Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi, 1207-1273
Birdsong brings relief
to my longing
I’m just as ecstatic as they are,
but with nothing to say!
Please universal soul, practice
some song, or some thing, through me!
Birdsong is an enduring source of joy for the human heart; the natural exuberance of these many and varied voices, going about their business in our midst, are as reliable a source of pleasure in the town as in the country, an ever-present musical backdrop to all our lives.
As a city dweller I am also uplifted by the babble of human voices that surround me–when home in my nest I am delighted by the young brothers squealing in their bedroom next door; charmed by lovely singing from the flat above; intrigued by indistinct conversation from nearby gardens. Flocks of teenage girls and boys pass by my studio window in term time, singing, shouting, teasing, shrieking with laughter, and naturally “showing off” as they make their way to and from their playing fields one street over from mine.
For some of us spontaneous public outbursts feel less and less appropriate as we mature, and from quite an early age we begin the process of inhibiting and containing ourselves in order to “fit in”. Many families impose often unspoken constraints on how much attention we draw to ourselves, how much noise we make, what we are free to say, and how easily and in what manner we are allowed to express ourselves. If I sneak a peak at the schoolchildren as they pass there are already some that are near silent–young people holding themselves apart from their more exuberant companions. How old were you when you began to feel self-conscious, wary of sharing your feelings and thoughts, and perhaps even in some fundamental way just “wrong”? As a singing teacher I love all voices, and I am saddened by how often I am told of of the hurtful and damaging judgements handed out to some of my students by others who also consider themselves to be singing “teachers”.
So many of us feel that way–often imagining that we are part of a tiny minority of the awkward and peculiar, excluded from the easy life of the “neurotypical”; “not OK”, as Eric Berne put it when he formulated his ideas about the psychological development of children. Berne’s Transactional Analysis system is now out of favour, superseded by Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as the popular tool of choice for counsellors in the UK, but for me it was one of those discoveries that reorganises and expands the way you see the world. Hindsight becomes more focussed as we age–I now realise just how often school friends who seemed more at ease in social situations were just better conditioned to put on a more convincing mask than I had been.
HumanSong is the term I am using to evoke the full range of spontaneous natural resonant frequencies and qualities that the human voice can produce. We announce our arrival into the world with a voice so insistent and penetrative that it is a source of both joy, and alarm, for new parents, as they anticipate the sleepless nights ahead. Crying is the infant’s only way of expressing her needs–as her power develops the infant voice gets louder and carries further; uninhibited, demanding, assertive, and beyond the realm of reason*. As we grow we discover more of the capabilities of our instrument:
…inventing silly noises
…mimicking what we hear – animals, machines, explosions!
…mastering the melodic scales and patterns our culture prefers
…tuning into the human soundscape surrounding us, thus becoming better able to distinguish and convey meaning using actual words in actual sentences
…developing our listening abilities in tandem with our range of expressive noises and tones, preparing our selves to fully integrate into the complex world of adulthood.
HumanSong is not singing, but it is the core and foundation of our ability to sing with our authentic voice.
It is not speaking, but it is the source of our extraordinary communication capabilities.
It is not performance, but it enhances every aspect of every sort of performance.
In my vocal training I share deceptively simple processes for expanding all aspects of our awareness–sensory, muscular, skeletal, fascial, and deep inside via our organs, diaphragms and sphincters.
As we become more whole-self-aware we become better able to unlearn the constraints we took on board as children before we had any real sense of who we were and what we were capable of becoming.
This expanded self-awareness is vital. We learned to suppress our spontaneous impulses as part of the socialisation process all children go through too young to fully understand what is happening.
As we release our deeper levels of resistance our authentic voice begins to emerge naturally, without effort, and this is the key to enhancing presence in performance and charisma in communication.
This is an ever-evolving life process without an endpoint. It is not the result of learning a skill, it is the process evoked by Michelangelo’s metaphor of removing what is unnecessary from a block of marble to reveal the lovely sculpture contained within. We gently and persistently remove what has been imposed from without, so that what remains is simple, wholehearted, and genuine: artistry without artifice.
Sounding Out & Tuning In
Regular Monthly Classes On Sundays
After a bit of a lull I am now teaching monthly Embodied Voice classes on Sunday afternoons again. The idea is to offer small group classes with plenty of individual attention.
Feldenkrais is perfectly designed to help you unlearn any vocal habits that are interfering with the freedom and spontaneity of your natural voice, and these workshops will focus on enabling these whole-self shifts. These workshops are not the right forum if you are mainly interested in singing songs and learning material–choirs are great for singing songs, and I am happy to help you locate one, and if you want to learn material then my private tuition is the best way for me to help you build your repertoire.
This IS the right place to come if you want to open out your voice, expand your resonant frequencies, and discover more of your own potential and vocal individuality. We may well sing the odd song or two, but mainly the music-making will be focussed on improvisation and discovery, through sounding, toning, and noise-making. These practises do not just enhance our vocal abilities, they also have the potential for switching us into our parasympathetic rest-recuperative-repair self-healing mode, so you will come away with practises with multiple benefits for your continuing self-expansion.
July 5th / August 2nd
Venue: Drakefell Road, SE14
£30* (Suggested Fee Or Donation)
*I wasn’t quite sure about this phrase; I know what I mean but does this use fit with general understanding? Often as I write I resort to google for clarification – imagine my delight to find this:
“Beyond the realm of reason” and “fabulous” are semantically related… You can use “Beyond the realm of reason” instead an adjective “Fabulous”. ‘Nearby Words’ (sic): fabulously, fabulosity
The tenuous grasp of English grammar on this site means that I will take this with a small pinch of salt, nevertheless I understand more fully how “fabulous” emerged as the perfect term for any performer who is larger than life and brimming over with stage presence and personal charisma, which is very pleasing indeed considering the subject of this article.
Featured Image with thanks to the excellent Tony Nandi