February 2, 2013

Blinders

Old School teachings. No. I haven't forgotten them in spite of my recent posts about the world of Tomatis. Far from it. In fact, there is hardly anything I think about more, Tomatis' perspective informing my understanding of the Old School in a way I did not think possible when I was a student.

Case in point. My teacher with the vaunted lineage told me certain things that made little sense when I began lessons with her during my Westminster College Choir days, things that I now understand from a different perspective. One of those things was her pointed instruction to feel and hear the voice as though one had blinders on, the kind you see horses wearing in Central Park.

Those blinders were to be felt from  temple to jaw line. You sang into the 'shell' of the face: buzzy tone behind the blinders and clear tone out in front. I now understand this to encompass the two ways in which we hear ourselves, that is, through bone and air conduction. That buzzy tone? She also told me that it would take some getting used too. I have found her to be right, since this 'buzzy business' is hard for many to accept. Most unwittingly believe the sound inside their head should match what they hear others do. But this isn't -and can never be - the case. To really know what another person sounds like, you have to hear what they hear inside their head!

It doesn't matter what kind of singer you are. Without the /i/ - like buzz of tone, you won't have much tone to do anything with. This includes the intentionally breathy jazz singer (who, consequently, doesn't have much range). If you don't have adequate awareness of bone conduction, you are driving, flying, singing blind.

There is another way to understand this teaching of putting blinders on. And it is this: to put blinders on means that the whole facial mask is innervated. Tomatis called this the Listening Posture.  When the   Listening Posture is attained, the ear is ready to process  the whole gamut of frequencies from high to low.

What accompanies the audition of bone conduction during singing? The sensation of 'drinking'. Francesco Lamperti, who taught this, also told his students that the tone should be well-oiled. It's much the same thing really. We're talking about a felt experience, a matter of proprioception, which is also a matter of bone conduction. My teacher taught me these two concepts as well (her teacher spent some time in Lamperti's studio).

Are you following me here? Are you listening?  I'm giving you the García School's description of an open ear.


Photo credit,  Flickr, viennacafe photostream 

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