I am sure that almost all the musicians that I know will agree that the art of singing and the art of instrumental wind playing are inextricably linked. Indeed, it is the primary goal of many instrumentalists is to build such a close relationship and understanding of their instrument, that it becomes an extension of the body. Like the characteristics of the human voice which are totally unique to each singer, the instrumentalists journey is one of forever discovering their unique instrumental voice. Of an infinite number of characteristics, these may include the individual’s timbre, their unique way of turing a phrase and their personal character of articulation.
At the core of both vocal pedagogy and instrumental wind pedagogy are four systems:
- The breath system: inhalation, exhalation, breath management;
- The phonating system: the source of vibrations (the vocal folds, the reed, the lips);
- The resonating system: resonance of the body (the head and oral cavity, the chest), resonance of the instrument, resonance of the performance space;
- The articulating system: the tongue, and for the singer, the musculature of the face and the lips.
These four systems work together to produce the singer’s or instrumentalist’s unique artistic voice. Just as it is easy for the experienced ear to quickly aurally distinguish between the great tenors Luciano Pavarotti or Franco Corelli, or perhaps the sopranos Renee Flemming or Monserrat Caballe, it is easy for the experienced ear to discern the subtle difference in style and sound that separates the great clarinettists such as Sabine Meyer from David Shifrin.
This blog shall detail my personal journey with discovering the links between the human voice and the clarinet. Earlier this year, as part of my Master of Music degree in clarinet performance at Yale University, I began formal voice lessons and began learning to tame my recently discovered heldentenor voice. I have always innately felt that I was meant to be an opera singer (apart for always thinking that I didn’t have a good enough singing voice, which is probably why I took up the clarinet instead!) and it was the video performances of Pavarotti that sparked my interest in music at the age of five. So far, this journey into discovering my singing voice has brought me closer than ever to understanding the clarinet.
I honestly believe that vocal technique has much to show us about the clarinet as performers and teachers. This blog shall detail my personal journey into discovering both of these instruments and most authentic artistic voice. I am certain that alongside radical discoveries there will be mistakes and dead ends. One thing I am continuously confronting as a musician, is that there appears to be no destination – playing music is about life long exploration and growth.
I would be so thrilled if you can join me on this path.