Articles & Essays

Vocal Traditions: Linklater Voice Method

Kristin Linklater

Voice and Speech Review (VASTA) 2018, Taylor & Francis Group


Vocal Traditions is a series in the Voice and Speech Review that
highlights historically important voice teachers and schools of
thought in the world of vocal pedagogy. In this essay, Linklater Voice
Method offers its overview, history, process, exercises, and details on
teacher training. Written by the founder of Linklater Voice Method,
the article particularly highlights the background of the method and
its relationship to artistry and text.

Introduction and History of Linklater Voice Method

I began teaching when I was 21 years old, and the methodology I teach and have trained
many others to teach is based in an approach to voice training for actors developed originally
by Iris Warren in the 1930s and 1940s in London. Iris was interested in the emotional roots
of voice, and she opened up a new world of exploration in a profession that had defined its
esthetic parameters and set the boundaries of successful vocal performance. In the early
twentieth century, the standards in the English theatre world were clear: sufficient projection
to be heard in the back row of the theater, a pleasantly modulated range of vocal dynamics,
and crisp articulation. The actor’s voice was a musical instrument to be well-managed and
expertly played. But Iris was dealing with successful actors on the West End stage in London
who were losing their voices through the effort and strain of pushing for those desired effects.
  Legend has it that at some time in the 1930s Iris was asked by a Freudian analyst if she
could assist a patient of his who was unable to speak about his traumatic experiences. Iris
got him to relax, breathe deeply, and feel the sound of his voice in his body. He immediately
began crying, and with the flood of tears came a flood of words. That emotion had
freed his voice. Iris started adapting her voice exercises to include the sensory impulses of
thought and feeling. Time and again, her clients (many of the major West End actors of
the day) recovered their voices as their emotional range was released. Her exercises were
revolutionized to find their origins deep inside the sensory body rather than be managed by
external abdominal and intercostal muscles. The voice was no longer a musical instrument
to be beautifully played, but an expressively human instrument.
  It took another 20 years or more for English actor training to catch up with Iris. It was
not until the 1950s that mainstream English theatre evolved from its somewhat external,
boulevard style of performance to an acceptance of the psychological realism of Stanislavski.
Since the 1940s, Jacques Copeau’s explorations into character work had begun to influence
actor training in England, but in my judgment, it was the raw naturalism of American film
acting that finally cracked the façade of English acting technique in the 1970s, 1980s, and
  American acting was steeped in Stanislavsky’s methodology and (notoriously) in Lee
Strasberg’s Actors Studio approach, which dominated American actor training from the
1950s to the 1980s. But training for voice and movement was largely rooted in singing
techniques, diction, and dance. These techniques required physical management and manipulation
that distanced the performer from emotional and psychological impulse.
  Iris died in1963, and that was the year I left London and went to the USA. I had been
teaching at LAMDA (London Academy for Music and Dramatic Art) for 6 years and wanted
a change. I thought I would visit New York for a year, and I remained in the States for
50 years. Iris’s voice work spoke the same psycho-physical language as the Method, and
