The fundamentals of the Modern Method, aiming at operatic singing in the Arabic language, as prepared by professor Yolla Younes Nassif, in her book "The Voice and the Singing"(1)
- The performance of the Operatic art involves its own vision, in terms of real expression, which reflects the specifications of its beauty. Operatic performance in musical theater cannot be considered similar to a theatrical performance itself, because it has its own status and circumstances.
- We cannot consider the musical theater as a normal theater, because the expressionnal theatrical energy in it comes through the voice.
About the Vocal art
- The real technique of the voice derives from vocal capabilities. It is done in accordance with the technical requirements and the expressions that could be performed. Consequently, it becomes necessary to have a basis in regards to the vocal system, i.e. the quality of the vocal levels of the voice, vocal expansion, and acoustic energy.
- Since singing is a vocal expression, then ,it represents a link between music on one hand, and the performed expression on the other. Therefore, singing is not only a theatrical performance of poetic words, but is based and lies within vocal expression.
The Science of the Voice
The science of the voice is not a specific technique that can be applied. However, it is the capability and knowledge that are sufficient to reveal the voice's peak, the extent of its use, and its natural capabilities. Concerning singing voices, expressional specifications, whether "Coloratura" or dramatic, complete the vocal specifications in singing, such as the "Soprano" level. These characteristics show a voice of a certain quality since every voice has its unique tone.
When reviewing the voice configuration before specialization, it must be subjected to technical exercises in order to show its full potential.
Vocal specialization has several principles which differ in terms of structure. Yet, what allows its definition in the first place lies within two approaches:
First: Specializing in vocal performance such as is an opera, operetta, or others. This is according to the specific quality and power of the voice.
Second: The applied knowledge of the voice. This is in search for the appropriate performance, and adjusting the voice according to its specifications. Even if the voice had good quality, it might not be suitable for performance, unless it meets the the basic elements that would allow it to specialize in this field. It is not a custom to have classical writings, written according to the specifications of a certain voice, but according to the presumed, and required vocal extension of the character in a musical theatrical work.
Operatic professionalism cannot be achieved through only beautiful voices. However, all artistic and vocal facts allow professional artists to perform in leading roles. This is seen through voice, artistic persona, vocal stability, strong memory, and theater presence. These talents cannot be attained except through hard work and intensive efforts.
The spoken theater contains a lot of elaborate speaking and personifications. However, in the musical theater, the personification comes as a light secondary movement that supports the musical theatrical state, and here lies the strength of the operatic expression.
The purpose of the Modern Method in operatic singing
The importance of letters and the expressions in the Arabic language are often very heavy on the vocal cords; therefore, these cords are unable to execute them. This Modern Method significantly helps execute the vocal letters and expressions in the Arabic language. In consequence, this will be opening unlimited options in this field.
Egypt and Lebanon
Arabic singing witnessed a great development and decisive orientation by placing an academic method in Lebanon that makes Arabic singing a fifth school among the four operatic schools in the world. Consequently, the Egyptian Ministry of Culture commissioned Dr. Nabila Aryan to Lebanon for one month during March 1997. Dr. Nabila Aryan is the Director of the operatic section at the Academy of Arts, at the Conservatoire in Cairo. She had an academic and practical experience in global and Arabic operatic singing, and was one of the founders of the first Egyptian operatic troupes.
Dr. Nabila Aryan's mission was to get acquainted with the new Arabic musical innovation of Mrs. Yolla Younes Nassif. Her plan was to test students on this musical innovation, and learn more about all its scientific and technical basis in which they went through. Then, she had in mind to write a detailed report including all the decisions and measures that should be taken, in order to reach an opera in the Arabic language, with all its musical foundation, given the requirements of basis of its international level.
Dr. Nabila Aryan prepared a 10-page report. It showed the great importance of the success of the Arabic opera access, especially that it did not cancel the old operatic experiences that Dr. Aryan possessed. The latter confirmed the scientific and and correctness of the Modern Method for a leading Arabic opera.
The report came as follows:
Concerning the scientific application of the modern singing method in the Arabic language at the National Higher Conservatory of Music in Lebanon, and strengthening the academic, scientific, and artistic cooperation between Egypt and Lebanon(1)
Dr. Nabila Malika Aryan:
Lebanon is taking fast and vital steps towards the reconstruction and renovation. In music, these steps are represented in the opening of several branches of the National Conservatory all across the country.
(1)The Academy of Arts archives - Conservatoire. Cairo
The National Higher Conservatory for Music archives - The Lebanese Conservatoire.
What is more important than the opening of new branches is the continuous development of the methods. This was thanks to the wise leadership of Dr. Walid Ghoulmieh, the director of the National Higher Conservatory for Music. The fingerprints of his leadership were apparent on all the aspects of the musical activity in Lebanon. He helped in establishing the orchestra, musical works, holding performances in different places and contributing to the music recordings inside and outside Lebanon. Moreover, he served in organizing global artistic festivals such as the festival recently held at Al-Boustan Hall.
Included in this development is the preservation of the modern Arabic singing method, created by Professor Yolla Younes Nassif, which is ideally excellent. It has been long awaited the finding of a scientific method for the developed Arabic singing which allows the performance of artistic works with complete Orchestra. This is done with with natural vocal capabilities that are able to personify the dramatic characters and carry out the big orchestral singing performances in order to keep up with the global artistic process.
