July 4, 2015

Nature in Vocal Training For Speakers and Singers by Louise Héritte-Viardot

Louise Héritte-Viardot-Garcia
In all the years that I have been researching historical vocal pedagogy, there are perhaps a handful of really important documents that relate to the García School. This is one of them.

Written by Pauline Viardot-García's daughter, I obtained a copy of Louise Héritte-Viardot's Die Natur in der Stimmbildung für Redner und Sänger from the Library of Congress about ten years ago. Not being as deft as I would like in reading German, my colleague and friend John Sheridan graciously offered to translate the document into English for my personal use. That it appears below for readers of VoiceTalk to study is a further result of his generosity.

Die Natur in der Stimmbildung für Redner und Sänger was written a year after the death of Héritte-Viardot's uncle Manuel García, who died at the age of 101 in 1905. Rich in detail, the reader will observe Manuel García's pedagogic thought expressed in several key instructions, one of them being the admonition to "follow nature," which  appears in reports about García's teaching philosophy. As such, his pedagogical world was grounded in what could be readily observed with the eyes and ears. Héritte-Viardot also addresses the matter of the "fixed-larynx," which had become a preoccupation within Germany during the last decade of the 19th century. There is much here to ponder and cross-reference with other García exponents. I hope you will enjoy Héritte-Viardot's good common sense, which is in evidence everywhere.



Nature in Vocal Training
For Speakers and Singers

By

L. Heritte-Viardot

Heidelberg
Otto Petters Publishers
1906

Forward

It has been asserted that Nature, in her herbs, plants and seeds, offers a remedy for each disease of the human body. It remains undecided whether or not that is the case; we will leave it to natural scientists and chemists to get to the bottom of that issue.

However, what we know and can assert without doubt, is that all defects  in vocal development can be corrected through completely natural remedies. Indeed, all defects of our speech and singing organs can be removed through careful, physiological handling and logical use of these organs.

We base this assertion upon on-going studies and 45 years of experience and observation.

We are so convinced of the truth and correctness of this assertion, that we consider it our duty, not to keep these observations and experiences to ourselves, but rather to publish the same.

Non-professionals, in general, know nothing of this, and voice teachers (may God hear my complaint!) seldom arrive at a satisfactory result, when it has to do with using a voice well, or with removing natural and learned mistakes.

If anything here might seem to be superfluous, as for instance the enumeration of the working parts of the vocal mechanism, it will still be useful for some to recall these things, or even in most cases to learn them, and to read them, clearly laid out in print.

We are not allowing ourselves to engage in any sort of polemic.The publisher of this work has completely withdrawn from publicity, and may those who don’t like this little pamphlet let it lie in piece. 

Nonetheless, we hope that it will be distributed, and will serve as a remedy to the innumerable mishandled voices, and as a sure help and firm support to those who teach.

I.

Vocal training

Each person, who is not mute, has a voice which serves for speaking and singing.  In its natural state this voice is almost always undeveloped, or raw, or hoarse. Often the voice also has a gummy, nasal or guttural sound.

All these defects can be found in completely healthy voices—therefore because of that they can be corrected. Other illnesses of the vocal mechanism are to be left to medical handling; nonetheless, we ourselves can do much to prevent illness of the larynx and throat.

Vocal training, therefore, is the art of developing a voice, to direct, to remove its defects, so that it maintains a beautiful, defect-free sound, while speaking as well as while singing.

It would be fundamentally incorrect to bring to mind the various speaking or vocal methods in order to achieve this goal. There is only one sensible and appropriate kind of vocal training, namely: to follow nature. 

As the differences in people’s characters and temperament show so well, the physiological construction of the vocal mechanism can also be different in each. One person has weak, the other strong lungs; [one] slack [the other] elastic vocal chords; [one] an agile, [the other] a heavy tongue, etc. We have to adjust to [these differences] and thus the handling of the voice will not be the same for all. On the contrary, each voice demands an individual handling—it is here that the art of teaching exists—and it is just in this that there is continual harm done, because each teacher applies a so-called method of his own invention to all voices.

None of these methods achieve their goal; for the most part they are even harmful, because they tax and ruin the voice, and very often bring about illnesses of the larynx and lungs.

Thus there remains to us only one method of creating and maintaining a healthy voice: Let us follow nature.

II

Our vocal and speech mechanisms are: the lungs, larynx, oral and nasal passages, throat, as well as lips, tongue and teeth.

If we assume, that the lungs and larynx are healthy, and that the palate is not exhibiting any anatomical defects, then each voice is not only ready for use, but further can also be strengthened and refined. This however will only be achieved through correct guidance and practice, and it is just this that we would like in practice to demonstrate.

On Breathing

How many people breathe properly? Barely one third of all of humanity. It is a fact, that all of us, whether silent or speaking, never completely fill our lungs with air. We inhale only half-way.

Now a great deal has been written and debated about how one should breathe, and in this voice teachers especially put forth completely unbelievable things in their “methods.” One believes that one should breathe with the ribs, the other with the abdomen—i.e. greatly expand the ribcage, or extend the abdomen. So, where then are the lungs?

Of course, the ribs and the abdomen are engaged when breathing, but it is the lungs that have the primary work to do. Recently it has also been asserted, that one must breathe completely involuntarily through the mouth—but this is not completely correct.

In any case, when speaking or singing, one must not inhale so vigorously, that the shoulders are forced to rise, or that the air makes its way through the glottis  with a sound.

For reasons of health, even inhaling through the mouth is very much to be rejected; on the contrary, one should as much as possible only inhale through the nose, which besides its designation as the organ of smell, serves primarily to protect the vocal mechanism and lungs when breathing.

Everyone knows how many dust particles are contained in the air. If we then always inhale through the mouth, the lungs would soon be full of dust particles, which easily could lead to illnesses.

[As a defense] against that, the inner surfaces of the nose are equipped with tiny hairs, which capture most of the dust and prevent it from penetrating into the lungs. One need only recall how a handkerchief looks when one has used the same after a railroad trip. Thus it has been prescribed by nature that as much as possible we should breathe through the nose.

That this is not always possible is known best by singers, e.g. when a rest is too short to close the mouth. However, whoever has accustomed oneself to breathe lightly and deeply through the nose before each spoken or sung phrase, will soon, at the same time, come to breathe quite rapidly through the nose and the mouth. Besides that, the naked breath is decidedly harmful to the larynx. It causes a friction of the air against the vocal cords, as well as a drying out of the mucus membranes of the throat and palate, both of which are disadvantageous for the voice, since they cause a much greater exertion of the larynx.

If we observe ourselves when not speaking or when sitting still, we will notice that upon inhaling we extend the abdomen, but that happens only with a half breath. If we should inhale again—without exerting ourselves especially—we will then clearly discover, that the abdomen is pulled in little by little, and the rib cage rises and expands. Only in this manner do we breathe well and completely. While doing this, the ribs expand, and this is the reason that one has hit upon the incorrect method of breathing with the lower back. Yet at the same time, a physiological fact is completely ignored, namely: that men and women do not breathe in completely the same manner.

If a teacher says to a male student, “Breathe with the ribs,” he is quite right, because when inhaling, men display a greater activity of the abdomen and the ribs. But if he says the same to a female student, he is very much in error, because a woman moves the abdomen very little; on the contrary, for her the primary activity is in raising the rib cage, a fact that one can easily be convinced of, if one observes a man and a woman who are out of breath from running or jumping.

This is known to every physiologist; non-professionals however, as well as voice teachers in general know nothing about this, despite all their breathing exercises and drudgeries, which, speaking of this latter group, says much against their qualifications to impart voice instruction.

Each of the different parts of the body develop their primary function according to the body’s position; the abdomen, when lying; the lungs, with expansion of either the ribs or the lower back, when standing or sitting up straight.

