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The Head Voice and Other Problems - Practical Talks on Singing
by D. A. Clippinger
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Man is a mental entity. When I speak to a student it is his mind that hears, not his body. It is his mind that acts. It is his mind that originates and controls action. Therefore it is his mind that must be trained.

Action is not in the body. In fact, the body as matter has no sensation. Remove mind from the body and it does not feel. It is the mind that feels. If you believe that the body feels you must be prepared to explain where in the process of digestion and assimilation the beefsteak and potato you ate for dinner become conscious, because to feel they must be conscious. We know that the fluids and solids composing the body have no sensation when they are taken into the body, nor do they ever become sentient. Therefore the body of itself has no initiative, no action, no control. All of these are the functions of mind, hence the incongruity of attempting to solve a problem which is altogether psychological, which demands qualities of mind, habits of mind, mental concepts of a particular kind and quality, by a process of manipulation of the organ through which mind expresses itself, making the training of the mind a secondary matter; and then absurdly calling it scientific.

In every form of activity two things are involved: first, the idea: second, its expression. It must be apparent then, that the quality of the thing expressed will be governed by the quality of the idea. Or, to put it in another way: In the activity of art two things are involved—subject-matter and technic. The subject-matter, the substance of art, is mental. Technic is gaining such control of the medium that the subject-matter, or idea, may be fully and perfectly expressed. Ideas are the only substantial things in the universe, and that there is a difference in the quality of ideas need not be argued. Two men of the same avoirdupois may be walking side by side on the street, but one of them may be a genius and the other a hod carrier.

I have dwelt at some length on this because I wish to show where the training of a singer must begin, and that when we understand the real nature of the problem its solution becomes simple.

INDIRECT CONTROL

What is meant by indirect control? It means, in short, the automatic response of the mechanism to the idea. By way of illustration. If I should ask my pupil to make her vocal cords vibrate at the rate of 435 times per second she could not do it because she would have no mental concept of how it should sound: but if I strike the A above middle C and ask her to sing it her vocal cords respond automatically at that rate of vibration. It is the concept of pitch which forms the vocal instrument, gives it the exact amount of tension necessary to vibrate at the rate of the pitch desired, but the action is automatic, not the result of direct effort.

It may be said that in artistic singing everything is working automatically. There can be no such thing as artistic singing until everything involved is responding automatically to the mental demands of the singer.

Mention has been made of the automatic response of the vocal cords to the thought of pitch. That part of the mechanism which is so largely responsible for tone quality, the pharynx and mouth, must respond in the same way. This it will do unerringly if it is free from tension. But if the throat is full of rigidity, as is so often the condition, it cannot respond; consequently the quality is imperfect and the tone is throaty. The vocal cavity must vibrate in sympathy with the pitch in order to create pure resonance. It can do this only when it is free and is responding automatically to the concept of tone quality. To form the mouth and throat by direct effort and expect a good tone to result thereby, is an action not only certain of failure but exceedingly stupid.

VOICE TRAINING IS SIMPLE

There is a belief amounting to a solid conviction in the public mind that the training of the voice is so difficult that the probabilities of success are about one in ten. What is responsible for this? Doubtless the large number of failures. But this calls for another interrogation. What is the cause of these failures? Here is one. All students have done more or less singing before they go to a teacher. During that time they have, with scarcely an exception, formed bad habits. Now bad habits of voice production are almost invariably some form of throat interference, referred to as tension, rigidity, resistance, etc. Instances without number could be cited where students have been told to keep right on singing and eventually they would outgrow these habits. Such a thing never happened since time began. One may as well tell a drunkard to keep on drinking and eventually he will outgrow the habit. No. Something definite and specific must be done. The antidote for tension is relaxation. A muscle cannot respond while it is rigid, therefore the student must be taught how to get rid of tension.

TWO THINGS INVOLVED

There is nothing in voice training that is necessarily mysterious and inscrutable. On the contrary, if one will acquaint himself with its fundamental principles he will find that the truth about voice training, like all truth, is simple and easily understood, and when understood the element of uncertainty is eliminated. These principles are few in number, in fact they may all be brought under two general heads. The first is KNOW WHAT YOU WANT. The second is HAVE THE CONDITIONS RIGHT. The meaning of these statements can never be learned from a study of vocal physiology; nevertheless they contain all of the law and the prophets on this subject. Any musician may be a successful teacher of singing if he will master them. I use the word musician advisedly, because musical sense is of such vital importance that no amount of mechanical knowledge can take its place. To undertake the training of voices with only a mechanical knowledge of the subject is a handicap which no one can overcome.

It is universally true that the less one knows of the art of singing the more he concerns himself with the mechanism; and it is also true that the more one is filled with the spirit of song the less he concerns himself with the construction of the vocal instrument. People with little or no musicianship have been known to wrangle ceaselessly on whether or not the thyroid cartilage should tip forward on high tones. It is such crude mechanics masquerading under the name of science that has brought voice training into general disrepute. The voice teacher is primarily concerned with learning to play upon the vocal instrument rather than upon its mechanical construction, two things which some find difficulty in separating.

KNOW WHAT YOU WANT

This means much. In voice production it means the perfect tone concept. It means far more than knowing what one likes. What one likes and what he ought to like are usually quite different things. What one likes is the measure of his taste at that particular time and may or may not be an argument in its favor. I have never seen a beginner whose taste was perfectly formed, but the great majority of them know what they like, and because they like a certain kind of tone, or a certain way of singing, they take it for granted that it is right until they are shown something better. This error is by no means confined to beginners.

If your pupil does not produce good tone one of two things is responsible for it. Either he does not know a good tone or else the conditions are not right. In the beginning it is usually both. Your pupil must create his tone mentally before he sings it. He must create its quality no less than its pitch. In other words he must hear his tone before he sings it and then sing what he hears. Until he can do this his voice will have no character. His voice will be as indefinite as his tone concept, and it will not improve until his concept, which is his taste, improves. Inasmuch as everything exists first as idea, it follows that everything which is included in the rightly produced voice and in interpretation are first matters of concept. The singer uses a certain tone quality because he mentally conceives that quality to be right. He delivers a word or phrase in a certain way because that is his concept of it.

A word at this point on imitation. One faculty of a musical mind is that of recording mentally what it hears and of producing it mentally whenever desired. Most people possess this in some degree, and some people in a marked degree. Almost any one can hear mentally the tone of a cornet, violin, or any instrument with which he is acquainted. In the same way the vocal student must hear mentally the pure singing tone before he can sing it. It is the business of the teacher to assist him in forming a perfect tone concept, and if he can do this by example, as well as by precept, he has a distinct advantage over the one who cannot.

Arguments against imitation are not uncommon, and yet the teachers who offer them will advise their students to hear the great singers as often as possible. Such incongruities do not inspire confidence.

On this human plane most things are learned by imitation. What language would the child speak if it were never allowed to hear spoken language? It would never be anything but

"An infant crying in the night. And with no language but a cry."

There are but few original thinkers on earth at any one time. The rest are imitators and none too perfect at that. We are imitators in everything from religion to breakfast foods. Few of us ever have an original idea. We trail along from fifty to a hundred years behind those we are trying to imitate.

When there is little else but imitation going on in the world why deny it to vocal students? The argument against imitation can come from but two classes of people—those who cannot produce a good tone and those who are more interested in how the tone is made than in the tone itself.

The following are the qualities the teacher undertakes to develop in the student in preparing him for artistic singing. They are fundamental and must be a part of the singer's equipment no matter what method is employed. They are what all musicians expect to hear in the trained singer. They all exist first as concepts.

An even scale from top to bottom of the voice.

Every tone full of strength and character.

A sympathetic quality.

Ample power.

A clear, telling resonance in every tone.

A pure legato and sostenuto.

Perfect freedom in production throughout the compass.

