A Preliminary View of Some Foundational and Contemporary Research on Singing in China: Introducing Translations of Two Contrasting Works

By Pan, Bing-Yi | Psychomusicology, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

A Preliminary View of Some Foundational and Contemporary Research on Singing in China: Introducing Translations of Two Contrasting Works


Pan, Bing-Yi, Psychomusicology


ABSTRACT - This brief essay provides an introduction in historical context for subsequent Chinese translations of two contrasting contributions that focus on the science of singing. The first is the translation of a chapter from a classic book by Dr. Jun-Qing Hn who was a pioneer in vocal science research in China. The second is a translation of a more recent contribution by Dr.Jing Wu who reports on and compares acoustical analyses of several examples of Chinese and Western Singing.

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A famous passage in Huangdi Neijing (the earliest Chinese extant medical text compiled over 2,000 years ago in the Warring State Period, 475-221 B.C.) discusses the relationship between singing and health. It stated that "..." (singing can represent the status of the spleen and stomach system) (Wang, 2002). Examples such as this suggest, in a broad sense, that singing science has existed in China for thousands of years. In modern China, Guang-Qi Wang (1927) first introduced music psychology from Germany to China in his article "The Psychology of Sound". After that, many Chinese scholars showed great interest in music psychology and contributed to the field. However, as far as I know, most of these works report subjective impressions rather than more objective experiments that would interest readers of Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, ¿if Brain, especially in the field of singing and psychology which is the main theme of this volume. In the latter regard, it is Jun-Qing Lin's scientific work on vocal physiology as well as voice training method that stands out.

Jun-Qing Lin (1914-2000) was undoubtedly a phenomenon in his time. In addition to being a great singer and singing instructor, Dr. Lin also pioneered vocal science research in China as a result of both his excellent musical talent and medical background. It is widely recognized in China that Jun-Qing Lin founded a Chinese pharyngeal school of singing based on the Italian traditional bel canto methods. Many famous Chinese singers during this time reaped the benefits of Lin's training. His academic influence was continued by Ying-Zhe Zhang (1928-2005); one of whose best students is Fan Zhang. The present author was also one of the students of Fan Zhang.

Dr. Lin's formal studies on vocal science can be separated into two phases divided by the Great Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). In the earlier phase, which occurred mainly during the period of the Shanghai Institute of Vocal Music between 1958 and 1965, Dr. Lin's research focus was on the study of Western singing and the Italian pharyngeal voice training method from the perspective of science, especially physiology. He also focused on voice evaluation and therapy. Through his investigations of hundreds of singers, Lin began to establish his unique voice training system. The book Scientific Principles of Singing (Lin, 1962/1996), introduced here for the first time in English translation, is his most important contribution at that time. Other significant books of Lin in this phase are The Physiology of Singing (1957) and The Correct Methods and Reasons for Incorrect Singing Voice (1960). They are available only in Chinese.

The first edition of Scientific Principles of Singing has five sections. Chapter 1, Introduction, gives a general view of the book. Chapter 2, Physiology of Voice Production in Singing, begins with discussions of breathing, and then, step by step, explores all the physiological processes of voice production in singing; to understand this chapter well, readers should have some basic knowledge of anatomy, acoustics and biomechanics. Chapter 3, Physiology of Pronunciation in Singing, provides detailed information about the physiological principles of vowel and consonant pronunciation in singing; in order to understand this chapter well, it would be helpful for readers to have a prior background in phonetics and acoustics. After an introduction highlighting achievements in vocal science of singing by both Western colleagues and the author himself in the first three chapters, Chapter 4, Artistic Application of the Voice, turns to discuss the application of vocal science to singing. …

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