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Back to the future 1: creating new paradigms from the old

Back to the future 1: creating new paradigms from the old

We are standing on the edge of unlimited possibilities for music and singing.

There is a new sense of adventure and creativity entering the scene. We are in an age of change and we must be aware and open to it. To some it probably seems like confusing chaos and a threat to the status quo. It is a threat to the status quo! What can we do to be a positive part of the change and at the same time stay centered, and learn to dance and play with the times?

Part 1. Where have we been? What has brought us to our current stage?

1. We are moving from a singing teaching system of very private, limited and limiting local traditions and oral tradition/ hand-me-down information of over 400 years to a very different picture where information about singing and music is available immediately and globally. Vocal performance is changing because our exposure to singing has become global and offers us so many possibilities.

The old classical system of teaching gave us some wonderful singers for their time. It also gave us some ideas that became more and more fixed and and at the same time distorted as the hand-me-down information continued—much like the game of “gossip” where original information becomes distorted as it moves from person to person. This resulted in teaching that was highly reliant on what was thought to be the way to train voices for the music of the time—such as church and opera. Whole methods evolved based on perceptions of what was taught before we had adequate records and information. You could even call them “hear-say” methods of singing. Sadly this continues today in a number of cases.

The old system was elitist with differentiation of music of the court and high society from that of the “people”. Singers were associated with the court, the church or opera. Oral tradition and popular music came from street entertainers and travelling minstrels. Interestingly, I have seen many street entertainers singing opera today—especially in the London tubes.

Over time, singers and musicians began to leave the security of royal courts, at first with the help of benefactors and patrons. They were exposed to ever widening audiences. The most popular singers of the day travelled from town to town. As transportation grew, so did the possibilities of new audiences for singers. The new awarenesses of other cultures and tastes began to show in the singing and the teaching of singing. Famous singers developed huge followings and the “groupies” of their day.

Teachers like Garcia had a great curiosity about the voice and he was determined to find a way to see what was happening. And he did! He spawned a new generation of singing teachers who wanted to know. That movement has reached a peak today—almost 175 years later. How could he possibly know that vocal pedagogy would become a valuable part of singing courses in universities throughout the world? Note: colleges and universities in the USA have had these courses in their curricula since the 1940’s; while Europe is only now beginning to catch up. The tradition in European countries has been to favour specific methods and teachings of known teacher/gurus. As a result teachers there have been reticent to trust universal pedagogical information until recently. Now there is a big demand for it.

Meanwhile, the singers were still singing, with or without the knowledge of how they were doing it. They were guided by their perceptions of what they thought they were doing–and pleasing audiences. What they were actually doing was more important to the pedagogues who wanted to help their pupils become great singers.

That brings us to the question: Where are we now? It is not taking us 175 years to change. It is all happening much faster.(Next Release: Part 2)

icon-pdfBack-to-the-future :Part 1 –  Creating New Paradigms From The Old

icon-pdfBack-to-the-future:  Part 2 –  Where Are We Now?

icon-pdfBack-to-the-future:  Part 3 – Where Do We Go From Here ?

Article Back to the future: creating new paradigms from the old
Adapted from talk given for AOTOS Conference 2014  By Meribeth Dayme, PhD

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