A perfect swell, that is, the ability to go from pianissimo to full voice and return, on any tone in the compass, without a break, and without sacrificing the tone quality.

The ability to pronounce distinctly and with ease to the top of the compass.

Equal freedom in the delivery of vowels and consonants.

Sufficient flexibility to meet all technical demands.

An ear sensitive to the finest shades of intonation.

An artistic concept or interpretive sense of the highest possible order.

The process of acquiring these things is not accretion but unfoldment. It is the unfoldment of ideas or concepts. The growth of ideas is similar to that of plants and flowers. The growth of expression follows the growth of the idea, it never precedes it. From the formation of the first vowel to the perfect interpretation of a song the teacher is dealing with mental concepts.

At the Gobelin Tapestry works near Paris I was told that the weavers of those wonderful tapestries use twenty-four shades of each color, and that their color sense becomes so acute that they readily recognize all of the different shades. Now there are about as many shades of each vowel, and the mental picture of the vowel must be so definite, the mental ear so sensitive, that it will detect the slightest variation from the perfect form. Direct control could never accomplish this. Only the automatic response of the mechanism to the perfect vowel concept can result in a perfect vowel.

All of those qualities and elements mentioned above as constituting the artist come under the heading KNOW WHAT YOU WANT.

The second step HAVE THE CONDITIONS RIGHT means, in short, to free the mechanism of all interference and properly manage the breath. This getting rid of interference could be talked about indefinitely without wasting time. It is far more important than most people suspect. Few voices are entirely free from it, and when it is present in a marked degree it is an effectual bar to progress. So long as it is present in the slightest degree it affects the tone quality. Most students think they are through with it long before they are.

This interference, which is referred to as tension, rigidity, throatiness, etc., is in the nature of resistance to the free emission of tone. It is not always confined to the vocal cords, but usually extends to the walls of the pharynx and the body of the tongue. The vocal cavities, the pharynx and mouth, exert such a marked influence on tone quality that the least degree of rigidity produces an effect that is instantly noticeable to the trained ear. These parts of the vocal mechanism which are so largely responsible not only for perfect vowels, but for perfect tone quality as well, must at all times be so free from tension that they can respond instantly to the tone concept. If they fail to respond the tone will be imperfect, and these imperfections are all classed under the general head "throaty." Throaty tone means that there is resistance somewhere, and the conditions will never be right until the last vestige of it is destroyed. The difficulty in voice placing which so many have, lies in trying to produce the upper tones without first getting rid of resistance. This condition is responsible for a number of shop-worn statements, such as "bring the tone forward," "place the tone in the head," "direct the tone into the head," etc. I recall a writer who says that the column of breath must be directed against the hard palate toward the front of the mouth in order to get a resonant tone. Consider this a moment. When the breath is properly vocalized its power is completely destroyed. Any one may test this by vocalizing in an atmosphere cold enough to condense the moisture in his breath. If he is vocalizing perfectly, he will observe that the breath moves lazily out of the mouth and curls upward not more than an inch from the face. The idea that this breath, which has not a particle of force after leaving the vocal cords, can be directed against the hard palate with an impact sufficient to affect tone quality is the limit of absurdity. If the writer had spoken of directing the sound waves to the front of the mouth there would have been an element of reasonableness in it, for sound waves can be reflected as well as light waves; but breath and sound are quite different things.

What does the teacher mean when he tells the pupil to place the tone in the head? He doubtless means that the student shall call into use the upper resonator. If one holds a vibrating tuning-fork before a resonating tube, does he direct the vibrations into that resonating cavity? No. Neither is it necessary to try to drive the voice into the cavities of the head. Such instructions are of doubtful value. They are almost sure to result in a hard unsympathetic tone. They increase rather than diminish the resistance. The only possible way to place the tone in the head is to let it go there. This will always occur when the resistance is destroyed and the channel is free.

In numerous instances the resistance in the vocal cords is so great that it is impossible to sing softly, or with half voice. It requires so much breath pressure to start the vibration, that is, to overcome the resistance, that when it does start it is with full voice. In a majority of male voices the upper tone must be taken either with full chest voice or with falsetto. There is no mezza voce. This condition is abnormal and is responsible for the "red in the face" brand of voice production so often heard.

Of this we may be sure, that no one can sing a good full tone unless he can sing a good mezza voce. When the mechanism is sufficiently free from resistance that a good pianissimo can be sung then the conditions are right to begin to build toward a forte.

Further, when the mechanism is entirely free from resistance there is no conscious effort required to produce tone. The singer has the feeling of letting himself sing rather than of making himself sing.

The engineer of a great pumping station once told me that his mammoth Corliss engine was so perfectly balanced that he could run it with ten pounds of steam. When the voice is free, and resting on the breath as it were, it seems to sing itself.

An illustration of the opposite condition, of extreme resistance was once told me by the president of a great street railway system that was operated by a cable. He said it required eighty-five per cent of the power generated to start the machinery, that is, to overcome the resistance, leaving but fifteen per cent for operating cars. It is not at all uncommon to hear singers who are so filled with resistance that it requires all of their available energy to make the vocal instrument produce tone. Such singers soon find themselves exhausted and the voice tired and husky. It is this type of voice production rather than climatic conditions, that causes so much chronic laryngitis among singers. I have seen the truth of this statement verified in the complete and permanent disappearance of many cases of laryngitis through learning to produce the voice correctly.

The second step in securing right conditions is the proper management of the breath.

BREATH CONTROL

An extremist always lacks the sense of proportion. He allows a single idea to fill his mental horizon. He is fanciful, and when an idea comes to him he turns his high power imagination upon it, and it immediately becomes overwhelming in magnitude and importance. Thereafter all things in his universe revolve around it.

The field of voice teaching is well stocked with extremists. Everything involved in voice production and many things that are not, have been taken up one at a time and made the basis of a method.

One builds his reputation on a peculiar way of getting the tone into the frontal sinuses by way of the infundibulum canal, and makes all other things secondary.

Another has discovered a startling effect which a certain action of the arytenoid cartilages has on registers, and sees a perfect voice as the result.

Another has discovered that a particular movement of the thyroid cartilage is the only proper way to tense the vocal cords and when every one learns to do this all bad voices will disappear.

Another has discovered something in breath control so revolutionary in its nature that it alone will solve all vocal problems.

Perhaps if all of these discoveries could be combined they might produce something of value; but who will undertake it? Not the extremists themselves, for they are barren of the synthetic idea, and their sense of proportion is rudimentary. They would be scientists were it not for their abnormal imaginations. The scientist takes the voice apart and examines it in detail, but the voice teacher must put all parts of it together and mold it into a perfect whole. The process is synthetic rather than analytic, and undue emphasis on any one element destroys the necessary balance.

The immediate danger of laying undue emphasis on any one idea in voice training lies in its tendency toward the mechanical and away from the spontaneous, automatic response so vitally necessary. Here the extremists commit a fatal error. To make breath management the all-in-all of singing invariably leads to direct control, and soon the student has become so conscious of the mechanism of breathing that his mind is never off of it while singing; he finds himself becoming rigid trying to prevent his breath from escaping, and the more rigid he becomes the less control he has. A large number of examples of this kind of breath management have come under my observation. They all show the evil results of over working an idea.

But the followers of "the-breath-is-the-whole-thing" idea say "You can't sing without breath control." Solomon never said a truer thing, but the plan just mentioned is the worst possible way to secure it.

Every one should know that not a single one of the processes of voice production is right until it is working automatically, and automatic action is the result of indirect, never of direct control.

The profession has become pretty thoroughly imbued with the idea that deep breathing, known as abdominal, or diaphragmatic is the best for purposes of singing. But how deep? The answer is, the deeper the better. Here again it is easy to overstep the bounds. I have in mind numerous instances where the singer, under the impression that he was practicing deep breathing tried to control the breath with the lower abdominal muscles, but no matter how great the effort made there was little tonal response, for the reason that the pressure exerted was not against the lungs but against the contents of the abdomen. The diaphragm is the point of control. The lungs lie above it, not below it. To concentrate the thought on the lower abdominal muscles means to lose control of the diaphragm, the most important thing involved in breath management.

