How a Thought Translates Into Activity, Part II: The Thought of Ease

In the last post, I outlined the 4 steps that F.M. Alexander developed and documented in Man’s Supreme Inheritance for applying conscious control to the learning or re-learning of a skill (in our example, the skill of singing).  Here I would like to example the first step as it relates to
singing.  The first step, you recall, is to get a “detailed and accurate idea (a concept in mind) of what movements we have to make.”  It means we must have a clear idea of what is not needed.  The idea is Ease in singing.

When I work with someone on singing, I am clear about what Ease in singing is and I seek to communicate that sense.  I give examples that compare the sound of strain to a free sound.  Listen for yourself.

Here are recordings of Cecilia Bartoli and Von Stade, two mezzo-sopranos singing the same aria.

Ease is what Cecilia Bartoli does not have, and Ease is what Frederica Von Stade does have.

And here, compare two sopranos, a modern singer Beverly Sills, trained in a forced way of singing, with Maria Ivogun, who used a very “old” approach.  They sing the same aria.

Again, Ease is what Beverly Sills does not have, and Ease is what Maria Ivogun does have.

These examples give you the idea, the concept of ease.

Cecilia Bartoli, Beverly Sills, and so many other modern singers produce a horrible, choppy, pushed, wobbly, ugly, and out of tune sound.  This is the model that most people have for what classical singing should sound like.  We need a different model!  For you cannot sing what you cannot imagine.

Ivogun and Von Stade studied the method of Manuel Garcia (1804 -1906).  Garcia discovered the laryngoscope and wrote his Complete Treatise on the Art of Singing in 1846.  He was the foremost voice teacher of his time and taught at the Royal Academy in London until his death in 1906.  His teaching method was the study of the means whereby the voice would become free of all extra efforts.

What you hear when you listen to a singer who studied his method are the 3 basic elements of great singing: steadiness of sound, beauty of timbre (tone), and irreproachable intonation.  Ivogun studied with Mathilde Marchesi, who herself was a pupil of Garcia.  Von Stade studied Garcia before she became well known.

Garcia’s approach, like Alexander’s, encourages the freedom of Use that leads to mastery.  I use the Garcia method when working with singers, and in the next post I will take you through the remaining steps outlined in Man’s Supreme Inheritance, moving from idea into practice, utilizing Garcia’s work.

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