Book T&C of Dr Gucciardo: Preface by Dr Ghada Chbeir.
“Touching and contacting in the (medical and pedagogical) settings of the voice”
«I had the chance to meet Professor Alfonso Gianluca Gucciardo one year ago, during his special visit to Lebanon and to the Holy Spirit University in Kaslik specifically, where I completed my studies and where I currently teach. I was impressed by Professor Alfonso’s education, lessons and valuable remarks for the students majoring in oriental singing at the university. I was also much fascinated by the professionalism he showed in both the individual work and the teamwork, that was prominently clear. Not to forget that he has infinite potentials in introducing and discussing significant topics related to the voice. Moreover, his advices for students concerning resolving voice issues were innovative and interesting. It felt so motivating that I came back on the second and third day during which I was delighted to listen to his detailed and accurate explanations about the well-being of the voice, throat, body posture, etc.».
«“Touching and contacting in the (medical and pedagogical) settings of the voice” (“Toucher et contacter dans le cadre de l’approche à la Voix”) is the title of Professor Alfonso’s new book (1) in which he elaborates a unique and daring topic, especially in the Middle East, that is “touching the student” during courses in order to explain for him some necessary points, particularly those related to the breath, throat, articulation, pronunciation, etc. Subsequently, I was urged to write about my experience related to this topic specifically, noting that I have been a specialist in teaching oriental Arabic singing for twenty years now. The word “touch” in the Arabic dictionary has miscellaneous meanings such as: touching, feeling or getting close to the body. This sense; the touch, is one of the five basic senses. It also includes the sensing of pressure and temperature. As for its meaning on the professional level, it is explained as touching the soul and spirit and interpreting the roots of the voice; that is to say an inner part of the body, and featuring the voice through expressing the performed phrase. According to the French education system in teaching the art of singing, when teaching a student to sing, we directly touch his heart. We deal with his soul, mind, feelings, psychology, and we work in a smart, smooth and calm way to reach our target. It is not only an explanation procedure based on touching the body. It is actually a long procedure that starts by approaching the student in a way that we may become friends, while maintaining mutual respect so that we would always be able to give advices and impose our opinion when needed. Sometimes, we find it necessary to resolve some of the student’s family, psychological, or financial problems that are causing him to suffer. We may do that in order to reach an acceptable solution that may relieve him. Thus, he will be able to sing again and comprehend the lesson. Psychological and other types of problems may directly affect the breath at the beginning, and the voice subsequently. Moreover, the more the problems, the more negative effects would be revealed on the general artistic performance. The student may lose his ability to sing using the full power of his voice. He may also lose his voice’s sparkle, gleam and resonance and become incapable of understanding the explained notions. My experience in approaching students and getting in touch with their emotions represents an indispensable part in teaching music generally and voice techniques specifically. At the beginning, we shall earn the trust of the student, and then we proceed with teaching and giving essential remarks, in order to earn his trust on the educational level as well. We may start by giving detailed explanations as well as examples and comparisons; that is to say comparing the thoughts of the student and what he listens to, to the advices that the professor gives him. At a later stage, we start the application phase; singing, correcting, repeating many times until we reach the utmost result. Explanations give the student the chance to reactivate his imagination, noting that the voice is the only instrument in the throat that we work on and improve without seeing. The voice is present first in our mind, and second in our imagination that allows us to move forward towards professionalism and profession. I have faced some problems when explaining for students several recent points in order to interpret the formation of the voice timbre and work on the resonance zones. These problems are revealed in the usage of some words that may be illogical, not scientific or even immoral as some people may consider. However, we are obliged to use them with the student in order to reach the wished timbre or the way of expression that we seek that he attains. Professional Arabic songs are most likely about love, betrayal, longing, getting back to a lover, in addition to various bold sexual topics such as Al Akhtal Al Saghir’s poems like “Isqiniha bi abi wa oummi”, and old poems, moushahat, and other singing forms that include