Why this Book?

I never thought I would have written a book on singing. Singing speaks most eloquently for itself in real time and doesn't fall into words on paper very easily. It is either beautiful or it isn't. If it's beautiful, words aren't adequate. If it isn't, words about it have to be either false or cruel.

Nor did I have to write a book to keep my job. University tenure came early and easily because I sang frequently in public. The tenure committees considered that sufficient "publishing." That convenient decision may have kept me from perishing emotionally as a teacher - something I fear might have happened had I forced myself to write before I had anything important to say. Being required to write too early in a career tempts one to be satisfied with thoughts sufficiently non-controversial to make one's mentors happy to print them in their dusty journals.

Moreover, textbooks leave me bored. In their attempt to cover the subject, they seem to bleed out all of the passion and thus instead cover up the subject's most important moments. So this is not a textbook, though into chapters 10, 12, and 13, I do try to squeeze everything I know that helps my students discover their beautiful voices.

I never considered publishing at all until some "mind warping" things started to happen in my teaching and in my personal and family life, and I just couldn't leave those things sitting in my head. This book is a collection of those mind warps. It is autobiographical, and passionate about singing.

It deals primarily with three questions for which I have spent forty years in search of illuminating answers:

What is it that makes singing really beautiful?

What can we do to make it more beautiful?

How does beautiful singing interact with joyful living?

Most of the chapters were published soon after they were written down either in the NATS Journal (now Journal of Singing), the official journal for singing teachers, or the Ensign, the official magazine of my church. I am grateful to the editors of both for permission to reprint.

For nearly thirty years Brigham Young University has employed me to teach singing. Without its financial support and the encouragement of its administrators, these mind warping experiences would not have found nurturance. Would that everyone could enjoy such blessed employment circumstances.

My wife, Vivien, bearer of truth with love, and my voice teaching resource, has helped our children, Clayne B., Erin, Minte, Lindsay, Sloan and Warren, all singers and lovers of both good singing and good living, create a safe haven in our musical home. This has given me the peace of mind and the motivation to discover what I have needed to know about singing and about living.

My singer/teacher/physicist colleagues throughout the world - but particularly those at Brigham Young University - have with grace and good will provided both foil and fire to the maturation of these ideas. Those who were particularly helpful in preparing and ratifying some of the articles for their original publication are noted within.

Other talented people have helped me put this book together. One evening John Snyder shot the cover photo in the sculpture garden of the Brigham Young University Museum of Art just as it started to rain. This required Megan Pugmire to coax her computer into removing the rain spots from my suit. David Billings kept the computers talking to each other. Michael Lyon crafted the "Healthy, Delicate Balance" model to dress up my awkward chalkboard drawings discussed in chapter 7 and drew the human torso image in chapter 12. Refusing remuneration, Jason Holt and Brett Rasmussen have worked very hard to keep me honest, edit away my grammar mistakes and remove much of my verbosity. Timnah Card has insisted that I follow every rule including the one that requires commas that follow italicized words to be in italics as well. To satisfy these friends with this book, I had to work much harder than I had expected. I take full responsibility for any commas that dodged scrutiny.

Thanks also must go to thousands of young, talented fellow learners - the university students, the vocal workshop participants across the globe, the Boy Scouts, the preparing missionaries, and, most recently, the members of the young single adult congregation I have served as Bishop. Without the stimulating questions their lives posed, I would have had no cause to reach for these solutions.

I can never express sufficient gratitude for the vision and sacrifice of good parents.

Finally, I know the talents and insights reflected here come from a more ultimate source.

Clayne Robison
July, 2001