over the next years, I developed her techniques in the fecund climate of psycho-physical
exploration that became the human growth movement of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
The psychological diggings begun by Freud and Jung led to the rich explorations of
psycho-physical behavior that branched out from Wilhelm Reich into processes developed
by Fritz Perls, Ida Rolf, Stanley Keleman, and many others for releasing trapped emotions
and trauma from clenched muscles in the body.
  There were several pioneers in practical psycho-physical work. F. Matthias Alexander had
great influence on psycho-physical reeducation, which began in the early part of the twentieth
century. In the 1920s and 1930s, Mabel Elsworth Todd (The Thinking Body) developed
somatic exercises to reeducate the body, known as “ideokinesis.” And Moshe Feldenkrais
brought his ideas to the United States in the 1970s. The work of these body work pioneers
has been embraced by actors, dancers, and musicians.
  What Alexander, Todd, and Feldenkrais did for the body Iris Warren did for the voice.
The voice work I teach has come to be called “Freeing the Natural Voice” rather than “The
Warren Method” because Freeing the Natural Voice (1976) is the title of the book I wrote,
which was first published in 1976. It has also come to be known as Linklater Voice Method
because I am the author of the book. Iris never wrote about her work, saying it would be
misunderstood if it were written down. To a certain extent she was right. The work belongs
in the live breath of human bodies in a room together. But her underlying ideas were strong
enough and true enough to rise above any misunderstanding of the exercises, and the book,
revised and expanded by me is now a required text for all serious English-speaking actor
training programs (Linklater 2006). It has also been translated into German, Spanish, Italian,
Polish, Russian, and Korean with French, Romanian, and Chinese translations pending.
  The work is voice work, which transcends language difference and thus can travel across
national boundaries. After all, voice can communicate without speech, but speech cannot
communicate without voice. All human beings are born with breath and emotions and
voices. And in that respect voice is universal, while speech is cultural.
  This approach to voice and speech is organically linked to the actor training processes
that have developed over the past hundred years in the search for performative veracity
in the theatre. The Linklater vocabulary of training is umbilically and imaginatively connected
to the vocabulary of Stanislavsky, Michael Chekhov, Sanford Meisner, Uta Hagen,
and Stephen Wangh, among others.
  My own history as part of this history of my voice work includes teaching at the NYU
School of the Arts (before it became the Tisch School of the Arts), while also teaching
and coaching some Broadway shows (e.g. the first Hair), the short-lived Lincoln Center
Repertory Company (founded by Kazan and Whitehead), The Negro Ensemble Company,
and several of the experimental companies such as The Open Theater and the Manhattan
Project. In 1977 I moved to the Berkshires, teaching and acting with Shakespeare &
Company for twelve years. From 1990 to 1997, I taught at Emerson College in Boston
and began teaching regularly in Germany and Italy. 1997 brought me back to New York as
Professor of Theater Arts in Columbia University’s School of the Arts, where I was Chair
for five years. After seventeen years at Columbia, in 2013 I retired and left the States to
return to my native Orkney Islands in Scotland. There, I have built a Voice Centre and teach
workshops throughout the year. (See for more detail.)


