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Singing Bach
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Joel Figen wrote (March 31, 2007):
Joel Figen wrote:
<< I've been reluctant to jump in... I'm a singer too, and I agree with about half of what you're saying. The rest seems just, well, shall we say, proprietary. You're about the 200th singer or voice teacher I've run into who claims to have the "real scientific explanation." >>
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< What is all this crap about singers? I thought this was a music list. >
HOw would you know?

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (March 31, 2007):
Joel Figen wrote:
ps - you mentioned in one of your posts about being cast as a bass soloist even though you barely have a low A flat. That's a tenor where I come from :)
How could the casting director have been so lame? >

Probably the same way I KNOW that that tenor I mentioned before who is able to sing a soprano's high C better than many sopranos is REALLY a tenor - from the tone quality. It's probably not so lame, in other words. But I still wonder about casting someone in a part that requires a low A-flat, if they don't have it. On the other hand, there are soprano parts that go that low too, and the ladies that sing them only rarely have that note solidly. But no one seems to care, because they have the right tone quality...

Shawn Charton wrote (March 31, 2007):
[To Joel Figen] Well, as for my being cast in the Monteverdi... my voice is deceiving... Because I am 6'8", my voice is naturally VERY dark. However, I am clearly NOT a tenor. (My father was a tenor at 6'5") At the time I did it, my voice was still in flux and a BIT lower than it sits now.

That is fairly easily tied into your comment about musical physicists... My teacher at Oberlin was CONVINCED that because I was so tall I HAD to be a bass (longer pipes mean lower sounds, yada yada...) who just hadn't grown up yet. I spent far too long learning that repertoire and waiting for my lower stuff to develop. It didn't...

I would also tell you that, having come from Oberlin, I am one of the FEW who is FAR from convinced by Richard Miller's lab full of blinking formants and lights, etc... My concept of vocal mechanics was really formed in Atlanta. My most recent teacher's concept of how melisma is articulated goes in direct opposition to mine. He was a proponent of the school that tries to line up the pitches with the vibrato... basically it comes out like a garbled unarticulated mess... However, he was VERY helpful to me in understanding that a voice MUST stay rooted in the fundamental vibration of the larynx. Meaning there must ALWAYS be a good buzzing closure of the chords and the sensations that follow. The rest of singing is manipulating which part of the resonating tract is the most active. I word it that way because it means that ALL resonators vibrate when the voice phonates. It's just that head resonance versus chest resonance tells you where the body feels the most resonance at the time. It's all a balancing act after that, or more correctly, a blending act. This is, I believe what Cara's teacher was describing for tenors.

My experiences with Penny Jenson were mostly focused on "Mache dich mein herze Rein." In the end, her concept of legato was really just style. She was trying to get me to embrace the lyricism of the 12/8 rhythm. But she expressed it as legato and focused on placing slight holes of rest between the quarter and the eighth... I eventually pleased her but found that it was not useful for much besides that piece. I learned "Komm Süsses Kreuz" and "Arise ye subterrainean winds" (Purcell??) with uncle Max... he said that my fiorature were excellent (when I was 20 and MUCH more flexible before I had technical issues). He also worked on legato and such but was generally complementary. A strange note... he's the only singer I've ever met who LITERALLY places his larynx IN his collar bones. His concept of a lowered larynx is, in my opinion, freakish and NOT reproducable... it's just something that his body does.

I guess that you should perhaps replace all of my references to scinetific with vocal mechanics. Generally I'm not a physicist. I don't profess to know everything about resonance and sound waves. In fact, I will tell you that the actual function of vibrato is NOT scientifically proven or perhaps even provable... That said, there are distinct differences between vibrato and tremolo for me. I intentionally avoided the use of the words out of control before but I'll use them now. Vibrato CAN be controlled (preferably by adjusting the amount of vocal energy one is expending, IMHO) Tremolo cannot be controlled. Tremolo is an out of control trembling of the voice caused by one of various imbalances in tension. For example, Cher sounds tremulous to me but I have never seen her sing so I won't say that she IS tremulous... she may just have a really fast vibrato. The original voice of Snow White is a PRIME example of tremolo. Now, the 17th and 18th century of what tremolo means is, in my opinion, based on pure aesthetics and therefore MUST be seen as suspect. They did not know what was happening physically so vocal technique guides from the time must be seen as non-specific and dated. This is NOT to say that there is not wisdom in them. Nor is it to say that these aesthetics cannot be applied to music of the time... in truth, it MUST be. But, the imperical views on vibrato basically define it as a waver in pitch and do NOT address whether that is a created waver or a caused waver... meaning is it intentional or not... that is a VERY important distinction. The imperical view just lumps them all together. The tone is either straight or not... That is simply NOT true. Anyone who has had a random muscle tremble, for whatever reason, can understand that it was unintentional and caused by something else... tremolo is the vocal equivalent. It is, in my opinion, caused by some kind of issue in the balance of musular tensions in the vocal mechanism. A singer intentionally changing the pitch is a COMPLETELY different thing and is NOT vibrato either. It is exactly what you described, an ornament. Vibrato is not a conscious choice. It is a by-product of good vocal cord closure. A singer CAN consciously do something to impede or even stop the vibrato from happening but that is ONLY acheived through added tension SOMEWHERE in the vocal mechanism. That is why singers KNOW that they can effect vibrato... because they can FEEL the tension, whereas we cannot feel vibrato itself because it is the by-product of a lack of tension. Now, I'll point out again that, in my opinion, the ONLY way to healthily remove vibrato from the voice is to reduce the amount of vocal energy. This means that there will be less sound and perhaps less focus. And, AGAIN, I'll say that there are ALWAYS exceptions to the rule... however, on the whole this is how the vocal mechanism works.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (March 31, 2007):
Shawn Charton wrote:
< For me, many things you say are basically right. Of all the examples of technique you could choose, I'd HARDLY choose Caruso... he had REALLY funky ideaology. He used to sing (and teach) with a marble egg in his mouth. Talk about shoving the tongue down... >
I am amused to read this, because while I never actually stick objects in my mouth while singing, I do like to imagine an object balanced on the back of the tongue. Maybe I got the idea from Philip Cho - I seem to recall references to a glob of spinach... However, nowadays it seems to me my 'object' may get progressively larger as the notes go higher, so that by the time I am in the head register, it is the size of an orange, and if I'm warmed up, it has even made its way somewhere into my throat (but since it is 'virtual', it doesn't interfere with my vocal cords ;;) ). So that in the end, I just went with the orange :D

Shawn Charton wrote (March 31, 2007):
Singing Terms most O.T.

[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] Thanks Yoël... you're correct. I'll flay myself with brands of fioriture later.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 31, 2007):
Uri Golomb wrote:
< Which of Gardiner's recordings are you referring to here? The 1970s Deccarecording or the live recording at the Basilica di San Marco (1989)? >
The San Marco recording. THAT performance in those sublime acoustics ... GRRRRRRRR!

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (March 31, 2007):
Singing OT/questions about 18th-century voice-teaching theory vs. performance spaces

Shawn Charton wrote:
< Teaching guys is indeed different than girls. From what I uderstand, girls sense connected phonation as "nothing..." >
When you say 'connected phonation', is that a fancy word for 'phonation w/o cracking'? I would say most women probably do not have a problem with cracking - it is more of a problem if your voice has a tendency to use the chest as a resonator - which most men's do, given the pitches they normally sing. The pitches women normally sing do not, strictly speaking, have to be sung in the chest.

