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What Constitutes a Singer?

It is already definitely known that the singing and the speaking voice differ only in the plane of vibration, plane of resonance, and trend of the energy used. Otherwise the mediums of expression and the physical force employed are identical.

A third element, however, enters into the production of a pure, powerful, and beautiful singing tone, which has not heretofore been recognized, and which, if recognized, would not prove readily available.

Nearly everyone has had occasion to notice the various modulations of the voice in times of great emotional excitement, or under the influence of passion. In anger the voice is pitched high, the tones are harsh and strident, all sweetness and beauty, for the time being, eliminated. Whence, then, the energy which has wrought this change? Anger is a form of energy polarized suddenly by the individual, the moment that the mind of the individual began to vibrate violently enough to draw a corresponding vibration from the surrounding mental atmosphere. This violent vibration, or agitation, is reflected on to the sensory nerve-tract, producing there the sensation called anger by the violent responsive agitation elicited.

A similar energy is polarized by a great singer, the greatness of the singer differing in degree only as this energy differs in amount and intensity of operation. Hence we have singers of every degree of excellence and power.

In addition to the quality of mind which can polarize enough of the surrounding mental atmosphere to produce beautiful and powerful tones, there must be sufficient inherent will-power in the individual to direct and focus this energy exclusively to the vocal organs; hence the necessity of self-denial, which opera-singers must practice. It means conservation of energy. If the unconscious, as well as conscious, will-power is strong enough to do this, and the energy so directed meets a perfect vocal organ, with resonance chambers free from membranous affections, with vocal cords flexible and unclogged, all the conditions for the making of a great singer exist, if united to a column of air welling up free and unrestrained.

All the energy in the universe, without perfect vocal organs, will not produce a singer; on the other hand, a perfect vocal organ, without power, does not constitute a singer. Without a properly constructed battery, all the electricity in the world will not convey a single message, and the reverse is true. As to the method of drawing energy from the area outside the individual, it is done by the quality of mind, its force, and strong individuality. Patti, Nordica, Calvé, Bernhardt, and a host of others polarize power, and every one of these artists would succeed in many other spheres of activity equally as well, did they fail as artists through loss of voice, because they polarize power, and, if it did not find vent in song, would find it in some other way.—M. M. Hanggi.

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