The process of breathing is simple. The lungs are enclosed in an air tight box of which the diaphragm is the bottom. It rests under the lungs like an inverted saucer. In the act of contracting it flattens toward a plane and in so doing it moves downward and forward, away from the lungs. The ribs move outward, forward and upward. The lungs which occupy this box like a half compressed sponge follow the receding walls, and a vacuum is created which air rushes in to fill. In exhalation the action is reversed. The ribs press against the lungs and the diaphragm slowly returns to its original position and the breath is forced out like squeezing water out of a sponge.

The one important thing in breath management is the diaphragm. If the student has the right action of the diaphragm he will have no further trouble with breath control. In my Systematic Voice Training will be found a list of exercises which thoroughly cover the subject of breath control and if properly used will correct all errors. Let this be understood, that there is nothing in correct breathing that should make one tired. On the contrary the practice of breathing should leave one refreshed. Above all, the student should never make himself rigid when trying to control the flow of breath. This is not only of no advantage, but will effectually defeat the end for which he is striving.

REGISTERS

In securing right conditions the teacher is often confronted with the problem of registers. The literature on this subject is voluminous and varied. Opinions are offered without stint and the number of registers which have been discovered in the human voice ranges from none to an indefinite number. How one scientist can see two, and another one five registers in the same voice might be difficult to explain were it not a well known fact that some people are better at "seeing things" than others.

But here again the teacher soon learns that laboratory work is of little value. His view point is so different from that of the physicist that they can hardly be said to be working at the same problem. The physicist tries to discover the action of the mechanism, in other words, how the tone is made. The voice teacher is concerned primarily with how it sounds. One is looking at the voice, the other is listening to it, which things, be it known, are essentially and fundamentally different; so different that their relationship is scarcely traceable. The ability to train the voice comes through working with voices where the musical sense, rather than the scientific sense, is the guide. It is a specific knowledge which can be gained in no other way. It begins when one takes an untrained voice and attempts to make it produce a musical tone.

The problem of registers is, in short, how to make an even scale out of an uneven one. It must be solved in the studio. Anatomical knowledge is of no avail. The teacher who has learned how to produce an even scale possesses knowledge which is of more value to the student than all of the books ever written on vocal mechanism.

The depressions in the voice known as "changes of register" result from tension. With one adjustment of the vocal cords the singer can, by adding tension, make a series of four or five tones, then by a change of adjustment he can produce another similar series, and so on to the top of his compass. These changes occur when there is such an accumulation of tension that no more can be added to that adjustment without discomfort. The solution of this problem lies in gaining such freedom from tension in the vocal instrument that it automatically readjusts itself for each tone. The tension is then evenly distributed throughout the scale and the sudden changes disappear. This is precisely what happens when the singer has learned to produce an even scale throughout his compass; his voice production is not right until he can do this.

The statement is frequently made in public print that there are no registers in the trained voice. This order of wisdom is equally scintillating with that profound intellectual effort which avers that a bald headed man has no hair on the top of his head, or that hot weather is due to a rise in the temperature. These statements may be heavy-laden with truth, but to the voice teacher they are irrelevant. His work is at least seven-eighths with untrained voices. By the time he has worked out an even scale with all of the other problems that go hand in hand with it, for a great deal of the art of singing will naturally accompany it, a large majority of his pupils are ready to move on. Only a small per cent prepare for a musical career. Most of his work is with voices that still need to be perfected. It is for voices of this kind that the teacher lives. It is for such voices that vocal methods are evolved and books written.

A lighthearted, easy going assurance is not sufficient alone to compass the problems that present themselves in the studio. If the teacher is conscientious there will be times when he will feel deeply the need of something more than human wisdom. The work in the studio has more to do with the future than with the immediate present. The singing lesson is a small part of what the student carries with him. The atmosphere of the studio, which is the real personality of the teacher, his ideals, aims, the depth of his sincerity, in short, his concept of the meaning of life, goes with the student and will be remembered when the lesson is forgotten.



V

THE NATURE AND MEANING OF ART

One function, then, of art is to feed and mature the imagination and the spirit, and thereby enhance and invigorate the whole of human life.

Ancient Art and Ritual. Jane Ellen Harrison.

A large percentage of the population of the civilized world has more or less to do with what is called art. In its various forms art touches in some degree practically the entire human race. Its various activities have developed great industries, and for the entertainment it affords fabulous sums of money are spent.

What is this thing called art which takes such a hold upon the human race? If it has no social or economic value then a vast amount of time and money are wasted each year in its study and practice. A brief inquiry into the nature and meaning of art may well be associated with a discussion of the art of singing.

Art as a whole comes under the head of Aesthetics, which may be defined as the philosophy of taste, the science of the beautiful.

It will doubtless be admitted without argument that ever since the dawn of consciousness the visible world has produced sense impressions differing from each other—some pleasant, some unpleasant. From these different sense impressions there gradually evolved what is known as beauty and ugliness. An attempt to discover the principles underlying beauty and ugliness resulted in Aesthetics, the founder of which was Baumgarten (1714-1762).

It will be interesting to hear what he and the later aestheticians have to say about art. Most of them connect it in some way with that which is beautiful, that is, pleasing, but they do not all agree in their definition of beauty.

Baumgarten defined beauty as the perfect, the absolute, recognized through the senses. He held that the highest embodiment of beauty is seen by us in nature, therefore the highest aim of art is to copy nature.

Winkelmann (1717-1768) held the law and aim of art to be beauty independent of goodness. Hutcheson (1694-1747) was of essentially the same opinion.

According to Kant (1724-1804) beauty is that which pleases without the reasoning process.

Schiller (1758-1805) held that the aim of art is beauty, the source of which is pleasure without practical advantage.

These definitions do not wholly satisfy. They do not accord to art the dignified position it should hold in social development. But there are others who have a clearer vision. Fichte (1762-1814) said that beauty exists not in the visible world but in the beautiful soul, and that art is the manifestation of this beautiful soul, and that its aim is the education of the whole man.

In this we begin to see the real nature and activity of art. There are other aestheticians who define art in much the same way.

Shaftesbury (1670-1713) said that beauty is recognized by the mind only. God is fundamental beauty.

Hegel (1770-1831) said: "Art is God manifesting himself in the form of beauty. Beauty is the idea shining through matter. Art is a means of bringing to consciousness and expressing the deepest problems of humanity and the highest truths." According to Hegel beauty and truth are one and the same thing.

Thus we see that the great thinkers of the world make art of supreme importance in the perfecting of the human race. They all agree that art is not in material objects, but is a condition and activity of spirit. They agree in the main that beauty and truth emanate from the same source. Said Keats:

"Beauty is truth and truth beauty, That is all ye know on earth and all ye need know."

Said Schelling: "Beauty is the perception of the Infinite in the finite."

But perhaps the highest concept of art is from the great artist Whistler. He said: "Art is an expression of eternal absolute truth, and starting from the Infinite it cannot progress, IT IS."

Art in some form and in some degree finds a response in every one. Why? Because every one consciously or unconsciously is looking toward and striving for perfection. This is the law of being. Every one is seeking to improve his condition, and this means that in some degree every one is an idealist. Ever since time began idealism has been at work, and to it we owe every improved condition—social, political and religious.

Hegel believed that the aim of art is to portray nature in perfect form, not with the imperfections seen around us; and Herbert Spencer defined art as the attempt to realize the ideal in the present. The artist tries to make his picture more perfect than what he sees around him. The poet, the sculptor, the musician, the craftsman, the mechanic, are all striving for a more perfect expression, because perfection is the fundamental, eternal law of being.

