The Projection Booth and the Screen

Evan Bortnick

Gesangsunterricht Wiesbaden

Ever since Garcia (fils) first looked at a pair of vibrating vocalis muscles a war seems to be raging among singers and singing teachers. On one side of the trenches is the clan who is sure that every inner picture of real anatomy and every sensation of measurable vocal lip function is bad, evil, wrong, crazy, stupid or dangerous. On the other is the clan who is sure that the only “real” path to extraordinary singing lies in a thorough knowledge of anatomy and function. If I have a mission on this planet, it’s to unite these clans in mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence!

Singers need referencing experiences to establish healthy habits. HOW a singer accesses these experiences is a matter of taste and style of the singer and of the teacher. The “primary” sensations of phonation are to be found at the vocal lip level. They are relatively subtle. The secondary sensations are to be found in the vocal tract as well as the head and chest. They are much more easily felt.

My present favorite metaphor for the distinction between primary and secondary functional sensations is a movie theater. In a movie theater there is a projection booth and a screen. When we go see a movie we sit facing the screen. There we enjoy the story being told by being willingly absorbed in the illusion that something’s “really” happening on the screen. If something needs adjusting, however, we attend to the actions in the projection booth. It would be unthinkable to go to the screen to make the adjustments there. At the same time, it would be just as unthinkable during a film to stare at the projection booth. It would be difficult to impossible to follow the story by watching the projector.

Just so with the singer; during the act of singing, if she’s conscious of sensations AT ALL, it is more of the secondary sensations of resonance (our terms ‘chest voice’ and ‘head voice’ are an expression of this). They are not only easier to follow; they have a distinct emotional expression as well which merges the singer and the song (and/or role). “Trying” to “Feel” the functions during the act of singing is contra-intuitive exactly because they belong to the spontaneous, ‘auto-pilot’ unconscious competence.

That said, there are singers who feel more strongly into functional sensations while performing. Far be it for me to tell them that what they’re feeling is a conglomerate of primary and secondary sensations, ESPECIALLY if what they’re doing is apparently working for them. This is exactly my point; no matter how ‘militant’ the trenches of your ‘method’ may be, we all, one way or another, blend primary + secondary sensations, anatomical + artistic ideals and functional + traditional pedagogy. Familiarizing ourselves with the convergence (as opposed to the divergence) of our thinking allows a more vital and profitable communication!

Evan Bortnick

Gesangsunterricht Wiesbaden

About evanb54

I'm a passionate, curious learning junkie--- an X-Opera Singer turned Voice Teacher, Voice Teachers Teacher, NLP Lehrtrainer, Off-Path Coach, Cranio-Sacral worker and a few other even less mainstream things. Everything I've learned or taught revolves around THE VOICE. The Voice as a tool of artistic expression. The Voice as a tool of emotional transparency. The voice as a tool of flexible communication. More information can be found at my Institute Site: The Wiesbaden Academy of the Vocal Muse Gesangsunterricht Wiesbaden, Coaching, Voice Pedagogy
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