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SECTION XVI

WHITE VOICES

There are also singers, male and female,
who use too much head tone through their en-
tire compass; such voices are called " white."
Their use of the palatal resonance being in-
sufficient, they are not able to make a deeper
impression, because their power of expression
is practically nothing. Frau Wedekind and
Madame Melba are instances of this. In such
cases it would be advisable to raise the pillars
of the fauces a little higher, and place the
larynx somewhat lower, and to mingle judi-
ciously with all the other vowels, the vowel
sound oo, that requires a lower position of
the larynx. The voices would become warmer
And would sound more expressive. As soon
as the singer is able to create easily and in-
audibly on every tone the correct propagation

154


WHITE VOICES 155

form for the next tone, all questions as to
register must disappear. He must not, how-
ever, be drilled on registers; several tones
must not be forced on one and the same
point. Every tone should be put naturally
into its own place; should receive the pitch,
duration, and strength it needs for its per-
fection. And one master rules it all, — the
ear!

The goal is, unfortunately, so seldom reached
because it can be reached only through the
moderation that comes from mastery; and,
alas! only true masters practise it.

It may be accepted as true that the lower
ranges of the voice have the greatest strength,
the middle ranges the greatest power of ex-
pression, the higher the greatest carrying
power.

The best mixture — all three together —
may be developed to the highest art by
the skill of the individual, often, indeed,
only by a good ear for it. Whenever ex-
pression of the word's significance, beauty of

156 HOW TO SING

the vocal material, and perfection of phrasing
are found united in the highest degree, it is
due either to knowledge or to a natural skill
in the innumerable ways of fitting the sung
word to the particular resonance — connec-
tions that are suitable to realize its signifi-
cance, and hence its spirit. They are brought
out by a stronger inclination toward one or the
other of the resonance surfaces, without, how-
ever, injuring the connection or the beauty
of the musical phrase. Here aesthetic feel-
ing plays the chief part, for whatever may
be its power and its truthfulness, the result
must always be beautiful, — that is, restrained
within proper limits.

This law, too, remains the same for all
voices. It is a question of the entire compass
of a voice trained for artistic singing, one
that is intrusted with the greatest of tasks,
to interpret works of art that are no popular
songs, but, for the most part, human trage-
dies. Most male singers—tenors especially
— consider it beneath them, generally, indeed,


WHITE VOICES 157

unnatural or ridiculous, to use the falsetto,
which, is a part of all male voices, as the
head tones are a part of all female voices.
They do not understand how to make use of
its assistance, because they often have no idea
of its existence, or know it only in its un-
mixed purity — that is, its thinnest quality.
Of its proper application they have not the
remotest conception. Their singing is gen-
erally in accordance with their ignorance.

The mixture is present by nature in all
kinds of voices, but singers must possess
the skill and knowledge to employ it, else
the natural advantage- goes for nothing.

SECTION XVII

THEODOR WACHTEL

The most perfect singer that I remember
in my Berlin experience was Theodor "Wachtel
in this respect, that with his voice of rare
splendor, he united all that vocal art which,
as it seems, is destined quite to disappear
from among us. How beautiful were his
coloratura, his trills, — simply flawless!
Phrasing, force, fulness of tone, and beauty
were perfect, musically without a blemish.
If he did not go outside the range of Arnold,
G. Brown, Stradella, Vasco, the Postillion
and Lionel, it was probably because he felt
that he was not equal to interpreting the
Wagnerian spirit. In this he was very wise.
As one of the first of vocal artists, whose
voice was superbly trained and was preserved
to the end of his life, I have had to pay

158

THEODOE WACHTEL                      159

to Wachtel the tribute of the most com-
plete admiration and recognition, in contrast
to many others who thought themselves
greater than he, and yet were not worthy
to unloose the latchet of his shoes.

Recently the little Italian tenor Bonci
has won my hearty admiration for his splen-
didly equalized voice, his perfect art, and his
knowledge of his resources; and notwithstand-
ing the almost ludicrous figure {hat he cut
in serious parts, he elicited hearty applause.
Cannot German tenors, too, learn to sing
well, even if they do interpret Wagner ? Will
they not learn, for the sake of this very
master, that it is their duty not to use their
voices recklessly?

Is it not disrespectful toward our greatest
masters that they always have to play hide
and seek with the hel canto, the trill, and
coloratura? Not till one has fully realized
the difficulties of the art of song, does it
really become of value and significance. Not
till then are one's eyes opened to the duty


160 HOW TO SING

owed not only to one's self but to the
public.

The appreciation of a difficulty makes
study doubly attractive; the laborious ascent
of a summit which no one can contest, is
the attainment of a goal.

