Charles Amable Battaille: Pioneer in Vocal Science and the Teaching of Singing.
Although conflicting historical accounts make absolute verification difficult, it appears that several professions were represented within the unique person of Charles Amable Battaille (1822-1872), a leading bass in prominent French opera companies, medical practitioner (anatomist and physician), research scientist, and teacher of singing. Battaille lived during a time when knowledge of the functional aspects of professional singing was expanding and the art of vocalism itself was changing, both stylistically and physiologically.
Manuel Garcia (1805-1906), renowned teacher of singing and founder of laryngeal research, must have viewed Battaille as a fascinating student. Battaille knew more about physiology than Garcia himself, and whereas the latter was obliged to forego singing at an early age, Battaille remained for years a major performer, favorably cited for sturdy vocalism, dramatic ability, and impressive physique.
After 1857, Battaille turned to research and to writing about his pedagogy. He projected seven volumes, to be called De l'enseignement du chant, but only two reached completion and publication: Nouvelles recherches sur la phonation (1861) and De la physiologie appliquee a l'etude du mecanisme vocal (1863).
James Richard Joiner summarizes Battaille's approach to important aspects of singing technique (onset, registration, voice qualities, laryngeal positioning, and resonance balancing) and provides translations of Battaille's two published treatises. The first is divided into three parts. Part 1 ("Anatomy") includes sections on the structure of the larynx and its cartilages; ligaments and muscles; the vocal membrane; and the mucous membrane. Part 2 ("Laryngoscopy") discusses instrumentation, procedure, phonatory and nonphonatory movements, chest register, falsetto register, son file, trill, inspiratory voice, and laryngoscopic functions. Part 3 ("Physiology") concerns the principal phenomena involved in the generation of vocal sound; topics covered are the adduction of the arytenoids, tension of the vocal ligaments, progressive posterior occlusion of the glottis, chest register, falsetto register, increase and decrease in volume, the vibrating surface of the cord, movement of the vestibule of the glottis, the s uperior thyroarytenoid ligaments, the ventricles of Morgagni, and epiglottic action.
Included are plates depicting Battaille's laryngoscopic examination of his own larynx and those of his students during singing. The reader puts the volume down in wonderment that much of what Battaille observed and taught is in complete accord with what is observable through modern endoscopic and stroboscopic examination. Battaille moved investigative pedagogy beyond both Garcia and Julius Stockhausen, another Garcia disciple. One can only speculate on how voice pedagogy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries might have been different if Battaille's specific observations on physiologic and acoustic functions during singing had been available to a wider audience.
The account of Battaille is a reminder that scientific information applied to the events of singing is not an innovation of post-World War II science but has long served as a foundation for informed voice pedagogy. Battaille lies within a tradition that predates even Garcia; since the emergence of the solo voice, major pedagogues have made use of available information on voice function. The frequent twentieth-century instructional retreat into floating clouds, bubbling fountains, and green, purple, and gold vocal colors is a digression from the central, historical development of voice pedagogy.
Joiner's English translation of Battaille's treatises is a major contribution. In the concluding assessment, "A Voice for the Ages," Joiner properly views the work of Charles Amable Battaille as justification for traditional teaching approaches informed by the application of scientific method. The book is enhanced by thorough indexing and an extensive bibliography.
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|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Dec 1, 1999|
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