Indeed, P. Cho purposely tried to cure me of the habit of using the chest. I wasn't allowed to sing below middle C while I was studying with him. I mean, part of it was that, also he was afraid my vocal cords would get stretched out. No doubt he'd be horrified to find out what I am doing with my voice nowadays... I find I am much better off if I just accept the fact that my voice always uses that bit of chest, even way upstairs (especially if I'm singing a tenor aria an octave up). And probably my register changes are the smoother for it.

< In order for a guy to get even registers he MUST stay connected to the foundation. aka... Dr. Cho's concept of singing in the chest while in the head. Yes, men can sing in pure head like a woman does. However, men cannot sing in it (IMHO) while staying connected and even. And, the bigger the voice, the bigger the crack... of course. >
In principle, I think what can happen with a woman who is properly trained is that downstairs, there is more chest, and then there is a continuum, along which there is progressively less chest and more head resonance, as the notes go higher. And perhaps most women do really turn off the chest completely once they go above the treble staff - although I am not convinced this is either necessary or desirable. So what you are saying is that men are not normally able to produce such a continuum throughout the range that their vocal cords are able to manage?

< The real question to ask a male student is how they feel the register shift. My most recent teacher says that Tenors must open up when they get over the break whereas Baritones must narrow in and focus. I suspect that's true. >
I think that could be true, in that the tenor tone quality is brighter, the notes are probably placed a bit further forward, while the baritone quality is darker, the notes are placed further back. But I think more in terms of tone quality - if I am singing with a bright tone quality, I'll do the transition one way, while if I'm doing a darker tone quality, I'll do the transition differently.

< I also suspect that has something to do with vowel modification. (yet another issue that we deal with more than women...) >
What??? I always thought only sopranos ever had to deal with that in any great measure...

< I would tell you that the tenor voice is unnatural because of the tessiture that they generally sing. They sit in the rafters more than anybody else. >
More than sopranos???

< I would say that fiorature should be articulated with the epigastrium rather than the diaphragm. >
Yes, the diaphragm is a bit too big of a 'gun' to deploy for this purpose. I would say the same about disengaging the diaphragm when one is taking a quick breath more for expression than because one needs more air... Lately I have started leaving my diaphragm in place in such situations, and just disengaging that upper abdomen a bit, just enough to bring in a little puff of air, and I find it is much more efficient and less likely to lead to losing my placement, having to set everything up again from scratch.

< I would say that my concept of breath is into the lower back as that is the only place there really is to expand IN the lungs assuming your chest is already up. My HUGE pet peeve is the "belly breath"... does it not occur to peole that they're just pushing out their guts because the lungs don't extend into your belly??? >
If you're taking a REALLY full breath, they do a bit. But that is just the thing: the diaphragm can't be independently pushed out without regard for what the lungs are doing. It is difficult to say whether it should move passively with the lungs, or move independently, but in such a way as to make room for what is coming into the lungs. Because if you don't move your diaphragm at all, you won't be able to take a full breath...

< I prefer to avoid talking about placement. To me, it feels like a stretch in the inner nasal passages/soft palate. In retrospect, I can feel all of the various imageray that I've heard through my life but they were generally VERY confusing for me. I prefer to trick students into doing it with exercizes >
I HATE it when teachers try to do that. Invariably we end up not on the same page. I prefer that the teacher tell me what I need to feel for in order to produce the proper effect.

< and then teach them how to recreate it. I'm 6'8" so I'm WAY into posture... Alexander Technique is my mantra. >
Never tried it ;;) Although I do have my own little set of exercises to straighten out my back. But seriously, yeah, I bet you are into posture if you're that tall. That's a LOT of backbone to hold up. But it's really worthwhile to keep working at it, I'm still standing straight as a pin at over 40, supposedly when I walk down the street, I look sort of like those nuns who just 'glide' - must be the effect of spending a certain portion of my teenage years walking around with a book balanced on my head, not to mention being a waitress for a couple of years later on...

But I am reminded of something you have mentioned elsewhere. At 6'8", you must have at least 8 L of tidal volume in your lungs, I would bet, and supposedly that often (normally?) leads to having a larger-than-average low register (at least for sopranos ;;) ). So I am surprised to hear that you bottom out at a low A-flat. I'm curious how much you actually have upstairs on a good day (you mentioned having at least an A-flat). I would imagine all that tidal volume would make your tone quality darker than it might otherwise be - but I admit to being curious if you or any of your teachers have ever considered the possibility that you might actually be a tenor, appearances to the contrary? Or, on the other hand, you mentioned some vocal problems in the past, and - not knowing their exact nature - I wonder if they could have affected your low register in any way?

< The underlying illness for conspicuous vibrato is pressure, or tension, or posture, or any number of other things that can be fixed by technique. I'm a BIG fan of finding the problems instead of the symptoms. A symptom like a vibrato issue can be caused by so many things that I find it a poor place to start. I usually aim at posture first and then see what happens. Next up would be breath management. And, of course, that's always subject to change depending on the student. >
Right... Now, as a reward for those who have been patient with us, I am wondering how they thought about all this in the 18th century - how they went about explaining proper vocal production to the student, what kinds of exercises were done, etc. Does anyone know? Because that would presumably translate into the different results that were gotten back then vs today...

< Strangely, I started learning viola recently, and I find that my singing has improved. >
That is not at all strange. I also play the violin (have done since I was 8), and I remember as a teenager that whenever I had fioritura in Baroque music, I used to facilitate getting the articulation right by imagining I was a violin... On the other hand, once upon a time, I used to go to a church where they had an ensemble rather than an organ to accompany the congregational singing, and I played my violin there, it did wonders for these for my tone quality and phrasing... In other words, the two instruments complement each othe.

They do have one thing in common - every instrument does, actually - namely that the instrument is not merely a block of wood or metal, or even a human body, but also the space in which one is playing the instrument. So I am wondering in what measure the concept of vocal technique in a given era is dictated by the parameters of the spaces in which music was/is performed. Does anyone have any ideas here? Or, we could look at it another way, although admittedly from 20-20 hindsight, and say that today, we have such a variety of different spaces available for music performance. In what measure does the average musician or singer take into account the parameters of the hall in deciding about such matters as methods of vocal production (or their equivalent for other instruments)?

< Anyway... bedtime for Shawnzo..>
I hope you slept well, and I hope that everyone has been able to stay awake during our conversation ;;)

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 31, 2007):
Voices and Performing Spaces

Cara Emily Thornton wrote:
< So I am wondering in what measure the concept of vocal technique in a given era is dictated by the parameters of the spaces in which music was/is performed. >
We see this problem all the time at modern Bach concerts in churches where the performers are invariably positioned at the front steps, perhaps the worst possible place to sing in a large building, especially if it is reverberant. Balance and textures get muddy and soloists tend to oversing to fill the space.

Bach's musicians never peformed from the front of churches, so all those concerts which purport to present music in historically accurate buildings are in fact distorting Bach's music.