Wagner said: "The world will be redeemed through art," and if Whistler's definition be accepted he is not far from the truth.

The important thing to remember is that art is not a mere pastime, but a great world force operating to lift mortals out of mortality. It is the striving of the finite to reach the Infinite.

In human history art, no less than languages, has conformed to the theory of evolution. Language in the beginning was monosyllabic. Far back in the early dawn of the race, before the development of the community spirit, when feelings, emotions, ideas, were simple and few the medium of expression was simple, and it grew with the demand for a larger expression.

This same process of evolution is seen in the growth of each individual. The child, seeing grimalkin stalk stealthily into the room, points the finger and says "cat." This is the complete expression of itself on that subject. It is the sum total of its knowledge of zoology at that particular moment; and a long process of development must follow before it will refer to the same animal as a "Felis Domestica."

In a similar way musical expression keeps step with musical ideas. In the beginning musical ideas were short, simple, fragmentary, monosyllabic, mere germs of melody (adherents of the germ theory will make a note of this). The Arab with his rudimentary fiddle will repeat this fragment of melody by the hour, while a company of his unlaundered brethren dance, until exhausted, in dust to their ankles, with the temperature near the boiling point. This musical monosyllable is ample to satisfy his artistic craving. In other words it is the complete musical expression of himself.

The following is a complete program of dance music for the aborigines of Australia. The repetition of this figure may continue for hours. If it were inflicted on a metropolitan audience it would result in justifiable homicide, but to the Australian it furnishes just the emotional stimulus he desires.

This one from Tongtoboo, played Allegro, would set the heels of any company, ancient or modern, in motion.

These people may be said to be in the rhythmic stage of music, that is, a stage of development in which a rhythmic movement which serves to incite the dance furnishes complete artistic satisfaction.

As it is a long distance from the monosyllabic expression of the child to the point where he can think consecutively in polysyllabic dissertation, so it is an equally long distance from the inarticulate musical utterances of the barbarous tribes to the endless melodies of Wagner, which begin at 8 P. M. and continue until 12.15 A. M. without repetition.

Following the course of music from the beginning we shall see that it has kept pace with civilization. As the race has grown mentally it has expressed itself in a larger and more perfect way in its literature, its painting and music. Physically the race has not grown perceptibly in the last five thousand years, but mentally its growth can scarcely be measured. If we follow each nation through the past thousand years we shall see that its art product has not only kept pace with its development, but that in its art we may see all of its racial characteristics, those habits of mind which are peculiarly its own. A nation left to itself will develop a certain trend of thought which will differentiate it from all other nations. A trend of thought which will affect its art, literature, politics, religion, and in course of time will produce marked physical characteristics. This is noticeable in all nations which have lived long unto themselves.

But modern methods of communication are destroying this. As nations are brought into closer contact with each other they begin to lose their peculiarities. The truth of this statement may be seen in the fact that in the past fifty years composers all over the world have been affected by the modern German school of composition. Not one has escaped. While a nation lived unto itself it could preserve its national life in its art, but more and more the life of each nation is becoming a composite of the life of all nations. The musical output of the world shows this unmistakably.

What will be the music of the future? We know the music of yesterday and today, but the music of the future can be foretold only by the prophet whose vision is clear enough to see unmistakably what the trend of civilization will be during the coming years. There are mighty forces operating in the world today. If they succeed in bringing humanity to a saner, more normal state of mind, to a clearer realization of what is worth while and what is worthless, then all art will become purer and more wholesome, more helpful and necessary, and music speaking a language common to all will be supreme among the arts.



VI

SINGING AS AN ART

No artist can be graceful, imaginative, or original, unless he be truthful.

Ruskin. Modern Painters.

"Art is a transfer of feeling" said Tolstoy. While this applies to art in general it has a particular application to the art of singing. The material of the singer's art is feeling. By means of the imagination he evokes within himself feelings he has experienced and through the medium of his voice he transfers these feelings to others. By his ability to reconstruct moods, feelings and emotions within himself and express them through his voice, the singer sways multitudes, plays upon them, carries them whithersoever he will from the depths of sorrow to the heights of exaltation. His direct and constant aim is to make his hearers feel, and feel deeply. As a medium for the transfer of feeling the human voice far transcends all others. Since the beginning of the human race the voice has been the means by which it has most completely revealed itself, but the art is not in the voice, but in the feeling transferred. It is the same whether the medium be the voice, painting, sculpture, poetry or a musical instrument. We speak of a painting as being a great work of art, but the art is not in the painting, the art is the feeling of beauty which the painting awakes in the observer. When we listen to an orchestra the music is what we feel. Said Walt Whitman: "Music is what awakes within us when we are reminded by the instruments."

Nothing exists separate from cognition. Real art therefore consists of pure feeling rather than of material objects. If the singer succeeds in transferring his feelings to others he is an artist, this regardless of whether his voice is great or small. Voice alone does not constitute an artist. One must have something to give. Schumann said: "The reason the nightingale sings love songs and the lap dog barks is because the soul of the nightingale is filled with love and that of the lap dog with bark." It will be apparent therefore, that the study of the art of singing should devote itself to developing in the singer the best elements of his nature—all that is good, pure and elevating. We have no right to transfer to others any feeling that is impure or unwholesome. The technic of an art is of small moment compared with its subject matter. An unworthy poem cannot be purified by setting it to music no matter how beautiful the music may be.

THE PRINCIPLES OF INTERPRETATION

I fancy there is nothing more intangible to most people than the term "phrasing." I have asked a great many students to give me the principles of phrasing, but as yet I have seen none who could do it, and yet all singers, from the youngest to the oldest must make some use of these principles every time they sing. Now a thing in such general use should be, and is, subject to analysis.

All of the rules of phrasing, like the rules of composition, grow out of what sounds well. Beauty and ugliness are matters of mental correspondence. In music a thing to be beautiful must satisfy a mental demand, and this demand is one's taste. The sense of fitness must obtain. When the singer interprets a song the demand of the listener is that he shall do well what he undertakes to do: that he shall portray whatever phase of life the song contains, accurately, definitely, that he shall have a definite intent and purpose, that he shall be in the mood of the song. The singer must not portray one mood with his face, another with his voice, while the poem suggests still a third. He must avoid incongruity. All things must work together. There must be therefore, the evidence of intelligent design in every word and phrase.

The song is a unit and each phrase contains a definite idea, therefore it must not be detached or fragmentary, but must have the element of continuity and each and every part must be made to contribute to the central idea.

The element of insecurity must not be allowed to enter. If it does, the listener feels that the singer is not sure of himself, that he cannot do what he set out to do: therefore he is a failure.

Another demand is that the singer shall be intelligent. A poem does not lose its meaning or its strength by being associated with music, and to this end the singer must deliver the text with the same understanding and appreciation of its meaning as would a public reader.

Now from the above we infer certain principles. The demand for continuity means that the singer must have a pure legato. That is, he must be able to connect words smoothly, to pass from one word to another without interrupting the tone, that the tone may be continuous throughout each phrase.

The feeling of security lies in what is known as sostenuto, the ability to sustain the tone throughout the phrase with no sense of diminishing power. It means in short the organ time.

From the demand for design in each word and phrase comes contrast. This may be made in the power of the tone by means of cres. dim. sfz. It may be made in the tempo by means of the retard, accelerando, the hold, etc. It may also be made in the quality of the tone by using the various shades from bright to somber.

The basis of phrasing then, may be found in legato, sostenuto and contrast. All of the other things involved in interpretation cannot make a good performance if these fundamental principles be lacking. A more complete outline of interpretation follows:

AN OUTLINE OF INTERPRETATION

{ Pitches READING { Note Lengths { Rhythm

{ Vowels { Enunciation { Consonants DICTION { Pronunciation { Accent { Emphasis

{ Even Scale VOICE { Quality { Freedom { Breath Control

{ Attack TECHNIC { Flexibility { Execution

{ Legato PHRASING { Sostenuto { Power { Contrast { Tempo { Color { Proportion

{ Emotional Concept MOOD { Facial Expression { Stage Presence

Most of the things mentioned in this outline of interpretation have been discussed elsewhere, but the subject of diction requires further explanation.

