Inter-Arytenoids: perhaps not just efficiency

At the heels of the blogpost based on Ingo Titze’s 2014 paper on a “Bi-Stable” glottal closure system, I reconsidered the role of the IA. This is more based on personal practice, but I find it particularly helpful on a number of fronts. The closure of the posterior gap cleared up (pun fully intended) a few doubts over the past couple of weeks. Titze’s article concentrated so much on the interaction between LCA (lateral crico-arytenoid) and TA (thyro-arytenoid) that the role of the IA seemed almost secondary. Titze further emphasizes the instability of the two-part system, which made me wonder if there was a stabilizing factor that was overlooked. Might the IA (inter-arytenoid) be that stabilizing factor? I believe that to be true.

Unregulated air loss, when a posterior gap exists, would have a destabilizing effect on phonation when the other two muscle groups are playing at Tug-o-war. Is it possible that the IAs provide just the needed interference between the main fighters such that neither exaggerates? Worth considering!

The idea of lifting the soft palate might be related to posterior closure and therefore the IA. Raising the palate has always seemed sketchy to me since I’ve never felt a direct relationship to the tone. However when achieving what I believe to be posterior closure, I experience a resonance sensation in the area of what I perceive to be the soft palate. This action produces a very satisfying brilliance in the so-called “back vowels” (i.e. /a/, /o/ and /u/ and related mixed vowels).

The question is, of course: “how do you achieve this posterior closure?”

The idea of lifting the soft palate is not bad. However, the action must relate to a desire to say very clear vowels, particularly with respect to back vowels. Closure along the length of the folds (front to back), without closing the posterior gap seems adequate with respect to front vowels (i.e. /e/ and /i/ and related mixed vowels). However with closure of the posterior gap, the front vowels take on greater richness (to be expected with greater efficiency).

Finally this makes me think about a trend in recent decades of the “lighter” approach to singing. Lyric baritones who sound like tenors, lyric mezzos sounding like sopranos and lyric tenors sounding more like lower range countertenors, when compared to their counterparts some three to four decades ago and further back. Is it possible that this prevailing trend results from reduced involvement of the TA combined with some slight posterior gap? I have tried it! And the argument seems to hold water.

This is true particularly of Rossini tenors by and large! But that strategy is understandable (although not ideal) because their repertoire depends on unusually high tessitura and high notes (as high as F5). That other voice types follow this trend might have been caused by the dominance of electronically amplified media as the prevalent mode of experiencing music, even classical singing, which was meant to be experienced without electronic enhancement. Producers of recordings do not like the strong Singer’s Formant resonance, particularly at the dawn of digital recording when noise reduction was brought to zero. Before digitization a certain amount of ambient and mechanical noise was acceptable and in such an environment the “buzz” of the all-important Singer’s Formant (if one is too be heard with emotional intensity) was not intrusive. Is it possible that “the tail is wagging the dog?” That the acoustically reductive environment of recorded voices is dictating an aesthetic that is ultimately unviable in the context of an acoustic performance? I say yes!

I will leave it to the researchers to create a protocol for testing my contention. Meanwhile I’ll continue testing it in my practice.

Copyright 22 January 2020

21 thoughts on “Inter-Arytenoids: perhaps not just efficiency

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  1. I think a slightly low larynx (not pressed to be low) is enough to raise the soft palate. What do you think?

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    1. That makes sense! But the resonance associated with it I believe can only be experienced when closure is complete at all three contact points. Just an educated guess!

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      1. Yes, length-wise, i also agree with you that the posterior part anterior part and midline should be sealed.

        But there’s one more aspect (depth-wise) that i have a question. From your post earlier, you quoted titze on the neccessity of the rectangular glottis and specifically keeping TA activation when ascending the scale. In my opinion, titze’s paper concerns more with adductive function of TA than its thickening function. You once said that TA should lessen its thickening in the passagio (not giving up entirely) to have an appropriately deep fold right? So my question is this: can we keep the EXACT degree of TA function from bottom to top with a strong CT? Like not lessening it at all? Because it seems to me that lauri volpi in this clip

        kept the same amount of TA mass to the top. Especially the high B at the end. So what do you think?

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      2. Good question Tee Square! We’re in agreement on the length aspect. There’s a slight misunderstanding on the depth! Titze refers to TA activity as closure but that doesn’t make a difference. That’s why I argued in the previous post to view it differently. TA activity thickens the folds vertically. But if LCA adducts the folds on the upper aspect, closure happens on the lower aspect as well. As for Lauri-Volpi, I think he may have been one of the greatest teacher-singers ever and not just because he taught Corelli. It is not that the mass reduces but that it reshapes. When closure is complete, the total mass continues to be active but as pitch rises, the fold are naturally shallower and longer. A good balance keeps the larynx floating low, which maintains strength in the low partials. In that set-up the natural darkness of the voice is never lost. As Corelli said in an interview, Volpi did not have a baritonal voice. He was more suited to the Bel Canto and more lyric Puccini. But the presence of the voice in the hall was second to none!