The exeperience of performance from a rear gallery is a revelation. The musicians are essentially in a smaller room with one wall open built within the larger space. In a gallery, everyone can hear what is happening and the tendency to oversing is relaxed. The acoustic effect of the music sounding high above the listeners' heads and close to the vaults actually produces a sound which fills the building quite easily.

I recently sang in a concert with massed choir of over 100 voices in a building which seats 3500. The singers were again positioned at the steps at the front so the audience could see them. Quite frankly, the voices could not fill the church from that spot. Quite tellingly, a quartet was sent to a rear gallery to provide an "echo' effect. They filled the acoustic space with such presence that many members of the audience turned around to see where the sound was coming from.

Although I'm still ambivalent about OVPP as an inflexible principle in Bach's music, I'm convinced that his singers filled the church effortlessly without resorting to special vocal techniques.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (March 31, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< We see this problem all the time at modern Bach concerts in churches where the performers are invariably positioned at the front steps, perhaps the worst possible place to sing in a large building, especially if it is reverberant. Balance and textures get muddy and soloists tend to oversing to fill the space. >
Whenever I have sung solo up front, it was in a (relatively) modern building that had the organ and the choir stalls downstairs, and for some reason there was a 'sweet spot' right behind the organ console, so that the soloists would always stand in that sweet spot. I never felt the urge to oversing in such circumstances. But I gather that 18th-century German architecture was very different...

< Bach's musicians never peformed from the front of churches, so all those concerts which purport to present music in historically accurate buildings are in fact distorting Bach's music. >
There were never any choir galleries up front (either on the ground floor or in a balcony)? What did they do with the St. John (?) Passion and the double choir?

< The exeperience of performance from a rear gallery is a revelation. The musicians are essentially in a smaller room with one wall open built within the larger space. In a gallery, everyone can hear what is happening and the tendency to oversing is relaxed. The acoustic effect of the music sounding high above the listeners' heads and close to the vaults actually produces a sound which fills the building quite easily. >
Now I feel really lucky, because that is how we perform all the time - from upstairs in the rear choir loft.

< I recently sang in a concert with massed choir of over 100 voices in a building which seats 3500. >
You were singing in a concert at a church that seats 3500 people??? Where on earth???

< The singers were again positioned at the steps at the front so the audience could see them. Quite frankly, the voices could not fill the church from that spot. Quite tellingly, a quartet was sent to a rear gallery to provide an "echo' effect. >
I hope this was not being billed as an HIP performance... lol ;)

< They filled the acoustic space with such presence that many members of the audience turned around to see where the sound was coming from. >
;;)

< Although I'm still ambivalent about OVPP as an inflexible principle in Bach's music, I'm convinced that his singers filled the church effortlessly without resorting to special vocal techniques. >
Or maybe they didn't need to resort to the sort of vocal production that people use when singing at places like the Met, because the projection was fine as is, so that their idea of vocal production focused on other values? If so, what would those have been? Does anyone know what the treatises, etc. say?

Nessie Russell wrote (March 31, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Although I'm still ambivalent about OVPP as an inflexible principle in Bach's music, I'm convinced that his singers filled the church effortlessly without resorting to special vocal techniques. >
And they did this without a sound system!

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (April 1, 2007):
Nessie Russell wrote:
< And they did this without a sound system! >
That's one of the nicest things that I have seen on my screen in a long time. Sacred space is always very special. The Met is a barn and certainly not sacred space. Epidaurus/Epidavros is such that you can stand on the stage and whisper is in the lowest of all whispers and any seat in the theatron will hear you perfectly. I tried it with my friend, each of us taking turns as speaker and audience.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 1, 2007):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< I think (this is for Ed to enjoy) that micturition is another one I myself have always misused and made into micturation. >
Full disclosure: you drove me to the dictionary. There I learned that 'micturition' (noun) is derived from 'micturate' (verb). This is why the great minds of the 20th C. (GB Shaw, for example) extolled the virtues of current 'standardized' English spelling. My spouse has other words for it. She whines that when the wind speed winds up, it gives her a headache.

Shawn Charton wrote (April 1, 2007):
[To Cara Emily Thornton] wow, so many questions...

1. connected singing is exactly what you described in saying that you carry "chest"upstairs... it's ALWAYS got to have SOME chest resonance, it's just that the main resonator shifts to the naso-pharyngeal end. I'm not talking about cracking... and I'm not sure I'd say that cracking happens more in men than women... I would say it tends to happen in different places. Women usually have issues around F or G on the staff.

2. In terms of your concept of tenors being forward and baritones being back... I'd reverse it. Tenors tend toward the bright and must keep it "back"in order to keep it round... that's why they open up. Baritones tend toward the back so they must strive to keep it "forward" in order to keep it focused and pingy...

3. Generally speeaking, the little bit of modification that women do is towards [aw] or perhaps [uh]... Men have to modify ALL OVER the place to keep the vowels in line. Sometimes toward [i] sometimes toward [uh] often toward umlauts or open [I]... [O] goes toward [u], etc... Modification for men is a VERY complicated concept that some do more naturally than others. It's not helped by the Rconcept of men's vowel modification which usually just meant throwing the voice back and covering the crap out of it. The German school is also REALLY bad about that.

4. LORD yes tenors sit higher than sopranos. Sopranos may have more random high notes but sopranos generally sing on the staff. Tenors LIVE on top of the staff and THEN they get the random high notes.

5. I didn't say I don't move the diaphragm at all... of COURSE it drops. However, it is a funky muscle that is both voluntary and involuntary... for singing purposes, it is involuntary. The lower ribs float because that is where the lungs are supposed to expand. The diaphragmatic displacement of the organs is minimal indeed and CERTAINLY not meritorious of a classification like "belly breath". As for the chest... the chest stays up and stationary. The diaphragm does ALL the work in inhalation. The point is that the real expansion should be in the lower back.

6.In my experience, explaining without working into it first causes the student to think too much and makes the process MUCH longer. The key to successful teaching through trickery is to know WHY it happens once it happens. That's the mark of a good teacher. If the explanation was enough you coudl learn it from a book.

Alain Bruguieres wrote (April 1, 2007):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< Sacred space is always very special. The Met is a barn and certainly not sacred space.Epidaurus/Epidavros is such that you can stand on the stage and whisper is in the lowest of all whispers and any seat in the theatron will hear you perfectly. I tried it with my friend, each of us taking turns as speaker and audience. >
With all due respect, I doubt is this has anything to do with the sacred; unless you consider the laws of physics (acoustics, in this instance) as sacred. Did you try out the following experiment : whisper a praise to Apollo in ancient greek (and I know that is within your ample capacities), then whisper 'This is nothing but good acoustics'
(if uttering such trite statements is within your capacities :; ) , and find out whether one is better heard than the other.

Having said that, the fact that those people built such theaters without knowing the laws of acoustics can be marvelled at. I'd suspect that in fact they knew certain aspects of these laws in a non-formalized way, from patient observation.

Alain Bruguieres wrote (April 1, 2007):
This discussion is fascinating, even if I don't understand much of it. Still it prompts me to formulate a few remarks which may or may not be related to other threads of discussion.

1. This is typically the sort of discussion where my total lack of practice prevents me from understanding really what is going on; as a result I try to follow and abstain from interfering.

2. Having said that, there are certain 'formal' aspects of the discussion which make me feel like intervening; even if I don't know what is being talked about, I can read what is being said, and notice certain (apparent) formal discrepancies.

