July 15, 2014

Voice Placement is an Illusion

That's what William Earl Brown recorded in his book Vocal Wisdom: Maxims of Giovanni Battista Lamperti (1931). He also recorded Lamperti as saying that everything that was perceived in the head above the larynx was the means by which the singer could tell what was happening in the larynx. I submit that this has everything to do with the singer's process of audition, a matter which has received very little attention by singing teachers and voice scientists, which is strange when you consider that what the singer hears and feels—feeling itself being a vestibular aspect of hearing—is the principle means by which the activity of singing takes place.

The illusory nature of voice placement is not some academic exercise for me. Rather, I experience it first-hand as a result of having worn hearing aids for a number of years as a result of minor hearing loss coupled with the onset of tinnitus.

Here's the thing: my auditory awareness of voice placement is quite different when I am wearing my hearing aids as compared to when I am not. What's the difference? I hear clear vowels seated in front of my face and extending out around my head in a nimbus of sound when I have my aids in. When taken out, my awareness of both phenomena diminishes significantly. As a result, my attention is drawn inward (not a good thing, believe me, especially as the audition of tinnitus is concerned). I take this experience as a direct lesson in the illusory nature of voice placement and its dependence on the listening ability of the singer. Too bad most singing teachers and their students take it for granted. As a result, auditory perception has become a personal matter like religion and sex, the discussion of which is avoided in polite company. The Old Italian School, however, was not so discrete. 

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