Friday, August 21, 2015

High but not lifted?

High but not lifted?

Singing is hard to teach and confusing to learn. I think a lot of this has to do with our need as singers to balance opposing elements. After all, we are trying to use highly contracted vocal cords within an expanded throat; a contraction within an expansion. I have often found myself in a lesson, wondering at how such contradictory advice can come out of my own mouth. “Up and over” I say, only to follow up a moment later with, “No, you’re lifting!”  Related to this is “lift the palate…. But don’t go up!”
This clearly needs a bit more unpacking to make sense. I think it comes down to imaginative work as opposed to physical work. Physically lifting the palate is less effective than feeling your palate is high: best of all may be to “see” the palate high as a kind of visualization of inner space. You want the singer to imagine that the voice is lifted and the palate is high, but not to physically lift anything to do it.
Cognitively speaking, muscularly lifting the palate would involve the sensorimotor strip of the prefrontal cortex, which initiates conscious action. Imagining a lifted palate may involve proprioception, or the felt sense of body, an activity involving the parietal lobes. The “beginning of the yawn”, a concept taught by the old Italian masters, involves imaginatively triggering the body feeling leading to the yawn without fully engaging the unconscious reflex. The only way you can hope to do this effectively is with the inner imagination, or mind’s eye.
I might just as well say, “Don’t do it, see it”! You can’t imagine a ham sandwich and have it appear, but if you imagine your palate is lifted, it is. Try it!

                  
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