3. Here for instance I notice that
a. From Shawn's point of view, vibrato is a mechanical/acoustic phenomenon (the word 'scientific' perhaps is misleading here) which occurs when one sings in certain conditions. If so, the frequency and amplitude of the vibrato is determined by circumstances, not by the artistic choices of the singer. Still, the singer may, through a deliberate effort, control or suppress the vibrato - at the cost of a change in voice quality. (Shawn, I hope I'm not distorting your though overmuch, pleasecorrect me if such is the case).
b. Others seem to consider that vibrato is not at all a mechanical/acoustic phenomenon which occurs spontaneously when one sings in certain conditions, but rather that it results from a deliberate choice of the singer, being more in the nature of a feature of the style of singing. Either you put some vibrato, or not. (Those concerned may equally correct me if I'm wrong).

I believe that the bone (or gristle) of contention is here; if so, I would like to have access to a scientific account of how vibrato may arise naturally from the normal working of the phonic system, because then I would -hopefully- become as competent as any geologist on the stoop... this is an objective issue which one should be able to resolve (at least tentatively:)).

(One precise question : at a given pitch and intensity, can one easily control the the frequency of the vibrato, its amplitude, can it be done independently? On a swing, you can control the amplitude, not the frequency, because the swing's movement is controlled by mechanical laws which prescribe the frequency in terms ot the length of the swing, the weight of its occupant and local gravity).

4. From a wider point of view, I cannot help noticing that in 2007 professional singers can disagree on certain fundamental aspects of their practice, and have some difficulty in understanding one another. The naive if (br)admittedly well-meaning bloke that I am still harbours doubts about the reliability of the insight a contemporary performer may have in the practices of Bach's time. Agreed, practice will develop intuitions; but there is no telling whether these intuitions are correct or not; indeed experience shows that they are highly dependent on the performer's personal experience and differ considerably from one another; therefore such an intuition is of no scientific value (scientific in its etymologic sense of 'which is of the nature of bringing forth knowledge') unless one supports it with logical, technical, historical or what not, arguments. These arguments, if well put, can in turn be appreciated by people with or without a practice. This is a good test of the validity of an intuition, and indeed the only one that I know, short of direct confrontation to facts.

Shawn Charton wrote (April 1, 2007):
[To Alain Bruguières] Basically I think you have stated my point fairly accurately. However, I would say that "change in voice quality" is perhaps not the best descriptor. My main point is that if one chooses to supress vibrato they are paying a price SOMEWHERE in their vocal mechanism through excess tension that, if prolonged, can cause technical or physical problems depending on where the tension is placed. The fly in that ointment is that singers RARELY realize when or where they are doing this. Somewhere in the minute space between "Gee, I'll sing with less vibrato" and the actual sound tension happens SOMEWHERE in the body to stop the vibrato...

As for the artistic choice of the singer... of course a singer CAN choose to employ vibrato or non-vibrato for artistic reasons. I'm not even saying that is a bad choice. What I am saying is that it can be costly if done improperly and that making it a part of one's technique is the point where it ceases to be an artistic choice and becomes a pathology... IMHO

You'd like a scientific explaination of the phenomenon of vibrato... wouldn't we all. The truth is, Alain, science cannot agree on what causes vibrato specifically. The general consensus is exactly what I have previously described as the inciting factors: correct tensions, Bernoulli effect, even breath flow, etc...

Of course one CAN affect the frequency and amplitude of vibrato. The big confucing factor in all of this is that the human voice is SO flexible and, eventhough we all have the same basic functions, we all also have our own little quirks. No two voices really work the same. And within that seemingly bewildering concept there are SO many sub-catagories to consider. Soprano, Mezzo, Contralto, Counter Tenor, Tenor, Baritone, Bass-Baritone, Bass... And from there it keeps going: Coloratura, Light Lyric, Full Lyric, Spinto, Dramatic, etc... So, we all have different experiences of what "correct" singing is.

As a premise for good vocal health I MUST predicate anything I sing on free and easy phonation which necessitates the presence of SOME vibrato. Regardless of whether or not aestheticists of the 18th century referred to "tremolo" or whatever in a treatise. Tremolo does NOT necessarily refer to vibrato. Even if Bach made his singers sing such straight tones that paint peoff the walls at Thomas Kirche I will not sacrifice my voice to that end. We, in 2007, know significantly more about how the voice actually functions than they did even if we can't yet scientifically define the exact process by which vibrato occurs. Therefore, we MUST use that knowledge to better protect our instrument. That said, I must again say that I am NOT a proponent of the wobble-till-you-drop school. Forcing vibrato is as dangerous, if not more so, as stopping it. Voices age proportionally according to what they do habitually when excess vibrato and weight are used. Meaning, if a 20 year old sings like they're 35, when they're 35 they'll sound 50...

We must also remember that the phrase "free phonation" is deceptive. Vocal production REQUIRES SOME tension. A better phrase is "balanced phonation." It is all about balancing the tensions of the vocal mechanism so that every part is allowed to do it's job efficiently. To use an analagy... there are MANY different factors that could cause your gas mileage to go down in your car: clogged air filter, dirty oil, needs tuning, etc... The voice is the same... stopping vibrato (in whatever way the singer manages to achieve it) takes away from the mileage of your voice.

Is that as clear as mud?

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 1, 2007):
Alain Burguieres wrote:
< therefore such an intuition is of no scientific value (scientific in its etymologic sense of 'which is of the nature of bringing forth knowledge') unless one supports it with logical, technical, historical or what not, arguments. These arguments, if well put, can in turn be appreciated by people with or without a practice. <
Thank to Alain for the detailed discussion, which I had contemplated but decided not to take the time. The singing thread began with a connection to Bernoulli's principle as the physical basis for vibrato. Have we now abandoned that explanation, or is it still down there somewhere?

At some point, a concise summary of the arguments, and conclusions if any, would be welcome by me, I presume by Alain, and perhaps any other non-singers who may be trying to spectate on the discussion.

Julian Mincham wrote (April 1, 2007):
Bernoulli--a side issue!

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< The singing thread began with a connection to Bernoulli's principle as the physical basis for vibrato. >
Well Ed, taking a side tack to your introduction of the Bernoulli principle I can only say that as a pilot I am very particularly grateful to the man and his theorum. What it does for vibrato I can't say but what it does for lift I am continually grateful for!

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 1, 2007):
Shawn Charton wrote:
< Is that as clear as mud? >
Yes, and that is substantially clearer than a lot of what has preceded it.

I still don't understand how you can invoke the Bernoulli principle, unless you (or someone you can cite) can explain how it applies. Otherwise, it is just arm waving (or Alain's more modest hand waving). You might just as well invoke any principle of Fluid Dynamics, say the Reynolds Number transition from laminar to turbulent flow. I started the sentence as a joke, but now I wonder if that might not be the answer, or at least a better bluff than the Bernoulli principle?

I am totally lost as to the distinction between tremolo and vibrato, and if it matters to the theory. And if we can't explain how either is created, how do we define the difference? Perhaps I missed this, if so, a concise summary would be welcome.

Shawn Charton wrote (April 1, 2007):
[To Ed Myskowski] Ed, I explained how Bernoulli applies to the voice AGES ago... perhaps not in great depth but it was there.

