Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Voice Science and Voice Pedagogy Vocabularies: Can They Merge?

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Voice Science and Voice Pedagogy Vocabularies: Can They Merge?

Article excerpt

MORE THAN TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO, I wrote a column in a precursor to this journal known as The NATS Bulletin. The column was entitled, "A Word About Words."1 I began to realize that my scientific explanations of voice production contained words that were deliberately avoided by singing teachers. The language of voice habilitation was facilitative, filled with words of ease, relaxation, and minimal effort. The language of physics, in which I was trained, contained words like pressure, stress, force, tension, compression, contraction, strain, resistance, and constriction. No judgment of good or bad, or right or wrong, was attached to these words in physical science. They were well defined quantities, their definition agreed upon by the international standards organization (ISO), and they could all be measured with instruments. In voice pedagogy, I was introduced to new words like support, appoggio, heaviness, or weightiness in a voice, spin, ring, shimmer, chiaroscuro, spinto, robusto, and all the register terminology. Over the years, I have learned to live with the two vocabularies, but there are moments when word conflicts do impede progress.

The greatest conflicts arise when we try to explain what needs to be relaxed (limp) and what needs to be engaged (firm). Singing requires highly selective activation of muscles. Two or more muscles in close proximity to each other, perhaps even innervated by components of the same nerve, have to be turned on or off differentially. This means that stiffened tissue and relaxed tissue may lie side-by-side. The singer may not sense this differential activity, and the teacher may not have the words or mental images to bring about the sensations. To be safe, more attention usually goes to the "relaxation" component than the "firming-up" component. …

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