Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/519

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SINGING.

Czermak, Dr. Mnndl, 1 Madame Seller, 1 Dr. Luschka, 8 Dr. Morell Mackenzie,* Mr. Gordon Holmes, 5 and HerrEmilBehnke,' have done a vast deal to elucidate much that concerns the cognate subjects of voice-production and of registers, and to scatter to the winds untenable theories such for instance as that the varying pitch of notes is the result of harmonics formed in the resonance- chambers ; that the falsetto is produced by the laryngeal sacculi acting like a hazel-nut made into a whistle, etc. ; but the difficulties of ade- quate laryngoscopic observation prevent the clearing up of many perplexing details. In con- sulting the above-mentioned works some confu- sion arises from a difference of nomenclature, not only in the matter of registers, but of those all- important anatomical items, the voice membranes, variously called vocal cords, bands, ligaments, lips, and reeds. In the latter case this is not of so much importance, as it is easy to recognise that they all refer to the same part ; but in naming the registers, it makes all the difference whether the term ' falsetto ' is used under the old ac- ceptation, or under that of Garcia, who applies it to the middle register. The old terms, ' chest' (open and closed), 'head,' 'mixed,' and 'falsetto' though objected to as unscientific and based upon sensations and fancies certainly give as good an idea of the respective registers as the newly-proposed terms, 'lower and upper thick,' 'lower and upper thin,' and ' small.' The terms Voce di petto, or di testa, Falsetto, Voce mista, or Mezza voce ; aprire and chiudere to denote the passing from what is called here the open to the close chest register (to which Randegger's terms 'lower and upper series of chest register' correspond) have been used by the Italians through the whole time when the art of singing was in a more prosperous condition than it is now ; and until undeniably better terms can be found it is inexpedient, on the score of intelligi- bility, to quit the old ones. The term 'chest register' applied to the series of tones produced with the larynx drawn down towards the chest by the sterno-thyroid muscles, and causing larynx and chest to vibrate in one, is quite to the point. ' Open ' and ' close ' are applied to vowel-sounds, and since the open and close chest-registers give the same quality of tone as open and close vowels having, there is little doubt, the larynx in the same condition in both cases the terms are quite legitimate. Again, ' falsetto,' when applied to a register so different in tone from the chest voice as to seem, in many cases, to belong to another individual, or even another sex, is not at all an inappropriate term. But though the falsetto differs so entirely from chest-voice, it may be used, if reached through the head- voice, in diminishing a note to a point ; but only when, by practice, the different registers are perfectly blended. In some cases the falsetto is so strong

1 Hygiene de la Volz ; Paris and London. Bailliere A FiU. J Voice in Singing ; Philadelphia.

  • Der Kehlkopf des Menschen.

Diseases of the Throat ; Churchill.

  • Vocal Physiology and Hygiene.

6 Mechanism of the Human Voice; Curwen & Sons.

��SINGING.

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��as to be undistinguishable from head- voice, as in some cases also a strong head-voice may in the higher notes be mistaken for chest. Wachtel's high notes were produced by a mixed chest and head voice. How all these gradations are brought about is not quite clear, but there seems no doubt that attenuation of the vibrating element i effected in each successive higher register, as in a thinner string upon the violin ; and also- that in the case of falsetto, part of the voice- membranes (or vocal cords) is shut off or 'stopped,' either by a node, or by constriction of the complex thyro-arytenoid muscles. If it should hereafter be found that any part of these muscles is quite of the nature of the tongue, with fibres running in many different directions, and thus capable of being brought to bear upon any point of the voice mem- branes, a good deal would be accounted for.

Notwithstanding difference of nomenclature, Herr Behnke's work is a most welcome addition to the practical literature on the subject. Apropos of nomenclature generally, would not a standing committee be advisable to settle points of this kind from time to time? If a writer advances an opinion, and there is reason to differ from it, it is a long time before a counter-suggestion is- available. Whereas a friendly personal inter- change of ideas might speedily bring about a satisfactory conclusion. This question might be taken up by the Musical Association or the Royal College of Music. But to resume.

After Catalani, the operatic style advanced in the direction of dramatic force, and entered on the golden era of united singing and acting, much- to the displeasure of the older critics, who de- lighted in singing unaccompanied by much ges- ticulation. Pasta may be said to have shown the way to unite fine singing with classic acting, so that the two should aid each other. Endowed by nature with a harsh veiled voice, she worked with prodigious determination to reduce it to obedience, and at the same time made a special study from antique sculpture of the most effec- tive gestures, and the classical mode of arranging drapery. When nearly sixty she had still pre- served a wonderful power of mczza voce when singing in private. One, who, like many Ger- mans, had great dramatic genius, but whose vocal powers were chiefly of the declamatory kind, created an immense sensation about 50 years ago, wherever she appeared. This was Schroder- Devrient, who created the part of Fidelio, and sang it in the presence of the illustrious com- poser of that opera to his entire satisfaction. A singer who held for some years the post of reigning favourite was Malibran, a woman of great genius, marred by a good deal of caprice. Giulia Grisi, with less genius than Pasta and Malibran, but with a lovely voice, great beauty, and much natural talent, was as persistently re- cognised as queen of song, through a long series of years, as any public favourite, with the ex- ception, perhaps, of Adelina Patti. She formed one of the famous quartet with Rubini, Tarn- burini, and Lablache, Rubini on his retirement being replaced by Mario. This quartet sang

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