The vocal folds are brought together the air moves from a larger space through a smaller space (between the folds) and thus it moves faster causing the cords to vibrate. That is the extent to which it applies to voice. It is the actualy engine for why the vocal folds open and close.

Alain Bruguieres wrote (April 1, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< I can only say that as a pilot I am very particularly grateful to the man and his theorum. What it does for vibrato I can't say but what it does for lift I am continually grateful for! >
Since Ed and Julian have taken up the subject, I wish to strongly emphasize the fact that arm-waving, even performed most vigorously, will not result in sufficient lift for takeoff. Just in case a BCML member felt like experimenting from the top of a building...

Shawn Charton wrote (April 1, 2007):
[To Ed Myskowski] The Bernoulli principal in voice is NOT up for debate. It's not a theory of MINE... it is pedagogically sound information that is accepted by ANY trained vocal mechanic.

I said as concisely as I know how that tremolo (literally trembling) is an uncontrollable shaking of the voice due to some kind of muscular imbalance (similar to a muscle spasm). Vibrato is aphenomenon characterised by oscellation of pitch caused by the balance of breath flow, muscular tension, and energized singing. Vibrato CAN be stopped however, in MY opinion, it shouldn't because the tensions required to do so can be injurious to vocal health. These are subtle distinctions - THAT is why there is debate. And in addition a singer can create "vibrato" causing the pitch to waver in something of a vibrato-like fashion... that is NOT vibrato. It is simply imitating vibrato and is as unhealthy as singing straight tone.

In short, vibrato is a vocal funtion. Straight tone or creating vibrato are ways to manipulate that function. Tremolo is a pathology and is usually(and should be) repaired.

Alain Bruguieres wrote (April 1, 2007):
Shawn Charton wroter:
< Ed, I explained how Bernoulli applies to the voice AGES ago... perhaps not in great depth but it was there.
The vocal folds are brought together the air moves from a larger space through a smaller space (between the folds) and thus it moves faster causing the cords to vibrate. That is the extent to which it applies to voice. It is the actualy engine for why the vocal folds open and close. >
Thank you very much, this is perfectly clear. It clarifies in what way the Bernoulli effect explains how voice is produced, vibrato being a different matter (which may be related to the Bernoulli effect, too, but possibly to other laws of fluid dynamics). Indeed you had already given that explanation, but I was under the impression that it was supposed to account for vibrato, too.

Joel Figen wrote (April 1, 2007):
[To Shawn Charton] Well, Shawn, you've proven to be immovable and absolutist. As already stated I disagree on so many bases. And you don't care, you simply KNOW you're right. You'll simply keep restating your premise until the cows come home. So be it.

Shawn Charton wrote (April 1, 2007):
Singing OT

[To Joel Figen] Your condescending tone and subsequent dismissal is completely unfounded. You've participated in this conversation all of ONCE and yet you act like I've said that every idea you have is completely invalid. Yes, I KNOW that my concept of how the voice works is correct according to the standard scientific view of vocal mechanics. Yes, I KNOW that there are great differences in how voices function. Yes, I KNOW the difference between tremolo and vibrato.

I never professed to be the be all and end all of vocal knowledge. If you have something legitimate to present go for it. However, I'd hardly call ONE reference from an outdated and unscientific source that uses a vague term like "tremolo" from an era where vocal study was based solely on auditory input a compelling argument. The only thing I've stated is that the choice to straighten out the tone WILL cost vocal energy. That is a simple fact... not my opinion. And more than once I've said that it's not necessarily a BAD choice... but it is a choice that has potential consequences.

It seems to me that you're more enamored of the lovely idea of vocal artistry than being bothered by the hard concrete facts. Vocal artistry has GREAT merit but it cannot dismiss technical facts any more than the lovely musical ideas of J.S. Bach can change the historical facts of the research presented on this list. They must work in conjunction. You would preme to just pat you on the head and say, "yes, it's lovely when you sing straight tone...?" That may well be true... it MAY be lovely when you sing straight tone. That doesn't change the fact that it is less technically efficient and thus more costly than a tone with normal vibrato.

The historical points on this board are normally supported by factual research and documental bases. Yet you expect me to interpret information about the function of vibrato from imperical sources that never even use the word vibrato?? You show me a single source that shows that the normal state of the human voice is straight tone and that straight tone is, in fact healthier, from a legitimate scientific study and I'll be happy to know it. I doubt you can even find me a scientific source that states unequivocably that Baroque music was intended to be sung without vibrato or that vibrato was only used as an ornament. If such a source exists I have yet to see it. I have, of course, heard that opinion and heard it put to use with fine results. I have even used it myself on occasion. However, I have also seen a great deal of analytical evidence that both supports my point of view and disproves yours, much of which I have posted here. Therefore, I believe what I read
and see from experience. And it SHOULD be telling that I have given every technical explaination and example I can think of to satisy any question that has been put to me. The fact is, I KNOW it because I have learned it through school, performance and years of teaching. I may not always present it in the most clear light... I am afterall human. But that doesn't invalidate my point of view. And when I am unclear, I am CERTAINLY open to reqeusts to clarify. Just as I am open to you proving your case. You haven't done so, so why should I change what I KNOW to be true?

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 2, 2007):
Shawn Charton wrote:
< The Bernoulli principal in voice is NOT up for debate. It's not a theory of MINE... it is pedagogically sound information that is accepted by ANY trained vocal mechanic. >
I am not interested in embarrassing anyone, I am simply interested in the science involved. If the result disagrees with the pedagogs, so be it. I googled "bernoulli principle" and voice, with many results including:

PAS-Conference October 3-5, 2002
Keynote: Historical Antecedents to Current Issues in Voice Science James Stark
http://www.med.rug.nl/pas/Conf_contrib/Stark/Stark_keynote.htm

The paper is rather long, and technical, but Stark clearly discredits the involvement of the Bernoulli effect in the production of voice at all, let alone its involvement in the production (or not) of vibrato. The paper is loaded with references, which look essential for the serious researcher on the topic. I am not, so I did not look further. At the very least, it is essential to recognize that using the Bernoulli principle to explain vocal effects is not universally accepted, and I did not see any support for it.

I am also still confused about the nature of tremolo. My music dictionary (Harvard) gives: <In singing, tremolo commonly refers to the excessive vibrato that leads to deviation of pitch. <end quote> Is your information that tremolo is caused by a pathology generally accepted in vocal circles? It appears to me that it can be as simple as extreme vibrato, which you state can be controlled. It also appears to me that how much vibrato is too much is a matter of taste and fashion, so to call tremolo a pathology is somewhat extreme.

I am not questioning your practical singing experience, or even definition of terms, but I think the scientific explanations are far from settled at this point.

Shawn Charton wrote (April 2, 2007):
[To Ed Myskowski] It was never my contention that Bernoulli has anything what-so-ever to do with vibrato. If someone has refuted the influence of Bernoulli in the voice, more power to em... it's really a minor thing in the grand scheme and doesn't change my technique at all. Yes, tremolo is generall accepted as pathology, except in the case of Cher who seems to have built a career on it. The use of vibrato is certainly a subject of musical tastes and fashion... however taste and fashion do not always go along with health. Corsette anyone??

