Cover image for Singing and imagination : a human approach to a great musical tradition
Singing and imagination : a human approach to a great musical tradition
Hemsley, Thomas.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
x, 205 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
MT892 .H446 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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This book is written in the belief that the essential basic principles underlying good singing are in themselves rather few, and very simple, but that their application is amazingly varied in light of the individual's needs. It is not intended as a manual of voice production, and does notconcern itself with medical matters, nor directly with anatomy, physiology, and acoustics. While not belittling the value of appropriate scientific investigation, Hemsley believes that modern methods of training have gone too far in the direction of the materialistic approach; that singing in all its aspects and at all times should be guided by the imagination, the feelings, and theintuition; that we have become so pre-occupied by voice per se and the vocal function since the advent of vocal science, that we too easily forget that singing is not voice, but modification of voice - `not only a language through which we understand the emotions of others, but also a means ofexciting our sympathy with such emotions.' (H. Spencer). This book can be seen as an attempt to redress the balance. Quote from reader's report by Professor David Galliver: "Here is a comprehensive and well-ordered philosophy of the art of singing; one which integrates both technical and interpretative aspects. While the technical principles of the classical tradition of singing as expounded by the late Lucie Manen lie at its basis, what is put forward here is verymuch an extension and development, illumined by Thomas Hemsley's long and exceptionally wide experience as a professional singer and teacher, as well as by a wealth of historical evidence. The second part of the book applies these principles, emphasising the fundamental role played by artisticimagination aund understanding. The picture which emerges is essentially comprehensive, and offers a holistic approach to the art of singing. "The book is addressed to those `with a gift for singing who would like to understand better how to approach putting that gift to use'. It will appeal to a wide range of singers, professional and others, and will challenge those pedagogues who rely heavily on the so-called `scientific' approach atthe expense of fundamental human and artistic considerations. Hemsley's own scientific qualifications give additional authority to his hard-hitting arguments. The book is engagingly written, with many personal examples and anecdotes; it certainly makes good reading."

Author Notes

Distinguished opera and concert singer, now retired.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Relying on his extensive experience as successful performer and prominent teacher, Hemsley offers subjective advice on how to sing imaginatively. The author lectures against applying medical, anatomical, physiologic, and acoustic information to the teaching of singing, considering them materialistic matters that replace feeling and intuition, and that reduce artistry. His stated aim is to redress the imbalance of current voice pedagogies (never identified or described) by denigrating factual information. The author details breath function, attack, resonation, and tonal balance, using idiosyncratic explanations of the physiologic and acoustic events that occur in singing. Part 2 of "Basic Principles," "Breath" epitomizes his approach to problem solving: "When singing, we do not breath in order to sing; we breathe because we sing. And we sing because our imaginations, our feelings, and our souls demand it." He confirms a basic tenet of all voice pedagogy, that technical facility exists only to permit communication. Hemsley offers general advice on the nontechnical aspects of performance, but no specific instruction on how to accomplish artistic communication. The book joins numerous manuals written by singers in the hope of transmitting personal experiences to others. For comprehensive collections supporting voice pedagogy. R. Miller; Oberlin College

Table of Contents

I The Basic Principles
Readiness to sing - The Raw Material
Posture - Hints
The Impulse
The Intention
Intention - Hints
The Anacrusis
The Importance of Good Diction
The Singer's Ear
The Pitch-Intensity Effect
II Words and Music
The Works of the Imagination - Words and Music
Legato and Tessitura
The Pulse
III Performance