A Complete Treatise on the Art of Singing

Publication details: 1984. New York: Da Capo. Trans. Donald V. Paschke. Ed. Donald V. Paschke. First published 1841.

Who was Manuel Patricio Rodriguez Garcia? (1805-1906) A Spanish singer, voice researcher, and one of the most famous vocal pedagogues of the 19th Century. Son of Manuel Garcia (the original Almaviva in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia), brother of operatic legends Maria Malibran and Pauline Viardot. He is widely credited with the invention of the laryngoscope in 1854 (an instrument that allows the user to see the vocal folds and watch them in vibration).

What is A Complete Treatise on the Art of Singing: Part One? In the second edition of Part One of this revolutionary work, Garcia detailed his observations regarding the anatomy and physiology of the voice, as enabled by his observations with the laryngoscope. He applied these discoveries to a wide variety of vocal concepts, sounds,  and articulations (e.g., clear vs. somber timbre, vowels, vocal registration, agility), describing each one physiologically, in a way that had not ever been attempted before the laryngoscope.

Great Quotes from A Complete Treatise on the Art of Singing:

From the Preface to the Sixth Edition:The study of the mechanism of the human voice, very instructive for the physiologist, can also have some undeniable advantages for the singer. Nothing, in fact, can be more valuable to him than to know by what procedures the vocal instrument manages to produce the vibrations, to what operation of the organs we owe the range of the voice, the registers, the timbres, the ring of the tones, their intensity, their volume, the rapid succession of the notes, etc. If he could obtain that knowledge, the singer would find in it the secret of the proper means of smoothing the difficulties which hamper his studies; he also could more surely avoid the dangers which cause the voice to be improperly used or subject it to abuse.” (Garcia 1984, xx)

“Until our days the physiologist possessed only some approximate notions, obtained by induction, of this part of science. In order to make them precise he lacked a means of direct observation. This means has been furnished to him recently by the laryngoscope; he can today, by carrying his look into the interior of the larynx, examine it while the voice is being produced, and, connecting the movements which he sees there to his knowledge of anatomy, establish his theories on well verified facts.” (Garcia 1984, xx-xxi)

“We believe it our duty to place at the beginning of this method an abbreviated description of the vocal apparatus. It seems to us impossible to understand the mechanism of an instrument well if one does not first have some notion of the different parts which compose it. This anatomical statement is addressed, not to physiologists, but to singers. Also, let us borrow from science only the details strictly necessary for the intelligence of our theories, and some technical expressions, so it will be necessary to accept them just as anatomy presents them. Let our readers be not at all frightened by them; these few terms will easily become familiar to them and cannot be the occasion of a real difficulty.” (Garcia 1984, xxv)

The singer, to dominate the material difficulties of his art, must have a thorough knowledge of the mechanism of all these parts to the point of isolating or combining their actions, according to need.” (Garcia 1984, lxiv)

“…it is necessary to conclude that the brilliance of the voice results from the firm closure of the glottis after each pulsation. This procedure also has the advantage of bringing about a great economy of the air. We urge students to immerse themselves well in these observations; they are of the utmost importance.” (Garcia 1984, 27)

“In order to correct the faults of the voice, as well as to perfect the quality of it, it is necessary to begin with this essential fact: that every modification produced in the timbre of a tone has its origin in an analogous variation in the interior position of the tube by which the voice is emitted. Each tint of the tone which is emitted then represents to the ear the position in which one has held the tube.” (Garcia 1984, 36)

Hover the cursor over any quote to pause it.

Note: The quotes I have selected do not necessarily reflect my own views on the subjects they address, and they may not be scientifically accurate. They were chosen because they are representative of the author’s views. –Dr. Nielsen