Since however the usual bodily position of a speaker or singer is either standing or sitting, we must accept these as normal, and do what nature requires of us:

1. As much as possible, breathe through the nose.
2. Carry out inhaling as deeply as possible (without exaggeration!) until the abdomen at first extends and then gradually pulls back in.

Then we will have inhaled involuntarily and well. “Voluntary” [breathing] consists solely of an exaggerated inhalation, by which only a harmful and ugly effect is brought forth. Harmful, in that it causes excessive exertion and irritation; ugly, in that the shoulders are pulled upwards, and the entire person creates an unaesthetic effect through the distention [of the body].

In a text book about speaking it is asserted: “A person need burden his soul with inhalation and exhalation just as little as a blackbird or a nightingale. These birds sing continually, without ever running out of breath.” 

What a shame that we are not birds! To be sure, their souls are not burdened, above all, not their larynx, and if the bird runs out of air, he just stops singing and breathes again.

But what would one say, if a speaker or singer stopped speaking or singing in the middle of a phrase or even at some unfit place, because he had not inhaled sufficiently? It could even occur that he might have to gasp for air between two syllables of the same word. For us, “follow nature” doesn’t therefore mean that we should behave as birds, but as people, who must conform to the physiological construction of their organs.  Anything else is nonsense.

We don’t wish to avoid mentioning the diaphragm as well.

The diaphragm is a strong muscle, which forms the partition between the chest and abdominal cavities. During inhalation, this muscle flattens out, and during exhalation it moves back. It does its work completely involuntarily, so that we, while breathing, don’t have to think about it at all. Only during the pronunciation of certain consonants (G and K) as well as while singing the so-called “slow coloratura,” must we consciously call the diaphragm to our aid. 

III.

The Larynx

Our vocal instrument, the larynx, lies along the middle axis of the front of the throat in front of the fourth and fifth neck vertebrae and consists of 7 differently shaped cartilaginous parts. Of these, four play a role in singing and have the following designations:

1. The shield cartilage (cartilago Thyreoïdea), the upper forward part of the larynx, which for the most part forms the forward-moving aprt of the well-known Adam’s apple, and extends outwards like a shield.  From which the name Thyreoïd, from the Greek Thyreos, shield, and eidos, form. Behind the shield cartilage lies the glottis.

2. The ring cartilage (cartilago cricoïdes) from cricos, Ring—which extends around and lies under the shield cartilage.

3. The two arytenoids, from Arytaina, funnel. The two small cartilages sit behind and above the ring cartilage, and are bound with each other by muscles, and move the vocal cords. The larynx is flexible in its component parts as well as in total; one can lift or lower it.

The glottis is formed through two folds of skin. These folds are the lips of the glottis, called vocal cords or vocal lips. Through the movement of the arytenoids, the vocal cords can be brought closer to each other and the glottis can be narrowed stepwise to a complete close. Even the entire larynx can be narrowed through this motion, so that its complete extent, in that way, is significantly lessened.

Above and behind the larynx lies the pharynx. The pharynx has two tasks; during breathing it lets the air flow in and out, and during swallowing it lets food slide down the esophagus. Thus the pharynx belongs to a certain extent to our vocal mechanism; furthermore, the soft palate should be mentioned, whose flexibility is significant for us.

We all know what the palate is the upper part of the mouth. At the edge of the broad partition, which closes the vault of the palate at the back, a fleshy extension sits in the middle, the uvula, which also plays a roll during speaking or singing.

It may appear unnecessary to name and define all these parts of our vocal mechanism, since many of them fulfill their tasks without our taking notice of them; however, we must intentionally use these different parts quite often, once it has to do with correcting vocal defects in speaking or in singing; and thus we must know their names.

Vocal range while speaking

A new assertion has been made, namely, that the speaking voice must have a compass of only three half steps, or a minor third. 

If that were the case, we would have to view this as a very regretable fact! Every speech, every lecture would immediately sound as unbearably monotone as an old woman mindlessly droning out her prayers. Luckily this is usually not the case; and a person should make efforts to give his voice a much greater compass as it befits him. 

Furthermore, it is also taught that: In the speaking voice there exist no registers as in the singing voice.

Men usually speak in chest voice, which when singing is also their natural register. Only men with respiratory diseases or very weak men speak tonelessly with the so-called falsetto. And yet there are also exceptions among healthy men, who then almost always speak in head voice . . . .   As concerns female voices, these possess their different registers when speaking as well as when singing: chest, middle, and head voice. A deep female voice will usually speak in chest and middle voice; on the contrary, a high voice will speak in middle and head voice. There is no firm rule for this, it is completely individual. However it is always to be assumed, that a lively, expressive person has a much greater compass in his speaking voice, than a person with a slow, languid natural disposition.

Why do people always want to prescribe laws for Nature, when she herself is the great Lawgiver, and we are the ones who must conform to her?

Since speech is a means through which our feelings and affects are expressed, thus, when speaking, we may use all means offered to us by nature, and these means consist of: vocal timbre and pronunciation, including their most varied inflections and accents.

IV.

How are vocal defects healed?

A very ticklish chapter! There will hardly be two teachers with the same opinion, thanks to the different "methods" that each one strives to represent. Even the word "method" alone has become hateful to us much more than the thing itself. We see how each [teacher] strives to win people to his point of view, how the thing is polemicized and battled over, how the one method strives to displace the other, how much nonsense is written and printed—but the poor voices get no better because of it! Nowadays one can easily assert, that there is no longer a German, French or even Italian method (or school); all methods have become harmful and disastrous. All that therefore remains is the choice between good or bad speaking and singing.

As for us, we can, after 45 years of experience, state the following with good conscience, and, to be sure, always holding ourselves to this same principle, namely: that we are to follow nature and use the means that she herself has given into our hands.

If a voice is husky, first we must determine the cause of it. If the cause is illness or a cold, then the first and best treatment is to be silent and to rest, unless a doctor has already intervened. 

If there is no local illness at play, then it is very probable that this voice has become this way through unreasonable handling (mishandling). Through forcing, screaming, incorrect usage of the registers, excessive speaking or singing, the vocal cords become slack and lose their taut elasticity; the glottis remains then too widely opened, so that the air as it passes through causes friction, taking timbre from the voice and producing hoarseness.

For this there is a means of intervention: the will. We must desire, that the vocal cords come back together—what one calls closing.

In order to achieve this closing, one must (for a time) strive for a guttural sound and not speak or sing too loudly.

In very serious or chronic cases one must proceed even more energetically, by taking the exaggerated guttural bleating of sheep as a model and by bleating heartily over and over, until the vocal cords have learned to close and to be obedient to the will. Of course one then puts aside this guttural sound, which is easily done. 

From the above it is apparent that in the case of an ugly, guttural voice, one must apply the opposite remedy. In this case, we must open the glottis wide, so that we hold the vocal cords away from each other and pronounce a whispered U. One will achieve this goal through calm, patient practice.

If we have to deal with a shaky, tremulous voice, that is yet more difficult and demands more time and patience on the side of both the student and the teacher.

Involuntary tremulance results almost always from speaking or singing that is halting or too loud.

It is most noticeable when singing, even unbearably so. But one can have a tremulous voice while speaking as well, as happens with very old people due to weakness.

The best remedy against this is to hold out a sung tone decidedly with the firm thought: you may not shake. Meanwhile one must close the glottis and push the breath against the glottis, as if wanting to let more breath out.

After frequently repeated practice, little by little the vocal cords achieve their normal calm again, and the tone also will become calmer and steadier. But one must be patient; it never goes as quickly as one would wish.

The so-called lump is a rather widely found defect. The cause of it is that vowels as well as consonants are pronounced much far too back in the throat instead of forward, as it always should be done—for vowels are formed and pronounced with the lips, consonants with the tongue and hard palate; never back in the throat, which, to be sure, some languages encourage more or less; through which then the so-called lump arises.