DICTION

The mechanism of speech might be discussed at any length, but to reduce it to its simplest form it consists of the sound producing instrument,—the vocal cords, the organs of enunciation—lips, tongue, teeth and soft palate, and the channel leading to the outer air. When the vocal cords are producing pitch and the channel is free the result is a vowel. If an obstruction is thrown into the channel the result is a consonant. Vowels and consonants, then, constitute the elements of speech. The vowels are the emotional elements and the consonants are the intellectual elements. By means of vowel sounds alone emotions may be awakened, but when definite ideas are expressed, words which are a combination of vowels and consonants must be used. It is nothing short of amazing that with this simple mechanism, by using the various combinations of open and obstructed channel in connection with pitch, the entire English language or any other language for that matter can be produced.

Vowels are produced with an open channel from the vocal cords to the outer air. Consonants are produced by partial or complete closing of the channel by interference of the lips, tongue, teeth and soft palate.

If language consisted entirely of vowels learning to sing would be much simpler than it is. It is the consonants that cause trouble. It is not uncommon to find students who can vocalize with comparative ease, but the moment they attempt to sing words the mechanism becomes rigid. The tendency toward rigidity is much greater in enunciating consonants than it is in enunciating vowels, and yet they should be equally easy. Here is where the student finds his greatest difficulty in mastering English diction.

The most frequent criticism of American singers is their deficiency in diction. Whether it please us or no, it must be admitted that on the whole the criticism is not without foundation.

The importance of effective speech is much underestimated by students of singing, and yet it requires but a moment's consideration to see that the impression created by speech is the result of forceful diction no less than of subject matter. Words mean the same thing whether spoken or sung, and the singer no less than the speaker should deliver them with a full understanding of their meaning.

The proposition confronting the singer is a difficult one. When he attempts the dramatic he finds that it destroys his legato. He loses the sustained quality of the organ tone, which is the true singing tone, and bel canto is out of the question.

This is what is urged against the operas of Wagner and practically everything of the German school since his day. The dramatic element is so intense and the demand so strenuous that singers find it almost, if not quite impossible, to keep the singing tone and reach the dramatic heights required. They soon find themselves shouting in a way that not only destroys the singing tone but also the organ that produces it. The truth of this cannot be gainsaid. There is a considerable amount of vocal wreckage strewn along the way, the result of wrestling with Wagnerian recitative. Wagnerian singers are, as a rule, vocally shorter lived than those that confine themselves to French and Italian opera.

But it will be argued by some that these people have not learned how to sing, that if they had a perfect vocal method they could sing Wagner as easily as Massenet. That they have not learned to sing Wagner is evident, and this brings us to the question—Shall the singer adjust himself to the composer or the composer to the singer? A discussion of this would probably lead nowhere, but I submit the observation, that many modern composers show a disregard for the possibilities and limitations of the human voice that amounts to stupidity. Because a composer can write great symphonies the public is inclined to think that everything he writes is great. Let it be understood once for all that bad voice writing is bad whether it is done by a symphonic writer or a popular songwriter. In the present stage of human development there are certain things the voice can do and other things it cannot do, and these things can be known only by those who understand the voice, and are accustomed to working with it. To ignore them completely when writing for voices is no evidence of genius. Composers seem to forget that the singer must create the pitch of his instrument as well as its quality at the moment he uses it. They also forget that his most important aid in this is the feeling of tonality. When this is destroyed and the singer is forced to measure intervals abstractedly he is called upon to do something immeasurably more difficult than anything that is asked of the instrumentalist. Many modern composers have lost their heads and run amuck on the modern idiom, and their writing for voices is so complex that it would require a greater musician to sing their music than it did to write it.

But to return, I do not say that it is impossible to apply the principles of bel canto to Wagner's dramatic style of utterance. On the contrary I believe it is possible to gain such a mastery of voice production and enunciation that the Wagnerian roles may be sung, not shouted, and still not be lacking in dramatic intensity, but it requires a more careful study of diction and its relation to voice production than most singers are willing to make.

A majority of singers never succeed in establishing the right relation between the vocal organ and the organs of enunciation. Years of experience have verified this beyond peradventure.

It is a very common thing for singers to vocalize for an indefinite period with no ill effect, but become hoarse with ten minutes of singing. The reason is apparent. They have learned how to produce vowels with a free throat but not consonants. The moment they attempt to form a consonant, tension appears, not only in those parts of the mechanism which form the consonant, but in the vocal organ as well. Under such treatment the voice soon begins to show wear, and this is exactly what happens to those singers who find it difficult to sing the Wagner operas.

The solution of this problem lies in the proper study of diction. The intellectual elements of speech consonants are formed almost entirely in the front of the mouth with various combinations of lips, tongue and teeth. Three things are necessary to their complete mastery.

First,—consonants must be produced without tension. It will be well to remember in this connection that consonants are not to be sung. They are points of interference and must be distinct but short. The principle of freedom applies to consonants no less than to vowels.

Second,—consonants must not be allowed to interrupt the continuity of the pitch produced by the vocal cords. This is necessary to preserve legato. Some consonants close the channel completely, others only partially. It is a great achievement to be able to sing all consonant combinations and still preserve a legato.

Third,—consonants must in no way interfere with the freedom of the vocal organ. If the student attempts to sing the consonants, that is, to prolong them he is sure to make his throat rigid and the pure singing tone at once disappears. He must therefore learn dramatic utterance without throwing the weight of it on the throat. To do this he must begin with a consonant which offers the least resistance and practice it until the three points mentioned have been mastered. The one which will give the least trouble is l. At the pitch G sing ah-lah-lah-lah-lah, until it can be done with relaxed tongue, with perfect continuity of tone, and with perfect freedom in the vocal instrument. In the same way practice n, d, v, th, m, and the sub vocals, b, d, g. Always begin with a vowel.

If the singer has the patience to work the problem out in this way he can apply the principles of bel canto to dramatic singing. The road to this achievement is long, longer than most people suspect, but if one is industrious and persevering it may be accomplished.

But there remains yet to be mentioned the most important element of artistic singing. To the pure tone and perfect diction must be added the imagination. The imagination is the image making power of the mind, the power to create or reproduce ideally that which has been previously perceived: the power to call up mental images. By means of the imagination we take the materials of experience and mold them into idealized forms. The aim of creative art is to idealize, that is, to portray nature and experience in perfect forms not with the imperfections of visible nature. "In this" says Hegel, "art is superior to nature."

The activity of the imagination is directly responsible for that most essential thing—emotional tone. Taking intelligence for granted, the imagination is the most important factor involved in interpretation. If the imagination be quick and responsive it will carry the singer away from himself and temporarily he will live the song.

Every song has an atmosphere, a metaphysical something which differentiates it from every other song. The singer must discover it and find the mood which will perfectly express it. If his imagination constructs the image, creates the picture, recalls the feeling, the emotion, the result will be artistic singing. The song is that which comes from the soul of the singer. It is not on the printed page. If I study a Schubert song until I have mastered it, I have done nothing to Schubert. It is I who have grown. Through the activity of the imagination, guided by the intelligence, I have built up in my consciousness as nearly as possible what I conceive to have been Schubert's feeling when he wrote the song, but the work has all been done on myself.

A chapter might be written on the artistic personality. It reveals itself in light, shade, nuance, inflection, accent, color, always with a perfect sense of proportion, harmony and unity, and free from all that is earthy. It is the expression of individuality. It cannot be imitated. If you ask me for its source I repeat again Whistler's immortal saying: "Art is an expression of eternal, absolute truth, and starting from the Infinite it cannot progress, IT IS."



