October 26, 2010

John Mewburn Levien

When he died in 1951 at the age of 90, John Mewburn Levien had the distinction of being one of Manuel Garcia's last pupils, having studied with the great maestro during the last year of his life.  Well primed for his studies, Levien had been taught the Old Italian School by Vannuccini and Charles Santley, Garcia's friend and student.  



Like Garcia's more well-known protégé Herman Klein, Levien carried his master's teaching into the 20th century, writing about singers, singing and the Garcia family in a number of slender volumes.  Like Klein, he also taught voice.   

Lucie Manén, who was a student of Anna E. Schoen-Rene (the latter a student of Pauline Viardot-Garcia and Manuel Garcia), referenced Levien in her book Bel Canto: The Teaching of the Italian Classical Song-Schools, Its Decline and Restoration, making the point that Garcia never taught students to sing with the facial resonators, in her mind, a terrible thing.  This, she declared, after quizzing the elderly Levien about the matter.

Readers of this blog will know that Garcia, while determining the vocal tube from glottis to mouth as the only real resonator, nevertheless had a concept of vocal placement in the 'mask'.  As such, this writer has always found it interesting that the father of voice science wrote about the pharynx as being a 'reflector', a telling choice of words. One will have to read Manén to understand more of the particulars. However, suffice it to say that matters of 'voice placement' caused as much consternation among Garcia exponents then as they do now.   

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