With Italians, Spaniards, and the French it is a great rarity; with Germans, Flemish and especially with the Dutch one finds it often. The English have a primarily guttural pronuncation, and the Americans a guttural-nasal one. 

In order to be rid of this lump, one must accustom oneself to completely bright vowels and pay attention, that both tongue and lips do their duty with consonants.

The exercises may first take place in the presence of the teacher, because whoever sings or speaks with a lump has become so used to it, that he simply doesn’t hear it or feel it any longer.

A nasal sound is caused when one contracts the larynx too much and doesn't raise the uvula enough, so that the air, instead of flowing forwards and outwards, finds its way out through the nasal cavity. This nasal sound is perhaps most fatal, because it is not only ugly, but also has a ridiculous effect.

To prevent or do away with this nasal sound, we should not stop the nose, as is sometimes advised, but rather pull the uvula upwards.  

As soon as we open the mouth well and inhale strongly through the mouth, and as we do some exercises before a hand mirror, we will easily be convinced of this.

In this high position of the uvula, after one has inhaled only through the mouth (this is an exception!) one holds a vowel out for a long time, always longer, with an open glottis. One will then notice, that the nasal sound has disappeared, because the uvula has closed off the nasal cavity and has forced the air flow and sound forwards.

There are yet other defects in speaking and singing; e.g. laziness of the tongue and inflexibility of the lips. The tongue must, through exercises, be made nimble and light, and the lips should also become accustomed to forming the different vowels properly.

In speaking, the tongue constantly has something to do; in singing, much less so, because the tones are held out longer. But it is only during the pronunciation of the text that it performs its work; otherwise it must lie flat, like an oyster in its shell; it should not prance, should not pull forwards nor backwards, but rather it must lie flat, quietly and without stiffness. Only in the pronunciation of consonants should it be moved and placed with light, quick motions against the hard palate or the teeth, and then allowed to fall back immediately into its quiet, supine position.

There is yet another defect, namely squeezing, which, to be sure, is ugly, but is removed somewhat more quickly than the already mentioned defects. One squeezes, as soon as one applies pressure to the larynx, either through holding the head too low, or making the throat too wide and too short. The simple remedy against this is, therefore, to hold the head higher, to make the throat longer and thinner, and to open the pharynx wide. This is a tried-and-true remedy, but one must simply practice it until it has become a habit.

V.

Here we would like to make note of a large, widely disseminated misunderstanding, namely the constant confusing of the concepts of dark sound and dark vowels, in speaking as well as in singing. 

There is no doubt, that the dark character of a speaking or singing voice is much more beautiful and noble than one which is very bright, nominally of a childlike or squeezed character. But in order to bring a dark color to the voice, we may not—as happens in practice—pull the vowels backwards and darken them, because in doing so the voice becomes hollow, toneless, and, along with this, it takes a colossal exertion of the larynx, breath and muscles, not to lose all vocal strength.

No, every vowel, be it bright or dark, must sit forward, where it is formed and produced through the position of the lips and the smaller or greater distance between the jaws.

We should only produce this dark sound through the pharynx and soft palate. The latter is flexible; we can raise and lower it.

Imagine that we are beginning to yawn; we clearly feel, how the palate rises powerfully. Now, instead of yawning again, we hold out, thusly, a long, extended vowel, which is formed forward [in the mouth]. The brightest vowel “Ai”  works especially well for this, but always only with lips pulled to the sides and and a small distance between the upper and lower jaws. Despite that, we will quite clearly be made aware of the dark quality of the sound.

If the palate is held upwards in this manner, we also notice that the larynx is pulled down; it is an incontestable, physiological fact, that the palate and larynx always move in contrary motion to each other.  If the palate rises, the larynx sinks; if the palate falls, the larynx moves upwards. Once this is understood and recognized, we have at hand a sure means of giving a too dark, hollow voice brilliance and power again; we need only let the palate drop properly, as e.g. when we begin to swallow.

By doing so the larynx jerks upwards, and these two motions produce a bright sound, which also, in certain cases, can be just as important and necessary as a dark one.

Our singing and speaking mechanism must just in this way be trained and [these things] instilled, so that it will do the correct thing instantly and almost mechanically, without one having to think about the particulars. Everything must work together in such a way, that thoughts and feelings concern themselves exclusively with the interpretation of what is being spoken or sung, and can be completely concentrated on that.

This eternal confusion of dark sounds with dark vowels, however, is—we cannot stress this enough—the primary error of today’s teachers of speaking and singing, and the cause of many vocal and even chest maladies. It is much to be hoped, and this teaching error will soon disappear completely, before more voices and lives fall victim to it—there are already enough of those!—for, to ruin a voice is, flat out, a crime!

Equally harmful is the method, spread throughout Germany, of larynx placement. This has to do with always holding the larynx quite low, which cannot happen of course without great inflexibility.  How can one, then, speak or sing at length with an inflexible, placed larynx? One can just imagine, what enormous effort and excessive forcing this brings with it.  

Besides that, through this [technique], all suppleness and elasticity of the vocal cords and the entire larynx is lost from the outset. One speaks or sings in a monotone and in too deep a vocal register, which, after a time, calls forth exhaustion and harm to the vocal cords, a situation which the family doctor has rather some difficulty in correcting. All these methods are unhealthy and harmful, because they sin against nature. Nature desires, that our larynx moves upwards and downwards; why should we then do otherwise? Simply so that one can say: this is my method? One really need not boast about it, because by doing so one commits a crime!

VI.

As one has seen from the above, nature herself offers the correct remedy for every vocal defect, and only these, her remedies, are to be used.

One should thus guard oneself very much against all other systems, because all of them are dangerous; one should also avoid the use of tongue depressors, balls or spoons in the mouth; whatever any of these crazy inventions may be called. Such helping aids are only useful for as long as they are used. Since one cannot always sing or speak with a ball in the cheek and a spoon on the tongue, without their use the old defects start up again and the ordeal has been in vain.

The only helping aid which we may truly usefully employ, is a hand or floor mirror, so that we can see and control what we are doing; whether the tongue remains quiet; whether it is too sluggish during pronunciation; whether the uvula is raised; whether the pharynx is opened wide or not; whether the palate is too much or too little arched; whether the lips are forming the vowels properly; and whether we are making a face.

Much attention should be paid to the latter. Many singers, for instance, rumple the forehead or raise the eyebrows or pull the corners of their mouths down or have a perpetual smile, etc. All these movements are bad, for every motion of the face muscles brings a corresponding stiffening of the throat and larynx muscles with it and we lose all mastery over our means of vocal production; we no longer guide the pony, but it leads us, and certainly astray.

* * * * * * *

Since the tip of the tongue plays a major role in pronunciation, and since the fluidity of the tongue must be thoroughly practiced, an especially good exercise is recommended here as a guide. We wish to make the reader especially attentive to the following remarks, because they are very important.  Also, these exercises should be done with the use of a metronome. If one does not possess a metronome, it can be replaced to a certain degree with a loudly ticking clock.

If we assume that [quarter note] =60 on the metronome means that each beat lasts one second, to a certain extent we can take our bearings from it [i.e. the clock].

We start with triplets, i.e. we repeat each vowel three times per second. 

Whoever pronounces vowels badly—too far to the back, must begin with the following exercise: since “l” is the best consonant before each vowel, and itself brings [the vowel] forward: La-la-la, le-le-le, li-li-li, lo-lo-lo, lu-lu-lu.  This is repeated often until the tip of the tongue [executes] the “l” and then immediately hits against the upper front teeth.

Whoever already has good vowels can likewise begin with: ba-ba-ba, be-be-be, bi-bi-bi, bo-bo-bo, bu-bu-bu. “B” is a lip consonant, and one must also pay attention, that only the lips move, and not the jaws.

