July 14, 2014

The García Method & Singing in the Mask

Manuel García (1805-1906) 

38. Where the Voice Reverberates. 


Wither does the tone proceed when it leaves the throat? The obvious answer to this question would appear to be "Into the mouth!" But because the untaught vocalist experiences a sensation as of tone striking clean and strong upon the hard palate, it does not necessarily follow that that is the only place where the voice reverberates before it issues from the mouth of the singer. 

39. Reinforcing the Sound-Waves. 


Now, as a matter of fact, the mouth alone will not suffice as a "resonating chamber" to impart the necessary "reinforcement" to the sound-waves created by the vibrations of the vocal chords. Other places, other influences, are provided by nature to afford spaces for the expansion and consequent addition to the volume and power of the singing voice. Where are these situated? 

40. The resonating Cavities. 


Above the roof of the mouth, at the back of the nose and the frontal born, in short, all over the facial area which the French call the "masque," are hollow spaces large and small, whose function it is to reflect and re-echo the tones which rise into them from the throat. There are resonating chambers to quite as great an extent as the mouth; and without their aid the voice would inevitably like any other musical instrument, be deprived of half its "sound-board," i.e., half of its intrinsic power and capacity for varied tone-color. 

41. Color and Intensity 


But that is not all. They likewise help to imbue the tone with richness, beauty and a sonority of timbre with which the mouth or palate alone is incapable of investing the original sound-waves. These resonating cavities must be utilized, therefore, because they are essential to the completeness of the voice as an organic and individual entity; also, because their use tends to remove all muscular strain from the throat and to serve as a direct accessory to the sustaining capacity of the breath. 

Now these attributes of full, "forward" resonance lie easily to hand, and are to be employed by every singer. 

42. Clearing the Path for the Tone. 


The primary step, in training the voice to obtain access to the resonating cavities, is to provide the requisite space in the direction of the nasal passage, or, in other words, clearing the only path whereby the tone can reach them. This will be accomplished, to begin with, by flattening the tongue and raising or arching the soft palate in the manner described under the heading of "Adjustment and Attack," par. 14. 

43. Placing Tone in the "Masque." 


The second step is be begin the note with the thought (if not the actual sensation) that the tone-vibrations are being simultaneously projected or reflected—not pushed by sheer lung power—into these "forward cavities" situated in the "masque." This thought and its application, after some practice, should quickly enable you to realize with certainty what resonant or ringing tone actually is. 




*****

I imagine the budding vocologist will read the text above and say: "It's simply not true. You can't sing into the cavities of your head!" Of course, she would be right, and if she stopped right there would miss point. If she did, I would hasten to point out (as did García's student Charles Santley) that the great maestro "taught singing, not surgery!" 

We may speak in terms of "formant tuning" these days, instead of "voice placement" and "singing in the mask," but the fact remains that the García School taught the voice which contained "ring" was perceived as being "in the mask" and "forward." Of course, these terms have something "formant tuning" doesn't have going for it, which is location. In this regard, I believe "singing in the mask" can be understood as an auditory phenomenon, which places the matter in a very different context, one which has everything to do with psychoacoustics. 

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