BRIEF HISTORICAL SURVEY OF VOCAL PEDAGOGY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             Musical styles are constantly changing and every new era brings certain requirements to singing style. In the 17th and 18th centuries the role of singers was to serve the Church. No aggressive, harsh approach to sound production, even for high notes, was permitted. Instead, the falsetto register was employed for the highest notes. Articulation was expected to be very clear, so mostly illiterate church attendees could understand every word of the Bible. Outstanding teachers of that era (Nicolo Porpora, best known among them) demanded many years of extensive training to purify the voice, to instill mastery of specific-for-singers breath control and to blend registers. Among their many achievements,  singers of that era were able to project their voices even at a soft volume to the last row of large spaces without any artificial amplification.

 

             By the 19th century, with the development of the Operatic Style, composers began to require highest notes to be performed in full voice to create a more dramatic effect. However, not all professional singers were able to produce high notes in full voice without considerable strain. Thus, outstanding teachers of the 19th century were preoccupied with this matter. According to the existing writings of Manuel Garcia II, Lilli Lehmann, Giovanni Battista Lamperti and others, vocal teachers began to experiment with manipulation of the muscles of the mouth cavity, particularly the muscles of the soft palate to achieve a more effective “placement” (resonance) of the voice. Nonetheless, it was an era of empirical, subjective explanations based on the descriptions of sensations that were very difficult to convey with any precision and clarity to future generations of singers.

 

             Artificial amplification has liberated singers of certain styles from the requirement of projection of sound in a big space. However, all the other principles of the best traditions of the past remain valid. Purification of the voice remains essential to eliminate throat spasms and excessive involvement of the lower jaw, specific-for-singers breath control is crucial for legato singing that is not interrupted by clear articulation, and effective resonance is necessary to minimize strain in the high register. In general, the vocal apparatus should work efficiently to provide longevity of the voice in its beautiful, youthful state.

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Garcia, Manuel II, Hints on Singing. Ascherberg, Hopwood and Crew, Limited, 1894

2. Lehmann, Lilli, How to Sing. Dover Publications, Inc., 1993 (originally published in 1902)

3. Lamperti, Giovanni Battista, Vocal Wisdom. Taplinger Publishing Co., Inc., 1957 (originally published in 1931)

4. Mancini, Giambattista, Practical Reflections on the Figurative Art of Singing. Forgotten Books, 2012 (originally published in 1912)

5. Caruso, Enrico and Tetrazzini, Luisa, Caruso and Tetrazzini of the Art of Singing. Dover Publications, Inc., 1975 (originally published in 1909)

6. Netter, Frank H., Atlas of Human Anatomy. Saunders (4th ed.). 2006

7. Gray, Henry F.R.S., Gray’s Anatomy. Barnes & Noble, Inc., 1995

8. Sundberg, Johan, The Science of the Singing Voice. Northern Illinois University Press, 1987

 

 

“Our vocal art is a marvel just as our instrument is one, and a beautiful human voice which is so blessed as to be able to give forth that which stirs our hearts is an incomparable, glorious marvel. We singers are in duty bound to become closely acquainted with this instrument in order to serve humanity with an ideal art.”

 

 Lilli Lehmann, 1922