March 2, 2013

How to Hum



My teacher showed me how to hum almost as an afterthought one day, the whole business over in a little over a minute. I didn't think much of it at the time: rather, I just did as I was instructed to do. Ok. That works. I get it. Years later, when I was at the Listening Centre in Toronto, her instruction came to mind in a big way. So that's what she was talking about, even though she didn't know Tomatis' work. I was shown what heightened bone conduction sounded like. 

What did my teacher have me do, that is, show me by example? 

  1. Open my jaw by separating the upper and lower molars, keeping the teeth the same distance from each other. How much? Enough to feel the muscles of the jaw, face and head, come alive. ("The jaw isn't relaxed. You only relax when you are dead! No! the jaw is disciplined!")
  2. Close my lips without closing my jaw.
  3. Place the tip of my tongue at the roots of the lower front teeth.
  4. Arch my tongue, placing it firmly on the roof of my mouth. 

What did I hear? My brain buzzing with vibration, from the middle of my head, and down into my chest. 

The Lamperti School was against humming, the great maestro sending you home if he heard you doing it in the studio. The Garcia folks? If oral history is any indication, they may have used it, though I have an interview with Pauline Viardot-García where she is asked about it, and she replies that her father didn't teach it. Oh, but isn't that clever? Her father didn't teach it. But did she and her brother Manuel? Was it handed down to their student Anna E. Schoen-René as well as others? There are hints here and there. Viardot-García's student Emi di Bidoli mentions it in her book Reminiscences of a Vocal Teacher (1946). Ermina Rudersdorff, who Schoen-René touts as being the first García representative in America in her book America's Musical Inheritance: Memories and Reminiscences (1941), made it the basis of her vocal method (this method has the tip of the tongue placed on the hard palate rather than at the roots of the front teeth). There is also the famous voice teacher Wartel who studied with Nouritt, a student of the elder García. What started when? It's hard to know. But it does make the curious student wonder.  

2 comments:

  1. Mr. Shigo,

    Hi, my name is Benjamin and I am a graduate student of voice with a growing interest in the history of voice pedagogy. I just stumbled across your blog and wanted to let you know how excited I am to have found it! I've really enjoyed what I've read so far. Thank you for sharing your unique insights, and please continue to do so!

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment, Benjamin Laur.

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