Jenks Voice Studio

The Cricothyroid Rosary

Published on April 11th, 2015 by Brad Jenks

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Dear Maestro Garcia, who art otherwise Italianate, forgive me la voce this day. Grant to me ease of Can Belto as it is in Bel Canto. Deliver me from nodules and help me to nail this audition.

In the name of Garcia Sr., Garcia Jr., and Seth Riggs, for pop stuff.....Amen.

Perhaps I am just pathologically not a joiner- but it seems to me that a great deal of the world of vocal study is comparable to the world of religion, another field that endlessly fascinates me, but to which I cannot seem to commit in any denominational sense.

I find that in both fields there are groups of traditionalists (Classical vocal music; Roman Catholic/Orthodox), and then groups of reformers (CCM; Protestant/Reform), and both have their particular sciences (Voice science;Theology/Doctrinal studies), only occasionally demonstrating some ecumenism. Classicists inevitably get accused of elitist hollowness found in the stylistic pomp and circumstance that can develop over many years of establishment, liberal progressives invariably are accused of having values corrupted by betrayal of the knowledge and wisdom of Tradition.

Both fields also suffer from being profoundly and validly experiential, yet are often vague, esoteric, and diverse in explanation. Now, on the one hand, the voice sciences have made marvelous advances in information gathering. Theologians and historians and linguists have made deep, interesting discoveries that shed great light on religious text and tradition. But sometimes, the interested and invested majority get tangled in the puzzling explications of the academic minority, in waves of information and language that can hide mistakes, bad ideas, poor logic, and unspoken motives.

The other day I was reading a lengthy piece about the "Mutational Chink" in adolescent female voices. This phenomenon, now given a proper name, to substantiate its thing-ness, was described by the writer in agonizing detail, all but begging the reader to accept the veracity of the findings. Personally, I don't require much convincing that gawky, teenage girls with no vocal training and afraid of their own sounds tend to vocally retreat, under-adduct their cords and develop a habit of breathiness....... Do any of us not know that?

I felt as though I had just finished an encyclical about papal infallibility, heaping dogma upon dogma to defend Peter's authority, when it could simply be said, "We tend to see the wisdom in top-down, episcopal authority by election the wisest structural choice for the worldwide church."

Over this last year I have been routinely struck by what I see as great problems in the otherwise fascinating field of vocal science, and I would summarize it by saying- the observations in the field are certainly valid, but many of the conclusions are not. Many important questions are not asked, and many operating assumptions are false, but they are all frequently presented as conclusive. 

In coming posts I will be highlighting a few of these sorts of pedagogical discrepancies, because as much as I am encouraged by the wonderful research and developments in the field of vocal science and pedagogy- (just like religious belief and practice) Music, stylistic preference, and especially our voices and related physicality are things which have many strong feelings attached. Consequently, maintaining a critical eye on the information stream is necessary for healthy, balanced vocal development. Finding and trusting authority figures is all well and good, and ultimately, necessary- but in the end, each must work out his own (vocal) salvation.