Academic

Postgraduate study

In 1992 the Ernest George White Society agreed to sponsor, by paying the tuition fees, a full-time postgraduate student in the University of Reading, UK to study the archives of the Society held in care by the University.

An advertisement in March 1993 sought a candidate to undertake “an historical and pedagogical study of Ernest George White’s theories concerning voice production … to focus on the interrelationship between the historical context of White’s ideas and contemporary theory and practice”.

An overseas student was appointed, Mrs Roslyn Wells, a graduate in psychology of Queensland University, Australia, and an experienced professional singer and teacher. The thesis which she wrote and for which she was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy was entitled “The relevance of metaphor in voice teaching: a comparative study of sinus tone production1 and vocal cord theories”.2

The conclusions she stated are as follows:

Chapter 5: “The strategy that was developed by White in the 1900s would seem to be ahead of its time, and the strategies that have developed since then could prove an effective model for teachers in general.”
Chapter 8: “Voice therapists agreed that White’s theory seemed to be an effective metaphor for safe tone placement. The general opinion was therefore that White had developed an effective and harmless singing technique.”

Chapter 10: “Metaphor is an indispensable strategy when teaching voice. Both groups (vocal cords and sinus tone teachers) used accepted scientific descriptions … This evidence contradicted the claims of influential vocal cord teachers that sinus tone production was based entirely on metaphor.”

Chapter 11: “Comparison revealed that sinus tone production techniques were closer to the therapeutic model than were those of vocal cord teachers.”

Chapter 12 [the final sentence of the principal text]: “It is to be hoped that by building on safe singing strategies such as those recommended above, students will be provided with a basic foundation from which they can fulfil whatever potential they have –without the vocal problems caused by misuse – for the rest of their lives.”

These are measured comments after three years of investigation by an independent expert, who also observes that “over the years the number of testimonials to the success of sinus tone production was prodigious”.

Notes

1′Sinus tone production’ was E.G. White’s original name for what we now know as White’s Technique.

2 Wells, R. (1997). The relevance of metaphor in voice teaching: a comparative study of sinus tone production and vocal cord theories. PhD thesis, University of Reading, Berkshire, UK.

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