Assumptions abound

lorenzo_costa_-_un_concerto_national_gallery_londonIn a Facebook forum recently a “teacher” (looking at her page I saw no qualifications) asked the question: “Can someone give me examples of popular commercially successful male singers that sing high notes other than with falsetto, with a lowered larynx and lifted soft palate and good acoustic space?”

Oh my. No, I can’t, because if they do all that, they are trying to make the modern stilted opera sound, not something that will sell as a popular song. If she succeeds in getting her young pop singer to make all that “space”, he will fail. I said something to that effect on the thread, but here I will go further and say that even if he is a classical singer, if he becomes obsessed with where all those parts are, he will have, at best, the honking, darkish, corporate sound that passes for “opera singing”, little flexibility, and  a short range.

It’s so ridiculously backwards. So many strive to do the physical things to make the sound that will “pass”, rather than making sounds that can do the musical things. Can this voice move? Can it grow and diminish? Can the singer convey text clearly? Are there at least two octaves of easy phonation? Is the vibrato a beautiful pulse around the center of the pitch, or is it a wobble?

The color or acoustic signature or overtones or whatever you want to call “the sound” that Bruno Mars makes is absolutely appropriate for his music. His larynx is not being placed anywhere, so it’s certainly not pulled down low. Adam Lambert is interesting in that there are some old recordings floating around of him singing musical theatre. He has a different approach there than in his rockish stuff. The beautiful head tones, held notes, and flexibility he shows in Brigadoon is not a manipulated larynx. It is the agreement between a sound he feels he needs to make and his body’s response. A bright, buoyant tenor voice like his with its easy high range cannot be attained with any conscious “space-making” or it will die.

 

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