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Function vs Aesthetic

Function vs Aesthetic

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Published by: Dr Daniel K. Robinson on Nov 03, 2010
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11/23/2010

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Djarts Voice Coaching ~ www.djarts.com.au
© Daniel K. Robinson - 2010
Page1 of2
Functionvs.Aesthetic
By Daniel K. Robinson(2 0 0 9 )
Visual art is, to many of us, a peculiar thing. Often we can’t articulate why we
like a painting or a contemporary sculpture...we just do. Very close friends of
mine, Sam and Liz, have a painting hanging on their lounge room wall as you
enter the house. I love it! Every time I see it I am taken by its colour— purples,
greys and whites; and its flowing lines. It’s hard to describe the painting in detail
because it is unique and does not compare to anything I have ever seen before.
Unfortunately I cannot tell you who the artist is that produced the work. I do
recall Sam telling me that it was painted by a friend who paints for ‘leisure’ as
opposed to ‘work’. Regardless, it’s aesthetically beautiful, and fittingly takes
pride of place in their home.
I wonder what a professional ‘artist’ might think of this same piece of art? The
trained eye has a way of seeing and identifying faults and flaws that we, the
‘untrained’ don’t see. They might detect a poor choice of colour, a low quality of
paint and canvas or a technical shortcoming of the brush stroke technique by the
artist themselves. It’s important, at this stage, to recognise that any suggestion
of ‘functional’ shortcomings on behalf of the artist need not detract from the
‘aesthetic’ enjoyment I acquire from the painting. I remain blissfully ignorant
and in doing so continue to enjoy the artists’ work.
The same can be said of our singing. One of the challenges facing young,
developing singers is the continual negotiation between the aesthetic (beauty) of
their voice and the function (technique) of how they produce the sounds. Many
singers seek vocal lessons because someone has identified that their voice is
producing an aesthetically pleasing tone. Fortunately these developing singers
have also recognised that perhaps the aesthetic value is not enough. Perhaps
there is more to this ‘singing thing’ than simply sending a few choice notes into
the void and receiving sincere, but limited, appreciation by friends and family.
Learning to sing well with sound technique (function) is a challenging journey.
The first challenge is directed at the ego. Janice Chapman writes, “When singers
commit to learning, they offer themselves with the expectation that the teacher
will enter into a relationship with them to develop and unfold their
potential.” (Chapman, 2006) This relationship requires trust and an honesty that
can often leave a student feeling vulnerable. But to develop one needs to
change; and change, by definition, recognises that what exists now is no longer
sufficient. In essence, the developing singer has to allow a new observation of
their vocal aesthetic which may suggest, according to the singing teacher’s
criteria for ‘aesthetically pleasing tone’ falls short of ‘beauty’. But why? What is
different about the singing teacher’s set of criteria for the aesthetic value as
opposed to the students? Often the answer lies in the ‘function’ of the voice.
How is the sound produced? Does the voice display a sustainably healthy tone or
are there underlying technical issues such as poor breath management or
tongue-root tension which might hinder the longevity of the voice?

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