Saturday, November 21, 2009

How to do without "doing"

One of the problems I most frequently encounter in my teaching is "overdoing". Any concept, no matter how pedagogically correct, will become toxic if applied in an overtly physical way. The key to singing well is to guide yourself imaginatively.

Of course, many of us have been frustrated by the "think pink" school of singing; "my voice is a fountain" (Flagstad), or "imagine there are tiny golden bubbles around your diaphragm" (yes, I heard someone say it), or "to cover the note, imagine a little hat on the pitch in the resonance"(famous last words of a former teacher of mine). That is not at all what I mean by imaginative work.

If you have studied yoga, or coached with a good sports instructor, I am sure you are familiar with an imaginative approach to physical effort. For example: I believe that there is an optimal coordination of the breathing muscles, which allows abdominal response, deep diaphragmatic descent, expansion of the lower lobes of the lungs and an optimal position of the chest, with the ribcage expanded. The best way to achieve it, in my experience, is to imagine the inhalation originating from the small of the back and proceeding to the front along the edge of the ribcage. This must be accompanied by a corresponding use of the oblique abdominal system (it can be felt just over the hips, and going into the lower back). If you "try" to do this, you will surely end up tied in knots. The only effective way to achieve it is to "feel" your way into the response of the breathing muscles, by "seeing" the response from the inside.

We have the imaginative capacity to use our imagisitic intelligence to construct a virtual fibre optic view of any process in the body. It is this inner vision which is the singer's, most infallible guide. Need to lift the palate? "See" it lifted in your mind's eye, and the work is done.

Best,
Joel
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