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The Head Voice and Other Problems Practical Talks on Singing   By: (1860-1938)

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Practical Talks on Singing



Author of Systematic Voice Training The Elements of Voice Culture



Boston Oliver Ditson Company New York Chicago Chas. H. Ditson & Co. Lyon & Healy

Copyright MCMXVII By Oliver Ditson Company International Copyright Secured

To MY STUDENTS Past, Present and Future


The following chapters are the outgrowth of an enthusiasm for the work of voice training, together with a deep personal interest in a large number of conscientious young men and women who have gone out of my studio into the world to engage in the responsible work of voice teaching.

The desire to be of service to them has prompted me to put in permanent form the principles on which I labored, more or less patiently, to ground them during a course of three, four, or five years. The fact that after having stood the "grind" for that length of time they are still asking, not to say clamoring, for more, may, in a measure, justify the decision to issue this book. It is not an arraignment of vocal teachers, although there are occasional hints, public and private, which lead me to believe that we are not altogether without sin. But if this be true we take refuge in the belief that our iniquity is not inborn, but rather is it the result of the educational methods of those immediately preceding us. This at least shifts the responsibility.

Words are dangerous things, and are liable at any moment to start a verbal conflagration difficult to control. Nowhere is this more likely to occur than in a discussion of voice training.

From a rather wide acquaintance with what has been said on this subject in the past hundred years, I feel perfectly safe in submitting the proposition that the human mind can believe anything and be conscientious in it.

Things which have the approval of ages emit the odor of sanctity, and whoever scoffs does so at his peril. Charles Lamb was once criticised for speaking disrespectfully of the equator, and a noted divine was severely taken to task for making unkind remarks about hell. Humanity insists that these time honored institutions be treated with due respect. I have an equal respect for those who believe as I do and those who do not; therefore if anything in this book is not in accord with popular opinion it is a crack at the head of the idol rather than that of the worshipper.

There is no legislative enactment in this great and free country to prevent us from believing anything we like, but there should be some crumbs of comfort in the reflection that we cannot know anything but the truth. One may believe that eight and three are thirteen if it please him, but he cannot know it because it is not true. Everything that is true has for its basis certain facts, principles, laws, and these are eternal and unchangeable. The instant the law governing any particular thing becomes definitely known, that moment it becomes undebatable. All argument is eliminated; but while we are searching for these laws we are dealing largely in opinions, and here the offense enters, for as Mr. Epictetus once said, "Men become offended at their opinion of things, not at the things themselves." We can scarcely imagine any one taking offense at the multiplication table, neither is this interesting page from the arithmetic any longer considered a fit subject for debate in polite society, but so far as we know this is the only thing that is immune.

Our musical judgments, which are our opinions, are governed by our experience; and with the growth of experience they ripen into solid convictions. For many years I have had a conviction that voice training is much simpler and less involved than it is generally considered. I am convinced that far too much is made of the vocal mechanism, which under normal conditions always responds automatically... Continue reading book >>

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