"And here the singer for his Art Not all in vain may plead,
The song that moves a nation's heart
Is in itself a deed!" - Tennyson.
"Thine is music such as yields Feelings of old brooks and fields, And, around this pent-up room, Sheds a woodland, free perfume; O, thus forever sing to me!
O, thus forever! The green, bright grass of childhood bring to me, Flowing like an emerald river, And the bright blue skies above! O, sing them back, as fresh as ever, Into the bosom of my love." - Lowell.
When I use the term "art" in relation to singing, I should like it to be understood in this sense: that music produced by the human voice is a natural expression of life just as much as,the song of the bird. And while to an extent this expression is spontaneous and instinctive, yet through the desire to express by the voice and with continued practice one may go on developing far beyond anything that was deemed possible in the beginning. Art does not make the voice, but art assists in getting the best possible production from the voice. At times a person not in possession of a beautiful voice may use his art to such a degree as to produce a more pleasing effect upon people than could another person with a more beautiful voice who lacks artistic expression.
It is plainly the duty of anyone who wishes to sing in a thoroughly artistic manner to use all the means at his command to bring about the desired end; but too often the mistake has been made of wanting to hurry in order to get results in the shortest possible time. Everything in life that is really worth while acquiring is done through intelligently directed effort. An undue straining may defeat or retard the thing we most desire. Everything in the nature of strain or undue tension used by the one who wishes to sing will interfere with the true development of the singing voice. It is far better to train the voice first of all, within a comparatively small compass, than to try to sing low notes that are ugly and high notes that are thin and strained. The singing student should try to put beauty of tone into every note, and until he is able to do that, he must go on using the notes in which beauty of tone is perfected so that later there will come the same beauty and perfection into the higher tones.
The human voice is a whole orchestra of musical instruments, and must always, in the highest sense, be greater than any one or any number of musical instruments. While the instrumental musician may be able to awaken, to a marked degree, man's inner feelings, yet, after all, the voice is the living instrument, and can be made to respond to every emotion in a way that no instrument can; therefore I would give the voice the first place in health restoration. Do not think for a moment that I underestimate the value of instrumental music or its power to affect the emotional nature of the human mentality. Personally I have derived enormous benefit, both of soul and mind, through listening to a fine orchestra, or a great organ, or music produced through other instruments of any kind. I can well conceive that there are times when instrumental music may prove of as great value to a patient as that produced by the voice, if not even greater, because many voices might not be so well attuned to the patient's needs, nor able to meet those needs to the degree that a thoroughly trained and highly sympathetic instrumental musician would. The singer who would heal through his voice must be a psychologist of the first order; one who is able to perceive the needs of his patient, and through such perception be able to reach his patient's thought and feeling with music especially adapted to the requirements of the case. All other things being equal, I maintain that it will be through the use of the singing voice that the best results will obtain for both mind and body. The human voice may be made the means of carrying more of the inner feeling and best thought to the mentality of another, in a more direct and subtle way than could ever be done by the instrumental musician. I can see, however, that happy combinations in connection with the voice might be made, such as piano, violin, cello and harp accompaniments, wherein the voice and the instruments might give happier results than either one alone.
The singer who would heal people of either mental disturbances or physical infirmities, or both, should bring to his work as much of physical health and strength as it is possible for him to express; as much of the joy and the optimism of life as he can feel and think; as much of intuitive and intelligent perception of music as he has been able to develop or acquire. He should be thoroughly in love with his work, and his chief aim and object should be to awaken and bring to his work all his spiritual, mental, and physical powers, in order to be truly helpful to those who need his help. He should understand that his body and every part of it should be used in the production of music. If he keeps his whole body in a state of elasticity, his music will have far greater resonance, and beauty, and purity of tone than if he were thinking solely of technique with little or no regard for his organism. Technique has its own value, but that value may be overestimated, and the singer who is going to prove the most successful will only acquire technique in order to forget it. For everything that is once made thoroughly clear to the conscious mind is ever after pictured in the subconscious mind and stands ever ready to bring back to consciousness whatever is needed at any and every occasion, if the conscious mind does not become too active in its effort to recall it. I repeat what I have already said elsewhere, that after the habit of doing anything in a right way is once established, it is far easier to express through that habit than in any other possible way. When one comes to sing, everything in reference to technique should be put out of the conscious mind. The music and the words of the song, for the time being, are the all-important things, and the singer should become so absorbed in his song as to forget everything else. We can do only one thing well at a time. Perfect concentration is needed as much in singing as in anything else we do. All thought of breath control, form moulds, vocal cords, and everything relating to the physical should be forgotten in order to make the singing a thoroughly spontaneous flow of song produced without undue effort or physical tension. For only thus can one hope to produce purity and beauty of tone. Self-consciousness in a singer or instrumental musician is fatal to the best production.