The Linklater Voice Method goes step-by-step through a practical series of exercises that
begin with relaxation, awareness of breathing, and the experience of vibrationary sound;
then from jaw and tongue relaxation to opening the throat, and then the development of
resonance and range. This culminates in an exploration of the articulating activity of lips
and tongue. These organic psycho-physical experiences release the voice from inhibitory
tension and restore the full gamut of three to four octaves of speaking notes that can reveal
the full extent of human emotion and all the nuances of thought.
Dramatic and poetic texts are interwoven with the technical work. First, as the voice
becomes free of restriction, we explore the experience of truthful speaking on a personal
level. Then with the full range of resonating response available, we explore the versatility
of the voice in the service of a wide variety of characters and styles. An organized sequence
of text and verse exercises introduces the specific physical, emotional, and imaginative
demands that Shakespeare makes of the voice.


A simple picture of how the voice works shows us (1) the impulse to speak, (2) breath entering
the body, and simultaneously, (3) vocal folds approximating, (4) vibrations reverberating
through resonators, and (5) articulation into speech by the lips and tongue.
  An equally simple picture contradicts every step on this easy road. The impulse to speak
is halted by an inner voice: “Are you sure you want to say this?” “That’s a stupid thing to
say!” “Hold on,” Wait a minute …” “Dangerous!” Thus, impulse number two is interrupted,
and the free flow of breath to diaphragm halts; the central breathing muscles hold hard,
protecting the emotional impulse. If the need to speak is so strong that it overrides the
lack of emotional breath response in the diaphragm and demands to be heard, then just
enough breath is found under the collarbone to activate the vocal folds, and the muscles
of the throat, the tongue, and the jaw provide supportive action substituting muscle for
free breath. Occupied with the effort to compensate for breath, they close off access to the
resonators, and the natural range and expressivity of the voice narrows.
  For the person who wants to be an actor, step one is to free their personal self from the
inhibitions of expression that have (almost inevitably) been learned through an upbringing
and education that acculturates to societal norms.
  Entering a rediscovery of how the voice works, we observe these habitual defensive
activities and decide whether they serve our purposes or not. We become conscious of
unconscious activity and can make a choice as to whether the observed function is optimal
or not, according to the need for vocal communication.
  The step-by-step exercises of the method I inherited from my teacher, Iris Warren, provide
the means by which one can make that observation.

Key Features

Voice training for actors is paradoxical: one must develop the voice to its utmost potential
in order, then, to forget about it, to sacrifice it—to let it be burned through by the heat of
thoughts and feelings and moods and emotions. The voice conveys mood, emotion, attitude,
opinion, confidence, conviction, restriction, inhibition, and a multitude of subtle shades of
meaning that influence the speaker and the listener.
  The voice reveals authentic character more than spoken words, because the voice is
formed by breath and because breath is intrinsically connected to our senses, our psychology,
our behavior, and our emotions; all of which are experienced in the body. Voice training
for actors is not a matter of acquiring a skill. Voice is identity. It says, “I am.” Voice is made
of breath, and breath gives us life; thus, the actor must breathe as the character they are
creating and donate their identity to the identity of the character, so that the character lives
and is plausible.
  Voice work is as necessary for actors who work mainly in television or film as it is for
live theatre. The voice is the truth thermometer. Cameras and microphones zero in on the
internal truth of a performance, and if a voice is not plugged into the true and transparent
inner life of instinct and impulse, then the truth will not be revealed. The truth may be
described by a voice that delivers a kind of running commentary on what is happening
experientially. (And there are some styles of writing that choose that mode.) But in terms of
high-quality acting, description comes a poor second to revelation: Voice is the revelatory
channel through which thoughts and feelings are conveyed. Voice is a human instrument
with all the complexities that this notion implies.
  The intonations and inflections of voice, are collectively gathered in the word prosody.

In linguistics, prosody is concerned with [...] such linguistic functions as the rhythm, stress, and
intonation of speech. Prosody may reflect various features of the speaker or the utterance: the
emotional state of the speaker; the form of the utterance (statement, question, or command);
the presence of irony or sarcasm; emphasis, contrast, and focus; or other elements of language
that may not be encoded by grammar or by choice of vocabulary. (as cited in Wikipedia 2017)

We each have our own personal prosody, and every writer (playwright, poet, prose-writer)
also has their own prosody that reflects the backstory of the story, the backstory of the
character, and the backstory of the writer. Actors must listen to these prosodic “backstories”
while being conscious that their own prosody may distort that of the character. The
actor’s voice must be alive and elastic and unconfined by the dynamics of personal speaking
habits. This demands recognition of habits of thinking as much as consciousness of habits
of voice production.