This same exercise then is further carried out by placing each consonant of the alphabet before a vowel.

Example:

Da-da-da , de-de-de, etc.
Fa-fa-fa, etc.
Ga-ga-ga, etc.
etc. up to the last consonant.

Once one now has become accustomed to good, clear, forward-pronounced consonants, then the tempo can be speeded up; one now pronounces 4 syllables per second, then six, and after a short while one possesses a truly lovely tongue fluidity; the tip of the tongue has accustomed itself to do its work easily.

Notes:

To these exercises we wish to add to sounds which occur quite often in the German language: Ach and Asch. Neither of these sounds may remain in the throat, but rather must as much as possible be brought forward; one should pronounce and practice them in front of each vowel as [they sound] for instance in ich and Schiller. This will be difficult for the Dutch; through diligent, consistent practice however it will finally become possible for them.

Of course, the “r” should not be a gargled sound, but rather must be attacked forward [in the mouth] with the tip of the tongue. At the beginning, it will sound overdone then people will say “affected!”—after awhile however, the excessive trrrrilling will give way, and “r” will then be pronounced with a light tap of the tongue much as “da” is [pronounced].

A long nasal sound should be avoided with AM and AN. One should bring these two consonants quite forward, M should be formed correctly with the lips, N with the tip of the tongue, and both should be pronounced clearly and quickly, so that the air has no time to get into the nasal cavity. There will still be a tiny nasal resonance, but it must be reduced to a minimum. 

N.B.: These exercises are of just as much use for the singer as for the speaker. The singer should practice the same first speaking, then with each triplet on an extended note; always climbing upwards and downwards, the next-following triplet on the next note of the scale and so on over the entire compass of his voice.

In books on speaking, one will find any number of exercises which are presented with great detail and import. Most of these exercises are good, especially for those people for whom everything must be, so to speak, pre-digested. The thinking person will find, however, after brief consideration, that in the above, single exercise all pronunciation difficulties are addressed. Whoever practices this exercise knowledgeably and industriously will easily be able to do without all remaining, time-consuming tongue and lip exercises.

* * * * * * *

Nowadays, so many “breakthroughs” are announced with such pomp and circumstance, that we, in contrast, have made an effort to impart a great deal of content in a form that is very concise, condensed and as easy to understand as possible. If we have succeeded, we hope that many people, teachers and students, stimulated by this bit of writing, may come to the proper understanding, that all defects in vocal development can be healed, removed and avoided, if one uses the remedies which Nature herself has offered us for that purpose.

May this be beneficial and useful!

* * * * * * *

But please, dear reader: do not call this a method!



Translated from the German by John Sheridan. 

May 6, 2015

Hiatus Ahead


Dear Devoted Reader, 

Several major projects are demanding my time, effort and attention (you may imagine, but I'm not telling). As a result, it is necessary for me to take a hiatus from blogging for the next several months. 

Stay tuned for new and exciting things, and thank you for reading VoiceTalk,

DJS

PS- you can keep up with me during the summer at my Facebook Studio Page

May 4, 2015

Pauline Viardot-García on the Life of an Operatic Artist

Pauline Viardot-García (1821-1910) 
"Mme. Viardot-García," writes a pupil from Paris, "will not bother with the physiology of the voice, except for a suggestion now and then. She is decidedly for singing with the tongue flat, and I find that the t's in Italian, which are so dreadfully hard in English, are much better pronounced by her method. She told me the other day that I had no idea how tired an operatic artist grew of the monotony of the life. For the first two or three years there is excitement, and for the first week of a new opera, but after that the only part that she really enjoyed was learning and creating a new rôle—the study, the looking up in old books of everything pertaining to the history or character of the piece (she especially delights in historical characters); but, after doing the same rôle ten or twelve times, she became like a machine, and then all was drudgery." 

The Voice: Devoted to the Human Voice in All Its Phases, October, 1886: 161

May 2, 2015

Tubbs & Sangiovanni

Frank Herbert Tubbs, who recently appeared on these pages in connection with the father of voice science, now gives the reader an account of  his studies with Antonio Sangivoanni, considered one the great vocal maestros of the late 19th century.

There weren't many you understand, unlike today, where you can't turn around without bumping into someone who gives "masterclasses" and considers him or herself the be-all-and-end-all of vocal wisdom by virtue of a neatly acquired doctorate and time spent in the voice lab. No. Back in Tubbs' day, a voice teacher's reputation was acquired through the success or failure of one's students, which Pauline Viardot-García—another great teacher of the period—adroitly summed up as Students make the teacher!

Close examination of Tubbs' account reveals three things: 1) Sangiovanni was more a of producer than he was a vocal technician (he had his own theatre, which Tubbs neglects to mention); 2) modified the vocal writing of great works to suit the singer—an unthinkable proposition today; and 3) taught self-mastery through agility, which separated the wheat from the chaff.

