Critical review : Book “Le secret d’une voix” (the secret of a voice) by Doctor Branchereau
I have just read, in less than two hours (!), the above-mentioned book. What to say... One should not stop there but, unfortunately, this kind of literature is much more easily found on the shelves of bookshops and in the advertisements of waiting room magazines than any other more serious, factual, narrative or analytical book. Forgive the cynicism of these lines, then...
What is left, in terms of interest, of Mr. Branchereau's book, when we know that his hypothesis is false?
A book about the voice, which talks about the castrati of the 18th century without mentioning Michael Jackson's voice (apart from 2 arguments in 5 lines), but which, through this game of shadows, of superimpositions, seems to want to integrate him into the same category.
A book that completely eludes the maintenance and preservation of technical, melodic and rhythmic capacities that are certainly globally innate, but largely maintained by almost daily vocal hard work.
A book that compares, without hearing the slightest difference (!!!), the voice of a 14 year old child with that of a 21 year old man.
A fine and well documented book, says the critic? A book, whose only real false "secret" is the commercial impact contained in this word, which, associated with the name of Michael Jackson, promises to reveal some crunchy anecdotes, as well as in the title of "doctor", (thus "scientist") of the author... who concludes however in p.140 that no proof, nor certainty, nor even rumor (nice "scientific" work to evoke the rumor!) comes to support his initial remarks. What is left? Another sad and meaningless association between "castration" and "Michael Jackson", a sterile association, except in terms of after-effects in the minds of people who do not understand vocality. The book of a doctor, who admits to be a simple fan of Italian opera and not a specialist in voice or music, but who insists on placing a medical argument to justify his book, as if talent, what Michael considered with gratitude, respect and care, as a "gift from God" was a matter of medication and surgical operations.
I am left "speechless" as I watch the marketing trap close so easily. Dismayed... The doctor didn't know the scope or even the density of Michael Jackson's career before his death. He explains that it was his daughter-in-law who enlightened him about his aura and cultural impact. But what exactly does he do with it? He chooses the path of his voice, since he claims to be, and probably is, a lover of lyric opera, of bel-canto and since the beautiful organ (but which one, by the way?) interests the doctor that he is.
In short. This book, it must be said, contains few musical elements, but many hypotheses based on the physical aspects and transformations of the artist, posing a kind of medical assessment based on appearances, the color of his skin, surgery, photos taken during the trial or autopsy reports revealing his non-sterility, when its sources are not poor blogs, which would have initiated this theory of castration... (reliable sources then...)
For the doctor, artists like Prince, Boy George or Bowie were, of course, in their time as androgynous as Michael Jackson, but, fortunately for them (or for whom else? ), they then changed their minds and became much more "virile" than he was... A fine analyst, based on the observation of magazine photos, the doctor tells us that the beard or the thin moustache appearing on the photos of a 21 year old Michael, are in fact only the first beard of a pubescent teenager who had never shaved before. Interesting...
Apart from that, I've pointed out a few (pardon the understatement!) contradictions... Well, if that was all there was to it...
1) In the field of appearance, the author explains that the castrati had an imposing appearance and underwent an enlargement of the thoracic cage (it falls well, Michael suffered from a thoracic hypotrophy), that they were very tall (Michael measured between 1m78 and 1m80 according to himself (lol) and according to the sources) and that they did not have a glottis (it falls well still, a doctor who confuses glottis and Adam's apple - the glottis being a segment of the larynx containing the vocal cords and the Adam's apple what he took for the glottis, that is to say a laryngeal prominence whose advance is proportional to the length of the vocal cords and thus to the tessitura of the voice - Michael being a tenor, his Adam's apple is certainly not extremely advanced, but undoubtedly quite visible from the side! )
2) No precise element on the said hormonal treatment evoked: neither certainty that it existed (Michael himself only evokes a dietary change aiming at treating his severe acne problems) nor even the evocation of the fact that his brothers, like Randy who was also affected by acne, took or not an identical or different treatment
3) The book is based on the contrast between Michael's changing physical aspects and the permanence of his voice, particularly between 1972 and 1979, the period in which the doctor would situate the supposed intake of cyproterone followed by the cessation of this same molecule. Thus, for his ear, Michael's voice in the 1972 albums is the same as in "Off The Wall" in terms of pitch as well as timbre (!!!). ) Therefore, this "unchanging" and unchangingly high voice, its equal power, the width of its ambitus and this absence of modification during this teenage period go in the direction of a drug intake... Sure, if I decide that Michael Jackson is blond with blue eyes in spite of what everyone sees, I can easily deduce that he is a Swede who ignores himself.
