• Tim Braithwaite

Leo Kofler on the Artistic use of Larynx Height in 'The Old Italian School of Singing’ (1883)

'In regard to the accommodation of the melody to the natural pitch of the vowel sounds, the composer is assisted by the spirit of the language itself. The singer again is aided in the artistic rendering of his songs by the great versatility of his organs, to give expression to all imaginable color-painting. In this regard the mobility of the larynx (together with the ever changing cavity of the mouth and the shape of the lips) is to the singer of the greatest importance in order to give to all passions the correct shading of tone.


The spirit of a language has instinctively given the bright vowels to words expressive of joy and gladness, and the dark ones for the feeling of sorrow and such passions as form the dark shades of the human heart. If the singer wishes to give the right dramatic expression he will have the study and practice all the movements of the larynx. In the bright and gleeful outbursts of joy the larynx must rise, in the melancholy wail it will sink to its lowest position.


According to the modifications of these two contrasts of passions, the singer must treat the resounding cavities like the painter’s hand dips the brush into the different colors to give the imprints of the imagination of a genius in painting feelings and passions. In comparison to such an artist what a lifeless, what a wooden frame is the singer with a fixed larynx! There is only one shade possible in his voice. He is like the little boyish dabbler in colors, who uses black or dark gray for all his attempts in painting. For high and low, joyful and sad, quiet or excited situations he drawls out the same monotonous tone.’

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*Notes*


Leo Kofler, The Old Italian School of Singing (Albany, N.Y.: Edgar S. Werner, 1883).


The painting below is by Thomas Eakins, entitled ‘The Pathetic Song,’ created in 1881.


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