VII

THE CONSTRUCTION OF A SONG.

Has he put the emphasis on his work in the place where it is most important? Has he so completely expressed himself that the onlooker cannot fail to find his meaning?

Appreciation of Art. Loveridge.

When you listen to a song and at its close say, "That is beautiful," do you ever stop and try to discover why it is beautiful? The quest may lead you far into the field of Aesthetics, and unless you are accustomed to psychological processes you may find yourself in a maze from which escape is difficult. Let us remember that in studying the construction of a song we are dealing with states of mind. A song is the product of a certain mood and its direct aim is to awaken a similar mood in others.

It is a well established fact that sound is the most common and the most effective way of expressing and communicating the emotions, not only for man but for the lower animals as well. This method of communication doubtless began far back in the history of the race and was used to express bodily pain or pleasure.

The lower animals convey their feelings to each other by sounds, not by words, and these sounds awaken in others the same feeling as that which produced them.

We see, then, that emotion may be expressed by sound and be awakened by sound, and this obtains among human beings no less than among the lower animals. In the long process of ages sound qualities have become indissolubly associated with emotional states, and have become the most exciting, the most powerful sense stimulus in producing emotional reactions. The cry of one human being in pain will excite painful emotions in another. An exclamation of joy will excite a similar emotion in others, and so on through the whole range of human emotions.

Herbert Spencer holds that the beginning of music may be traced back to the cry of animals, which evidently has an emotional origin and purpose. It is a far cry from the beginning of music as described by Spencer to the modern art song, but from that time to this the principle has remained the same. The emotional range of the lower animals is small, doubtless limited to the expression of bodily conditions, but the human race through long ages of growth has developed an almost unlimited emotional range, hence the vehicle for its expression has of necessity increased in complexity.

To meet this demand music as a science has evolved a tone system. That is, from the infinite number of tones it has selected something over a hundred having definite mathematical relationships, fixed vibrational ratios. The art of music takes this system of tones and by means of combinations, progressions and movements which constitute what is called musical composition, it undertakes to excite a wide variety of emotions.

The aim and office of music is to create moods. It does not arrive at definite expression. There is no musical progression which is universally understood as an invitation to one's neighbor to pass the bread. The pianist cannot by any particular tone combination make his audience understand that his left shoe pinches, but he can make them smile or look serious. He can fill them with courage or bring them to tears without saying a word. In listening to the Bach B Minor Mass one can tell the Sanctus from the Gloria in Excelsis without knowing a word of Latin. The music conveys the mood unmistakably.

A song is a union of music and poetry, a wedding if you please and as in all matrimonial alliances the two contracting parties should be in harmony. The poem creates a mood not alone by what it expresses directly but by what it implies, what it suggests. Its office is to stimulate the imagination rather than to inform by direct statement of facts. The office of music is to strengthen, accentuate, and supplement the mood of the poem, to translate the poem into music. The best song then, will be one in which both words and music most perfectly create the same mood.

Arnold Bennett's definition of literature applies equally well to the song. He says: "That evening when you went for a walk with your faithful friend, the friend from whom you hid nothing—or almost nothing—you were, in truth, somewhat inclined to hide from him the particular matter which monopolized your mind that evening, but somehow you contrived to get on to it, drawn by an overpowering fascination. And as your faithful friend was sympathetic and discreet, and flattered you by a respectful curiosity, you proceeded further and further into the said matter, growing more and more confidential, until at last you cried out in a terrific whisper: 'My boy she is simply miraculous:' At that moment you were in the domain of literature." Now when such impassioned, spontaneous utterance is brought under the operation of musical law we have a perfect song. The composer furnished the words and music, but the thing which makes it a song comes from the singer, from the earnestness and conviction with which he delivers the message.

Songs are divided into two general classes: those expressing the relationships of human beings, such as love, joy, sorrow, chivalry, patriotism, etc., and those expressing the relationship of man to his creator; veneration, devotion, praise, etc. The two great sources of inspiration to song writers have always been love and religion.

What are the principles of song construction? They are all comprised in the law of fitness. The composer must do what he sets out to do. The materials with which he has to work are rhythm, melody and harmony. The most important thing in a song is the melody. This determines to a very great extent the health and longevity of the song. Most of the songs that have passed the century mark and still live do so by reason of their melody. There must be a sense of fitness between the poem and the melody. A poem which expresses a simple sentiment requires a simple melody. A simple story should be told simply. If the poem is sad, joyous, or tragic the melody must correspond. Otherwise the family discords begin at once. Poetry cannot adapt itself to music, because its mood is already established. It is the business of the composer to create music which will supplement the poem. A lullaby should not have a martial melody, neither should an exhortation to lofty patriotism be given a melody which induces somnolence.

The same sense of fitness must obtain in the accompaniment. The office of the accompaniment is not merely to keep the singer on the pitch. It must help to tell the story by strengthening the mood of the poem. It must not be trivial or insincere, neither must it overwhelm and thus draw the attention of the listeners to itself and away from the singer.

The accompaniment is the clothing, or dress, of the melody. Melodies, like people, should be well dressed but not over dressed. Some melodies, like some people, look better in plain clothes than in a fancy costume. Other melodies appear to advantage in a rich costume. Modern songwriters are much inclined to overdress their melodies to the extent that the accompaniment forces itself upon the attention to the exclusion of the melody. Such writing is as incongruous as putting on a dress suit to go to a fire.

The significance of the theme should indicate the nature of the accompaniment. To take a simple sentiment and overload it with a modern complex harmonic accompaniment is like going after sparrows with a sixteen inch siege gun.

Comedy in the song should not be associated with tragedy in the accompaniment. A lively poem should not have a lazy accompaniment. The great songwriters were models in this respect. This accounts for their greatness. Take for example Schubert's Wohin and Der Wanderer, Schumann's Der Nussbaum, Brahms' Feldeinsamkeit. These accompaniments are as full of mood as either poem or melody.

The element of proportion enters into songwriting no less than into architecture. A house fifteen by twenty feet with a tower sixty feet high and a veranda thirty feet wide would be out of proportion. A song with sixty-four measures of introduction and sixteen measures for the voice would be out of proportion. Making a song is similar to painting a landscape. In the painting the grass, flowers, shrubbery etc., are in the foreground, then come the hills and if there be a mountain range it is in the background. If the mountain range were in the foreground it would obscure everything else. So in making a song. If it tells a story and reaches a climax the climax should come near the end of the song. When the singer has carried his audience with him up to a great emotional height then all it needs is to be brought back safely and quickly to earth and left there.

ASSOCIATION

I have mentioned the principles of song construction, but there are other things which have to do with making a song effective. One of the most important of these is association. Let us remember that the effect and consequent value of music depends upon the class of emotions it awakens rather than upon the technical skill of the composer, and that these emotions are dependent to a considerable extent upon association. We all remember the time honored expedient of tying a string around a finger when a certain thing is to be remembered. The perception of the digital decoration recalls the reason for it and thus the incident is carried to a successful conclusion. In like manner feelings become associated with ideas. Church bells arouse feelings of reverence and devotion. To many of us a brass band awakens pleasant memories of circus day. Scots Wha Hae fills the Scotchman with love for his native heather. The odor of certain flowers is offensive because we associate it with a sad occasion. The beauty of a waltz is due not only to its composition but also to our having danced to it under particularly pleasant circumstances.

At the opera there are many things that combine to make it a pleasant occasion—the distant tuning of the orchestra, the low hum of voices, the faint odor of violets, and the recollection of having been there before with that miracle of a girl,—all combine to fill us with pleasurable anticipation. In this way we give as much to the performance as it gives to us. According to some Aestheticians the indefinable emotions we sometimes feel when listening to music are the reverberations of feelings experienced countless ages ago. This may have some foundation in fact, but it is somewhat like seeing in a museum a mummy of ourselves in a previous incarnation.

