Going public

White’s Technique is revealed to the world – eventually

The idea that White had come up with was basically simple but completely revolutionary.

The theory that the voice is produced in the throat by the vocal folds had been around and generally accepted since about 200 AD. White was committing heresy on a grand scale. This was no doubt why he spent nearly 25 years researching and testing his theory before he felt ready to reveal it to the world. He knew he would need a good case with as much evidence as possible to back it up.

A signed portrait from 1916

Finally, in 1909, he published his first of three books on the subject, originally under the title Science and Singing but in its later, expanded editions from 1918 onwards, called The Voice Beautiful in Speech and Song. He went on to publish charts of the unique, carefully devised vocal exercises he had put together for students learning his method of voice production.

As expected, Science and Singing was, as a review in the Daily Telegraph described it, a ‘musical bombshell’. There were a number of competing theories at the time about the best way to teach vocal production, especially singing, but they were all based on the assumption that the voice is produced solely by the vocal folds. White’s argument completely demolished the basis for all these methods, and with it the credentials of all the established experts in voice production.

It was hardly surprising, then, that it provoked violent opposition from many sections of the vocal community – opposition that still hasn’t disappeared a century later. Large sections of the medical community were also up in arms when told by a lay-man that their text-book explanations of vocal anatomy and physiology were wrong. And they were all probably even more annoyed because it was clear that, regardless of the theoretical basis of White’s Technique, it was being proved time and again that it worked excellently in practice.

White v The Establishment

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