May 13, 2010

Alred Tomatis: Christopher Columbus of the Ear

If Manuel Garcia is the Christopher Columbus of the larynx, then Alfred A. Tomatis is the Christopher Columbus of the ear. What did Tomatis do? He discovered that the larynx cannot emit sounds the ear cannot hear. He also found that there is a great difference between hearing and listening. The later is an active process, while the first is passive. Of course, anyone who has studied singing knows that learning to listen is a tricky business! But this is what singers do. Lilli Lehmann - in her book How to Sing - even said that it was the student's first lesson.  





Tomatis' first work was with older singers who were colleagues of his father - a bass at the Paris Opera. He posited that their vocal difficulties were related to their listening ability, and devised a method of Listening Training to restore their voices. I've had first-hand experience with this method and will devote subsequent posts to the subject. In the meantime, I highly recommend Tomatis' book for singers titled The Ear and the Voice. It was translated and adapted from the original French (with permission from Tomatis himself) by my friends and colleagues Roberta Prada and Francis Keeping. No other book gives the reader as much information about the link between the ear and the singing voice.   

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