Songs which have the strongest hold upon us are those which have been in some way associated with our experience. The intensity with which such songs as Annie Laurie, Dixie, The Vacant Chair, Tramp, Tramp, Tramp grip us is due almost entirely to association.

Therefore the value of a song consists not alone in what it awakens in the present, but in what it recalls from the past. Man is the sum of his experience; and to make past experience contribute to the joy of the present is to add abundance to riches.



VIII

HOW TO STUDY A SONG

The accent of truth apparent in the voice when speaking naturally is the basis of expression in singing.

Garcia. Hints on Singing.

First determine the general character of the song. A careful study of the words will enable the student to find its general classification. It may be dramatic, narrative, reminiscent, introspective, contemplative, florid, sentimental.

The following are examples:

Dramatic, The Erl King, Schubert.

Narrative, The Two Grenadiers, Schumann.

Reminiscent, Der Doppelgaenger, Schubert.

Florid, Indian Bell Song, from Lakme, Delibes.

Introspective, In der Fruehe, Hugo Wolf.

Contemplative, Feldeinsamkeit, Brahms.

Songs of sentiment. This includes all songs involving the affections and the homely virtues.

To these might be added songs of exaltation, such as Beethoven's "Nature's Adoration." Character songs, in which the singer assumes a character and expresses its sentiments. A good example of this is "The Poet's Love" cycle by Schumann. Classifying the song in this way is the first step toward discovering its atmosphere. There is always one tempo at which a song sounds best and this tempo must grow out of a thorough understanding of its character. Metronome marks should be unnecessary. Intelligent study of a song will unerringly suggest the proper tempo.

Next, study the poem until it creates the mood. Read it, not once, but many times. Imbibe not only its intellectual but its emotional content. It is the office of poetry to stimulate the imagination. It is under the influence of this stimulus that songs are written, and under its influence they must be sung. Hugo Wolf said that he always studied the poem until it composed the music. This means that he studied the poem until he was so filled with its mood that the proper music came of itself. Fix in mind the principal points in the poem and the order in which they occur. There usually is development of some kind in a poem. Learn what it is. Notice which part of the poem contains the great or central idea. Read it aloud. Determine its natural accent. The singing phrase grows out of the spoken phrase. Singing is elongated, or sustained, speech, but it should be none the less intelligent by reason of this.

Now adapt the words to the music. If the music has grown out of the words as it should, it will follow the development of the poem and give it additional strength.

By this time one should be in the mood of the song, and he should not emerge from it until the song is finished. If one is filled with the spirit of the song, is sincere and earnest, and is filled with a desire to express what is beautiful and good he will not sing badly even if his voice be ordinary.

The composer may do much toward creating the mood for both singer and listener by means of his introduction. The introduction to a song is not merely to give the singer the pitch. It is for the purpose of creating the mood. It may be reminiscent of the principal theme of the song, it may consist of some fragment of the accompaniment, or any other materials which will tend to create the desired mood.

In the introduction to Rhein-gold where Wagner wishes to portray a certain elemental condition he uses 136 measures of the chord of E flat major.

In Feldeinsamkeit (The Quiet of the Fields) where the mood is such as would come to one lying in the deep grass in the field watching "the fair white clouds ride slowly overhead," in a state of complete inaction, Brahms establishes the mood by this treatment of the major chord.



In Der Wanderer (The Wanderer) Schubert uses this musical figure to indicate the ceaseless motion of one condemned to endless wandering.



In The Maid of the Mill cycle where the young miller discovers the brook Schubert uses this figure, which gives a clear picture of a chattering brooklet. This figure continues throughout the song.



In the song On the Journey Home, which describes the feelings of one who, after a long absence returns to view the "vales and mountains" of his youth, Grieg, with two measures of introduction grips us with a mood from which we cannot escape.



But one of the most striking examples of the operation of genius is Schubert's introduction to Am Meer (By the Sea). Here with two chords he tells us the story of the lonely seashore, the deserted hut, the tears, the dull sound of breakers dying on a distant shore, and all around the unfathomable mystery of the mighty deep.



Classic song literature is full of interesting examples of this kind. If we learn how to study the works of these great ones of the earth we shall see how unerring is the touch of genius, and some day we shall awaken to see that these kings and prophets are our friends, and that they possess the supreme virtue of constancy.



IX

SCIENTIFIC VOICE PRODUCTION

The immediate effect of the laryngoscope was to throw the whole subject into almost hopeless confusion by the introduction of all sorts of errors of observation, each claiming to be founded on ocular proof, and believed in with corresponding obstinacy.

Sir Morell Mackenzie. Hygiene of the Vocal Organs.

He who studies the voice in a physics laboratory naturally considers himself a scientific man, and those teachers who make his discoveries the basis of their teaching believe they are teaching the science of voice production. The scientist says: "Have I not studied the voice in action? I have seen, therefore I know." But the element of uncertainty in what he has seen makes his knowledge little more than speculative. But suppose he is sure of what he has seen. Of what importance is it? He has seen a vocal organ in the act of producing tone under trying conditions, for one under the conditions necessary to the use of the laryngoscope is not at all likely to reach his own standard of tone production.

Scientists would have us believe that the action of the vocal mechanism is the same in all voices. This claim must necessarily be made or there would be no such thing as scientific production. But of all the vocal vagaries advanced this has the least foundation in fact.

Scientifically and artistically speaking there is no such thing at present as perfect voice, and there will be no such thing until man manifests a perfect mind. The best examples of voice production are not altogether perfect, and most of them are still a considerable distance from perfection. It is with these imperfect models that the scientific man in dealing and on which he bases his deductions.

Be it right or wrong singers do not all use the vocal mechanism in the same way. I have in mind two well known contraltos one of whom carried her chest register up to A, and even to B flat occasionally. The other carried her middle register down to the bottom of the voice. Can the tenor who carries his chest voice up to be said to use his voice in the same way as one who begins his head voice at ?

In the examination of a hundred voices selected at random all manner of different things would be observed. Perhaps this is responsible for the great diversity of opinion among scientists, for it must be said that so far there is little upon which they agree. Before absolute laws governing any organ or instrument can be formulated the nature of the instrument must be known. The scientists have never come anywhere near an agreement as to what kind of an instrument man has in his throat. They have not decided whether it is a stringed instrument, a brass, a single or double reed, and these things are vital in establishing a scientific basis of procedure. Not knowing what the instrument is, it is not strange that we are not of one mind as to how it should be played upon.

If we are to know the science of voice production we must first know the mechanism and action of the vocal organ. This instrument, perhaps an inch and a half in length, produces tones covering a compass, in rare instances, of three octaves. How does it do it? According to the books, in a variety of ways.

A majority of those voice teachers who believe in registers recognize three adjustments, chest middle, and upper, or chest medium, and head, but Dr. MacKenzie claims that in four hundred female voices which he examined he found in most cases the chest mechanism was used throughout. Mancini (1774) says there are instances in which there is but one register used throughout.

Garcia says there are three mechanisms—chest, falsetto, and head, and makes them common to both sexes.

Behnke divides the voice into five registers—lower and upper thick, lower and upper thin, and small.

Dr. Guilmette says that to hold that all of the tones of the voice depend on one mechanism or register is an acknowledgment of ignorance of vocal anatomy. He further declares that the vocal cords have nothing to do with tone—that it is produced by vibration of the mucous membrane of the trachea, larynx, pharynx, mouth; in fact, all of the mucous membrane of the upper half of the body.

When it comes to the falsetto voice, that scarehead to so many people who have no idea what it is, but are morally sure it is wicked and ungodly, the scientists give their imaginations carte blanche. Dr. Mackenzie, who says there are but two mechanisms, the long and short reed, says the falsetto is produced by the short reed.

