic (artistic) Breath Control. Boston Music Company, G. Schirmer, 1911.

One thought on “Still Carrying A Torch for the Nineteenth Century?

  1. This is so on point. This idea of compelling the voice is all connected to the hegemony that prevents us from growing the art of singing. One point that is often not considered is that much of this makes me think of your “What IS Classical Singing?” post. Many people conflate learning classical style of singing with “proper” vocal training. I am myself guilty of this. Much of what I have since learned through practice and this blog and more education is exactly what you are putting forth here: that to vocal science is useful irrespective of the style you are singing. The 19th Masters seemed to understand this intrinsically, while modern schools have replaced this starting point with some kind of stylistic one-upmanship. Much of what I used to believe was useless dogma. That somehow learning to sing classically would “validate” that I can be a great singer.

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