October 23, 2014

The Tongue Problem

Emi de Bidoli (1870-1952)
A recent question about the use of "ng" and a "flat tongue" by a reader of VoiceTalk made me remember an article written by Emi de Bidoli, a student of Pauline Viardot-García, that appeared in the NATS Bulletin in 1947, the latter now know as The Journal of Singing. 

There, Emi de Bidoli outlines the difference between "Old Methods of Voice Teaching and New Ones," her second point being "The Tongue Problem." 

According to this musical daughter of the Garcías, "Holding the tongue flat and grooved was an absolute rule in olden days. I have heard of contemporary teachers say, that one can do fine work with an upheld tongue, a debatable question."

On the face to it, this would seem to call into question the practice of holding the tongue in an "ng" position, would it not? 

In her article, Bidoli also asserts that the Old Italian School believed Italian vowels to be the foundation of "pure vowels," while the modern school thinks American vowels are just fine. Of course, if you've been reading these pages for a long while, you know that it is my observation that Italian tonal values are singing.

Those who have found and read Emi de Bidoli's fascinating book, Reminiscences of a Vocal Teacher (1946), will know that the author first studied with Aglaja Orgeni (also a student of Pauline Viardot-García), who made her pupil insert a tongue depressor into her mouth which made her gag, a practice which is not for the faint of heart (it also relieved the pressure in her throat). Of course, there is danger is this kind of method; be it with a spoon or a wooden stick, mechanical manipulation, while effective for a distinct minority (one never hears about this kind of thing today), cannot teach the student to listen. 

Those interested in learning more about Emi de Biloli's thoughts on the difference between old and new methods are encouraged to find a library or database (hint: the NATS website is a good place to start) which will lead one to the NATS Bulletin, Vol. 3, No. 4, March-April, 1947. 

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