Forward to the Past

We all remember “Back to the Future”. Fun movie.

We could say, however, that we are now living in a time called, “Forward to the Past”. All over our society we are seeing things we thought were fading or gone long ago revive and gain strength. This includes measles, suppression of African-American, gay and women’s rights, denial of environmental degradation, condemnation of science in all disciplines, mocking of higher education as being for “elites” and several other scary things.

In singing training, we see that formants and resonance strategies are hot topics and semi-occluded exercises are even hotter, and that CCM styles are not so bad after all, provided you filter them through a classical framework. Right.

If you want to look at the singing past in a way that works, read Garcia and Lamperti. Read Vennard, Bunch (Dayme), Reid, Miller and Brown. If you want to understand classical singing, listen to the great classical singers of days past, like Caruso, Ponselle, Warren, Gigli, Tebaldi, up through Corelli and Pavarotti. Ask yourself if any of these singers gave a thought to a “low larynx position”. Do you suppose they were taught to line up the first harmonic with the second formant?

Listen to old country singers — old timers from the 40s and 50s, before rock and roll became the predominant influence it is now. You could hear those folks and it wasn’t because of fancy amplification. They weren’t opera singers either. Do you suppose it was because they had good breath support and masque resonance or was it because they sang with the accent of the Appalachian region from which the music emerged?

Listen to young Ethel Merman and to Al Jolson. Listen to Angela Landsbury. Do you think they used semi-occluded exercises to develop their belt sound?

Listen to Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé, to Cab Calloway! Do you suppose they were trying to have “low larynges?” Do you think they thought of “breath flow” (or maybe just getting to the end of a phrase?)

Let’s teach our rock singers to have a “smooth legato”, and “clear articulation”. Let’s teach our pop singers to “let the tone flow out on the breath” and have “round vowels.” Show all your students of gospel how to “align the vowels so the resonances match”. Tell any student you have that “breath support is what makes the sound work”, and then explain that you have to sing classically first, in order to sing well.

Take whatever you randomly discover from the past and mix it intermittently with things you have found in the present and project all of that into the future of your students’ lives with a hope that it somehow helps them sing. Cross your fingers.

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One thought on “Forward to the Past”

  1. I’m confused. . .I’m not sure if this article is saying that the nonclassical singers mentioned already were naturally doing those things/concepts that came from classical technique or that they were not. And if they weren’t they sang well anyway?. So are the classical elements mentioned universal to all good singing or unnecessary for certain styles of singing?

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