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 2, 2007):
Shawn Charton wrote:
< It was never my contention that Bernoulli has anything what-so-ever to do with vibrato. If someone has refuted the influence of Bernoulli in the voice, more power to em... it's really a minor thing in the grand scheme and doesn't change my technique at all. >
I would urge you to read Stark's paper, especially to the effect of how much useless, even harmful, technique has been taught in the name of the Bernoulli principle. I have no idea if that applies to you.

< Yes, tremolo is generall accepted as pathology, except in the case of Cher who seems to have built a career on it. The use of vibrato is certainly a subject of musical tastes and fashion... however taste and fashion do not always go along with health. Corsette anyone?? >
I am guessing that a corset would have a very negative effect on all aspects of voice, but I have neither sung professionally nor worn a corset, so my opinion is very informal..

Here is my summary of what I think I have learned, so far. That is my objective, so I would encourage you or anyone else to continue to comment or correct.

(1) Vibrato is a natural effect of the singing voice, everyone has a unique level.

(2) The range of natural vibrato can be adjusted up or down by introducing tensions into the muscle structure of the larynx and other body parts (including those influenced by a corset?).

(3) Suppressing vibrato to achieve 'clear' or 'pure' tone is unhealthy.

(4) Enhancing vibrato to produce tremolo is even more unhealthy. It is pathological. Unless you are Cher. Then it is still pathological, but you are so rich you don't care.

(5) The science of voice production is not as yet well defined. It is field of active research, so active that the scientists occasionally listen to actual singers. It is not clear that singers reciprocate the courtesy.

Shawn Charton wrote (April 2, 2007):
< I would urge you to read Stark's paper, especially to the effect of how much useless, even harmful, technique has been taught in the name of the Bernoulli principle. I have no idea if that applies to you. >
The extent to which Bernoulli affects my teaching is that I MIGHT mention that it moves the cords... if it doesn't move the cords then so be it... nothing I do is predicated on it.

<< Yes, tremolo is generall accepted as pathology, except in the case of Cher who seems to have built a career on it. The use of vibrato is certainly a subject of musical tastes and fashion... however taste and fashion do not always go along with health. Corsette anyone?? >>
< I am guessing that a corset would have a very negative effect on all aspects of voice, but I have neither sung professionally nor worn a corset, so my opinion is very informal.. >
(side note) through the time of Gilbert and Sullivan singers (including men) wore corsettes to aid in "support"... That said, my reference was referring to the adverse affects of wearing corsettes on the internal organs and health in general, NOT singing. YET it was in fashion.

< Here is my summary of what I think I have learned, so far. That is my objective, so I would encourage you or anyone else to continue to comment or correct.
(1) Vibrato is a natural effect of the singing voice, everyone has a unique level. >
Yes.

< (2) The range of natural vibrato can be adjusted up or down by introducing tensions into the muscle structure of the larynx and other body parts (including those influenced by a corset?). >
Yes... except the corsette has nothing to do with it...

< (3) Suppressing vibrato to achieve 'clear' or 'pure' tone is unhealthy. >
It CAN be unhealthy, but it DOES cost the singer SOMETHING (volume, resonance, etc...) even if it is done healthily. THAT is my opinion...

< (4) Enhancing vibrato to produce tremolo is even more unhealthy. It is pathological. you are Cher. Then it is still pathological, but you are so rich you don't care. >
this one needs some work... Tremolo sounds like really fast vibrato but it's really out of control vibrato... and, yes... Cher is rich.

< (5) The science of voice production is not as yet well defined. It is field of active research, so active that the scientists occasionally listen to actual singers. It is not clear that singers reciprocate the courtesy. >
I'm not quite sure what that was supposed to mean but I'll just say that this is, of course, easily dismissed as my own opinion or experiences if you don't want to buy it. It makes me no difference.

Joel Figen wrote (April 2, 2007):
Shawn Charton wrote:
< Your condescending tone and subsequent dismissal is completely unfounded. You've participated in this conversation all of ONCE and yet you act like I've said that every idea you have is completely invalid. Yes, I KNOW that my concept of how the voice works is correct according to the standard scientific view of vocal mechanics. Yes, I KNOW that there are great differences in how voices function. Yes, I KNOW the difference between tremolo and vibrato. >
Shawn - You gave me no choice but to act as I did. You're being immovable and absolutely certain that your knowledge isn't debatable. I"ve seen religious fundamentalists with more give'n'take. But I suppose I should make one more probably vain attempt:

What you claim to be indisputable, I say is HIGHLY disputable, on MANY fronts: scientific, philosophical, aesthetic, artistic, historical, and sociological, and logical, just to name a few. Yet you insisted on continually merely restating the grand indisputable rightness of your honestly rather narrow position. It is not I, therefore, who first adopted a condescending and dismissive tone. look within, my friend.

As for my having participated all of ONCE, I did have another couple of messages nearly prepared, and was just softening the edges, but I realized that there was no point in posting them, since you had already retreated to restatement after restatement of your absolutist, proprietary position.

From where I stand, you don't even begin to know the things you so devoutly claim to beabsolute "scientific" truths, you merely believe them, devoutly, and your belief is so strong you mistake it for knowledge, and, specifically, for far broader knowledge than you are currently in touch with or aware of. You may actually HAVE that broader knowledge, but you are not viewing things broadly at present.

Best wishes. If you want to discuss this further with me, we should probably do it off list.

Certainty is often the subtlest fallacy.

Someone once said that old age is when the cement starts to harden in your head. Think about that.

Shawn Charton wrote (April 2, 2007):
[To Joel Figen] Well, Joel... you've had every choice but to act as you did. I've been nothing but polite and open to other opinions. The few that have been presented have been greeted with openess and explaination of why I think what I think; nothing more. I have yet to hear ANY points of view that would merit me changing my perspective because my perspective makes PLENTY of room for standard Baroque style singing.

Don't call me friend. You are clearly NOT friendly at least as far as I am concerned. You clearly don't know me at all or you wouldn't think the way you do about me.

You mean you ASSUMED that I was immovable and didn't bother to say anything that actually had a real point of view?? That is not my fault.

No, my mind is not so broad that my brain is flapping in the breeze... However, my mind is ALWAYS open to ideas of merit and if they present with a good basis in fact I often adjust my way of thinking to account for them. Those who have taken the time to talk to me here have found that I am VERY open to nice conversation and new ideas. Those who have created a persona in their own mind and then had a peeing contest with it are best left to their own devices. If you wish to argue further, please do so with the persona in your head and leave me out of it.

Have a lovely evening.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 2, 2007):
Shawn Charton wrote:
<< (5) The science of voice production is not as yet well defined. It is field of active research, so active that the scientists occasionally listen to actual singers. It is not clear that singers reciprocate the courtesy. >>
< I'm not quite sure what that was supposed to mean but I'll just say that this is, of course, easily dismissed as my own opinion or experiences if you don't want to buy it. It makes me no difference. >
I was referring primarily to the paper by Stark which I cited, which I looked at quickly. If I understand correctly, he is primarily an expert on singing, addressing by invitation a group of scientists. To his credit, he was grateful for the opportunity.

I would be interested in any analogous examples of scientists invited to address a group of experts on singing.

I am not at all clear on what your response meant, either, but if you took my remark personally, it was not intended that way. Thanks for your responses to my summary conclusions (preliminary). I am confident that I learned something from this thread. I hope I am not alone, but if I am, it makes no difference.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 2, 2007):
Joel Figen wrote:
< Certainty is often the subtlest fallacy. >
Not subtle at all.

