Who’s talking

Ed. Note: The following entry is part of a series of posts marking the 1-year anniversary of the Special Issue ‘What is New in Voice Training?’

The relationship between the voice and the body in the theatre has revealed that, through the latter, the voice subscribes the notion of presence within the spectator, while also, the paradox of dislocating itself from the body remains. The acousmatic turn—from which authors such as Michel Chion (1993) or the Chilean Andrés Grumann (2020), to name a few, have examined the hegemony of the body over the voice in contemporary theatre—has allowed to put into the debate of vocal pedagogy new ways of dealing with body/voice training and of challenging the installed anthropocentric logic of the voice as a production of the body.

In a general, the central concern of these authors has been to think about, and problematise, the paradox of a voice belonging to the wrong body and/or the dislocation of the body from which it emanates. This acousmatic split—between the presence of the body and the mediation of the voice in the theatre—has generated an auditory and visual enigma that has not yet been resolved by most theatre schools in Chile. With the appearance and incorporation of electroacoustic technologies, audiovisual devices and the diverse theoretical matrices from which the body has been studied, new forms of understanding and approaching the voice and the body in performance have been triggered. Therefore, the voice & body equation in vocal pedagogy demands a constant and synergistic dialogue with the becoming of stage practices.

Part of my doctoral research (PaR) centres around these issues and proposes that the voice, as a phenomenon and a force is not bound by delimitations and/or hierarchies but, rather, to strategies of associativity engaged in stage work. Thus, the associative conjunction ‘&’ operates as a portal for the various entrances of the vocal in the performative space. Likewise, it demolishes the need to annex voice to the body and language as the only source for its training and study.

In Sistema Sonoro (2020), the introductory project to my doctor PaR, I tried to echo such (and other) reflections and concerns:

Sistema Sonoro teaser

In this line of thought, the Argentinean Silvia Davini (2007) has established that, in light of the modern project and the expansion of the limits between the human and the non-human, the concept of body and instrument for the deployment of the voice in the performance scene has also been placed in the debate on vocal pedagogy. In a curious topology of the body, it has evolved from Cartesian automata to the virtual body, a body of multiple enjoyments, a multi-sexed body, a Cyberbody, among other categorisations. Here, the problem of voice attachment to these bodies is presented and revealed as a still unsolved issue.

How, then, is vocal pedagogy to face these other types of body? If every time we listen to a voice, it invokes and calls for a body (Lagaay 2011), then we should ask ourselves: what kind of body is this voice attached to, and what should be the strategies and approaches for teaching its applications in performance?

References

Chion, M. (1993). La Audiovisión: Introducción a un análisis conjunto de la imagen y el sonido (2ª edición al español). Barcelona, España: Paidós. Trans. Antonio López Ruiz.

Davini, S. (2007). Cartografías de la voz en el teatro contemporáneo, el caso de Buenos Aires Argentina. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Universidad de Quilmes.

Grumann, A. (2020). ‘Voces fuera de escena. El vocear tecno-mediatizado de la voz en el teatro’. (Artículo inédito). Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Facultad de Artes, Escuela de Teatro.

Lagaay, A. (2011). Towards a (Negative) Philosophy of Voice. In: Kendrick, L. & Roesner, D. (Eds) Theatre Noises: The Sound of Performance (pp. 57-69). Newcastle upon Tyme: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Bio

Luis Aros, an actor and voice studies practitioner/scholar, holds a MA Voice Studies from RCSSD and is the founder and director of the Nucleus of Vocal Research. Currently researching a Ph.D. in Arts / Practice and Theatre Studies, he is developing a PaR project on voice and performance.

Pansori & New Technologies: An Interview with Chan E. Park

Ed. Note: The following entry is part of a series of posts marking the 1-year anniversary of the Special Issue ‘What is New in Voice Training?‘ and was created by Chan E. Park and Konstantinos Thomaidis (due to technical issues, I as editor uploaded this content but am not the author).

Professor Chan E. Park is an innovator of theatrical pansori for transnational audiences and the originator of bilingual pansori, a development and reworking of pansori storytelling that includes singing in Korean and delivery of narrative parts (aniri) in English and/or alongside English subtitles (for more information, see Park 2003: 245-272).

A first articulation of Park’s current thinking on the intersections of pansori and technology appeared in a section of her chapter ‘Beyond the “time capsule”: recreating Korean narrative temporalities in pansori singing’. It read:

“Today, I continue training with a set of my teacher’s recordings. And the thoughts and ideas from learning and practice substantiate my written research. I have taken part in several theatrical or musical productions of pansori as innovative adaptation, but my sense of innovation is discovery in my teacher’s recorded voice: if you can do a vocal doubling of a phrase you could not do yesterday, that is innovation for me. By engaging this partial archive of the work of an intangible cultural asset, I am able to renew my affiliations, albeit in a meditated way, with a pansori community, past, present and future.” (Park 2019: 176)

The following interview took place in June 2019, within the context of developing the article ‘Between preservation and renewal: reconsidering technology in contemporary pansori training’ (Thomaidis 2019)—and we invite you to read this entry alongside that piece.