Not for the faint of heart: there was no getting ready to be ready with Sangiovanni. You either had the vocals goods or you did not.

~~~~~

It is a long journey from London, the home of García and Shakespeare, to sunny Italy, where may be found Signor Antonio Sangiovanni. To an Englishman it is the acme of foreign travel to go to Italy. It is to him what is is to an American to go to Europse,—the dream of a life time—how often never realized! But we who are accustomed to long distances think little of the trip as a journey. It is not as far as from New York to the Mississippi, a journey undertaken at a moment's notice by our merchants, and that very frequently. 

To students in Europe, the trip is of little trouble, for on the way, by whichever route one goes, there are cities noted for culture, and excellent music may be heard at each. Since we are in Europe for musical education, we may and must take advantage of study in all ways and forms. So a stop of a few days or even weeks in any of the musical centers will be repaid. The work of the teacher is in one form and direction; it may be not more important than that education obtained at the opera, the concert and the theatre. 

Probably most of us, in going from London to Italy, would cross the channel and go to Paris. One must visit the Grand Opera house or his European education is incomplete. The opportunities for vocal study at public performances, at Paris are very many, but the Grand Opera receives the most thought. This may be because the building itself is so noted and from the fact that the Grand Opera has government support. The operatic presentations are open to every serious, adverse criticism. The Opera Comique furnishes better food for artistic appetites. 

Should one go to Italy by the German route—by the Rhine,—he would learn something of the study of oratorio in the German manner in the Rhine Province, as he would travel through Düsseldorf, Cologne and Mayence; while he would also be within reach of the musical centers, Frankfort-on-the-Main and Stuttgart. One can hardy make a journey on the continent of Europe and be far away from cities renowned for fostering the art of music. 

Italy once reached, it is found that in every city men, whose names have been familiar since one's musical study began, are located. Milan is to be sure, the grand "Mecca" of vocalists. Here they centre for engagements, and most artists improve the days, and it may be weeks of waiting by "passing" a few of their operas. The demand (in the way of teachers) regulates the supply, in kind as well as in amount. So-called singing-teachers locate there, and offer their services at ridiculously low prices. Their attempts, as a rule, are to teach the arias of the opera, and they very seldom try to improve to any degree the voice itself. They are content to teach the artistic rendering of the operas; and if the singer "gets his notes" the teacher is satisfied. How he gets them is a matter receiving little attention. If sung badly, the singer has a bad voice, or course. If well, "una bella voce!" The fact that a voice can be immeasurably improved by judicious practice, is considered by only a few teachers. The reason is at hand: the Italian language is so musical in itself, it has so few impediments to a good flow of tone, that the Italians have very little trouble to sing. We Americans, laboring under the unfortunate complications of consonantal speech, do not so naturally adjust the voice-producing portions as do the Italians, and therefore require more and more careful drill. The few teachers in Italy who recognize the situation and regulate their teaching accordingly, command attention and became very soon known, not only in Italy but in England and America. They can be counted upon one's fingers. To the fact that Italian teachers, living at home in Italy, do not understand cultivation of the voice, is due the great number of failures of persons who go from America with bright prospects and full of hope. Hours of practice every day on the most florid and difficult music written, unless done very carefully, will destroy nearly every voice. 

Signor Antonio Sangiovanni certainly has his full share of Americans. It will be remembered that he made two or more tours through the United Sates some years ago. He learned something of the necessitates of the American vocalist, and while attempting to develop the voice while studying arias, he does not ignore exercise practice. He says very little about method. One would think, perhaps, that he disregarded it entirely. Not so, however. Surely, he tries to cultivate the voice sufficiently for singing Italian opera, and recognizes the need of great flexibility, power to sustain tone long and smoothly, and the control of one's self sufficiently to give expression to the words. He also attempts to extend the compass of the voice. 

The increased agility is sought by rapid singing. Runs up and down the scale, exercises in arpeggios, rapid skips and the like, are written by Signor Sangiovanni in almost endless variety. The way in which they are sung enters little into the plan, so long as they are quickly sounded. That is, quality and power are not regarded in practicing these exercises. Faster and faster they must go. After rapidity has been attained, exercises with the many embellishments peculiar to Italian music are introduced. 

Sustaining power is to be gained under the method of Signor Sangiovanni, by singing the lengthy runs of the arias. He does not permit many breaks for breathing. "They whole should be sung together, and you can do it if you take a big breath and save it." So, over and over, those runs must be sung until they can be given without a stop for breath. In this particular, there is a great difference between the methods of the two teachers, García and Shakespeare, already described, and that of Sangiovanni. The former by careful exercise practice, each in his peculiar way, prepare the respiratory apparatus for aria singing upon the preliminary exercise drill; the latter obtains this exercise while studying the arias themselves. 

It is to his ability to stimulate into growth the artistic sentiment of the pupil, and to his great knowledge of the Italian opera that Sangiovanni owes his greatness. He is a man of refinement, of musical feeling, with musical judgment as well He fearlessly changes the music which he teaches, adding a cadenza here, introducing an embellishment there and sometimes making a portion of an area hardly recognizable. Since he has such knowledge of the opera and such excellent taste, he changes are very welcome, for they are thoroughly in keeping with the style and spirit of the composition. Oftentimes he will adapt a small portion of an aria, which, as originally written, would be out of his power. Modern music is no so used, but a copy of "Ah! non giunge" from "Sonnambula," now before me, has only eleven measures left intact; the aria, "Tu che adoro," marked for Mr. Scovel is greatly changed, and a page of "Ecco ridente in cielo" from "Il Barbiere," which was scored for the writer of this article, looks like manuscript music written over an old page of musical print. Such a course would be utterly impossible to a teacher of limited acquaintance with artists of the Italian school of music. But Sangiovanni has had long familiarity with his work and an acquaintance not only with the artists, but with the composers themselves, and classed among his intimate friends such gifted men as Rossini, Auber and Ponchielli.

In all the large Italian cities similar teachers are to be found. Yet the student should go well advises where to locate. There are so many, many poor teachers, and one finds himself, although as he supposes, well-advised, falling into the hands of a good-for-nothing, or what is worse, a charlatan. For instance, the writer was to stop at Florence to study the art treasures of the Florentine museums for about five weeks. Of course, he was anxious to "pick up ideas" wherever and whenever he could. Vannuccini, who is highly praised by all his pupils, and who, the writer believes, is a good teacher, was about to leave for London. It was of no use to begin with him. Three musicians were asked to name a teacher. Two named the same one, and, as he was praised in other quarters, he was sought, and lessons with him were begun. But in a few days it was apparent that he knew comparatively little about music, and still less about the development of the human voice. In spite of the effort to retain the pupil, the lessons were stopped. Had all students the advantage of previous knowledge of the voice obtained from good masters, such teachers would loose their clientage very quickly. Judging from the little item of experience about noted, it would not be best to try Florence for vocal study while Vannuccini is away.

It is not the purpose of these articles to refer to the methods upon hearsay; yet, since some might ask, "Are there no teachers in all Italy save Sangiovanni and Vannuccinni?" it is well to call attention to the remark before made, that "in every city men, whose names have been familiar since one's musical study began, are located." Italy is home of Lamperti, Ronzi, of others who may safely be selected. The list is not large. To repeat words used before: "Can you tell the best course and who teaches it? If so, go to that master."

The Voice: Devoted to the Human Voice in All Its Phases, April, 1886: 54-55

April 27, 2015

Tubbs & García: a first-hand account of the great maestro's instruction


Frank Herbert Tubbs has appeared on these pages before, as well as in the introduction to Hidden in Plain Sight: The Hermann Klein Phono-Vocal Method based upon the Famous School of Manuel Garcia, where he was cited as having studied with Manuel García (whom he understood as having originated the teaching of voice placement in the "masque") and Francesco Lamperti.

In the article below, Tubbs gives readers of The Voice a riveting account of his studies with the father of modern voice science; which, I must note, is rather unusual—first-hand accounts of García's studio instruction being more rare than once might think. In it, the reader observes García's condensation of principles, use of vowels to teach bright and dark timbre, correct method of breathing and vocalization, emphasis on tonal quality, word-sounding, and the ability to sing with one voice. As such, Tubbs offers the reader a remarkable document, if only because it contains information that is not found elsewhere.

Tubbs' advertisement also appears in The Voice (which was later entitled Werner's Magazine). From it, we learn Tubbs had not yet studied with Francesco Lamperti, which took place sometime after January 1886—and before Lamperti's death in 1892.

~~~~~

In America, thousands of miles away from home, the name of Signor Manuel García is known to every educated singer, and is familiarly known by last name. I called at the publishing house of Novello, Ewer & Co., in London and asked the clerk: "Can you tell me the address of Signor García?" 

"What Signor García?" 

(This gave me a shock! Could there be any but the Signor García?") Suppressing my indignation, I answered. 

"Signor Manuel García." 

The address was Manchester Square, which, being near, I sought at once. I found that he had abandoned his office and gave lessons only at his house. At first, no one was found who know where the house was; after a while, the manservant appeared who had assisted in moving, and he had the new address: "Cricklewood, Kilburn." Being a stranger, my next application was to a policeman, who pointed out the 'bus' to Kilbrun, "but as for Cricklewood, he new nothing about it." 

I was going to find García, if possible. On the 'bus I learned that Cricklewood was a village in the Parish of Kilburn, and fully a half-mile beyond the end of the 'bus-route. When I had walked about a half-mile, I began inquiring for Signor García. Each time came the information: 

"Yes, this is Cricklewood, but we know no one named García." 

Call after call was made in street after street, and no one was found who could give the desired information, until the sun was declining in the west, making that mellow, golden light never seen outside of England. Then the postman, making his round, was observed, and from him the location of Signor García's house was found. Strange to say, it was next door to where inquiry had been made! Could it be possible? The next door neighbor did not know Signor Manuel García! Of what avail is greatness? 

Walking up the nicely-kept garden, and ringing the bell, brought the servant, who, after showing me into the drawing-room, summonsed "the master." He entered, drawing off heavy gloves as he came, for he had been pruning his fruit-trees in the orchard. 

It was with a feeling of greatest veneration that I stood in the presence of this man. He it was who first saw the vocal cords in their work, by means of the newly-discovered laryngoscope. There, before me, stood the man whose vocal cords were first seen, and I was to hear their tone. He it was who taught Jenny Lind and Bataille. Were I in the presence of a king, I could not feel more like bowing my head, than I did as I came before this man. He is small, compact and wiry, then (1882) 78 1/2 years old. The snow-white hair and mustache, and the piercing dark eye distinctly mark positiveness of mind, and the life and animation entering every word and action impress the visitor, even at first sight. In spite of the white hair, García appears much younger than his years indicate. 