Lehfeldt and Muller hold that falsetto is produced by the vibrations of the inner edges or mucous covering of the vocal cords, the body of the cords being relaxed.

Mr. Lunn feels sure that the true vocal cords are not involved in falsetto, that voice being produced by the false vocal cords.

Mantels says that in the falsetto voice the vocal cords do not produce pitch, that the quality and mechanism are both that of the flute, that the cords set the air in vibration and the different tones are made by alterations in the length of the tube.

Davidson Palmer says that the falsetto is the remnant of the boy's voice which has deteriorated through lack of use, but which is the correct mechanism to be used throughout the tenor voice.

Mr. Chater argues along the same lines as Mr. Mantels except that he makes the instrument belong to the clarinet or oboe class. Others believe the vocal cords act as the lips do in playing a brass instrument.

But the action of the vocal cords is but the first part of the unscientific controversy. What takes place above the vocal cords is equally mystifying. The offices of the pharynx, the mouth, the nasal cavities, the entire structure of the head in fact, are rich in uncertainties.

Some think the cavities of the pharynx and head are involved acoustically and in some way enlarge, refine and purify the tone, but one famous man says the head has nothing whatever to do with it. Another gentleman of international reputation says the nose is the most important factor in singing. If your nasal cavities are right you can sing, otherwise you cannot.

And so this verbal rambling continues; so the search for mind in matter goes on, with a seriousness scarcely equalled in any other line of strife. There is nothing more certain to permanently bewilder a vocal student than to deluge him with pseudo-scientific twaddle about the voice. And this for the simple reason that he comes to learn to sing, not for a course in anatomy.

What is scientific voice production? Books without number have been written with the openly expressed intention to give a clear exposition of the subject, but the seeker for a scientific method soon finds himself in a maze of conflicting human opinions from which he cannot extricate himself.

We are told with much unction and warmth that science means to know. That it is a knowledge of principles or causes, ascertained truths or facts. A scientific voice teacher then must know something. What must he know? Books on scientific voice production usually begin with a picture of the larynx, each part of which is labeled with a Greek word sometimes longer than the thing itself. It then proceeds to tell the unction of each muscle and cartilage and the part it plays in tone production. Now if this is scientific, and if science is exact knowledge, and this exact knowledge is the basis of scientific voice teaching, then every one who has a perfect knowledge of these facts about the voice, must in the eternal and invariable nature of facts be a perfect voice teacher, and every one of these perfect voice teachers must teach in exactly the same way and produce exactly the same results. Does history support this argument? Quite the reverse.

There is a science of acoustics, and in this science one may learn all about tones, vibrating bodies, vibrating strings, vibrating cavities, simple, compound and complex vibrations. Will this knowledge make him a scientific voice teacher? When he has learned all of this he has not yet begun to prepare for voice teaching. There is no record of a great voice teacher having been trained in a physics laboratory.

It is possible to analyze a tone and learn how fundamental and upper partials are combined and how these combinations affect quality. Does this constitute scientific voice production? This knowledge may all be gained from the various hand books on acoustics. Has any one the hardihood to assert that such knowledge prepares one for the responsible work of training voices? One may know all of this and still be as ignorant of voice training as a Hottentot is of Calvinism.

Further, who shall decide which particular combination of fundamental and upper partials constitutes the perfect singing tone? If a tone is produced and we say, there is the perfect tone, all it proves is that it corresponds to our mental concept of tone. It satisfies our ear, which is another term for our taste.

Can a tone be disagreeable and still be scientifically produced? One combination of fundamental and overtones is, strictly speaking, just as scientific as another combination. The flute tone with its two overtones is just as scientific as the string tone with its six or eight. A tone is pleasant or disagreeable according as it corresponds to a mental demand. Even the most hardened scientist would not call a tone which offends his ear scientific. Therefore he must first produce, or have produced the tone that satisfies his ear. The question then naturally arises—when he has secured the tone that satisfies his ear of what value beyond satisfying his curiosity is a physical analysis? A tone is something to hear, and when it satisfies the ear that knows, that in itself is unmistakable evidence that it is rightly produced.

If this scientific knowledge of tone is necessary then every great artist in the world is unscientific, because not one of them makes any use whatsoever of such knowledge in his singing.

No. All of the scientific knowledge one may acquire is no guaranty of success as a teacher, but is rather in the nature of a hindrance, because it is likely to lead him into mechanical ways of doing things. Further, the possession of such knowledge is no indication that one will use it in his teaching. How much of such knowledge can one use in teaching? How can he tell, save from the tone itself whether the pupil is producing it scientifically? It is a well established fact that the more the teacher tries to use his scientific information in teaching the less of an artist he becomes.

Could it be possible that a beautiful tone could be produced contrary to the laws of science? It would be an extraordinary mind that would argue in the affirmative.

The most beautiful tone is the most perfectly produced, whether the singer knows anything of vocal mechanism or not. In such a tone there is no consciousness of mechanics or scientific laws. The vocal mechanism is responding automatically to the highest law in the universe—the law of beauty. The most scientific thing possible is a beautiful idea perfectly expressed, because a thing inherently beautiful is eternally true, hence it is pure science.

Every tone of the human voice is the expression of life, of an idea, a feeling, an emotion, and unless interfered with the vocal mechanism responds automatically.

He who by experiment or reading has learned the action of the vocal mechanism, and attempts to make his pupil control every part of it by direct effort may imagine that he is teaching scientific voice production, but he is not, he is only doing a mechanical thing in a clumsy way.

Is it a scientific act to tell a pupil to hold his tongue down, as one writer argued recently? Is a teacher calling into action the eternal laws of science when he tells his pupil to drive the tone through the head, hoist the soft palate, groove the tongue, and make the diaphragm rigid? No. He is simply doing a mechanical thing badly for want of a better way. It is no more scientific than kicking the cat out of the way if she gets under your feet.

Any one who has learned the elements of psychology or philosophy knows that everything exists first as idea. The real universe is the one that exists in the mind of the creator. The real man is the part of him that thinks. To hold that the body thinks or acts is equivalent to saying that Gray's "Elegy" was in the pen with which the poet wrote.

To a natural scientist the only real thing is what he can see, therefore he bases his faith on what he conceives to be matter; but if we study the great ones—Oswald, Huxley, Grant, Allen, and the like, we find that they have long ago reached the conclusion that there is no such thing as matter. According to Schopenhauer the world is idea, and this so called material environment is thought objectifying itself.

Vocal teachers, like the members of other professions, are not altogether immune to an attack of intellect, and at such times the thought that they are doing something scientific is particularly agreeable.

The only study of science that can benefit any one is the study of causation, and causation cannot be cognized by the physical senses. We never see, hear, feel, taste, or smell cause. What we see or hear is effect. Causation is mental. Natural science is dealing with phenomena, with effect not cause. A regular recurrence of phenomena may establish a so called natural law, but the law is that which caused the phenomena, "Law is force" says Hegel, and it is therefore mental. We are told that the law of the earth is its path around the sun. This is not true, the law of the earth is the mind which makes it revolve around the sun. If we would learn the nature, activity, and cause of anything we must look for it in mind not in matter. For this reason the process of voice production is psychologic not physiologic. When a pupil sings, what we hear is effect not cause. If he is doing all manner of unnecessary things with his lips, tongue, larynx, etc. what we see is effect and the cause is in wrong mental concepts. The thing which caused the tone is mental, the force which produced it is mental, and the means by which we know whether it is good, or bad is mental.

Of this we may be sure, that the tone the pupil sings will not be better than the one he has in mind. A tone exists first as a mental concept, and the quality of the mental concept determines the quality of the tone.

If there be such a thing as scientific voice production it will be found in the sense of what is inherently beautiful, and the scientific tone is one which will perfectly express a right idea or emotion, and in the nature of things there is an appropriate tone for everything that may be legitimately expressed, for they are correlated ideas.

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