The rest is, even more, speculation:
4) Michael's father and manager would have made him take this treatment in order to keep his voice so profitable, in the same way that parents of sports children have abused surgery on their children to improve their performances... Which is still a dangerous and disgusting accusation. We are not far from a trial here...
5) Michael's marriages are relegated to the rank of marriages of convenience (Nice!)
6) He compares Michael's voice to the falsetto of the Bee Gees or Balavoine and says that with Michael, it is different: it would not be a head voice, but a chest voice pushed in the highs (would there not be confusion?)... Aberrant to be so bold as to be so unconventional. )... Aberrant not to take into account the "natural" specificity of a voice and not to be able to hear a "timed" and worked head voice, since it is precisely one of the stakes of Michael's work with Seth Riggs in terms of color, relief, and particularly with regard to this famous head voice
7) Ah... He quickly mentions Seth Riggs, yes, he does... He quotes him, but doesn't linger. He doesn't seem to know the nature of his method, of the exercises, of the repertoire worked on, nor the frequency of the work provided by Michael, and therefore misses completely the EXTREMELY FUNDAMENTAL influence of this work on his voice. In short, he misses everything. The Grail.
So, for the doctor, obviously, voice work has no possibility to maintain a voice or to improve it, to enrich it... Only castration, hormones and other drugs are the key. Normal, when you are a doctor...
When I was done, I called Seth Riggs, to explain what I had just read. I had to talk to someone who was interested... I thought he was going to give me a heart attack on the phone... He was always so smiling, light, friendly... Poor guy! I felt bad... He was scandalized, outraged, appalled to hear such accusations. Seth began training Michael in 1979. Never before had Michael taken singing lessons. But he had a boundless and accurate ear and an innate talent for vocal rendition. He was like an absorber and a filter. He could hear, accurately render patterns and sift them through his own extreme sensitivity. He was a very gifted kid. He took no medication whatsoever (especially since he was a Jehovah) and had everything in its proper place... When he talked to me about calling his lawyers, telling the family, I told him to forget it. That I would inform him if it went any further in the media and the controversy. In short, the intention of the book is clear: to put forward a hypothesis without solving it, without supporting it. In short, a series of sulphurous and saleable suppositions, "bankable" ....
Moreover, the author confirms this on p. 140: "We have no proof... no certainty... nor even any rumor to support this thesis..." (treatment thesis). (thesis of the treatment). Before continuing on p. 147 by explaining that if this treatment had ever taken place, if it had ever been stopped in 1979, there is no knowledge of the effects of this stop on the singer's voice... (p.147). Did you really have to read this far? In short... Nothing
There would be just as much scientific material to write a book on the fact that Michael Jackson was the reincarnation of Jesus or an alien from the Orion nebula.
The secret of Michael Jackson's voice, as glimpsed through the doctor's hazy and winding medical meanderings, remains untouched, and for good reason. But it is mostly tainted by a useless and sulphurous hypothesis. The work, the talent, do not make dream any more. It has to be gory, mysterious, twisted. Reserved for an elite of monstrous beings. Probably to prove that the great artists necessarily have a defect, a vice.
Let's sleep, good people, we who are "normal"... Everything is fine.
In the meantime, once again, I met many people who heard about it, asked me if I had read it, and had, clearly, doubts in their minds. And doubts, we know what that weighs. And it hurts my heart terribly.