Signor García condenses his voice-cultivation into five distinct subject: (1) "Sure intonation:" (2) "same strength of tone;" (3) "same quality throughout voice;" (4) "meaning of text apparent;" (5) "perfect enunciation." The importance of these headings he impresses upon the pupil over and over. Upon examination, it will be seen that much is condensed therein. 

"Why do you sing so stiffly?" he would ask: "do you not realize that stiff singing indicates a rigid throat, and a rigid throat interferes with sure intonation and good pronunciation?" Or: "Do you not observed that that continual explosive tone, the loud voice softened so suddenly, is because you have so little control of the respiratory muscles? Keep the same strength of tone." 

So it would seem that all the subjects and principles discussed and employed by teachers are condensed into but five by Signor García. That to which he refers most often is quality of tone, asserting that if the quality of tone is not good to our ear (provided our ear is cultivated), the voice is faulty in one or more of these great principles.

The voice, according to Signor García, is "bright" or "dark;" or, to apply other terms, "clear" or "veiled." The "clear" quality is produced by lowering the soft-palate and raising the larynx, placing the throat in much the same position as when swallowing. The "veiled" quality is produced by reversing these positions,—that is, by raising the soft-palate so that the back of the throat and the roof of the mouth form an arched reflector; the larynx held low. These positions allow the extreme differences in the quality of tone. Between them are the various gradations on tone-quality and it is a principle of the method that the palate, pharynx and throat shall be so drilled that all may take, in response to instinctive command, that position which will produce the best and most appropriate quality which the meaning of the words demands. To this end, it is the custom of this master to exercise the voice with the Italian vowel a, first slowly and softly; and, as the muscles and membranes become more pliable and under control, more rapidly and with more fulness of tone. This fulness must never be allowed to become great in exercise-practice, and under no circumstances should a tone be allowed to sound harshly. 

The reason assigned by Signor García for using a in all exercise-practice, is because the tongue and throat are, while using this vowel, nearer their normal position (as in quiet breathing) than when using any other vowel. As strength and confidence come to the pupil he adds other vowel practice. He uses, however, the vowel sounds o and ee (long) for specific purposes; namely: the o for drilling the larynx to hold a low position, producing the "veiled" quality, and the ee for producing the "clear" quality by raising the larynx. 

The subject of registers is avoided by Signor García. "There are no registers; or, if so, they should be drilled out of sight. There is but one voice; make it of the same quality throughout and you see no registers; therefore, you have none." When, however, the certain changes which one discovers constantly in untrained voices are referred to, the master readily explains the mechanism which produces such changes of quality, but adds in a tone which ends all questioning: 

"Practice! Practice! Time will make the quality alike throughout the voice." 

To illustrate: The question was asked: "What makes the 'bad note" at E or F of the tenor voice?" 

"The tones below the bad note are produced by the vibration of the whole glottis: those above, by the inner lips. Where the inner lips join the thicker portion is a little fatty substance, and it requires much practice to bring this into perfect vibration. But don't think anything about it. Practice will remove all difficulty." 

The mechanical effort of respiration receives more attention from Signor García, and yet he refers continually to the tone and advises one to observe that, to see if the breathing is correctly performed. How to breath, according to the master's method, can be given almost in his own words: 

"Some people think, when they commence to inhale, that they must expand greatly the abdomen. Not so. The portion at the end of the breath-bone must push out a little when the breath is first drawn; but after the beginning of inhalation, the portion below the ribs should not expand much. The ribs at the sides should spread all they can, and the chest must expand fully. Then the lungs have all the air they can hold. While singing, be careful not to allow the air to rush out, but use it economically. Keep the quality of tone smooth. Don't allow the tones to begin loudly and suddenly die away. That shows loss of breath on them. Watch the tones the violinist produces. Hear how smooth all of them are. Hear how evenly the phrase of tones is made. Imitate that. While singing, select a good place for taking breath, and take all that is possible. Do not raise the shoulders in inhaling, for that crowds the throat-muscles, and this will not permit tones of good quality to be made. While singing, let the tones be peaceful and beautiful and the breathing will be good." 

Of course, when asked to describe fully the mechanical action required for the act of respiration, Signor García is ready to give the desired scientific information. It will be seen from the above brief summary, that strictest attention is to be given to producing a good quality of tone; that this good quality depends upon certain specified positions of the vocal apparatus, so drilled as to instinctively adjust themselves to express the meaning of the words employed, as fully as the intellect of the performer comprehends the meaning. 

Additional to such drill as has been mentioned, Signor García uses practice in producing distinct word-sounding, and also, over and again, in studying an aria, appeals to the intelligence of the pupil, that he may better comprehend and render clearly the meaning. 

"Of what avail are good tones if you say nothing? Why should we merely vocalize before our audience? Give the meaning clearly and intelligently, or don't sing at all. What were we singing? Oh, yes! Now let us tell the story as if our hearers never heard it before and it is full of interest to them." 

He claims that if our tones have been delivered with a good quality before words are attempted in song, that our chief attention (while song-singing) may be given to consonant formation. "Do you realize," says he "how badly we would discover the meaning of a sentence were we to omit the consonants? So it is in singing. Here, if I write the vowels of this sentence, can you make out what it means? I will space them, too, as they belong in the sentence:" 



"The consonants, " says Signor García, "present the obstacles to sound, and they are produced by five arrangements of tongue, lips and teeth: —

  1. Lips together as for pa, ba, ma. 
  2. Lips and teeth together, as for fa, va.
  3. Teeth and tip of tongue together, as for da, tha, ta. 
  4. Tip of tongue and palate together, as for la, na, sir.
  5. Root of tongue and arcade together, as for ka, ga.

"Practice such exercises as will drill these parts to produce instinctively the right consonant sounds, without interfering with the quality of tone produced. Now our mechanical work is out of the way, let us study our arias."

And the eyes of the grand old master would glisten as he turned to a loved opera or oratorio. The pleasure of writing of those pleasant memories must be deferred, for it is the purpose of this article to refer more to methods of mechanical drill than to the artistic portion of the teacher's work. One enjoys heartily the enthusiasm which Signor García uses while teaching an aria. 

The Voice: Devoted to the Human Voice in All Its Phases, January 1886: 10-11

April 26, 2015

You have no backbone

"You hit upon what I consider one of my secrets, and that is the effect that the backbone has upon the voice. An old Italian teacher was in the habit of saying at times to a pupil: 'You have no backbone,' meaning that she did not have the correct bodily attitude. A stooped, sagged position is destructive of good tone; whereas an erect posture—the correct holding of the backbone—enhances the power and beauty of the tone wonderfully. I have discovered just how it should be done, and the results I reach thereby are very gratifying."  —The Voice, "Sabrina Dow: An Interview with One of Boston's Leading Vocal Teachers," September 1886: 143

"Head free and straight (feel your head like a flower and the neck as its stem)." —Emi de Bidoli, Reminiscences of a Vocal Teacher, 1946: 51

"The desire to sing should straighten you up like a soldier."  —Giovanni Battista Lamperti, Vocal Wisdom: The Maxims of Giovanni Battista Lamperti, 1931

"The ear is the spine, the spine is the ear." —Alfred A. Tomatis

April 25, 2015

Two Mighty Singing-Masters of Milan

Blanche Roosevelt (1853-1898)
Blanche Roosevelt has already appeared on these pages, which you can find by clicking on her label below. She was a student of Francesco Lamperti for a short time before transferring her allegiance to Lamperti's maestro—a certain Signor Trivulsi who had been grievously injured by a physician while employed as a court singer. 

