October 7, 2017

A Modern Guide to Old World Singing by David Jones

You have to hand it to the voice teacher who puts his studio teaching into a book, especially one that focuses on historical vocal pedagogy. Why? Most of the teachers within this pedagogical stream are loath to talk about their teaching in great detail, and even fewer venture out onto the literary limb—which I observed as founding editor of VOICEPrints—The Official Journal of the New York Singing Teachers Association. Could I get historically-minded teachers to go on the record about what they did in the studio? Oh, that was a hard sell. Would they write about it? No one wanted to do that. The fact-based voice science teachers? They weren't so skittish, but then, their "just the facts ma'am" approach was not as interesting. The real problem as I see it? No one wants to stick their neck out when voice science claims to have all the answers, and boy—anything you say can be used against you. This is very true for voice teachers in academia. However, the author of this book is that increasingly rare bird—the private voice teacher who answers to no one but his students. 

David Jones, a noted New York CIty vocal pedagogue, recently presented at the International Congress of Voice Teachers (ICVT), and studied with Alan Linquest—a founding member of the American Academy of Voice Teachers. Linquest had been a student of Joseph Hislop and Haldis Ingebjart-Iséne, both students of Gillis Bratt, a doctor who had taught Kirsten Flagstad. While Bratt's' teachers were musical descendants Francesco Lamperti, Linquest also studied with two students of Manuel García—Albert Boroff and Theodore Harrison. While this reader was heartened to see this and other lineage connections being made, he was remiss in noting a dearth of dates for the personages involved—as well as a paucity of foot/endnotes overall. For some, this will not be a huge loss. They will simply read this book for the teachings presented. Others, however, will note the missed opportunity and documentation which wields a peculiar kind of authority.

Jones presents his material in a well-ordered 16 chapter format, ranging from breathing to concepts like open throat, vocal protection, achieving balance in registration, and applying technique to repertoire. Key vocal techniques are woven throughout the book, and serve both as a leitmotif and a structural feature, with vocal exercises providing a vehicle for their execution. 

Sum total: this is a book for the vocal pedagogy geek, technically-deprived auto-didact, and curious teacher or student who wants to learn something of a particular intersection of the García and Lamperti schools of singing. 

As a measure of one man's life work and meaning, David Jones has gone the distance. Find his work at Amazon. 

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