Quote of the Day

The ‘scientific’ teacher must bear a large share of the responsibility for the chaos into which the teaching of singing has fallen because, mainly at his insistence, the modern singing-master has been persuaded to jettison the rich store of technical history and tradition which was his own professional heritage, and to do his building upon a foundation which will not carry the weight that he tries to put upon it. He has sacrificed ‘know-how’ in exchange for a smattering of abstract knowledge. As a result, he no longer knows whether he is on his head or his heels. There is nothing he can be sure of, nothing concerning which he can reach agreement with his professional colleagues; if professional scientists cannot manage to agree, how much less can the sciolists – the ‘half-knowledge’ men? Singing is the most subjective and personal of all the arts; yet it has been submitted to the overriding objective judgment of a science which, in nine-tenths of his work, has no competence because it does not deal with subjectivity. The sooner he returns to his proper allegiance and reasserts his own supreme authority in his own field of work, the better for the singing-master and the art he teaches.

Kelsey, Franklyn. “Science and the Singing-Master.” The Musical Times 93.1316 (1952): 446-449.

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2 thoughts on “Quote of the Day

  1. Thank you for this quote, Justin, which reminds the reader that singing involves feeling—and by this, I mean proprioception. That’s what I hear when I read Kelsey’s “subjective and personal.” Having a keen awareness of the feeling of singing—which involves both tactile and auditory information—is very different from the study and naming of “parts.” Now I am pulling Kelsy’s “The Foundation of Singing” (1950) off the shelf for a good read. Thank you!

    1. Brilliant observation, Daniel. You are so right. This idea is so important for how the singer learns to sing – hearing and feeling.

      In another letter to the Musical Times, Kelsey talks about this very proprioception issue -relating it to the sensations that an amputee has in their phantom limb. Even though their limb is gone, their FEELINGS of that phantom limb are VERY real. Same with singers and their very personal proprioception.

      Science can be objective and say, “X isn’t really happening” but to the SINGER those feelings are VERY real – and therefore useful, in my opinion.

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