Roosevelt sang for a number of years, most notable for the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, before turning to literary endeavors and writing a book entitled Stage Struck, or She Would Be an Opera Singerwhich is how the reader can gain something of her studies—albeit in the form of fiction. 

One gleans from the article below that Blanche Roosevelt had just begun her studies with Trivulsi, and knew something of the art of public relations, since the writer seems to be squarely in her court. The nice thing, of course, is that we are given a sense of Roosevelt's teachers and their vocal method. 

~~~~~

The Milan correspondent of the London Standard writes to that journal, on Nov. 1, as follows: 

"Let us turn from a view of La Scala to the musical students, aspirants to the highest honors of the operatic stage, temporarily resident in Milan, to the maestri upon whom these latter are virtually dependent for the instruction which is, or at least so they believe, to enable them at some figure time to reap crops of diamonds and gather in golden harvest. The two principle teachers of dramatic singing who enjoy almost exclusively the monopoly of tuition in this branch of the musical art are, oddly enough, both octogenarians. One of them is an uneducated peasant, afflicted with deafness and a desperately bad temper. He has never taken the trouble to learn the Italian language, and conveys reproof, advice, and exhortation to his pupils in the Milanese dialect, which but few of them understand, and which is as unmusical a jog on as Platt-Deutsch. He vehemently deprecates intelligence and an inquiring spirit in his éleves, and refuses to have anything to do with them unless they will render him a blond and unreasoning obedience. "Non voglio teste sbagliate; bisogna ubbedirmi come un can'!" is a favorite axion of this agreeable old gentleman. He has invented a system, too, of producing the voice, which is one of the most remarkable discoveries of this or any other age. It is called the "Diaphragmatic Method." This theory is that the voice has not its source in the lungs—"nous avon changé tout cela," this modern Diatorius would certainly observe, could he speak French—but in, or under, the largest muscle in the human body. You must, according to him, draw up your voice from somewhere behind your midriff, and utter your note after expelling your breath from your lungs, not in the act of so doing, as would occur to the vast majority of human beings unversed in the diaphragmatic method. He also promulgates the surprised doctrine that you should breath into your bones to prepare yourself for the emission of a musical note. This part of his system is a mystery, the key to which I have hitherto failed to discover, though I have bestowed great pains upon seeking for it. Would-be singers are not, to the best of my belief, specially provided with bone connected with their breathing apparatus, like swallows or pigeons. Were this so, the problem of aerial navigation might be solved with more than lightening swiftness, and Signor Lamperti's pupils, by inflating the osseous framework of this bodies as a preparatory measure to the uttering of dulcet sounds, might find themselves in a position to perform a much more remarkable feat than the production of La or Sol can even be considered, whether these tones be evoked from the diaphragm or pumped up from the bones. Some excellent musical friends of mine here have the audacity to assert that this system is mere mischievous nonsense, the absurdity of which could be exposed in five minutes by any anatomical lecturer; but the maestro sticks to it, and finds it profitable. He nails his diaphragm to the mast, so to speak, and under that muscular banner obtains as many pupils as he can teach, whom he browbeats into the belief that they are inflating their bones when they really are only oxygenating their blood. Another singularity encouraging characteristic of this amiable theorist, in his quality as a teaching of singing, is he practice, whenever a new voice is submitted to his judgement, of declaring that the voice in question must first be utterly destroyed by his diaphragmatic method, and then built up again—I presume upon a body foundation. So far as the destructive part this view of his is concerned, he has indeed been triumphantly successful in the case of two or three particularly fine voices, belonging to young English and American ladies, which "the method" has annihilated. I only hope he may be enable to fulfill the remainder of his undertaking, and reconstruct them. I am informed that the maestro, which has probably entered into some exceptional arrangement of Mr. Thom to centenarian principles, intends to transfer his class from Milan to London, where he proposes to make a snug little fortune in a few years, returning subsequently to Italy to spend it with his young wife. He is a strange being, and would, of a verity, be an interesting addition, persevered in spirits, to a museum of comparative physiology.

The other great maestro, a jeune folâire of eighty-one, is a gentleman by birth and education, who pooh-poohs the famous diaphragmatic method, and stoutly maintains that all the singers he ever taught drew their breaths from their lungs, not from their bones. He is a kindly and encouraging, through struck, teacher; but he labors under the trifling disadvantage of being a confirmed paralytic, which dies a little interfere with the business of instruction. He gives his lesson in bed, and is visited by short spasms at irregular internals, which at first prove highly disconcerting to his female pupils. Thus, of the two great Milanese maestri on the stage of the lyric drama, one is deaf and the other smitten by paralysis; one is short-tempered and too often rude, the other is invariably de bonne humeur, and polite to a fault. The one as a "method," the benefits of which can only be acquired at the expiration of a two years' course, as it takes the most assiduous pupils twenty-four months to learn how to breath through her bones and evolve musical sounds from the pit of her stomach; the other is content with imparting the methods of better mend than himself, stet super atiquas vias, teaches as it were au jour le jour, and does as much for his pupils as his incurable malady will let him. Such are the two mighty singing-masters of Milan, the great-grandfathers of song, under whose rival banners are ranged some scores of "coming celebrities," among others, of less notes, Miss Blanche Tucker, alias Bianca Rosavella, who is engage for next season at Covent Garden, and will probably make her début in the rôle of Gretchen—for which, as fas as her physique is concerned, nature has qualified her in a very unusual and striking manner. This young lady has recently transferred her allegiance from the diaphragmatic to the paralytic maestro. She found that "the method," besides damaging her voice, did not agree with her general health, so she went over to the other master, under whose milder sway she is rapidly recovering.

The New York Times, November 21, 1875

April 22, 2015

High Front Tone Placement


George Tyler was a dry goods clerk who—by virtue of his resonant tenor voice, went to Italy, studied with four Old School voice teachers—Francesco Lamperti among them, and became Gio Tyler-Taglieri. He sang for a about a decade with many famous singers, and then taught singing in Portland, Oregon. The little that I have been able to ascertain about him is not as revealing as his advertisement which appears with just enough pedagogical detail to make one think. 

Instructions based on the Old Italian School of high front tone placement? Fundamentals of the overtone and diaphragmatic (deep) breathing? Taglieri's teaching was also that of Anna E. Schoen-Rene—a student of Pauline Viardot-García and her famous brother Manuel García. Ubiquitous baby!

Morning Oregonian, October 3, 1920: 7

April 20, 2015

Madam Schoen-René

Among the teachers of singing who have yielded to the irresistible spell of Berlin and transferred their sphere of activity to the Prussian capital is Madam Schoen-René, late of Minneapolis. This growing Western Metropolis has claimed her for seventeen years, although she is by birth a German, and received her entire musical schooling and experience in Europe. As a young girl she was a pupil of Frau Schulze von Asten, one of Berlin's most conspicuous pedagogues and herself a pupil of Madame Viardot-García. 

Further instruction from Ferdinand Sieber and the older Lamperti—both exponents of the García method—so convinced Madame Schoen-René of the absolute efficacy of these principles that she went to Paris and put herself entirely in the hands of Madam Viardot-Garcia. By this distinguished maitresse du chant Madam Schoen-René was prepared for an operatic career, but, notwithstanding the fact that she met with the most flattering success on all the large metropolitan stages, she yielded to her strong pedagogical instinct (which has alway sheen very pronounced in the Schoen family) and decided to devote herself entirely to imparting the principles of her great teacher. So successful has she been that Madam Viardot-García recognizes her officially as one of the exceptional representatives of her method, an opinion shared by the old Manuel García, to whom Madame Schoen-René went for special treatment of men's voices. It is quite characteristic of her conscientiousness and sincere attitude toward her work that she should have given up her class in Minneapolis and made the trip to London in order to hear the advice of the great García on this point. 

