Stockhausen's method of singing (continued).
THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS THE SECOND of a series of excerpts from Julius Stockhausen's AMethod of Singing. Stockhausen issued what seems to be a condensed version of his book (published in 1884) serially in Edgar S. Werner's The Voice, a journal published in the United States between 1879 and 1902. This was the fourth article in the series and was published in April, 1888.(1)
A Method of Singing by Julius Stockhausen
Attack and Emission of the Voice--Sustaining the Voice and Messa di Voce
The old Italian and German masters, whose schools produced such excellent singers of both sexes, show by their writings that their first endeavor was to teach their pupils how to form a beautiful tone and to render their voices flexible and of a telling quality. There was no question of exercises in a large compass, nor of developing a powerful tone on one vowel, as is now the fashion. In the elementary instruction--that is to say, in the solfeggio*--our ancestors began by teaching how to establish and sustain the voice. They next proceeded to exercises in a small compass, such as are provided by ornaments (appoggiaturas, turns, mordents, etc.), and then let their pupils practice on the five elementary vowels and without accompaniment. We have to proceed in the same way if we wish our pupils to acquire not only a powerful, but also a beautiful and expressive tone, a flexible voice, and good pronunciation.
The laws for the management of the voice always remain the same; it is only necessary to know them and to observe them conscientiously. In Agricola's translation of Tosi, one of the most important works on the art of singing, after the "remarks for the use of singing-masters," the appoggiatura follows as second heading, and the trill as third.
In Herbst's "Musica moderna prattica," 1653, we find by way of first exercises the appoggiatura. Formerly the attack was always accomplished with an appoggiatura, now we use it only as a means of expression, or as an ornament. The Italians call this kind of attack cercar la nota--to feel for the note. This must be combated from the commencement, by a careful and precise pronunciation of the consonants, and a decided attack of the vowels.
Giulio Caccini, singer and composer, one of the first to introduce solo singing in the early part of the seventeenth century, subjects the "feeling for the note" to a severe criticism. He writes in the "Nuove Musiche" (1601): "Some attack the note by first sounding the lower third, others attack it firmly and allow it to swell gradually. This style is recognized as the best. As regards the first, one cannot lay it down as a universal rule, for it seldom suits the harmony; even where it might be used it has become commonplace through the fault of the singers, who, instead of merely indicating it, generally remain on the lower third. Far from being graceful, it, on the contrary, hurts the ear." Caccini then quotes a third kind of attack. He calls this esclamazione. It consists in striking the note vigorously, and then allowing it to decrease rapidly. The esclamazione is, as it were, the second half of the messa di voce (swelling and diminishing the voice upon a sustained note). It is easier for the pupil to execute than the entire messa di voce, for he is able, after having just taken breath, to attack the note powerfully, and then to allow the breath to subside naturally, causing the power to diminish of itself; for the whole messa di voce he must, on the contrary, laboriously hold back his breath. Therefore I divide this exercise, and let my pupils practice at first only half of it, the esclamazione. The combined crescere e scemare della voce will always remain the basis of voice-culture, and at the same time the highest attainment in the modulation of the voice. The teachers of the old Italian and German school were never tired of insisting that their pupils should acquire absolute correctness of intonation and elasticity of tone, both in piano and forte passages. That this art could only be acquired by two different kinds of mechanism of the vocal muscles, especially on the transition notes, every teacher felt, and therefore tried to teach by example.
Nothing was then known of the laryngoscope, and but little of the anatomy of the larynx. But Caccini and his contemporaries knew that open vowels have more sound than closed ones and therefore favored the stronger register. They were also well acquainted with the action of the primary vowels. Caccini says, that "i [ee] is a favorable vowel for tenors, and u [oo] for sopranos." That was sufficient. The deepest vowel gave high voices more roundness, and the highest gave the tenor voices brilliancy in their upper notes. Contraltos and basses were little required for solo singing.
By singing on a sequence of the primary vowels to a [ah], the vowel par excellence, a natural messa di voce was produced on the transition notes, as was seen in the introduction. This fact the singing-masters used as the basis of their theories for voice-culture. The object was to equalize this natural swelled note, and to execute on one vowel a pure and telling piano, crescendo, forte and diminuendo; to invent a safe gymnastic exercise for the vocal cords in which great care was at the same time to be bestowed on the beauty of tone. Many will therefore be surprised that Garcia, in his "Nouveau traite sommaire," does not describe the sustained notes before page 60, instead of commencing his treatise with them. It is still more surprising that he does not make his theory of the lowered position of the larynx the basis of voice-culture and technique in general, and the condition sine qua non for rhythmical coloratura.
