My purpose is to discuss simply, intelligibly, yet from a scientific
point of view, the sensations known to us in singing, and exactly
ascertained in my experience, by the expressions singing open,
covered, dark, nasal, in the head, or in the neck,
forward, or back. These expressions correspond to our sensations
in singing; but they are unintelligible as long as the causes of those
sensations are unknown, and everybody
has a different idea of them.
Many singers try their whole lives long to produce them and never
succeed. This happens because science understands too little of
singing, the singer too little of science. I mean that the
physiological explanations of the highly complicated processes of
singing are not plainly enough put for the singer, who has to concern
himself chiefly with his sensations in singing and guide himself by
them. Scientific men are not at all agreed as to the exact functions
of the several organs; the humblest singer knows something about them.
Every serious artist has a sincere desire to help others reach the
goal--the goal toward which all singers are striving: to sing well and
The true art of song has always been possessed and will always be
possessed by such individuals as are dowered by nature with all that
is needful for it--that is, healthy vocal organs, uninjured by vicious
habits of speech; a good ear, a talent for singing, intelligence,
industry, and energy.
In former times eight years were devoted to the study of singing--at
the Prague Conservatory, for instance. Most of the mistakes and
misunderstandings of the pupil could be discovered before he secured
an engagement, and the teacher could spend so much time in correcting
them that the pupil learned to pass judgment on himself properly.
But art to-day must be pursued like everything else, by steam. Artists
are turned out in factories, that is, in so-called conservatories, or
by teachers who give lessons ten or twelve hours a day. In two years
they receive a certificate of competence, or at least the diploma of
the factory. The latter, especially, I consider a crime, that the
state should prohibit.
All the inflexibility and unskilfulness, mistakes and deficiencies,
which were formerly disclosed during a long course of study, do not
appear now, under the factory system, until the student's public
career has begun. There can be no question of correcting them, for
there is no time, no teacher, no critic; and the executant has learned
nothing, absolutely nothing, whereby he could undertake to distinguish
or correct them.
The incompetence and lack of talent whitewashed over by the factory
concern lose only too soon their plausible brilliancy. A failure in
life is generally the sad end of such a factory product; and to
factory methods the whole art of song is more and more given over as a
I cannot stand by and see these things with indifference. My artistic
conscience urges me to disclose all that I have learned and that has
become clear to me in the course of my career, for the benefit of art;
and to give up my secrets, which seem to be secrets only because
students so rarely pursue the path of proper study to its end. If
artists, often such only in name, come to a realization of their
deficiencies, they lack only too frequently the courage to acknowledge
them to others. Not until we artists all reach the point when we can
take counsel with each other about our mistakes and deficiencies, and
discuss the means for overcoming them, putting our pride in our
pockets, will bad singing and inartistic effort be checked, and our
noble art of singing come into its rights again.