There was a scientific and theoretical research in this field in Egypt. However, there was not any practical method that creates a global Arabic school. This method is perfect in terms of its artistic vision of the requirements of performing in the Arabic language.
The positive side of applying this method is that it achieved the highest voice resonance in terms of power and quantity of the Overtones accompanying the primary voice. In addition, this positive side showed a significant widening of the vocal area of all the female and male voices. As a result, it is possible to carry out a musical performance without microphones, with the accompaniment of the orchestra, along with clear phonics. This is considered as a small accomplishment.
The negative side can be summarized with the fact that this method focuses on vocal techniques that are marked with a sort of a strong vocal push, without either magnifying the phonics of the letters or changing the nature of Arabic voices. This is the main goal. This results in an insufficient concentration of the abdominal muscles when exhaling. That also leads to singing irregular phrases with short singing breath. Moreover, it leads to sharpness in the tones of the voice, especially in the high area.
Western operatic singing depends on the solid air column that is based on the Diaphragm. It also depends on the strength of the abdominal muscles in controlling the release of breath according to the requirements of the musical phrase being sung (i.e. exhaling). On the other hand, the modern method relies on the power made which is distributed among the diaphragm and stomach muscles, the Internal Intercostal Muscle, as well as the Jaw and the lips muscles.
These muscles were used in singing in the modern method. However, they were not clarified scientifically. There was not any training method put by any international singing school in order to strengthen these muscles which are strange in their use. These muscles might be used in local musical singing work. The human voice is directed when performing in the sharp area heads towards the Frontal Nasal Cavities,. This voice is called the Head Voice. It is based on the flexibility of the lower jaw and the exhaling from the mouth, i.e., the throat should be completely open to give out a pure voice without any sharpness. It is also possible to give a dim and an audible voice at the same time. This requires changing the nature of the Arabic linguistic sounds that are filled with clenched vowels (the nucleus of the paragraphs).
Six out of the ten vocal cords are clenched vowels, and only four are loose. It is clear that the modern method is compatible with the nature of the Arab sounds. However, it does not agree with the nature of issuing a musical sound in the sharp area, which is the case in most languages despite achieving a concrete clarity in pronunciation in this area. For example, "H" (ح), "Kh"(خ), Aa (ع) are produced from Arabic letters that come from the throat. However, the sound of the "A" in the word "Amen" becomes AE. This sound is also heard in in the word "Fannan" or "Nar", where the first is clenched, while the second and the third are loose. This is how the vocal requirements of singing are revealed in the high pitched area.
This entire matter is related to what extent each society accepts to change the pronunciation of the language while singing regarding the general taste or the acquired concepts, if there is any other musical beauty that would compensate. There is no real checklist or continuity to any method, unless it is based on a sufficient amount of musical and artistic works that strengthen its presence and confirm its soundness. Moreover, this method influences these musical works and inspires from them. Lebanon was distinguished by a decent number of lyrical artistic works based on developed techniques.
hese techniques allow the Arabic song to break out of its narrow path as in performance and vocal capacities into more compatible techniques presented for a global theatrical performance. Among Lebanese composers, professor George Farah was considered the pioneer regarding the variety and quantity of musical works. Students of the singing department adopted George Farah’s modern method.
There is another trend of modern singing which is part of the Lebanese nationa movement for contemporary writing. It is represented by songs written by Hiba Al-Kawwas. These songs are characterized by a contemporary and modern composition in a beautiful orchestration. Some of these songs are dramatic in nature and are considered as a basis for Western theatrical writing in Lebanon. However, the singing performance does not represent a singing method despite its purity in all vocal areas. Although this new singing movement nourishes the modern method with the required artistic material to develop it, yet it did not surpass the live theatrical performance without microphone. It also has not yet been applied to different types of female and male voices.
Based on the above information, recommendations came as follows:
1- The modern method is to be completed in terms of finding better breathing techniques and more purity in the high and sharp areas.
2- Vocal exercises should be adopted according to the type of each voice whether male or female. These exercises are based on oriental modes. They should not to be done according to scales but to melodic and cadential formulas. They are based on the types of Arabic music, whether ascending or descending depending on the capabilities of the voice and the mode.
3- Diversity of the musical composition’s sources should be seen in order to include all artistic directions and trends in the Arab world. As a result, the Arabic song will be pushed forward and brought out of its narrow space. In addition, the establishment of an Arabic musical theater is a result of this diversity.
4- A new Arabic theatrical singing branch should be opened and it would be in relation with the singing department at the Conservatoire in Cairo. This new Arabic Music Institute would be specialized in culture and not contemporary developed music. It would teach and apply the modern method for the Arabic theatrical singing by exchanging students and teachers in cooperation with the National Conservatory. This method would continue its techniques progressively with the teachers’ expertise and then applying it on students. The Lebanese works are to be added to works of the contemporary Egyptian authors, such as Jamal Abdul Rahim, Jamal Salamah, and Rajih Daoud, etc.
5- Singing division’s methods at the Conservatoire in Cairo should modified: the Arabic song should be removed from operatic singing curriculum, as it used to be performed in a Western singing style that does not achieve a real goal. Thus, limiting Arabic singing should be limited to the modern method. Moreover, the Arabic translation of global works, whether songs or operas, should be cancelled for the same reasons, since the nature of writing is only in line with its original language.
Dr. Nabila Aryan 30/03/1997
Head of the singing division