Voices in which the palatal resonance-—
and so, power — is the predominating fac-
tor, are the hardest to manage and to pre-
serve. They are generally called chest
voices. Uncommon power and fulness of
tone in the middle ranges are extremely
seductive. Only rarely are people found
with sense enough to renounce such an ex-
cess of fulness in favor of the head tones, —
that is, the least risky range to exploit and
preserve, — even if this has to be done only
temporarily.

Copious vocal resources may with impu-
nity be brought before the public and there-
by submitted to strain, only after long and
regular study.

The pure head tone, without admixture

THEODOK WAOHTEL 161

of palatal resonance, is feeble close at hand,
but penetrating and of a carrying power
equalled by no other. Palatal resonance
without admixture of the resonance of the
head cavities (head tones) makes the tone
very powerful when heard near by, but
without vibrancy for a large auditorium.
This is the proof of how greatly every tone
needs the proper admixture.


SECTION XVIII

THE HIGHEST HEAD TONES

As we have already seen, there is almost
no limit to the height that can be reached
by the pure head tone without admixture
of palatal resonance. Very young voices,
especially, can reach such heights, for with-
out any strain they possess the necessary
adaptability and skill in the adjustment to
each other of the larynx, tongue, and pillars
of the fauces. A skill that rests on igno-
rance of the true nature of the phenomenon
must be called pure chance, and thus its
disappearance is as puzzling to teacher and
listener as its appearance had been in the
first place. How often is it paired with a
total lack of ability to produce anything
but the highest head tones! As a general
rule such voices have a very short lease of

162


THE HIGHEST HEAD TONES 163

life, because their possessors are exploited
as wonders, before they have any concep-
tion of the way to use them, of tone, right
singing, and of cause and effect in general.
An erroneous pressure of the muscles, a
wrong movement of the tongue (raising the


tip, for instance, an attempt to in-

crease the strength of the tone, — all these
things extinguish quickly and for all time the
wonder-singer's little light.

We Lehmann children in our youth could
sing to the very highest pitch. It was
nothing for my sister Marie to strike the
4-line e a hundred times in succession, and
trill on it for a long time. She could have
sung in public at the age of seven. But since
our voices, through the circumstances of our
life and surroundings, were forced to early
exertions, they lost their remarkable high
notes; yet enough was left to sing the Queen
of Night (in Mozart's opera "Die Zauber-
flote"), with the high/.

After I had been compelled to use my lower


164 HOW TO SING

and middle ranges much more, in the study
of dramatic parts, I omitted the highest notes
from my practice, but could not then always
have relied on them. Now that I know on
what it all depends, it is very easy for me to
strike high /, not only in passing, but to com-
bine it with any tone through three octaves.
But upon the least pressure by any organ, the
head resonance loses its brilliancy; that is,
the breath no longer streams into the places
where it should, and can create no more
whirling currents of sound to fill the spaces.

But one should not suppose that the head
tones have no power. When they are prop-
erly used, their vibrancy is a substitute for
any amount of power.

As soon as the head tones come into con-
sideration, one should never attempt to sing
an open ah, because on ah the tongue lies
flattest. One should think of an a, and in
the highest range even an e; should mix the
a and e with the ah, and thereby produce a
position of the tongue and soft palate that



THE HIGHEST HEAD TONES 167

makes the path clear for the introduction of
the breath into the cavities of the head.

Singers who, on the other hand, pronounce
3 and e too sharply, need only introduce an
admixture of oo; they thereby lower the
position of the larynx, and thus give the
vowel and tone a darker color.

Since the stream of breath in the highest
tones produces currents whirling with great
rapidity, the more rapidly the higher the tone
is, the slightest pressure that may injure the
form in which they circulate may ruin
the evenness of the tone, its pitch, perhaps
the tone itself. Each high tone must soar
gently, like the overtones.

The upper limits of a bass and baritone
voice are

where, consequently, the tones must be mixed.
Pure head tones, that is, falsetto, are never
demanded higher than this. I regard it, how-


168 HOW TO SING

ever, as absolutely necessary for the artist to
give consideration to his falsetto, that he
may include it among his known resources.
Neither a bass nor a baritone should neglect
to give it the proper attention, and both
should learn to use it as one of their most
important auxiliary forces.

With what mastery did Betz make use of
it; how noble and beautiful his voice sounded
in all its ranges; of what even strength it
was, and how infallibly fresh! And let no
one believe that Nature gave it to him thus.
As a beginner in Berlin he was quite unsatis-
factory. He had the alternative given him
either to study with great industry or to seek
another engagement, for his successor had
already been selected. Betz chose to devote
himself zealously to study; he began also to
play the 'cello; he learned to hear, and finally
raised himself to be^ one of our first singers,
in many roles never to be forgotten. Betz
knew, like myself, many things that to-day
are neither taught nor learned.







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