The voice is the musical part of speaking, while speech is the deliverer of organized
information. Voice conveys para-verbal and meta-verbal information, and that information
comes from many different parts of the brain. The most obviously identifiable structures
are the corpus callosum, motor cortex, prefrontal cortex, nucleus accumblens (emotional
reactions), amygdala, sensory cortex, auditory cortex, hippocampus, visual cortex, and
cerebellum. The nervous system deploys sensory, visceral, respiratory, laryngeal, and pharyngeal
musculature to influence the tones, rhythms, and volume that can accurately reveal
the inner state of the speaker.
  Speech is more “encoded by grammar or by choice of vocabulary.” But of course, voice
and speech are inter-dependent. Speech involves rhythm, as the interplay of consonants and
vowels riff on their intrinsic differences of longer and shorter, sharper or buzzier, murmurous
or explosive, higher or lower in musical nature. Speech is governed by two major brain
regions: well known as (1) Broca’s area activating the lips and the tongue and (2) Wernicke’s
area that puts words together to make sense. Broca and Wernicke identified these areas in
the late nineteenth century. This only matters to a voice practitioner in that it emphasizes
the conscious work that must be done to bring speech and voice into a harmonious relationship.
  Clearly, Broca and Wernicke cannot live without the music of voice, but too often
they tend to act as if they are the bosses. These days our voices are mostly imprinted with
utilitarian, logical information. We do not speak poetry enough, or sing enough, or sigh
out our longings, joys, sorrows, and loves enough to keep an even balance between voice
and speech. Training the voice implies demoting Monsieur Broca and Herr Wernicke and
promoting the Dionysus within. Or inviting the schoolmasters to join the dance.
  From an artistic point of view, this is a fascinating time to be involved in voice and speech
training. Neuroscience is shedding light on the brain functions that lead to speaking; the
old dualistic view of mind versus body has been roundly challenged by scientists of all persuasions.
We know that the body, the senses and the emotions are vital to the intelligence
of the whole self.
  Nevertheless, we have all grown up in an educational system that has an endemic commitment
to dualism. The brain, reason, and rationality are valued over emotion and body.
Growing up we do not know how to deal with the turmoil of our emotions; nobody offers us
emotional education. Nobody suggests that speaking is a physical act engaging the senses,
the emotions, and the breath. The act of speaking words is, thus, conditioned in an environment
that exiles emotion. Words go from our rational speech cortex to our mouths,
barely disturbing our bodies.
  The voice teacher’s job is to reunite brain and body experientially.
  Voice teachers seek solutions to imperfect vocal communication by spotting the physical
manifestations of inhibition, prohibition, and restriction and by reeducating those bodily
effects. We teach our students how to relax the throat, the jaw, and the tongue, which have
learned too often to clamp down on emotional expression; our students hum and ululate,
shout, cry, and sing through a range of many octaves; we restore breathing to the full extent
of its involuntary activity from the pelvic floor to the diaphragm and the ribs.
  Thinking, feeling, and speaking are thus retrained. We need the word “mind” instead of
“brain” when we explore how thinking works its way into speech. For working purposes,
“brain” is the thing in the head, and “mind” is the experience of brain in the body. For
“mind” to happen, the experience of thinking drops out of the head and into the body. Yes,
we need to “get out of the head” (as so many acting teachers remind their students), but
this does not mean stop thinking. When you are up in your head, you are thinking “about”
something. When you drop your thoughts into your body, you are really thinking because
you are feeling what you think.
  In the past few decades, we have been led to the knowledge that we have not just one
brain but at least (identifiably) three. There is the skull brain, the gut brain (or “enteric
brain”), and the heart brain.
  Developmentally, words emerged from the body brains into the skull brain, not the
other way around.
  According to neuro-cardiologists, 60–65% of heart cells are neuron cells, not muscle cells
(Chang 2013). Numerically, the skull brain wins the neuron count with 86 billion neurons,
versus 100 million neurons in the gut and 40,000 in the heart. (I suspect these numbers
may not be set in stone.) However, the heart generates the largest electromagnetic field in
the body. As measured by electrocardiogram, the heart’s electrical field is about 60 times
greater in amplitude than the brain waves recorded by electroencephalogram. The gut and
the heart surely constitute the playing field for actors and singers. This information sheds
the light of science on the subjective experience of the psycho-physical work of Freeing the
Natural Voice. In practical terms, rerouting the balance of the activating impulses that govern
speaking from skull brain dominance to body-brain dominance is a delicate reeducation
of neuro-physiological pathways.
  It cannot be repeated often enough that the breathing muscles and vocal muscles are part
of the autonomic nervous system. They can be controlled voluntarily, but they function at
their best on the involuntary circuits of mind and body. Thus, the first step in voice work
needs to be the gradual development of an awareness that can detect counterproductive
effort and tension in the conscious musculature and decide to let go of both. Muscular
tension is there for a purpose; it is there to protect. It is holding on to energy. When that
protection is no longer needed, the muscles can be persuaded to let go, and the energy can be
redirected to more enlivening activity, such as breathing freely or letting the throat open up.