Konstantinos Thomaidis (KT): In what ways has the use of technology (for example, professional CDs or DVDs, amateur recordings, blogs, sur- or sub-titling, YouTube, websites etc) impacted contemporary pansori training?

Chan E. Park (CP): Recordings are essential tools for all learners. A learner makes own recordings of his or her teacher, during lessons.

From experience, professional CDs or DVDs, YouTube, should largely be for those amateur listeners not affiliated with teacher and school of learning, but take active interest as a fan, researcher, hobby, or self-study. And everyone seeking the professional field news or updates, or personal embellishments also browse on YouTube.

Blogs, I do not have, so am not qualified to speak about it. I tend to think, however, those younger generation practitioners perhaps use social media to exchange news and promote their own achievements rather than to enhance their training.

The concept of subtitling came into use in and around 1987, to the best of my knowledge. I happened to have provided the first English subtitles for the Song of Chunhyang produced by the National Changgeuk Company in 1987. Today, all professional singers making international appearances are aware of the critical importance of good subtitles to go with their presentations. For them, subtitles add to their presentation, rather than training.

KT: In what ways has such technology impacted contemporary pansori performance?

CP: Given the historical reality, without the advancements in recording technology (and consumption), pansori singing may not have survived as much as it has.

KT: Do you think that the use of technology for pedagogic purposes (voice training) is more suited towards preserving or renewing pansori?

CP: Both.

Renewal of pansori must first start with preservation.

KT: Have you used such technology as a trainee? Or teacher? Or performer? If yes, could you describe a case of such use that exemplifies your approach?

CP: Yes, yes, and yes.

First, my teacher is no longer living, yet I have continuously been depending on his recordings to review and re-review, re-re-review, and further.

In essence, he lives to continue to teach me through his recordings.

Listening to them thousands of times, I cultivate closer listening of his artistry as structural entity, the understanding of which is mine to reproduce within the boundary of my own vocal expressiveness.

In repeated listening, the obscure and the unidentifiable textual and acoustic elements often become clearer, suddenly or gradually.  

KT: In the past, the use of technology (for example, recordings) has been criticised as leading to mere imitation (‘photographic sound’/sajinsori) rather than creative mastery of the genre. Do you agree/disagree? Do you think such critique is fair or limited?

CP: True, and this was my own limited observation during the earlier stages of training. Outwardly, it does feel and look like you’re photocopying. But consider the process of learning a new language: it starts with sampling and ‘photocopying’ your teacher’s articulation and mannerism. The language one day becomes yours to use, and you speak, listen, write, and comprehend in your own way.

People who sees only the ‘photocopying’ need to go further into the process of training, continuously.

KT: Do you have any final thoughts to share on the issue of using technology in pansori training, either within or outside Korea?

CP: Recording technology, despite the loss of oral culture, is a saving grace when it comes to the pedagogical field of traditional singing.

References

Park, C.E. 2003. Voices from the Straw Mat: Toward and Ethnography of Korean Story Singing. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Park, C.E. 2019. Beyond the ‘time capsule’: recreating Korean narrative temporalities in pansori singing. In: M. Evans, K. Thomaidis and Libby Worth, eds., Time and Performer Training. London and New York: Routledge. 172-78.

Biogs

Chan E. Park is the author of Voices from the Straw Mat: Toward an Ethnography of Korean Story Singing (University of Hawai’i Press 2003), and currently professor of Korean Literature and Performance at Ohio State University. Park has innovated numerous bilingual and theatrical pansori including: In 1903, Pak Hungbo Went to Hawaii (2003); When Tiger Smoked His Pipe (2003); Shim Chong: A Korean Folktale (2003); Alaskan Pansori: Klanott and the Land Otter People (2005); Song of Everyday Chunhyang (2008); Hare Returns from the Underwater Palace (2013).

Konstantinos Thomaidis is Senior Lecturer in Drama, Theatre & Performance at the University of Exeter. His books include Voice Studies: Critical Approaches to Process, Performance and Experience (Routledge 2015, with Ben Macpherson) and Theatre & Voice (Palgrave Macmillan 2017). He co-founded the Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies, the Routledge Voice Studies book series, and the Sound, Voice & Music Working Group at TaPRA. He is Artistic Director of Adrift Performance Makers.

Further Links:

https://deall.osu.edu/people/park.2274

https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/beyond-time-capsule-chan-park/e/10.4324/9781351180368-18

https://www.uhpress.hawaii.edu/title/voices-from-the-straw-mat-toward-an-ethnography-of-korean-story-singing/

‘Humanimal’ voice pedagogy

Ed. Note: The following entry is part of a series of posts marking the 1-year anniversary of the Special Issue ‘What is New in Voice Training?