Was the great maestro afraid that by a moderately low position of the larynx voices would not acquire the flexibility necessary for the execution of Rossini's fine works? It almost seems to me that, when I reflect that in France everybody is trained for some specialty, and that the different branches of an art are quite separate from one another, and especially when I examine his own and his father's variations for airs of the old and modern Italian School, Garcia's explanation is to be considered the basis of voice-culture, and I will quote his own words:
"Great difficulty is evinced in drawing the tones in two registers at once, which occurs for females and tenors. The pupil must commence the note piano in falsetto, and in the somber quality. As has been seen, this process fixes the larynx and contracts the pharynx. Afterward, without varying the position, and consequently the quality, he must pass to the register of the chest, by fixing the larynx more and more, in order to prevent it making the abrupt motion which produces the hiccough at the moment of the separation of the two registers. Once entered upon the register of the chest, he must raise the larynx and dilate the pharynx in order to clear the quality, so that toward the middle of the duration of the note it has acquired its whole brilliancy and power. In order to extinguish the sound, the pupil must practice the reverse; that is to say, before passing to the register of the falsetto, when the voice is diminished, he must deaden the sound from the chest, still fixing the larynx below and contracting the pharynx, in order to support it and avoid the jerk on the change of the register. He must then proceed slowly from the register of the chest to the falsetto, after which the pharynx should be rendered supple and the sound ended. I deduce this rule from the physiological fact that the larynx, being lowered by the somber quality, can produce the two registers without displacing itself. Besides, the displacing brings on the hiccough, which so disagreeably separates one from the other."
A fixed and moderately low position of the larynx is necessary for single notes as well as for scales and runs, and even beauty of tone and clearness of execution are equally dependent on it.
Besides the messa di voce and esclamazione, a simpler kind of tone production must be pointed out as indispensable. It is the well-known tenuta di voce, sustained notes of equal and medium power. This is the chief condition of musical phrases for a perfect delivery. The old rule, that each note even of moderate duration had to be enlivened by a messa di voce, does not apply to our animated modern music. On the contrary, by sustaining the voice quietly and evenly, the effect of accentuations, esclamazione, and other dynamic signatures is heightened. Compare, for instance, Beethoven's "Adelaide" with a messa di voce on each note of the larghetto and without it.
The pupil must first attack the note according to the nature of the consonant, which may be hard or soft or sonant, etc., or according to the character of the vowel, but as Herbst expresses it, "on the right note," and I may add with precision and fixed larynx. This is the only means by which to equalize the effect of the vowels on the vocal cords and that of the cavity of articulation on the phonator. The notes are to be called by their several names first, and to be practiced on long and short vowels as well.
The exercises in most methods of singing are written in C major and in the compass of an octave. This is, however, too tiring for young voices and presents certain musical difficulties. The first exercises can hardly be too simple for beginners, whose sole talent sometimes consists in the power of imitation. It is well known that in the middle ages the semitone was always called mi-fa in the solfeggio. This of course, occurs only once in the scale of six notes which is a great advantage for master and pupil, as the difference between major and minor seconds proves often such a difficulty to beginners that one might here quote the words used for false relation: "Mi contra fa est diabolus in musica." The hexachord is also the contrapuntal theme par excellence, and, therefore, valuable for exercises for two or more voices.
(Continued in the next issue.)
(1.) Julius Stockhausen, "A Method of Singing, Part IV," The Voice 10, no. 4 (April 1888): 87-89.
Stephen F. Austin, MM, PhD, is a singer, voice teacher, and a trained scientist. He received a masters degree in vocal performance with the late Dr. John Large at the University of North Texas, and a PhD in Voice Science at the University of Iowa with Dr. Ingo Titze. Dr. Austin's dissertation was titled "The Effect of Sub-glottal Resonance Upon Vibration of the Vocal Folds." This and other research is published in the Journal of Voice.
Dr. Austin recently joined the faculty of the University of North Texas, where he is associate professor of voice and voice pedagogy. He is associated with the Texas Center for Music and Medicine. The center provides a unique opportunity for collaboration among musicians, physicians, re searchers, psychologists, educators, and biomedical engineers.
Dr. Austin has presented recitals, lectures, and workshops across this country and in Australia and Europe. He is regularly featured on the faculty of the Annual Symposium: Care of the Professional Voice sponsored by The Voice Foundation. He has made presentations to national conventions of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA), and the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA). He has been a featured guest lecturer at the summer and mid-winter workshops sponsored by NATS. Dr. Austin has been a regular contributing author to Australian Voice, the journal of the Australian National Association of Teachers of Singing, and he serves NATS as the chair of the Voice Science Advisory Committee and as a member of the editorial board for the Journal of Singing. He also is a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of The Voice Foundation.
Dr. Austin is a successful studio teacher with students singing in opera houses of Germany and the United States. His students are regular members of young artist apprenticeship programs around the country, including the Houston Grand Opera Studio, Grass Roots Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Seagle Colony, and many others.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||Journal of Singing|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2009|
|Previous Article:||Singing and childhood sexual abuse: Conversation with voice teachers.|
|Next Article:||Roger Vogel's love letters.|