Art Of Singing:
Classification Of The Voice
General Conservation Of The Voice
Development Of Voice
Interpretation And Expression
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( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Naturalness. The art of singing is the most intricate of any, and yet the most simple. In other words, while the cultivated artist will find plenty of use for all his intelligence and his years of education, it is nevertheless true that his or her work is really great in proportion as it approaches naturalness.
ESSENTIALS AND INDIVIDUAL CHARACTERISTICS
The cultivation of the singing voice presents, at once, two obvious but distinct propositions :
1. The essential requirements, as manifested by the standard of the world's leading artists.
2. The individual characteristics, vocal (physiological) and mental, of the ambitious singer.
Essentials. Ignorance on the part of the singer of either the exact demands of the art or his own personal qualifications and attributes may result in complete failure and disappointment.
The proposition that at the very outset con-fronts teacher and pupil is to find ways and means whereby the individual characteristics of the pupil may be adapted to the demands of the art.
Individuality. Vocal, temperamental and educational qualities are possessed by different persons in different degrees, the composite presented by each student constituting his or her individuality. Obviously, as before stated, it is impossible to create a method of singing which would apply to all subjects alike.
For example : The attempts of many tenors to sing "à la immortal Caruso" have resulted in the complete ruin of their voices. The individuality of Caruso was his and his alone, and could not be duplicated by subjects with different vocal apparatus, temperament, etc. In any event, if it were possible to copy a great singer, the copy would be as little like the original (and as valueless) as a photographic print is like the original oil painting it represents. To start one's career in the endeavor to duplicate somebody else's individuality is to kill the best that is in the student, his own individuality, which, properly cultivated, may create a new type on the singing stage. In a profession where novelty and individuality are the chief attributes of success, hampering the expression of individuality amounts to nothing else than disaster perhaps "crime" would be a more fitting word, since the disaster does not happen to the perpetrator.
How Individuality Is Ruined. The chief beauty of a fine voice is its individuality. If any of us can recall his kindergarten days, he will remember how crude was the singing of the kindergarten teacher, and how involuntarily, one might say, all the children imitated the vocal peculiarities of the teacher, for children have a keen sense of imitation. Thus it can easily be seen that vocal displacement may start in early childhood.
In later life, we will say, children attend church, sing hymns with the rest of the congregation, or perhaps belong to the choir. Trying to do as the others do breaks down individuality. So, when it comes to the time when vocal cultivation is desired, it is found that the voice is more or less deformed; in other words, unnatural to that individual.
Imitation in Singing (The Ideal of Tone).—Assuming the preceding paragraph to be true, we can easily understand that individuality is the greatest asset. This statement is sufficient to condemn the method of teaching through imitation, which has many followers, especially among the teacher-singers, who may sincerely believe in the advantages of that method.
In instrumental music, there are, for instance. the Wagnerian and Rossinian schools. It is true that the imitations of those great works fall far short of the originals. But it must be remembered that the works of composers of instrumental music remain for posterity, just as do the books of the poets and the paintings of the painters, and that all are the subject of imitation ; yet the singer's or instrumentalist's art dies with him.
A painter may paint somewhat like Raphael, Michelangelo or Rembrandt; a composer. may write after the style of Wagner, Chopin or Beethoven, but a singer cannot sing as did Rubini, Pasta, Malibran or Patti.
The phonograph may, to a certain degree, give to our future generations an idea of how our operatic stars sang, but with all my respectful admiration for this wonderful invention, I do not highly estimate the value of so-called tone reproduction when the singer's art must be subordinated to a series of mechanical processes.
A phonographic record of a great artist will be of value to a student in developing his artistic point of view, his musical sense, his grasp of rhythm, his pronunciation of foreign tongues, but will prove disastrous should the student attempt to imitate the singer's tone, deformed by and subordinated to mechanical necessities.
The ranks of our teachers consist mostly of pianists and organists unable to sing, or of unfortunate singers who are themselves victims of the same incompetency which they are perhaps innocently perpetuating in their pupils.
There is still another kind or class of teachers namely, those who have the greatest right to teach singers who have been great and famous in their time. They should not ask their pupils to imitate their tones, for young throats cannot without danger attempt to reproduce the worn tones of a passé artist.
In nature everything has its birth, growth, full development decay. The vocal student should only study voices at their best not to imitate them, as individuality is the first attribute of success, but as vocal and interpretative standards by which to gauge his own progress.
A painter develops in his brain a picture in color; a poet idealizes a picture in words; a composer depicts in musical sound. The singer must interpret all the poet and the composer have written. And just as the words or the melody were inspired, so the singer's tone must also first be created by the brain. The vocal machinery will then act in the same inspirational manner as does the hand of the painter when reproducing his thoughts on the canvas. If the imagination form a beautiful tone, the voice will doubtless repro-duce it. This is the only form of imitation worthy of cultivation.
We learn from the books that the old Italian masters cultivated in their pupils the sense of beauty in tone, and that sense was the dictating power in the periods of canto fiorito and bel canto.