bold topics, unlike nowadays songs. I have found myself obliged to do a huge effort to explain the meaning of these songs to the students without outraging their modesty or causing them a shock due to a bold explanation that may seem rude. Thus, I was obliged most of the times to apologize from the student in advance for having to bring up a daring topic so that he would understand the meaning and content of the poem. Nevertheless, I have never faced any problem with my students even though some of the explained points were too critical, but students deal with the situation in a comprehensible manner and execute my requests. I was able to reach this level because I separated my daily life from my profession as a singing professor. I created a scientific position based on the technique and professionalism of my job. As a result, I feel unenclosed, transparent, honest and daring, and I focus on one target that is to deliver an idea and implement it at a later stage, and that has been successful each time. The professor of Arabic singing should have a strong personality so that he would be able to consciously impose his own ideas on the student, rather than touching him physically. Touching or approaching the student physically is not necessary except at the first stages of bringing out the voice when the head must be kept adjacent to the vision. We may also touch the student’s stomach, shoulders and head to make sure that he is sustaining a correct inhale and exhale process when performing a certain musical phrase so that the breathing process is being conducted correctly. We may also need to touch the waist, legs, back and face to straighten the student’s way of standing on stage. Besides, I sometimes have to allow the student to touch my throat or my stomach to better understand the technique, breath and the way to bring out the voice. Sometimes, I have to interpret more, so I would be obliged to touch the student several times to make sure that he is being able to apply the given remarks. I always apologize in advance and mention what I will be doing before touching his body. Noting that I always work in a serious manner with the students, they become more confident, empowered and brave, and that allows them to apply the given remarks without any complaints or objections. The “touch” part is relevant according to the student and to the musical form that is being explained. Daring is also relevant as some people consider using bold terms a problem much more than it is to touch a student to explain a certain idea».
«The way Professor Alfonso was touching the students was rather medical than artistic. It seemed significant and daring as he sometimes held the student’s stomach strongly, the basin, neck, head and shoulders in a technical way that is totally different than the “touching” concept that people are familiar with. Touching with Professor Alfonso took a new conception in explaining vocal and singing techniques aiming to deliver the main idea in singing in a professional and proficient way. He uses this way to help the student bring out a correct, faultless voice before proceeding with the singing classes and techniques. In a scientific professional way he demonstrates how to use the voice after having corrected the posture, movement and touch. At this stage, we would be working on the mental and intellectual level primarily, and on the executive level secondarily. All what we do is always for the benefit of the student and the music as a science and an art, especially when it comes to the art of singing. Therefore, if we were obliged to touch the student or to tackle bold topics while explaining, then we have to do so. We may find a suitable way and mean to convince the student about what we seek to accomplish. At the end, the voice is considered as integration between the soul and the body forming the human entity».
Kaslik, Lebanon, 4th October 2020 Book T&C of Dr Gucciardo: Preface by Dr Ghada Chbeir Ghada Chbeir
GHADA SHBEIR holds a PhD in Music from the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK), wherein she also teaches oriental singing in addition to her position as director of USEK’s Oriental Choir. She has released several traditional Arabic CDs (Mouashahat, Qawaleb, Al Qasida, and Andalusia), and other CDs of Syriac chants (Syriac Chants, Passion, and Chants syriaques – Noël), which are a compilation of her research covering more than 700 melodies of Maronite and Catholic Syriac chants. In 1997, she won the first prize at the Best Arabic Song Competition in Egypt. She was also awarded the BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music for the Middle East and North Africa categories for her CD entitled Mouachahat in 2007, in addition to winning the first prize international award for her interpretation of Andalusian chants (Mouachahat). Her international appearances include conferences, concerts, and festivals all over the world. (Source: USEK.edu)
(1) Alfonso Gianluca Gucciardo, Toccare e contattare nei setting clinici e didattici per la voce. Tra ferite e feritoje, (in stampa; 2023)
NB.: the photo of Madame Ghada Chbeir belongs to her.