October 8, 2017

What Isn't Taught Anymore

In two words? Voice Placement. But oh, if you read the multitude of writers as I have from a hundred years ago, you would find the term, concept and idea of voice placement to be ubiquitous.

Why don't you hear about it now? Well, to put matters succinctly, modern voice teachers have been trained to think of the vocal tract as the only resonator. The sinus cavities? They can't resonate. Ergo, you shouldn't think about them buzzing with sound. That's elective. Personal. Like money, sex and religion. Not to be talked about in polite company.

However, this line of thinking operates out of a false premise. It assumes that a cavity must be involved. It also assumes that old Italian school voice teachers were naive and misinformed.

But what if the whole matter isn't about resonating cavities? Has anyone given much thought to the matter? Not that I can tell. Sure, voice science goes on about forced resonance, but this line of thinking proceeds from the same old assumption, which is that everything that happens vocally comes from the actions of the larynx. Ok. I buy that. But that is only half of the equation.

What about the ear? If singing really is simply a matter of pushing air through the glottis, well, why aren't we all great singers?

We aren't all great singers because the role of the ear is even more hidden than that of the larynx, the knowledge of which Manuel García unleashed upon the world with his investigations. And the scientific community has remained there ever since, the role of the ear in singing being accorded second-class status. Sure, everyone pays lip-service to how the ear is involved in singing, but only one man—Alfred Tomatis—has given any real thought to the matter.

Tomatis is the guy who first observed that a child in the womb can hear the mother's voice. And people thought he was nuts for saying that. Turns out he was right. He was also the guy who proved that the larynx can only emit a sound that is first perceived by the ear. But who is studying the repercussions of his observation? Very few people. Everyone else is still looking down the rabbit hole. As a result, the teaching of singing has degenerated into manipulation upon manipulation.

Who needs ears when you can push the hell out of your voice? Or croon away like a musical theatre singer on the operatic stage?

Rather than deny what has been taught for centuries, it would be better for voice scientists to open their ears and ask why old Italian school vocal pedagogues taught this principle (read Vocal Wisdom for starters). Hello. Just because you don't understand something doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Of course, many vocal pedagogues who consider themselves adherents to the teachings of the old Italian school of singing don't teach voice placement.

To this we've come.

October 6, 2017

Singing Is Not a Mechanical Proposition

You'd be forgiven if you thought otherwise, especially if you have been immersing yourself in reams of voice science information. What happens? Since most of this information is about "parts," one is fooled into thinking that manipulating the parts is the thing to do. Push on this or that muscle, or—and I love this one—"move" the air—and voila!—one obtains vocal nirvana. 

Your voice does not need you to "move" air, lip-trill, or press on your abdomen, or any such nonsense. That's like shooting a basketball into a hoop with your eyes closed. In auditory terms, we're talking about the ear being closed. 

What is one old-school approach? Calling with the clear desire to communicate. Calling to the friend across the street that you are surprised to see, haven't seen in 10 years, and can't wait to greet. Calling with quality, that is, with the intention to be heard clearly. (Need I mention that this isn't yelling?) Do this, and you will likely find that your ear will coordinate the parts without interference. Do this on a lower pitch and you will discover "singing position." Do this on an Italianate [a] — not easy if you speak in your nose or throat — and the throat will "open." 

To be sure, old-school voice teachers have their tricks of the trade which one might be seduced into thinking are mechanical aids, but they aren't that at all—which one learns with long experience. What does one observe instead? That these same methods can be understood as involving a global response of the auditory system—a system which organizes the parts unconsciously.