In order to arrive at this place, first comes physical awareness with particular attention
paid to the spine as the two-way message channel between brain and body and the essential
support for the three main areas of breathing musculature: diaphragm, diaphragmatic
crura, and intercostal muscles. These muscles are part of the involuntary systems of the
body. You cannot tell your involuntary muscles what to do, but you can influence them
through imagery—anatomical imagery, imaginative images, abstract images, and sensory
imagery. In Linklater Voice, we spend a long time observing the anatomy of our natural,
everyday breathing rhythm without organizing, interfering, or labeling “right” or “wrong.”
We banish the active verbs “inhale, exhale” or “breathe in, breathe out.” With my hand on
each student’s abdominal wall, I say

Relax this. Now relax here. Now here. Picture the center of the diaphragm; it drops as the breath
enters, then the breath immediately escapes out. Then, there is a tiny pause, not a holding. Then
you feel breath wanting to enter again, and all you can do is yield to that need.

I say “You don’t have to breathe in. Breath will enter.” I say “Let it happen. Let the air breathe
you.” I say, “Don’t lengthen the breath; don’t control it.” Consciously giving up that unconscious
breath control can be a disquieting mind–body moment. This is the first practice of
how to prepare the ground for the shock of inspiration. After the outgoing breath, there is
a moment where nothing happens; then breath reenters. I am inspired. Then immediately
I expire. There is a moment of nothing. I have faith, and lo and behold breath comes in. I
live. The organizing, controlling, logical brain goes quiet and merely observes. We observe
the action of the diaphragm and know that the solar plexus, the emotional receiving and
transmitting nerve center, is connected with it.
  Floor work deepens the experience of relaxation and awakens consciousness of the action
of the diaphragmatic crura, which run from the diaphragm down the spine and lead into
the pelvic floor. In inspiration the crura assist the descent of the diaphragm. Imagery that
includes the spaces in the pelvis and hip joints enlivens the connection between these deep
breathing muscles and their engagement with the sacral plexus, which houses instinct and
  When sound emerges from clear embodied imagery and is freed from auxiliary effort
in the throat, sound finds its natural resonance.
Iris Warren’s organically logical progression of exercises, which I embodied and expanded
over the years, restores our birthright of a voice that can express the full range of human
emotions and all the subtleties and nuances of thought through a three-to-four octave
range of voice.
  A series of large umbrella headings can map out the route:

(1) Physical Awareness (becoming aware of habitual tensions in order to choose and
experience relaxation)
(2) Awareness and Release of Natural Breathing (observing, not controlling)
(3) The Touch of Sound (a visualization and tactile sensation of sound originating
in the body)
(4) Freeing the Vibrations (releasing vibration as one relaxes lips, neck, head, and
whole body with sound)
(5) Freeing the Channel (releasing inhibitory tensions from jaw, tongue, and soft
palate in order to allow the breath to take responsibility for the voice)
(6) The Resonating Ladder: Chest, Mouth, Teeth (exploring the sensation of resonance
in the bony cavities of the body that corresponds to different energies and
pitches of the voice)
(7) Breathing Capacity (opening the ribs, stimulating the intercostal muscles, and
strengthening the organic response between impulse and breathing musculature)
(8) Sinus Resonance (awakening the resonating cavities of the mid-face that strengthen
the mid-range of the voice)
(9) Nasal Resonance (awakening the extrovert, carrying power of the bony nasal
cavity that strengthens the top part of the speaking voice)
(10) Skull Resonance: Falsetto (releasing into the ecstatic voice)
(11) Range (becoming familiar with every resonating bone from the bottom to the top
of one’s three-to-four octave speaking range)
(12) Articulation (exercising the lips and tongue that articulate the free voice into