Madam Schoen-René claims no new method, as her work is based solely and singly upon the García principles, which mean nothing more nor less than the expression of bel canto in it purity, and not the retouched "old Italian method" about which one hears so much now-a-days. She has not attempted to add or subtract anything from the ideas gained from this source, and Madam Viardot-García wittily says: "Your pupils have a right to be called our grand children." 

In emphasizing this point is is not meant to convey the impression that Madam Schoen-René is only a specialist in tone-building. She herself says: "I do not wish to be classified either as a tone builder or as a coach, but as a musician! Proper tone production is the only possible means of securing proper phrasing and coloring, and to separate the technic of the art from the musical expression of the same is an impossibility. When I once used the term "coach" in Madam Viardot-García's presence, she held up her hands in holy horror. 

If such a separation of these two fundamentals essentials of artistry were possible, then piano teachers and violin teachers might as well claim to divide themselves into "tone builders" and "coaches." No such thing is possible! This is my musical creed! 

It is not necessary to mention what Madam Schoen-René has done for music in America, as that has been officially recorded in the year book of Minneapolis. She was the first to bring to the Northwest the German Grand Opera Company, and has done much towards molding musical sentiment in the Northwest by giving the public an opportunity of hearing repeatedly the world's greatest artists, all of whom are her warm personal friends. 

In deciding to make Berlin the headquarters of her International School of Singing in the future, Madam Schoen-René was influenced by the consideration of being near her pupils already established in their operatic careers, and being accessible to those who are working up their repertoire. A singer from her studio can always obtain a hearing from the leading managers and agencies, as the latter realize that the artists recommended by her will be exactly as they are represented. 

At present she has pupils singing on five operatic stages in Germany. These are George Meader, of Minneapolis, who is one of the lyric tenors of the Leipzig Opera; Marcella Craft, who is singing light dramatic roles in the Royal  Opera in Munich; Alice Torereiger, who's is making a phenomenal first season's record in Posea; Frl. Daniela, dramatic soprano of the Volksoper in Vienna, and Herr Tramsch, leading baritone of the Royal Opera in Darmstadt, who, in his first season is singing the heavy roles of "Flying Dutchman" and "Wotan," Mrs. Timmers, of Los Angeles, who is said to have a glorious mezzo-soprano, is now finishing her German repertoire in order to begin active work next season. Dr. Augustus Milner, who has been singing with success in America, will soon come to Berlin to be prepared by Madam Schoen-René for a German operatic career. 

In America her pupils occupy everywhere positions of responsibility, both as singers and teachers. 

In order to give her pupils still further facilities, Mme. Schoen-René has prevailed upon Frau Louise Reuss-Belce to come to Berlin every week in order that those studying for opera may have the advantage of lessons in dramatic art from this exceptional equipped teacher. Frau Reuss-Belce is the well known Fricka of the Bayreuth Festival, and it is upon her shoulders that the mantle of Frau Cosima Wagner has fallen, all of the Bayreuth singers being prepared in their dramatic woe by Frau Reuss-Belce. With this increased facility the students from the Schoen-René studio will be prepared to enter at once upon an active operatic career. 

The Musical Leader and Concert Goer, December 22, 1910. 

April 9, 2015

The Throne of the Pharynx 3

Francesco Lamperti
Perhaps no master of voice ever lived who, in his day, was considered greater authority on the subject of vocal art and who enjoyed greater fame as voice producer. Probably no master of singing has had a greater following among noted singers. It would be hard to find a greater variety of nationalities than was represented in his class room. Lamperti was a high-strung, sensitive, nervous man and his piano was literally scarred all over with the beatings he gave it with his baton while correcting his pupils. He considered the voice the most perfect instrument for expression in music and nothing but perfection satisfied him. He had little regard for a pupil whose highest ambition was to be merely a concert singer. Concert singing to him seemed the tamest idea of vocal art. He said it did not bring out the passionate thrill in the singing voice as did opera. He would keep a pupil for months on on page of exercises or a part of an aria. When Alvary, who became a shining example of what a correct method, persistence, patience, perseverance can do, came to Lamperti, he had very little voice to speak of. It was thin, weak, with little resonance, and he had no thought of becoming more than a concert singer. But he became an artist. 

Rossini said it required three things to make a singer, "Voice, Voice, Voice." Lamperti said, "Voice, persistence, patience, intelligence, perseverance." It has been said of Lamperti that when he passed out he took his secret for posing the voice with him. This is not true. He had no secrets which he withheld from any one who could understand him. He had judgement, intelligence, discrimination, discernment, a finely organized artistic, musical temperament. Nothing but the finest and most artistic interested him. He considered singing the highest expression of art. His highest ambition and aim was to produce a beautiful quality of voice, an even scale, every note in the scale as beautiful as it was possible to make it. Nothing short of that could he tolerate; pure quality, beautiful quality, regardless of classification of voice, or any other qualification. He considered phrasing, reading, quantity, range compass, secondary to quality. It was natural that a student should ask him, "Is my voice soprano, contralto, tenor, baritone, bass?" He would invariably answer, "No matter about the classification. Make every note of the scale perfect from your lowest note to the highest. Then it will be time enough to decide the class of voice." Yes, he had a method, not only for every individual voice, but for every individual note of the scale. But as he used to say, no two voices are more alike than two faces. We must have a method adapted to each individual voice. He had judgement, adaptation, decision. He word was law. The pupil must follow implicitly his directions or quit. 

You frequently hear pupils say, "Oh, I would do anything if I could have a fine singing voice," and yet they are not willing to do the very thing that makes a voice, condition, adjustment, application. They seem to think that nature ought to endow them with a beautiful voice without any effort on their part. But ask them any of our finest public artists what is the secret of their success. They will invariably tell you, earnest endeavor, application, concentration of thought, patience persistence, perseverance, unremitting ceaseless striving, one thing at a time, until it is mastered. That was the secret of the success of Lamperti and of all the old Italian masters, and of all who would succeed. If the teacher of the present day should require of his pupil all that Lamperti required, he would give up in despair. American students have not time to spend to form right habits in singing. They are in too great haste to appear before the public. Some students have some fine notes naturally placed. Instead of making all the notes of the scale equally good, they spend their time singing, listening to and admiring their best notes, to the neglect of those which need the most attention. If we take the most difficult and master them first, all will seem easy and give satisfaction and pleasure. Finish the foundation well, then you will have something to build upon and every step will be advancement and satisfaction.

I have heard students regret that they could have studied with the Old Master. Yes, those who had the opportunity were fortunate for the discipline was as beneficial as the lessons in singing. Lamperti never gave his pupils any compliments or encouragement only to stimulate greater ambition, exertion, and interest to complete one thing at a time. He would keep a pupil weeks on a single phrase, if necessary; there was no other way not to complete it or step out, but as I said before, he would transform a weak, tuneless voice into a thing of beauty that was a delight to listen to. You ask: How did he do it? First, by mastering the control of the breath, the jaw, tongue articulation; then by keeping in mind an ideal tone—first as soft and sweet as possible, with the tongue in the bottom of the mouth and throat, the whole jaw relaxed completely as if dislocated at the point of junction, the mind directed to the cerebellum where all sound is supported, just back of the throne of the pharynx. Locate it exactly, first. Draw an imaginary line through one ear to the other, then from the upper front teeth to the back of the head, where the lines cross each other, is the life center for tone. Sound the letter E, and direct it to this point, just where the head begins to round up. Never sing a note without first placing it there,—high or low; have that point of support, placing. No matter how high the note on the scale may be, have the placing at this point only. If you make no effort to reach or lift the tone it will find its own place. If you reach for it, you push the tone out of its natural position. No one can make a perfect loud tone till he can make a perfect soft one. Most singers can yell, but few can make a delicate soft-tone a delight to the ear.

Student of Francesco Lamperti, Manuel García and Antonio Sangiovanni  c. 1890