How does this strike you……
I don’t really do the Argentine tango, but I have seen quite a bit of it, and I have taken a few lessons here and there. I went to see Forever Tango on Broadway, and I have some really nice tango CDs and DVDs. I consider myself an expert on Tango, because I like it so much and because I have been around it off and on for 12 years. I think I should tell the professional tango dancers and the tango teachers how tango works and what it’s all about, don’t you? I think I should write about it and make up words to describe the tango steps and moves. After all, I know as much about it as they do, since I am basing my opinion on my own eyes and impressions, which are informed by all that “hanging around”. I believe that some of these tango pros don’t actually realize what they are doing, as they just dance, whereas I, who am on the outside, can observe the details better than they can. I can decide how it is supposed to look and what kinds of moves are best, because I have seen so much of it, and because my liking it a lot gives me a certain edge that they don’t have time to develop. Besides, the famous tango dancers are from Argentina, and they don’t even really speak English there.
You think I’m kidding.
I have encountered, over the years, this same attitude more times than I care to count. It came up again, this week in fact, as I got an answer in response to my letter to Opera News about their recent sorry article on belting. I don’t want to go into all the details here, but it didn’t surprise me that the editor in charge wasn’t thrilled with my critique of what was written. (He surely wasn’t going to congratulate me).
This same scenario happened last year at the Minnesota NATS Convention when I got up to say that we don’t sing gospel, rock, country and pop songs in head register, exactly as written, note for note in over-pronounced English — and was pretty much tarred and feathered by the other singing teachers running the presentation and the audience of the same folks.
People who do not belt themselves, have never belted, do not know how it feels or what is involved, people whose expertise about belting and belters is based entirely on their own subjective observations, are quite happy to tell me that what I know, as a life-time singer who has always been able to belt, is wrong. These people, who have not been scoped over and over while singing, watching the throat and larynx in the process of belting; who have no idea how the sound and the acoustics of the sound reflect the physiologic behavior of the mechanism itself, no matter who is singing; who have read no articles by any scientific authority on belting; and who based their philosophy of what happens during belting upon their own blithe and frequently unsubstantiated opinions; are happy to tell me, with my 36 years of teaching experience and 44 years of singing experience, that I don’t know what I am talking about.
This makes me arrogant I want you to know. That I have the audacity to think that I know something only because I do it, I teach others to do it, I have studied the science of it, I have checked it with other authorities, I have validated it numerous other objective ways, and I have never had any trouble doing it, is awful. What kind of “know-it-all” do I think I am, anyway? I’m just arrogant, because I want everyone to do it my way.
Where else, except in singing, can people who have no personal expertise as singers (pianists, writers, conductors, composers), no training to do what they do (teach belt or CCM), and no intellectual background in vocal function or voice science get away with telling the actual experts that they are wrong? Isn’t there something very distorted in that picture?
The proof is not only in the doing, it is in the other stuff, too. SO, why take my word for it? Why take anyone’s word for what they say, until and unless you can either do it yourself and thus test out the information they have? Why believe anyone until and unless you have gone to outside, objective sources, NUMEROUS times, and done appropriate research to see if your own experience and experiment can produce similar results which can be replicated and verified?
But if you won’t, or can’t or don’t bother to do any of that, then keep your mouth shut. Don’t talk glibly about what you don’t know. Don’t tell the people who do it that they don’t have any idea what they are doing. Don’t make opinions about it based upon your own belly button. Let the tango professionals decide what tango is or should be. Just sit there and let the Argentinians do their national dance, watch and stay out of the way.