< Someone once said that old age is when the cement starts to harden in your head. Think about that. >
Someone else said that if the gray matter in hour head is cement (or even concrete), you are in deep doo-doo long before it starts to harden. Or, as the Tin Man in Oz cheerfully sang: 'If I only had a brain!' Apologies to my Aussie friends.

Joel Figen wrote (April 2, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
<< Someone once said that old age is when the cement starts to harden in your head. Think about that. >>
< Someone else said that if the gray matter in hour head is cement (or even concrete), you are in deep doo-doo long before it starts to harden. Or, as the Tin Man in Oz cheerfully sang: 'If I only had a brain!' Apologies to my Aussie friends. >
You may be on to something. When I was in college we divided profs into two categories: hard-heads and mush-heads. Clearly, they were all cement-heads.

Balulalow,

Joel Figen wrote (April 2, 2007):
Shawn Charton wrote:
< Don't call me friend. You are clearly NOT friendly at least as far as I am concerned. You clearly don't know me at all or you wouldn't think the way you do about me. >
I only know what you've posted here, and I"d say it pretty well confirms what I've said. I don't think I said anything unfriendly. Perhaps your'e unfamiliar with debate? >

< You mean you ASSUMED that I was immovable and didn't bother to say anything that actually had a real point of view?? That is not my fault. >
In looking back over what I posted, I see quite a bit that has a real point of view, and goes rather deeply into it, concisely but deeply.

I urge you to reread what I've posted and stop flying off the handle in response to a sincere challenge.

Shawn Charton wrote (April 2, 2007):
[To Joel Figen] I'm not flying off the handle at a sincere challenge. I'm telling you that I don't intend to be dragged into your little muck slinging contest.

Your response to having a clear point of view is to call someone dismissive?? Perhaps you should consider developing a defensible point of view yourself instead of touting questionable sources and then calling people who don't buy it unreasonable.

I have been nowhere NEAR dismissive. You, on the other hand, have tried to dismiss everything I have said more than once. The funny thing is, you expect to do it without actually posting anything but insults. That is not debate. Debate would imply that you actually participate in conversing points of view... I've presented mine as clearly as I know how. Where is yours?

And when asked to explain my point of view, I have. I'll point out that MOST of this thread has been me explaining (to specific requests) what I had said in the first post. I'm sorry if you disagree with my concept of vocal mechanics and technique but tis not my concern. All I can tell you is that I have tried MANY different approaches in my own singing as well as with students and I am WELL founded in standard vocal technique. Should something better come along I'm open to adjustment. And contrary to your insinuations, the Romantic wobble is FAR from my frame of reference.

Joel Figen wrote (April 2, 2007):
Shawn Charton wrote:
< I'm not flying off the handle at a sincere challenge. I'm telling you that I don't intend to be dragged into your little muck slinging contest. >
I have slung no muck. I've outlined a position, and you responded by simply restating and restating one or two narrow premises, complete with preemptive definitions of common terms that have agreed-upon meanings other than yours. I was well prepared to go into my position more and more deeply, but you seem to have no interest in doing anything but restating yours, endlessly, and when that's called into question, to start posturing, belittling and rejecting. As I requested before, please reread my posts. they are not what you are claiming. they are not dismissive or muck slinging. that is they weren't dismissive until you repeated the same gambit several more times than I can tolerate.

Julian Mincham wrote (April 2, 2007):
Ladies and gentlemen

we appear to have a new turf war.

Only the names have been changed.

May I respectfully suggest that, interesting though this thread has been interesting it might now be better continued off list?

As for me I'm trotting off to listen to BWV 42.

Shawn Charton wrote (April 2, 2007):
[To Joel Figen] Whatever Joel. This discussion has gone far past ridiculous and I refuse to participate either in public or private. Please refrain from bothering me further.

Joel Figen wrote (April 2, 2007):
Shawn Charton wrote:
< Whatever Joel. This discussion has gone far past ridiculous and I refuse to participate either in public or private. Please refrain from bothering me further. >
Good. Then I get the last word! I win! I win!

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (April 2, 2007):
[To Joel Figen] No you don't. May everyone on the list jump on both of your backs for flaming each other like that.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 2, 2007):
[To Joel Figen] Repetition is the sincerest form of flattery? That can't be right, can it?

Shawn Charton wrote (April 2, 2007):
[To Cara Emily Thornton] That wasn't flaming on my part, Cara... but you see what I mean... he's having a peeing contest with himself and whaddya know... he won, he won...

Whatever.

Joel Figen wrote (April 2, 2007):
[To Shawn Charton] That particular message was tongue-in-cheek, shawn. Grow some skin. I've done nothing but attempt to hold you to reasonable intellectual standards, as I would anyone who claimed near-messianic status in spreading the good news about something that involved a lot of questionable claims. I do that with religious apologists, snake oil salesmen, and now you. So you're in good company. And I do this out of sheer love of truth. So stop reacting and actually read my earlier posts. They're full of constructive questioning and opportunities to see a bigger picture. There's no need to react. But if you insist on reacting, I do know where your buttons are now, and reserve the right to push them again if need be. I haven't really done anything unusual. You merely reacted as if I had.

(And there's more serious questioning in the post that I didn't send while you were in your absolutist phase... Maybe I should send it.)

Your Friend,

Shawn Charton wrote (April 2, 2007):
[To Joel Figen] To foster a lack of saying the two words in my mind, I'll say this. At this point I wouldn't even bother to read your opinions about my posts. You have shown by your reactions that you neither understand me nor what I had to say about the voice. Clearly you are an opinionate hobbyist who likes to take on the robes of the educated without any real merits. No wonder you find yourself in opposition to the singers in the voice room. You have shown a complete lack of interest in holding yourself accountable in the same standards that you purport to hold myself and my "esteemed company."As you seem to refuse to let this drop you've left me no choice but to block you.

For those of you who wish to verify that what I have said about the voice is indeed true, you can check any standard vocal pedagogy book as well as medical textbooks used for speech pathologists, etc. Much of it can even be verified in Gray's Anatomy...

Bye, Joel.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (April 3, 2007):

Shawn Charton wrote:
< To foster a lack of saying the two words in my mind, I'll say this. At this point I wouldn't even bother to read your opinions about my posts. You have shown by your reactions that you neither understand me nor what I had to say about the voice. Clearly you are an opinionate hobbyist who likes to take on the robes of the educated without any real merits. No wonder you find yourself in opposition to the singers in the voice room. >
Shawn, have you noticed that not all of the singers on this list have reacted so violently to Joel? I think it might be worthwhile for you to entertain (for yourself in the privacy of your own room or whatever) the question of why that might be. I personally am convinced that Joel is at least making a good faith effort to be conciliatory. It is quite immaterial whether I agree with him or not.

Joel Figen wrote (April 3, 2007):
Shawn Charton wrote:
< To foster a lack of saying the two words in my mind, I'll say this. At this point I wouldn't even bother to read your opinions about my posts. >
It seems you never really did read any of them with understanding. so how is this point different from other points at which you have refused to read?

< You have shown by your reactions that you neither understand me nor what I had to say about the voice. >
I usually reserve the word "reaction" for something more emotional than my steady unfazed insistence on intellectual standards.

