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Modern Singing versus Old School Singing

By March 13, 2018March 16th, 2023No Comments

I really hesitate to post these links.  Some of you may hate me forever and never come back.  I will try to be as diplomatic as I can be.  I’m afraid that these two videos are the reason that I started this blog, although I hadn’t seen them before I decided to do the blog.  There is a phenomenon today in music conservatories (I can’t speak about outside the U.S. but this happens throughout the U.S.) whereby the abrupt change in vocal production which occurred between the 1970s and 1980s came to be called “Modern Singing” versus “Old School Singing”.  What does this mean, and why do I say that this is the reason that I started this blog?  It means that a tradition of vocal instruction was lost during the 1970s and 1980s and that lost tradition acquired a new name – “Old School Singing”.  I am only speaking of operatic singing here, although a similar remark could be made for Broadway singing.  Old School Singing was done without amplification.  That is not the case today, where operatic singers are often amplified.  Old School Singing used to be called “singing on the breath”, or “singing into the mask”, or “singing into the resonance”.  These are types of singers that I have been posting.  You will notice that I have avoided posting anyone alive to day.  That is for a reason.

What has come to be called “Modern Singing” is a type of singing without a resonant sound (if you need an example of a resonant sound, go back and listen to Lisa Della Casa); that is, the air and the tone do not reach the resonating cavities of the head. Instead, the air becomes trapped in the muscles of the throat, and the throat and manipulations of the tongue are used to push out a sound.  The “bright” sound of “Old School Singing” is viewed as undesirable and old-fashioned.  With respect to the “Modern Singing” style, besides not having a quality of resonance and having an over-darkened and covered quality, it is very hard to maintain this forced, pushed sound, and singers develop an early wobble because of it.  Additionally, it is impossible to sing in tune.  Some of you will say that everyone sounds fine on recordings, but that is because of autotune manipulations from sound engineers.  Finally, singers don’t last long.  I have a cassette tape from a friend mine of Magda Olivero (who will be a posting sometime in the future).  This friend call the tape “50 years of Magda”, and it literally was 50 years of Magda Olivero’s singing, and she sounded the same at the beginning of the tape as she did at the end of the tape.  She was even singing at 100 years old.  And that was because she sang on the breath.

This video pits one singer next to another.  I will make no more comments other than what I have said above.  Unfortunately, this Modern Singing versus Old School Singing phenomenon is not only relegated to voices.  Analogous changes have happened in conducting, in instrument playing, especially on the piano, etc.  But I will leave you with voices, and I do hope that you come back to this blog.

This video has been taken down from YouTube for what are probably obvious reasons. I have a copy.