Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Section I: Where It Begins —

This work is in progress, adding sections as we go, and to be read in the order the sections were posted. Clicking all the arrows down in the blog archive on the right will reveal that order. Although each section is predicated on the previous post(s), each has its own center. If material posted in a previous section is appropriate to the section at hand, we incorporate it as though it were spoken for the first time. Expect repetition.

1. Any singer who invests his life in the art of singing comes to learn that for the better part of the last Century the art has been in the dumps. During that Century the human being has gone on to split the atom, land on the moon, discover radio waves in outer space, trace them back to where they no longer exist (some 15 billion years ago) confirming the Big Bang, and launch a telescope, the Hubble, with which we may view it someday. We successfully map the human genome, add years to our lives through the advancements in medical science: organ transplants, chemotherapy, gene therapy, and the potential that exists in stem cell research is waiting in the wings. And the list goes on—not to forget the computer.

2. Yet despite all our advancements in every field of human endeavor over the last Century, the art of singing continues its downward spiral. Consequently, there is no industry or profession with more room at the top clamoring to be filled, for the thrill in the sound of a great voice singing the most beautiful music composed for the instrument, than that of the professional opera singer.

3. Young singers, who are not familiar with the history of voice, the evolution of song (solo singing), the development of the Italian School of Singing, and the historically great singers it produced, are not aware of the arena from which we come. And why we began paragraph 1 with the sentence we did. Nevertheless, we believe our words about voice and its development will stand on their own, and stimulate an interest in anyone who truly loves to sing. The development of the voice is one; it has nothing to do with genre. Voice is voice. All genres require voice—two full flawless octaves if the singer is to have any fun. Here are two glorious products of the Old School: Enrico Caruso and Luisa Tetrazzini. Incidentally, Tetrazzini was a natural.


That is what we are talking about. +


And so is that. ++

4. We share these recordings not to intimidate, for they can, but to let our reader hear voices (technique) that allow their possessors pure vocal abandonment. Great singers reveal the possibilities inherent in the human voice and entice some thoughts. The fundamental and the profound exist side by side in the question: How do they do it? And the obvious emerges: if it can be done by one, it can be done by all.

5. Twenty years ago, we were introduced to NLP—neuro-linguistic programming: a science of behavior and personal achievement developed on the behavior-model of highly successful people. Our definition is sorely lacking, but in hearing the words of these researchers, we had to stop the tape and reminisce. The neuro-linguistic programming method these men and women were describing was the very method employed by the men who instigated the development of the first school of singing, the Italian School, c. 1600; the first school opened in Naples in 1681, by Alessandro Scarlatti.

6. The irony in the awareness touched on sadness, because not to know the history of the Italian School, which for two hundred years produce legions of glorious singers, and without which grand opera could never had been invented (what could Beethoven have done without the instruments of the orchestra), leave students of singing in the dark. What are they to strive for? But our vocal neuro-linguistic researchers, composer-singers and members of the Florentine Camerata, began the development of the Italian School as an after-thought. In part, they were inspired to compose music for the human voice and, naturally, drawn to inspect the instrument they were to compose for, because history tells us the most beautiful singers that ever walked the earth was living then: the Castrati, male singers with treble voices secured through emasculation.

7. The Castrati started the show that soon grew to include the male and female categories of voice. The point is, there is something for which to strive in knowing the first school was developed through the observation, study, and analysis of the completely natural voice, a product of Italy.* There was no school at this time. It is comforting to know man did not invent singing; it existed in Nature, and he figured it out. How this knowledge alone would affect the steps of a budding student of singing today, we can only conjecture; the sadness speaks for itself.

8. What is it about Italy that produces the natural? Therein sleep the long-sought answers regarding the technique of the Italian School of Singing. But we are not going there. We are here to develop the voice, and although that requires fundamentally one structure and, basically, one vowel ([a]) over two octaves plus, through the printed word that is still an "iffy proposition—all one can hope for. We will take a neuro-linguistic look (if I may) at how the great singers open the mouth to run a two octave scale, however, and trust that look will help set our reader/singer on the right path. If the voice develops, we trust the singer will know how to use it—sing.

* * * * *

+Caruso: Francesco Paolo Tosti, "L’alba separa dalla luce l’ombra," recorded in 1917; in Vienna, May 1999, the 1917 acoustical orchestra was removed and in its place the accompaniment of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra (RSO). Conductor: Gottfried Rabl. Project-Concept and Artistic Supervision: Robert Werba. Gentlemen, Thank You.

++Tetrazzini: Vincenzo Bellini "Ah, non giunge," from La sonnambula: The London Recordings (13 July 1908). Digitally re-mastered: EMI, 1992.

* For an introduction to the development of the Italian School of Singing, see Edgar F. Herbert-Caesari, The Science and Sensations of Vocal Tone (London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1938), p. 1-7. For a complete history and, perhaps, found nowhere else, see Tradition and Gigli by the same author (London: Robert Hale Limited, 1958).