Secrets of the voice

Secrets of the voice

“The muse opens the throat and enables you to speak…It was so believed that the existence of things was not complete unless there was a voice to express it”  Helen Todd, Voice Coach.
A beautiful friend of mine, Catherine, sent me the book “Secrets”by various authors. In it is a novella called “The clear voice suddenly singing” by Amanda Lohrey. May I also say how wonderful it is to receive mail in the post. Such a delight to be so remembered in such a fashion. She had said that when she had read it, she had thought immediately of me.

“The clear voice suddenly singing”brought me to tears on first reading. The portrayal of the power of the voice, as well as how voice teachers can facilitate this connection to our own voice resonated immensely with me. “Some days my voice is so big it scares me”. I too have made sounds that seem so enormous that it has made my whole body shake and tremble, almost as if it was going to explode like a fountain. Some of us use our voice in such a way when we are angry, or “seeing red” where our voice seems to take on a completely different timbre and open capacity (possibly to the detriment of those who may be in the vicinity).

It speaks of those who have not always had a voice, both metaphorically and physically; how they have searched to find their voice. This makes up a good deal of my client population. From the “little girl voice” and transitioning to a much larger vocal realm. It is a shift on many levels for people to get reacquainted with their voices. And the immense power we have when we communicate to another.
I regularly see with my clients who stutter, that upon improving, they sometimes do not know how to keep conversations flowing. It had been such an effort to expel even the basics of information that conversation for it’s own sake is seen as true luxury: like the Queen Jewels, something they could not possess them themselves and looking at others with a mixture of envy and resentment. “How do they do it?” Indeed how do we. And why do we do it? What makes us do it?

Lohrey speaks of the muse in relation to the Greek myths. How we all need to have a muse. How this can be part of our song. “The singer experiences inner life as something (they) share with the world, not as something that sets him apart from it”. (Stephen Schafer) So how do we find our song. The one that is uniquely ours. How do we find our own voice, the subtle, rich and glorious realms of our voice. Often I say to clients, that I do not wish them suddenly to be an extrovert, but that they may become comfortable with saying whatever it is they want to say, powerfully and persuasively, standing in what is true for them.

One of the other “secrets” is the discovery of how complex the voice is. Whoever has stood next to a flailing shower curtain knows how the curtain wants to stick to you, and that is the same way the vocal  cords connecting happens: The Bernoulli effect!

In the modern day of Reality Idol programs and such, there are many who think they can sing. Often, however they lack the appropriate technique that will carry them through big sings, 8 shows a week, concert after concert. “In some ways being a singer is like being an athlete: both are external expressions of who you are” (cited from Lohrey’s novella) When I started Vocal Athletics in 2007 I had seen the voice as an athletic structure: an opera being like a marathon. How we take the voice to the highest realms and stay there. Prevent injury. Feel good. 

To be an excellent athlete, we need many factors: external and internal physicality, mentality, emotional strength and flexibility and faith in ourselves. There is a “Singer Personality Profile” which is interesting indeed (another time, perhaps). In ‘The science of breath” by Yogi Ramacharaka he states that in the West we are paying a great deal of attention to the external muscles. “But in their enthusiasm, they must not forget that the exercise of the external muscles is not everything. The internal organs also need exercise”. 

Breathwork, and singing provide excellent internal work. Our pelvic muscles can be “fit” with the breath and singing. The Transverse Abdominus (TA) is vital for supporting the breath for singing, as well as speech. We know when they are working if we have had such a big belly laugh that all our insides ache. Athletic on the inside and outside. I have seen many women who have had gynaecological issues or injuries as well as men who have had prostate difficulties present with reduced breath into this area. (Not always the only reason, of course) And hence, not as vocally powerful as they would like to be.

Often retraining the breath into this area and using the core muscles again can have a dramatic impact upon the quality of the voice, as well as the quality of the breath. An idea of toning the organs, likening it to an internal massage. One such client  had had an emergency Caesarian many, many years before, and had never breathed “down there” (her words) since.  With gentle physical and verbal encouragement, the breath fluttered gently into her lower belly, and so too did her tears. Her voice found a deeper resonance with less strain for the breath was able to reside in more of her. Interestingly too she had had stomach troubles since the Caesar: a sort of internal holding of the musculature.

Many speak of using the singing voice as a healing modality. That voice resonates where words cannot. It allows us to access that aspect of us which is primal and pre-verbal. A place where we can breathe easily. New born babies do this effortlessly: make sound, move, roll, breathe. And perhaps that is indeed the secret. How can we re-find that effortless aspect of ourselves? For there true athleticism, movement, flexibility, strength, endurance and freedom is likely to reside.