Vocal technique and pedagogy have changed, even during my adult lifetime.
We’ve gone from the Master/Apprentice model (“do it like me, dear”) and the personal sensation model (“feel the voice like a pink cloud, aim the sound down the elephant’s trunk, and sing from your little mary”) through to the pure physiological (“move your nasosternal muscle a quarter of a millimetre”).
Now we’re heading for a totally other level of ignorance following the discovery of cytoplatekeetlets which pack the blood cells and send signals to the brain when we sing a certain way.
Terry Pratchett wrote this on science and levels of ignorance:
“It used to be so simple, once upon a time.
Because the universe was full of ignorance all around and the scientist panned through it like a prospector crouched over a mountain stream, looking for the gold of knowledge among the gravel of unreason, the sand of uncertainty and the little whiskery eight-legged swimming things of superstition.
Occasionally he would straighten up and say things like ‘Hurrah, I’ve discovered Boyle’s Third Law.’ And everyone knew where they stood.
But the trouble was that ignorance became more interesting, especially big fascinating ignorance about huge and important things like matter and creation, and people stopped patiently building their little houses of rational sticks in the chaos of the universe and started getting interested in the chaos itself – partly because it was a lot easier to be an expert on chaos, but mostly because it made really good patterns that you could put on a t-shirt.
And instead of getting on with proper science (like finding that bloody butterfly whose flapping wings cause all these storms we’ve been having lately and getting it to stop) scientists suddenly went around saying how impossible it was to know anything, and that there wasn’t really anything you could call reality to know anything about, and how all this was tremendously exciting, and incidentally did you know there were possibly all these little universes all over the place but no-one can see them because they are all curved in on themselves?
Incidentally, don’t you think this is a rather good t-shirt?”
And there is something I’d like to remind singers and singing teachers about…
- Singers create art
- Singing teachers help singers create art
- Art engenders emotion
If you’re singing in the shower that’s for your benefit. If you’re singing in front of an audience it’s for their benefit.
Does that make us essentially auditory emoji? No, we bring our experience and expertise to music and vocal pieces so that other people experience emotions of their own.
Why do we sing?
We sing because we have to, we sing because we want to share, we sing because we hope that our singing helps people to feel SOMETHING that is out of their ordinary.
Any voice science factoid or physiological technical instruction is there to serve us for that purpose, not the other way around.
So before we hare off down the “cytoplatekeetlets are the new way of singing” cul-de-sac, please remember the reason you began to sing for others?
Or as the erudite composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim put it a little more succinctly, “Please don’t fart, there’s very little air and this is art”
A good thought.
PS If you’re interested in finding out more about cytoplatekeetlets and their effect on the human voice, there’s not much written about them yet. This could be because this is absolutely the latest cutting edge discovery. Or it could be because I made them up.
To separate the sensible voice science application from the cytoplatekeetlets of this world, join us on the Online Singing Teacher Training, August 24th-28th, 10-12 each day.
Terry Pratchett quotation taken from Witches Abroad.
Stephen Sondheim quotation taken from “Invocation and Instructions to the Audience” from The Frogs