What is a “fully conscious voice”?

When you attend an Awareness Through Movement class you lie on the floor and follow instructions for very precise actions from your teacher, but she or he will not be showing you what to do.This is so that you can expand your self-awareness from the inside out, paying close attention to what you are actually feeling as you are moving, rather than the more familiar emphasis on successfully mimicking your teacher in order to “get it right”. You will discover very quickly that some suggested actions will be easier to achieve than others, and most of the lessons we teach are intentionally designed to gently prod you towards a particular sequence of movements that you were not aware that you could be able to achieve so easily and so effectively – this is usually a thoroughly satisfying experience.

You will also quickly notice that some parts of you are easier to command – if you are asked to make a circle with the tip of your right index finger (try it now!) you will probably have no trouble doing so, although if you are left-handed you may find that your circle is rounder and smoother with the left index finger, and those of you who are right-handed may feel a difference in the ease with which you are able to control your left finger. You are usually more aware of  how you are making movements with your dominant hand–however, our fingers are pretty smart, and you will quickly improve with practice, whichever hand you are using.

If I ask you to move the left side of your pelvis upward in the direction of your ear you may not find that so easy to do; it may take you a little practice to move your torso in one plane with precision and clarity. This is partly because a lot of the movements we make with our torso muscles are only semi-conscious. Despite that fact that you have been walking successfully for almost the whole of your life, if you are like most normal humans you probably stopped refining and perfecting it as soon as you figured out how to do it at will , and it may well be that you only notice what your pelvis is doing if some adjacent part of you is hurting – in fact one of the main purposes of pain is to draw your attention to what you are doing in exactly this way.

The most famous model of this neurological process of differing awareness is the Somatosensory Homunculus – and if you look at “him” (usually the images are male) you will see the areas of yourself over which you can wield more conscious control depicted as larger, to indicate their relative representation in your brain.  Much of the muscular equipment that organises and controls your vocal mechanism is either completely or generally triggered automatically. We need to breathe all the time. Not only must your respiratory system keep going no matter what you are doing, but if breathing occupied too much of your attention–say you had a massive pain in your diaphragm–it could actively interfere with your survival, so your diaphragm needs to be very strong, and pretty ‘silent’, demanding as little attention as possible.

If you examine the homunculus with that in mind you will see that the most aware parts of your vocal equipment are your lips and tongue – these are wonderful areas to stimulate and explore in order to gain access to your less conscious inner structures. Just to add to the fun we have only recently been able to see what these internal areas are doing: thanks to modern observational equipment much of the guesswork that dominated vocal training techniques has been replaced with good sound practical information (although it has not completely replaced all of the outdated vocal information out there).

These less accessible vocal structures have very important jobs to do to maintain our survival, and only developed their vocal abilities while moonlighting from these vital tasks – your larynx, true and false vocal folds, aryepiglottic sphincter, and to a lesser extent your soft palate and the root of your tongue, are all thoroughly involved in the process of enabling you to swallow your food without choking. Indeed our human tongue and larynx arrangement is unique in the animal kingdom – and the level to which we as a species are prepared to risk choking in order to communicate verbally reveals just how important an evolutionary step it was.

So, the way to become more aware of our muscles is to move them in an attentive, focussed repetitive way, until we can control them directly by our intention–we already do this when we produce words, but the sound of our voice as we do so is much less clearly “wired up” to our brains–as we fill in the gaps in our consciousness we can begin to have all the freedom, power and resonance we would like in both our speaking and our singing voices.

For my upcoming courses click here.

Feldenkrais Embodied Voice combines Awareness Through Movement with the new state-of-the-art voice training techniques that have emerged thanks to the developments of modern vocal science.

Feel how your vocal equipment actually works

Discover how the natural sounds we are all able to produce without effort can lead us naturally into singing or speaking with power and expression

Learn how to keep your voice healthy and strong whether performing, presenting or teaching

Learn how to heal vocal injuries if you do overdo it

Begin the process of freeing yourself from physical and mental limitations, and restricting postural habits, in order to allow your true speaking and singing voice to soar unfettered.

Many performers cannot explain what they are doing to make their voices louder, clearer and more exciting to listen to, but all these skills can be traced back to natural human sounds like laughing, crying, yelling and squealing. This weekend will explore different qualities of the human voice from the sweetest to the most powerful, finding natural, functional ways to increase volume, vocal range, and stamina.

orig – 14.5.13

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