While the human voice mostly dominates the territory of voice training today, interspecies vocal performances like The Algae Opera (2012) and multispecies audiences like Laurie Anderson’s Concert for Dogs (2016) challenge the anthropocentric focus and open up for new experiences. Voice training can join in this venture by including more diverse pedagogies. 

For some time now, animals have inspired western arts practitioners in performer training: from theatrical innovator Jacques Copeau’s animal improvisations (Evans 2006: 79-80), to singing philosopher Alfred Wolfsohn’s extended voice research (2012), to theatre director Jerzy Grotowski’s actor training exercises incorporating the vocalities of tigers, snakes, and bulls (1968: 180-82). The practices used in this longstanding tradition of seeking inspiration from other animals are still in many ways quite human-centred. 

Part of my PhD project studies the Nordic herding-calling tradition Kulning, a practice of interspecies vocal attraction between herders and free-grazing cows, goats and sheep. As a vocal deviser, I am fascinated by how the herders vocally attract their cattle. While most herders today learn traditional calls of attraction through the (human-to-human) oral tradition, we can assume that in the very first training sessions, herders and cattle together co-devised these calls. 

Learning vocal technique together with the cattle embraces a ‘humanimal’ voice pedagogy. Donna Haraway describes the ‘humanimal’ as the human and the animal coming ‘into each other’ (2013). Informed by ethnographic fieldwork that I conducted in the north of Sweden (July 2019), I devised four workshops on ‘humanimal’ voice pedagogy for arts practitioners. These workshops (held at the University of Exeter’s Drama Department, 2020) each involved a group of eleven participants.  

The first workshop included exercises designed to explore elements to be considered when devising the calls of attraction in Kulning. In order to introduce participants to the vocal tradition and to serve as a stimulus in the exercises, I brought in footage and sound recordings of cattle from my fieldwork. 

During my ethnographic study, it was suggested by the herders that I interviewed that vocal attunement and imitation of the recipient are key to the sonic dramaturgy of the calls of attraction. Thus, one of my exercises aimed to train workshop participants to vocally attune to and imitate cattle. After a series of ‘humanimal’ physiovocal warm-ups, I invited participants to close their eyes, to go down on ‘all fours’, and listen to recordings of cattle ‘feeling’ the cattle’s vocality resonate in their bodies. Inspired by Jane Bennett’s conception of a morphing creature ‘not necessarily divided equally’ (2001: 19-20), I led participants through a vocal journey exploring different degrees of mimesis (we explored moving from sounding 10% human-90% cow to 20%human-80% cow etc.). In this creative space, participants were encouraged to explore the freedom of the shapeshifting embedded in the ‘humanimal’.

A ‘humanimal’ vocal attunement and imitation exercise from the first workshop. Photo courtesy of the author.

By practising imitating the unique voices of each animal, this exercise also offered performers new models for voicing. All workshop exercises involved learning from the cattle’s vocality through listening, moving, and sounding-with audio recordings. 

What possibilities may emerge if this kind of vocal training next takes place in nature together with cattle, allowing for a complete ‘humanimal’ vocal exchange? What possibilities may emerge when we broaden the anthropocentric paradigm of voice pedagogy, inviting more ways of voicing, listening, and relating? What performance possibilities may emerge with ‘humanimal’ voice training? Will such a training embrace further ‘humanimal’ audiences?  

References

Anderson, Laurie. (2016). Concert for Dogs (January 4). Times Square, New York City.

Bennett, Jane. (2001). Cross-Species Encounters. In J. Bennett (ed) The Enchantment of Modern Life (pp. 17-32). Princeton: Princeton University Press. 

Burton Nitta. (2012). The Algae Opera (September 22-23). Victoria and Albert Museum, London. 

Edlund, Sophia. (2020). Humanimal voice workshop on vocal attraction (February 15). Exeter Drama Department, Thornlea, Exeter.

Evans, Mark. (2006). Jacques Copeau. New York: Routledge.

Haraway, Donna. (2013). ‘Donna Haraway on the ‘humanimal’’. YouTube (March 8). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUA_hRJU8J4 [Accessed: 26.12.2020].

Grotowski, Jerzy. (1968). Towards a Poor Theatre. New York: Simon and Schuster. 

Wolfsohn, Alfred. (2012). Orpheus or the Way to a Mask (trans. M. Günther). Woodstock, Connecticut: Abraxas Publishing. 

