Kinesthetic Voice Pedagogy: Motivating Acoustic Efficiency.
Kenneth Bozeman, who made a significant contribution to the resources for voice teachers with Practical Vocal Acoustics: Pedagogic Applications for Teachers and Singers (Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press, 2013; reviewed in JOS 70, no. 5 [May/June 2014]), presents a volume that he describes as a sequel and companion. The author offers guidance in translating acoustic information into practical recommendations for the voice studio through "informal observations and working conclusions." The conclusions are based upon historical pedagogy, voice science (specifically voice acoustics), and an awareness of innate and/or evolved responses of humans. Although the title of this latest offering does not contain the word "affect," the importance of emotional intent is a consistent theme throughout the book. In the introductory chapter, Bozeman states that the voice is motivated by an impulse to communicate. Recognizing the primacy of this impetus should be at the heart of voice pedagogy; expressive intent influences all aspects of singing, from the intake of the breath to the formation of vowels.
In the first volume, Bozeman explained acoustic research and its implications for singing; in Kinesthetic Vocal Pedagogy, he focuses more directly on its application in the teaching studio. He begins with a discussion of a concept that is omnipresent in traditional bel canto treatises: gola aperta, or "open throat." Although the validity of the concept is not questioned by pedagogues, there is disagreement about how to achieve it. Bozeman points out that the muscles that open the throat are not actually in the throat; additionally, singers frequently hold inaccurate images about pharyngeal space. For instance, the vowel /a/, which most singers believe is most open, is more close-throated than the vowel /i/, for which most singers will say their throats are closed. This false kinesthesia poses a challenge to singers and their teachers. Bozeman offers exercises that encourage accurate perceptions, such as body mapping of the tongue and thyrohyoid space which are involved in achieving gola aperta. Another method is glottal suction therapy; with the glottis firmly closed, the singer is instructed to activate the muscles of the torso as in inhalation. The benefits are manifold: the larynx is lowered without involving the tongue, the false vocal folds are retracted, glottis closure is strengthened, and the muscles of inhalation are exercised. Affect is also important in achieving an open throat, as expression plays a role in shaping the pharynx. Bozeman adds that the inhalation must be in character with the emotion of the utterance that will follow.
In his first book, Bozeman advocated for the continued use of traditional pedagogic terminology; his defense was based partly on its use in historical writings, and partly on the fact that the terms are rooted in common tangible sensations. In this second volume, Bozeman does not turn away from conventional nomenclature. Indeed, he deftly merges the lexicon of the Italian masters with kinesthetic strategies based upon acoustic research. This includes the reconciliation of imagery with voice science. Voice pedagogues frequently use metaphors without understanding why specific imagery is successful. Bozeman explains the anatomic and acoustic principles that are the basis for pedagogic directives such as "inhale through a smile" or "inhale as if smelling a rose." He also presents the "two-room metaphor," an image he devised to help singers achieve ideal resonator shapes in the vocal tract. Bozeman devotes a chapter to explaining this perception. The "back room" is the vertical pharyngeal column, with the glottis as the floor and the soft palate as the ceiling. The "front room" is the oral space extending forward from the tongue space. He emphasizes that the back room is not in the back at all, but rather central. The metaphor is an aid to visualizing spatial arrangement in a manner that is conducive to optimum resonance. There are important corollaries: the back room should be tall, the front room should never be darkened, and no vowel should seem directed toward the back wall. Bozeman also identifies mistakes commonly made by students, such as collapsing the pharyngeal space.
The discussion of vowels occupies a central place in this treatise. Bozeman cites recent research by Ian Howell that suggests individual harmonics have vowel-like qualities; for instance, lower frequency harmonics have /u/qualities while the highest frequencies have /i/ qualities. "If a formant's bandwidth is reinforcing two or more harmonics... each vowel formant contributes a vowel-like tone color"; the resultant blend, if balanced, contains both the warmth lent by the first formant and the clarity contributed by the second formant. The first formant is perceived as existing in the pharyngeal area; Bozeman labels this an "under vowel" aspect. The "over vowel" component, which is associated with the second formant, is associated with sensations in the oral cavity and hard palate. Note the parallels to the "back room" and "front room" metaphor.
As in his first book, Bozeman delineates between passive vowel modification (resulting from a change of pitch, but with no change in the vocal tract) and active vowel modification (resulting from a change in the shape of the vocal tract). The author underscores that because vowels are motivated by the target sound, it can be difficult for a singer to maintain the vocal tract shape in passive vowel modification. In addition, vowels are influenced by affective motivation. Pleasurable affects promote the ringing sound characteristic of over vowels, while pathos encourages the warmth of the under vowels. The author offers exercises to check tuning and tone color of formants, and others to assist in finding correct tongue position for specific vowels. He addresses instructions often heard in the studio (such as "make the vowels in the throat," "breathe through a smile," and "think down and in") and offers new insight into the perception of chiaroscuro. Instead of the light/dark qualities being conceived as dueling adjectives, they should be viewed as adjective-noun combos ("ringing depth" or "brilliant darkness") that work in tandem.
Bozeman's ability to reconcile acoustics and traditional pedagogic saws is evident in the chapter entitled "Sensation Migration Across Range." There are patterns of perceived sensation at certain parts of the range that are common to many singers. Consequently, it is helpful to employ sensory imagery as a tool in preventing vocal tract shape in vowel modification that is passive. Visual representations of the acoustic migration across the range must be qualified, discussed, and confirmed with individual singers. Moreover, tone colors should stem from genuine affects rather than artificial manipulation of the vocal tract.
Fledgling teachers often grapple with the differences and similarities in teaching treble voices (including countertenors) and nontreble voices. Bozeman clearly maps the physiologic and acoustic landscape. Although the range of treble voices is an octave higher than nontreble, the resonances are only one or two steps higher. This decreased number of available harmonics, when coupled with fewer formants (due to the shorter vocal tract present in most treble singers), result in different acoustic situations. The author succinctly encapsulates the characteristics and pedagogic strategies for both treble and nontreble voices. He also examines belting from an acoustic viewpoint.
As this book is a sequel and companion volume to the first, the author does not revisit concepts that were explicated in the earlier work. However, readers who are not familiar with terms from Practical Vocal Acoustics can consult the appendixes; the first is a primer on acoustic designations and abbreviations, and the second contains a list of definitions.
It is a testimony to Bozeman's clarity and economic writing style that the text is fewer than seventy-five pages. That is not to say, however, that the book is lightweight or inconsequential. It is neither. As with his first treatise, Bozeman has made a significant contribution to pedagogic resources. For the past half century, since the appearance of Singing: The Mechanism and the Technic by William Vennard (New York: Carl Fischer, 1967), voice teachers have been striving to balance traditional singing pedagogy with acoustic research. Bozeman offers outstanding guidance in this quest. This book is highly recommended.
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|Publication:||Journal of Singing|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2018|
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