Articles & Essays
EXPERIENTIAL PERSPECTIVES: REFLECTIONS ON VOICE AND SPEECH TRAINING
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.
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.
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.
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.