July 3, 2013

Larynx: barometer of emotion

Manuel García

RECOVERY OF THE VOICE - The Musical Times - July 1, 1924 

SIR- As biographer and for four years pupil of Manuel García, I hope you will permit me to protest against the sentence 'García's discovery of the laryngoscope did incalculable harm to singing and singers, 'in Miss Aubrey's letter in the May Musical Times.

Garcia had formed the theory that the glottis alone had the power of engendering sound, and that the different positions taken by the larynx had no action in the actual formation of sound. His desire to confirm this theory by direct observation of the throat during the process of singing led to his inventing (not discovering) the laryngoscope. By his examination of the glottis he had the satisfaction of proving that all his theories with regard to the emission of the voice were absolutely correct. 

How can discovery of truth cause incalculable harm? García did not teach with the laryngoscope, neither did his pupils. During twenty years as a teacher I have never used it, neither did García use it while I was under him. 

When there is reason for supposing that there is anything the matter with vocal cords or throat, pupils are sent to laryngologists, who by means of the instrument can discover the condition of the larynx. 

Is this doing incalculable harm? Three per cent. of the human race has benefited from the invention according to statistics. 

The larynx is as it were a barometer of emotion. If it remained in a fixed position - either high, low, or at any point in between  - emotion and tone colour would remain fixed. This would be neither art nor nature. 

Sterling MacKinlay 

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