< Clearly you are an opinionate hobbyist who likes to take on the robes of the educated without any real merits. >
I am not professional at this time, but my education is not in doubt.

< No wonder you find yourself in opposition to the singers in the voice room. >
There was no opposition. What I said was that there were an arbitrarily large number of people all claiming "scientific" credentials and certainty, rather like you, all of them spouting different dogma, and all of them absolutely certain of their correctness. They're still there, if you want to go join the hubbub.

< You have shown a complete lack of interest in holding yourself accountable in the same standards that you purport to hold myself and my "esteemed company." >
I have no idea who your "esteemed company" might be. It's not a phrase I used or saw you use. However, people who actually tie up the loose intellectual ends realize that I do indeed hold myself to the same standards of thought that I espouse.

< As you seem to refuse to let this drop you've left me no choice but to block you. >
Block me or not, Your choice. I still feel obliged to set right the false statements you have made in this message, and hope you will come around.

Did I "refuse to let it drop?" No, I really don't think so. I merely declined to drop it AT YOUR COMMAND. Why didn't you drop it at any of the 3 or 4 times you said you were done? Clearly it was not I who "refused to let it drop."

< For those of you who wish to verify that what I have said about the voice is indeed true, you can check any standard vocal pedagogy book as well as medical textbooks used for speech pathologists, etc. Much of it can even be verified in Gray's Anatomy...>
The field of vocal pedagogy is nowhere nearly as cut and dried as you seem to think. But more to the point, I was speaking about things you rigorously refused even to imagine, seemingly because of your insistence on using your own definitions, rather than seeking to understand how others use words. I speak here not of myself, since my definitions are almost always negotiable, but of voices from the past. Definitions of words like "vibrato" and "tremolo" that you can perhaps riinsist on in your work and pedagogy today can't be expected to apply to ancient sources. Words change over time.

< Bye, Joel. >
Bye Shawn, y'all come back real soon, ya hear?

Neil Mason wrote (April 16, 2007):
Shawn Charton wrote:
<< Is that as clear as mud? >>
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Yes, and that is substantially clearer than a lot of what has preceded it.
I still don't understand how you can invoke the Bernoulli principle, unless you (or someone you can cite) can explain how it applies. Otherwise, it is just arm waving (or Alain's more modest hand waving). You might just as well invoke any principle of Fluid Dynamics, say the Reynolds Number transition from laminar to turbulent flow. I started the sentence as a joke, but now I wonder if that might not be the answer, or at least a better bluff than the Bernoulli principle?
I am totally lost as to the distinction between tremolo and vibrato, and if it matters to the theory. And if we can't explain how either is created, how do we define the difference? Perhaps I missed this, if so, a concise summary would be welcome. >
I've kept out of this discussion until now, mainly because I'm so far behind with my reading. But of course as a professional singer and singing teacher I've found it very interesting. Generally I find myself in agreement with Shawn. Some amount of vibrato is absolutely necessary for healthy vocal functioning.

Although the Bernoulli principle is involved in the actual vibration of the vocal folds, the biological function of vibrato is still unknown, as is the particular reason why speed (and intensity) of vibrato varies from singer to singer, within the same singer over time, and comparing one historical period to another.

The really interesting thing is that Shawn is absolutely correct when he says that opera singers need an amount of vibrato greater than a certain threshold in order to project in huge venues such as the Met without amplification.

Recordings do not accurately reflect this. There are many examples of singers who were phenomenal live who just don't sound as impressive in recordings. I would guess that Ruth Holton would be the converse, having little vibrato compared with most opera singers. It's one of the reasons operas should be enjoyed in live performance, but that OVPP Bach works better in recordings than live.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 16, 2007):
Neil Mason wrote:
< It's one of the reasons operas should be enjoyed in live performance, but that OVPP Bach works better in recordings than live. >
OVPP peformances would work fine if they took place in the same ascoustic settings they were written for, namely an elevated western gallery in a large reververent building. Performances in dry concert halls or from the front of churches ensures a false impression of the music. The engineering manipulation of most Bach recordings also damages the performance. McCreesh's "Epiphany Mass" makes an effort to reconstruct the acoustic and spatial values of the various types of music used in Bach's services. Rifkin's cantatas, as lovely as the performances are, have no sense of a natural acoustic.

Uri Golomb wrote (April 16, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< OVPP peformances would work fine if they took place in the same ascoustic settings they were written for, namely an elevated western gallery in a large reververent building. Performances in dry concert halls or from the front of churches ensures a false impression of the music. >
I'll admit that I never had a chance to hear Bach's music (OVPP or otherwise) "in the same acoustic settings they were written for" -- I hope to make up for this one day. However, in my experience, OVPP can work just fine in anachronistic settings -- I greatly enjoyed Paul McCreesh's SMP (BWV 244) at "the front of a church" (St. John's Smith Square in London, which now operates almost exclusively as a concert hall; see my review on: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/SMP-Golomb.htm), and two of the "Lutheran" Masses with the Purcell Quartet at a "dry concert hall" -- Wigmore Hall in London, which normally serves as a venue for chamber-music, solo and Lieder recitals. And, in terms of sonority and balance, I also enjoyed Philip Pickett's single-concertists and single-ripienists performance of the B minor Mass (BWV 232) at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (I had reservations about his tempi and phrasing, but I very much doubt if a different acoustics would have made any difference). It is true, however, that McCreesh's attempts to mount small-scale performances of the Passions at the Barbican Hall (built as the home of the London Symphony Orchestra) were much less successful, as was Pickett's similarly-scaled St John Passion (BWV 245) at the Tel Aviv Opera House. (I know that Joshua Rifkin did the SMP (BWV 244) at the Royal Albert Hall once -- I wonder what that was like...).

So I think it's a bit strong to say that these acoustic setting "ensure a false impression". They might well create difficulties for the performers, but at least in some cases, musicians were quite capable of overcoming them, and present highly convicning live performances with OVPP vocal forces. (IN the case of the Purcell Quartet, the instrumental forces were also one-per-part -- which is definitely smaller than what Bach had in mind; yet it worked remarkably well).

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 16, 2007):
Uri Golomb wrote:
< I'll admit that I never had a chance to hear Bach's music (OVPP or otherwise) "in the same acoustic settings they were written for" -- I hope to make up for this one day. However, in my experience, OVPP can work just fine in anachronistic settings -- I greatly enjoyed Paul McCreesh's SMP (BWV 244) at "the front of a church" (St. John's Smith Square in London, which now operates almost exclusively as a concert hall; >
I have to agree here. St. John's Square is a superlative concert space with just the right reverberent acoustic which doesn't muddy the sound. My real argument is with Bach concerts in large buildings which encourage shouting or concerts in halls which do not have enough "churchy" acoustic.

Neil Mason wrote (April 17, 2007):
[To Doug Cowling & Uri Golomb] I meant my comment on OVPP as a generalisation only. St John's Smith Square is an amazing acoustic. I remember a great Christmas Oratorio there conducted (and sung) by Peter Schreier (which wasn't OVPP) and could tell that the acoustic is extremely "live".

But I'm curious to know, Uri, whether you felt the SMP (BWV 244) was suitably dramatic.

 

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Last update: żNovember 6, 2007 ż08:14:12