Saturday, February 6, 2010

My definition and defense of singing

Singing is the ultimate psycho-physical act because it is the totality of the human body and soul working together to produce something truly beautiful. There are four major aspects of this mental and physical integration which is known as singing; respiration, phonation, resonation, and articulation.
Respiration provides the wings with which tone flies from the body.Without breath, nothing can happen that would happen in the voice. One must have complete control over their breathing mechanism, and to do this, a knowledge of the physiology and nature of the breathing instrument is vital. Coordination and management can be achieved by frequent breathing exercises, to open up the chest, increasing the flexibility of the diaphragm, and the capacity of the lungs. One must know how to "hook" into their breath, or access their supply of breath pressure and oxygen to produce a healthy and strong tone. to this end, more exercises are recommended.
Phonation is made up of three parts: (1) pressurized air from the lungs and through the glottis, (2) muscular adduction of the vocal chords, and (3) oscillation of the vocal folds. The oscillation of the vocal folds is what produces the tone through an event known as the Bernoulli Effect, when pressurized air flows through the opening of the vocal chords during abduction, which then forces air past in a steady steam, causing the chords to vibrate like the strings of a violin. To produce high quality phonation requires steady breath pressure, flexibility and relaxation in the vocal chords and in the laryngeal mechanism, tone clarity, and freedom. Freedom is key to proper phonation, because a constricted or stressed muscle will inhibit the oscillation and cause a strained tone, without vibrato.
Resonation is tone quality, that which is the acoustics of the sounds made by the vocal folds. Aspects of resonance include the space, or surfaces of resonation, frequency, amplitude, duration, and focus. The spaces/surfaces of resonation are perhaps the most important of all the factors of resonation. The surfaces do the resonating are the chest and subglottal airways, the larynx, the pharynx and the oral cavity, and the nasal and sinus cavities, out of which the oral cavity is the most important because of the immense amount of space available for the shaping of the tone.Various techniques of positioning allow maximal vocal resonance, including the position of the tongue, teeth, lips, and larynx. It is Resonation which produces the qualities we look for and which catch our ear.
Articulation is the ability to produce words identifiable to the human linguistics. The qualities of articulation are vowels and consonants, the factors of diction, by which one makes themselves understandable. This is necessary to convey the meaning of the text, and thus is a vital aspect of the singing gesture. The mechanisms of the body which produce articulate sounds are the larynx, tongue, teeth, and lips. To become fluent in the skills of articulation, a singer should pursue a complete knowledge of the different sounds of the different languages typically used in art songs, and maintain the articulatory flexibility to produce these new and different sounds.
All these aspects combine to produce that most beautiful of physical gestures, the singing gestures. It is excellence in all these little factors which combine into a Gestalt, or whole, greater then the sum of all the factors. The sound becomes something more, something which connects to the soul of the human person. In a way, singing is a more complete expression of the human person then thought, because it is a total body and a total mind integratoin. Whereas thought relies on the brain alone, singing relies on the whole body and the control of the mind, which is the true understanding of the human person as body and mind, not separate, but inseparable, not divided, but working together as a unified whole.

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