I had another lesson with Reid-student (I need to come up with a better nickname) this past Thursday, and I think there are some definitely improvements in the offing.
In practice, the approach outlined by Reid in his books and other materials is very a-technical. Not only does he eschew talking about palates and tongues and chest-positions, and openness -- it's been about making vowels, making dynamics, and singing vocalises like musical objects.
Every so often, there'll be a quick discussion about what's happening coordination-wise or an encouragement to just go with the music -- that one shouldn't expect or force everything to go the same way. The rules change depending on where you are in the voice, just like bowing rules change the higher up the fingerboard you go on a violin.
The sound is much more present and I have a really nice conception of making music as a result. Notes to be sung and filled with expression, then overlayed with the specificity and musical implications of text.
For instance, we finally worked through a bit of text in "Betrachte, meine Seel" in Bach's St. John Passion. Bach writes (and I'm free-translating):
|Betrachte, meine Seel,|
mit ängtslichem Vergnügen,
mit bittrer Lust und
halb beklemmtem Herzen...
|Consider, my soul,|
with anguished rapture,
with bitter joy and
beklemmtem is set to the "and" of 1 and beat 2 in 4/4 time. -klemmtem is figured as two-note sixteenth note groups that each return to the same pitch as the word starts and then fall in successively widening intervals of a minor second to a minor third. They could be sighs, but the textual grounding of it makes a stronger case for a heart beat.
The way I had been approaching it before, pulling way away on the second of each two-note group sounded/felt very unsatisfying although I was completely committed to the expressive idea. My instrumental training informed me that I needed to pull back the sound-making apparatus (bow on violin, finger attack on piano), but this left out the effects that vowels and consonants would have on the sound itself. With the sound-decreasing MMs falling on the weak notes of the two-note groups, pulling back on the sound in general resulted in flaccid, swoopy, dippy phrasing. Thinking about vocal music as an underlay of produced sound overlayed with text really brought out fidelity to the phrase that utilized the words to add their own effects.
I never really thought there would be a point in which I could get too much about the words, but hey -- guess what?
And now it's time to reign that in -- but not too much!