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  2. So you are saying the thickening and adducting of TA happen at the same time?
    So if i ask you to sum up the connection between the interaction of 5 muscles (LCA, PCA, IA, CT and TA) and the ease of production for a certain pitch, what would you say? Thanks for the reply!

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    1. Wow! You’re not playing Tee Square! We can take this from several angles. If we begin with what we have discussed, there’s a well-documented duality between TA and CT. A good antagonism creates the best depth and length for a given pitch, which has an influence on convergence-divergence. The best coordination postures the folds in this parallel rectangular shape and LCA brings them to midline. A deficiency in CT would allow greater TA influence (i.e. divergence) and vice-versa. In this way we could say CT favors convergence. The IA are two pairs, lateral and oblique. They could influence convergence or divergence if their actions are not balanced. The obliques favor lower closure slightly I believe since the contraction vectors in a downward diagonal. The laterals are slightly more toward the top portion of the arytenoids, if I remember correctly (I’ll check this). The PCA counters adduction by the LCA. Therefore antagonism between them give us control of how firm the closure is. For softer singing the adduction is gentler. There’s so much happening here that we should not try to be too conscious about. Our job is to be aware of the points of contact and be clear what we want for a result: closure at all three levels— 2-part superior closure (anterior, posterior) and inferior (depth) and how loud/intense (breath pressure and firmness of closure) we want them. Naturally this takes practice and guidance. Trust the brain to accomplish the complex mechanics. Our challenge in practice is to discover what our best, most balanced/most natural sound is! Then desire it! If everything is in shape, the brain/nervous system coordinate the muscles to give the desired results. It’s like a baby learning to drink from a cup by itself. I’ve seen my kids cry from the frustration when they were infants learning it! Likewise I’ve seen grown singers cry from frustration.

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  3. Thanks for the reply. Also do you think that some of the muslces in the breathing system might affect out main 5 muscles (TA, CT, LCA, PCA, IA)? Thank you!

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    1. Yes. The limits of muscular balance are challenged by breath pressure—too little, too much or right amount depends on the strength of the muscles involved in the system and on the muscles responsible for breath compression/pressure.

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  4. I also found this article from voice teacher Jeremy Silver:

    https://www.thesilversingingmethod.com/2009/09/importance-of-developing-falsetto.html

    In this link, he said that LCA and PCA hold against each other to stablize the arytenoid cartilages, while the transverse and oblique arytenoid adduct the fold in his “proper technique”. But it seems to me that he think only TA, transverse and oblique arytenoid should join the adduction. He doesn’t think LCA should adduct the folds at all. But obviously, we need LCA to adduct the anterior, midline and superior part. IA can only adduct the posterior part and TA can only do its job for the inferior part, vertically. So what do you think?

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    1. I have very little respect for Mr. Silver. He tried to troll me years ago! It was Jack LiVigni who came to my rescue and unmasked him back then. He’s unethical! I agree with your analysis!

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  5. I’m really sorry that happened to you. He is sure not the polite kind of guy. Lots of rumors surrounds him. So i guess he has a lot of enemy.
    I just have this last question. When you started researching many years ago, did you confused? And did you do if you get confused? Do you have a technique to help you think more logically, thus avoiding misinterpretation when reading research? Thanks a lot!

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    1. Naturally! I often say one has to go around the “spiral staircase” many times to get a complete 3-dimensional view. The science is very incomplete! So we cannot teach based on science alone. We have to make educational guesses. There’s much I do not understand yet! The physics are beyond me right now. I have friends who are scientists who help me with the parts I do not understand. But I feel a teacher should try to understand as much as they can!

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    1. I taught an amateur singer his first lesson and helped him sing his first high C. Obviously it was not of great quality! The singer was excited and posted the audio online, thanking me for his first high C. Silver reposted it, characterizing it as my final product! It was a vicious attack! Although I have some differences of opinion with Jack LiVigni, I consider him an ethical person and a passionate teacher. I will never forget him going out of his way to support me.

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      1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. When you mention that he trolled you, i was curious and want to ask for more details out of curiosity, but i thought i would be rude and possibly intrusive so i didn’t ask. But you sharing this make me really happy. I feel like being trusted when reading this. Thank you once again.

        I agree with you there. Whatever the reason behind his action, I hope he or no one else will ever do that to you again! We all deserve respect and understanding!

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      2. It’s a poisonous post-truth world! A lot of people are comfortable using anonymity to malign others online they deem to be an obstacle to their online presence. I expect it will not be the last time!

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  6. Spiral staircase? You mean we have to read a lot and over again? I was lost there sorry
    Also i’m quite jealous you have a scienctist friend 🙂 lucky you! You can be the bridge between the pedagogical teachers and scientists, i think

    I’m a self taught beginner, and reading reasearch and blogpost from voice teachers is daunting sometimes. I’m not sure if i like my voice or not so i guess i’m not ready to show it. But through experimentation, i come up with my theory: the voice/mechanism itself already knows how to sing. The problem is “I” don’t. So i’m learning to get to know my voice better and to see if my theory is correct. So thank you once again for your invitation, but i’ll show it when i’m ready. Right now, i have a lot to learn.

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