Art Of Singing:
Classification Of The Voice
General Conservation Of The Voice
Development Of Voice
Interpretation And Expression
Read More Articles About: Art Of Singing
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
"To sing, three things are necessary, and they are Voice, Voice, Voice." Rossini.
"A donkey also has a voice." SIM. MAYR.
"Sing on the interest, and conserve the capital of the voice." -RUBINI.
In 1562, a modest Italian vocal teacher, Maffei, published a few letters regarding the voice and its culture. He seems to have given the start to a horde of writers, and our generation is heir to a very rich literature on the subject. Unfortunately, in this literature we find a quantity of ideas, some of them remarkable, some of them practical and adaptable, but we also find the majority of those ideas in conflict with each other. The only point on which these vocal writers, teachers, physicians and orators seem to agree is that the vocal tone is the result of air coming from the lungs, passing through the vocal cords, thus producing sound. Most of them also agree that singing and speaking are but modulations of the same function. But the fundamental questions of breathing, registers, etc., are differently analyzed and described by the various authors, with the inevitable consequence of variety in results. We find methods in which the whole vocal education is based upon one system of breath control. One is told that the vocal range is divided into registers, some teachers advocating two, some three, some four. Conflicting theories also exist as to the relative distribution of work to the vocal cords and resonators. One advises the coup de glotte (glottis stroke) in the vocal attack. Another is absolutely opposed to this idea. In other words, that which Mr. X recommends, Mr. Y rejects. That which the singer compiles in a book is rejected by the throat specialist who, with the aid of the laryngoscope, claims to have found the one and only true method. Who suffers from all these experiments and more or less wild guesses? First, the youthful student! Second, the art itself !
In spite of contentions to the contrary, I claim that our generation possesses much more talent for musical art than was evidenced at any previous period. I see no reason to believe that the voices of the singers of the present are poorer than were the voices of the singers of the last two centuries. Our intellectual development, our general education, our musical sense are all much more advanced than before, and certainly there is no less amount of human material available. Still it seems an undeniable fact that in spite of the abundance of talent, really great singers are becoming more and more scarce, and operatic managers today have great difficulty in replacing passing celebrities. What is the reason?
Modern music is to a certain extent responsible for this decadence in art. It offers more facilities for a premature but generally short career. The present day theatrical manager could be rightly called the greatest enemy of a young voice. He is far oftener the possessor of an eye to business than of an ear for music. Hearing a good voice, especially one which has a few natural high notes, he engages the immature talent and exploits it to full capacity. The result is complete ruin in a short time, for an unprepared or wrongly trained voice cannot long sustain the heavy work of modern opera. Thus the unfortunate singers lose their voices, aspirations, dreams, ambitions, sometimes even their health, —all in an effort to enrich the pocket of the speculator. The present standard of vocal teaching in the world has also very much to answer for in this respect. But my purpose is not to analyze teachers' consciences or abilities. It is the voice with which I am concerned.
At the head of this introduction you find three quotations : one by Rossini, who played such an important part in the development of the great Italian operatic singing; one by Mayr, who was the teacher of Donizetti and as great an authority on music and voice as any of his time; and one by Rubini, the great Italian tenor, whose name is immortal in the history of Italian bel canto. Rossini claims that to be a singer, natural vocal qualities are necessary. Mayr asserts that intelligence is of just as great importance. Rubini advises work and study which will develop a person's artistic qualities with a certain sense of economy, a process tending to avoid the exposure of vocal organs to any kind of overwork (forcing).
Accepting the views of the above masters, and considering the present requirements of vocal art, one easily will realize that to become a singer a person first and foremost must have a voice, for nobody as yet has succeeded in fooling Nature by creating something out of nothing. The aspirant, then, must have intelligence, patience, for notwithstanding the speed of the times so eloquently represented by commercialism in everything, not excluding art, no financial provision is made for the maintenance of students during the time of necessary preparation, and, in addition, there must be a willingness to work and a personality that will permit the expression of artistic imagination and interpretation.
Most of the theories set forth in this book are adapted from the teachings of the great Italian masters of the last two centuries, such as Fiorimo, Tosi, Bernacchi, Gervasoni and Porpora.
As a matter of fact, these same theories are ex-pounded (and, of course, much more fully and scientifically) by the modern writers, Labus, Bonnier, Guetta, Nuvoli, and others. Especially notable in this regard is the case of Dr. Pierre Bonnier, whose many works rest upon the firm foundation of a most logical and practical analysis of the voice. With marvelous ability Dr. Bonnier depicts the conceptions of the old masters, and I have found his treatment of the subject so complete, his reasoning so strong, as to have been a wonderful inspiration to me, for he succeeded in banishing all the doubts from my mind, doubts which can rather be expected in the mind of one who, by reason of false teaching, has been forced eight times to alter his method of singing.
It is not my wish that this book should be considered as outlining a method of singing, for it does not. Fundamental concepts in art are indeed universal; but their application is quite a different matter. It is, without a doubt, possible to describe the exact results it is desired to attain. It is also possible to describe many different ways of bringing about such results, BUT inasmuch as there are no two things exactly alike in this world of ours, how can one lay down hard and fast rules (commonly called "method") which will apply to all alike?
Individualities are all necessarily different. In vocal study the methods employed must by this very token be varied, modified, altered as need be to get the desired artistic results, which latter may well be described as the highest development of artistic originality.
In this work I have tried conscientiously to concentrate everything of urgent interest to those ambitious to become singers. I have endeavored to apply the years of my theoretical study and practical experience on the stage and in teaching to the solution of the problems which daily con-front the vocal aspirant. I have carefully avoided any original experimentation, for I fully realize the great harm done by divergence from soundly tested fundamentals. I have not departed from the scientific principles exemplified in the work of all really great artists.