Yesterday, we learned the value of removing the “Hiss” from your lyric; today we will concentrate on singing the Vowel in your Vessel. The throat, as you can see in the image below, is one of the many vessels in the body — and we learned that creative notion from Willa Cather, the great Nebraska writer.
In Willa Cather’s ovaric novel — “The Song of the Lark” — published in 1915, she teaches us the artistry of human anatomy:
One morning, as she was standing upright in the pool, splashing water between her shoulder-blades with a big sponge, something flashed through her mind that made her draw herself up and stand still until the water had quite dried upon her flushed skin. The stream and the broken pottery: what was any art but an effort to make a sheath, a mould in which to imprison for a moment the shining, elusive element which is life itself, — life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose? The Indian women had held it in their jars. In the sculpture she had seen in the Art Institute, it had been caught in a flash of arrested motion. In singing, one made a vessel of one’s throat and nostrils and held it on one’s breath, caught the stream in a scale of natural intervals.
When you read that kind of writing, you are humbled and quieted. Willa Cather was in total control of her words and our world today. You can’t compete with that kind of genius, you can only admire it from afar and take away its clear lessons.
The sheath of the throat is the first resonance for any singing and that is why the most effective sung words end in vowels. End a phrase with an open mouth, not a closed one.
Vowels require an open throat and the sound that is produced in that vessel rings more clearly and makes a harder thumping than words that end with pursed lips or in the snake-like “Hiss” of an “S” word.
The reason so many Italian arias rise throughout the Ages is because the language frees the throat to sing in antiquity. Many Italian words end in an “O” and that makes for easy rhyming and mandated open-throat singing.
When you write a lyric — always call forward that open-throat-vessel — and manipulate your rhyme schemes to take advantage of that in-born want for the sheath to vibrate in song.