I’m curious about your Alexander Technique comment. As a singer who has benefited enormously from, and done quite a bit of research into it, it is clear to me that its based on a solid understanding of physical functioning, and a clear method of improving it. The British Medical Journal recently published a major study showing it was the most effective method of helping people with back pain. etc etc
Thank you for your comment. I am pretty familiar with the Alexander Technique. I’m sure not as well familiar as you. I would not pose to be an expert on it. I am glad to hear you have found it beneficial to you. It seems like you assume that since I mentioned it I am bashing it or don’t think it is any good. You are mistaken. That was not my intent behind my statement. Notice I included the school of singing I have most closely identified myself with in my teaching as well.
As you state, it is based on a solid understanding of physical functioning. My question then becomes, was it Alexander Technique that helped you or was it the fundamental principles of physical function that it is based on that helped you. Another way of saying what I mean is, if someone worked with you and taught you to recognize the fundamental principles that are the foundation of physical function, and that helped you improve that function, but they didn’t call it “Alexander Technique” would that be just as good or not as good as learning the Alexander Technique. Does it have to be Alexander Technique to use the body in that way. Can someone just use their body following the same principles, without attaching a name to it?
The point I’m trying to get across is that we get attached to the name and the technique when what really matters is the reality of the physical functioning. The only thing that exists is the truth of physical functioning. Many of the different successful techniques out there dealing with the voice or the body are based on accurate fundamentals of physical function. There are others that are based on someone’s opinion of how to make a certain kind of sound. Our challenge is to recognize the difference. Because if we don’t the health of our voice and body are at risk.
This is what interests me because this is where I see the most confusion regarding the voice. I frequently get questions about the Swedish/Italian School this and the Swedish/Italian School that. Because they want to compare it to some other school or technique. And then decide which one they like better. The name is distracting people from the fundamental principles that are the important thing. So I’m just trying to get people to think about this and ask themselves if they recognize the difference. It is not about what we like or don’t like. It is about what is real and what is imagined. What is physical fact and what is personal opinion. This is what I’m interested in because opinions on how the voice works don’t help people. Understanding the facts of physical function does.
I notice a similar tendency with Speech Level Singing, or SLS. Seth Riggs developed this method, or technique. If we read his bio this is the description of what he teaches:
Approach emphasizes Speech Level Singing, which is exceptionally adaptable to a broad range of styles, because it does not force rigid technique. Develops voice free of clutter, manufactured sounds, and overculture. Individual application of seventeenth century Italian Bel Canto Techniques originating in the Schola Cantorum, including an intimate understanding of Castratti techniques of vocal registration balance. Approach responds to both the immediate and structural problem of the individual singer including constriction caused by high larynx and the resultant inability of the vocal cord structure to allow easy pitch control and natural vowel formation in the throat.
Now to me this is a great description of what we are after. We can’t really disagree with anything it says. But I have observed SLS teachers and singers who don’t seem to be representing these concepts. Does that make SLS wrong or bad, or does that mean these individuals aren’t quite getting an accurate understanding of the fundamental principles that underlie the “technique”. And if, as it says right there, SLS is essentially the principles of 17th century Italian Bel Canto; and the traditional old Italian school was based on the principles of natural functioning of the voice; why do we need the fancy name “Speech Level Singing”. Is it so we can pay hundreds of extra dollars to get certified as SLS trainers? But the fancy name is not what determines our success. How well we understand the fundamental principles does. And no one can own those. Or buy them.
Now before people who support SLS start writing me with death threats. Please understand that I am not bashing what SLS or Seth Riggs teaches. I just stated for the record that SLS is based on the fundamental principles of natural functioning of the voice. Exactly what I am guided by. But I do NOT teach SLS. It is not SLS that helps people find success with their voice. I am sure Seth Riggs is a great teacher because of his understanding of the voice and how it functions. Not because of his invention of SLS. It is the functional principles successfully applied. It is the proper understanding and application of the principles that determines if something is beneficial. The same thing I was saying about Alexander Technique. It isn’t the name that helps people. It’s the functional principles and understanding them that does. And those are available to anybody to discover for themselves.
I believe the success or failure of any technique is dependent on the understanding of the underlying principles, and being able to put them into practice, not necessarily the technique. So if that is the case, then why not forget the question of technique and just focus on the underlying principles. The things that actually make the difference whether we improve or not. That to me is the definition of “natural”. To behave as nature designed us with nothing encumbering the free physical function. That is what I have been proposing and trying to illustrate on this blog. I understand that it might be hard to grasp at first. It is a somewhat different way of thinking about things. But it removes all of the bull that goes along with “he says this, she says that”. “This technique and that technique.” It gets to the point you don’t know who to believe and what to do.
Like I said in my last post. We need to learn to see the truth of the situation. And there is simplicity in truth. It isn’t complex. But it falls under that rule that “simple is not easy.” And I repeat, no one can own this. Not the person that put their name in the title and certainly not me. It is there for all of us. We just need to learn how to recognize it. Thank you.