This is all sensory work, redirecting goals from any kind of auditory judgment to the visualization
and tactile experience of the sounds of the voice in the body, trusting the rightness
and pleasure of sensation rather than the judgment of the ear. The work only works as the
voice is embodied, as the enteric brain of the senses and emotions overthrows the authority
of the skull brain. This is thinking and feeling as one thing, rather than thinking about something.
Once the full extent of the vocal potential has been absorbed, the speaker or singer’s
job is to activate the desire to communicate, think clearly, and commit whole-heartedly to
the voyage of the communicative event.

Voice into Language

“Sound & Movement” is the name given to a sequence of improvisational voice and body
exercises designed to provide a visceral link between voice, speech, and body. This organic
progression of exercises explores the roots of language experientially, which I created to
reroute Shakespeare’s words from the contemporary head to the Shakespearean body. The
work is, however, effective in a wide range of stylistic writing from Shakespeare to the present
day. From primal sound to emotion, image and word impulses awaken the appetite energies
of vowels and consonants. Group exchanges and partner improvisation open the flow of
vibration between bodies. Listening and sounding become whole-body experiences. Neurophysiological
pathways between brain and body are reinvigorated and the actor’s agility and
sensitivity in responding to imagery is exercised. Vocal impulses galvanize physical movement.
Voice and body provide the intellect with information. Meaning and interpretation
emerge. The actor experiences “Let the words play you” rather than “Play with the words.”

Text work

The transparency of the mid-voice is one of the keys to open communication. We explore
devices such as speaking with the tongue outside the mouth, whispering, and speaking text
on vowels only to continue the reconditioning of voice and speech from a head/brain-centered
experience to an embodied, sensory experience.
  Shakespeare is the Olympics of the art of acting. Shakespeare’s text is the emotional,
intellectual, physical, vocal personal trainer for actors. In Freeing Shakespeare’s Voice: The
Actor’s Guide to Talking the Text (1992), I outline a step-by-step approach to the embodiment
of Shakespeare’s words and imagery, how to deal with the iambic pentameter and unravel
the clues of figures of speech, rhetoric, and verse forms within the context of Elizabethan
culture. In practice, all this is explored in physical, on-your-feet activity leading to sonnets,
speeches, and scenes.


The anatomy of the voice is the same for speaking and singing. Singing is heightened expression.
One can argue that singing happens when emotions can no longer be well expressed
in prose or poetry. The demand upon the vocal anatomy is intensified by heightened emotional
content. While many singers find freedom in their practice of my work, I am not a
singing teacher. For singers I heartily recommend the book The Naked Voice (2007) by W.
Stephen Smith. He was an early teacher of the great opera singer Joyce DiDonato. He has
taught at Juilliard, Northwestern University, the Aspen Music Festival, and the Houston
Grand Opera Studio.

Teacher Training

I have been training teachers since 1965 when the Rockefeller Foundation supported a yearlong
teacher training for 10 applicants. Over the years, the process has evolved. There are
now more than 250 Designated Linklater Teachers (DLT) worldwide. Currently, a candidate
must have substantial prior personal training in Linklater work before being considered as
a trainee. Prerequisites for acceptance into the Teacher Training include: evidence of the
seriousness and success of such prior work, assessment by a senior Designated Linklater
Teacher, at least 50 hours of private lessons with a DLT, observation of a semester (or equivalent)
of a senior DLT teaching, and a competitive audition.
  Our English-speaking teacher training takes place every two years at my Voice Centre
in Orkney, Scotland. Part One comprises three weeks within which trainees demonstrate
their ability to lead a warm-up, and I teach the specifics of the progression of exercises.
These sessions are filmed. Trainees practice-teach for a year. Part Two follows a year later
and consists a demonstration of ability to teach the detail of exercises with practice students.
As Master Teacher, I supervise these sessions with the support of other Senior DLTs.
When there are enough German and/or Italian candidates, teacher-training is organized
in those countries.


• Information on the Orkney Kristin Linklater Voice Centre can be found at www. 
• In New York, the Linklater Center for Voice is run by Andrea Haring and offers classes
and workshops. See
• The European contact is

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.


Chang, Pao. 2013. “Scientific Evidence: The Heart is an Intelligent Electromagnetic Field Generator
That Thinks.” Energyfanatics, July 26.
Linklater, Kristin. 1976. Freeing the Natural Voice. New York: Drama Book Publishers.
Linklater, Kristin. 1992. Freeing Shakespeare’s Voice: The Actor’s Guide to Talking the Text. New York:
Theatre Communications Group.
Linklater, Kristin. 2006. Freeing the Natural Voice: Imagery and Art in the Practice of Voice and
Language. New York: Drama Book Publishers.
Smith, W. Stephen, and Michael Chipman. 2007. The Naked Voice: A Wholistic Approach to Singing.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kristin Linklater


What has changed in the field of voice training for the theatre in the past 100 years? I cannot speak personally for the full century of actors’ voice training since 1915 but I will boldly claim some personal knowledge of what has happened in the English-speaking world of actor-training in the last half-century. I hope, thus, to frame my reflections on what constitutes the craft of training the speaking voice within the context of the art of theatre.[1]


For actors, voice training for actors and new discoveries in neuroscience can help bridge the disconnect between mind and body to life.

These moods and feelings are registered throughout the body; the specificity of their expression in words depends a great deal on the specificity of the imagery that is engendered in memory, experience and imagination. However, although the parts of the brain that store memory and emotion and that contribute to the richness of vocal communication can determine the fullness of the information contained in the spoken word, these brain regions cannot be neatly connected to one or another hemisphere. Despite the wealth of information that advances in brain-imaging are giving us today, from a practical point of view, memory and imagination still operate from the realm of the unconscious mind, and the unconscious mind dances a merry quadrille from back to front and side to side of the brain.

TEACHERS ACADEMY, Sofia, Bulgaria: 2009 Keynote Speech

National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts, Sofia, Bulgaria, July 1st 2009

The human voice is my subject. The theme of this Teachers' Academy meeting is storytelling, and I suspect that I have been invited to speak to you because the manner of the telling determines whether a story is successfully communicated or not and historically it is the human voice that has done the telling. I am particularly pleased to be with you in Sofia because I was involved with ELIA in the early days and because I had the distinct honour of being awarded a doctorate by NATFA in 2005. Both of those events were due to recognition of the paramount importance of voice in the art of performance. Thank you.

BREATH IN ACTION; March 1, 2009

Edited by Jane Boston and Rena Cook.
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2009

There is no one correct way to breathe. There is breathing that works for yoga, breathing that works for swimming, there is the proper breathing for martial arts and the best for playing the trumpet, there is meditation breathing, and at least a dozen different 'correct' ways of breathing for singing. Our breathing muscles are multifarious and adaptable. They can perform both voluntarily and involuntarily. Their primary purpose is, of course, to keep us alive; this they do on the involuntary level. My particular interest in breath is the way in which it creates voice as it passes through the vocal folds and how it helps us either to reveal or hide the truth as we speak. The role played by breathing in the art of acting has occupied me professionally for fifty years and, in the art of acting, the goals are believability and a sense of limitlessness. We search for truth in the language of extremity and in the most intimate emotional expression. The alchemy of inspired communication is a mix of emotion, intellect and voice. The 'prima materia' is breath. This fundamental element of truthful speaking is accessible for anyone involved in speaking publicly—or indeed privately.