Biography

Sophia Edlund is a visual-vocal artist and a PhD candidate in Performance Practice at the University of Exeter. Her voice-based PhD examines different practices of voicing ‘thelxis’ (a Greek word for attraction/enchantment). Sophia’s studies include a BA in English Literature, an MA in Text and Performance, and an MSc in Performance Psychology. She is passionate about the health and wellbeing of singers and about raising awareness of singing as a means to promote health and wellbeing. Sophia is the current Reviews Editor for the Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies, where she has published on the topic of sirens.

TDPT Issue 11.4 Published

We are delighted to announce issue 11.4 of TDPT.  With this issue we are formally ‘a Quarterly’, both in the planning and the execution. As you will see, this is another very full issue, replete with six long-form articles, threaded through with postcards, a vibrant transcribed discussion, book and event reviews and a beautiful obituary, marking the passing of our dear friend Ali Hodge, and complementing a moving series of blog posts already published.

Look out for another innovation too: Speaking Image which takes forward – in microcosm – a key debate we have been having in the journal since its inception: how are embodied training practices communicated across media – and what does the interplay of image and word offer to this communication?

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Contents

Editorial

Editorial: dedicated to the memory of Alison Hodge (1959–2019)
Jonathan Pitches, Libby Worth, Thomas Wilson & Roanna Mitchell

Continue reading

Weight-Lifting and Voice Training

Ed. Note: The following entry is part of a series of posts marking the 1-year anniversary of the Special Issue ‘What is New in Voice Training?

Voice researcher and teacher D. Ralph Appelman writes: ‘A man cannot lift a heavy object without laryngeal closure, and he can become quite hoarse in the prolonged performance of this act’ (1967, p. 43). Appelman here is referring to an involuntary Valsalva manoeuvre: the reflexive closing of the throat in response to heavy lifting. The glottis closes to trap air in the lungs. The increased air pressure in the lungs and the accompanying increase in intrabdominal pressure exert force on the anterior surface of the spine, increasing spinal stability and allowing force to be transferred through the body more effectively.

The Valsalva manoeuvre during a deadlift
(image by Holden-Boyd, 2020; adapted from Rippetoe, 2011, p.59)

Appelman articulates a belief historically shared by many spoken-voice and singing teachers: that heavy weight-lifting and optimal voicing are incompatible. Voice professionals have often recommended against heavy lifting: either out of a concern that weight-lifting generates physical tension and brings the body out of alignment (Rodenburg, 1992, p.59; Bunch 2010, p. 158-8) and/or out of a concern that it produces harmful effects such as hyperadduction or structural damage at the level of the vocal folds (Chapman, 2012, p. 68; Houseman, 2002, p. 12).

There are both personal and professional reasons that an actor might choose to engage in weight-lifting. And yet there exists limited practical advice on how to do so in a way that supports rather than hinders voice training. Furthermore, while voice teachers couch their recommendations against weight-lifting in scientific explanations, there is limited scientific research to conclusively support the assertion that weight-lifting necessarily has a negative impact on the voice.

I am investigating this issue through my current teaching practice at Bath Spa University and through a practice-as-research PhD with the University of Exeter. I aim to generate different interactions between weight-lifting and voice than those historically envisioned by voice teachers. I ask how an actor could learn to actively shape these interactions. For example, I investigate the adjustments I need to make in order to lift a heavy weight without laryngeal closure.

I also ask whether it is valuable to consider more than simply the mechanical interactions between weight-lifting and voice. Fundamental to many actor voice practices is the notion that how one uses one’s voice is contiguous with one’s sense of self. How, then, does weight-lifting intervene in one’s self-experience? For example, could the sense of agency and empowerment that potentially comes with learning to weight-lift challenge and re-form one’s embodied experience of social identity? In this respect, my research has socio-political resonances and I use weight-lifting as way of probing tensions in contemporary feminisms: particularly neoliberal feminism.

Though my project is practice-based, I analyse and shape my practice using ethnographic and autoethnographic research. I interview voice teachers and also draw on my own expertise and experiences not only as a voice teacher but also as a weight-lifter and weight-lifting coach. This (auto)ethnographic framework allows me to consider the broader cultural and social resonances of my work and the ways it challenges or affirms existing voice training practices and discourses.

In the following video, I demonstrate one element of my practice. I explore the idea that, contrary to Appelman’s assertion, laryngeal closure while lifting a heavy object is negotiable rather than inevitable.

To resist the involuntary Valsalva manoeuvre, I have to consciously inhibit my body’s instinctual response to heavy lifting. I do this by sustaining a position of inhalation even as I exhale through the hardest part of the lift: I actively maintain an open throat and hold my lower ribs open. The impulse to close my throat, to grunt or to cry out is strong, and the amount of physical and mental effort to sustain the inhale position against this impulse is significant.

This technique does not come naturally to me; and indeed, feels counterintuitive given my particular voice training history. I am a spoken-voice teacher trained in what Tara McAllister-Viel refers to as the natural/free voice approach (2019, p. 46): a pedagogical approach that emphasises physical release as a means to vocal ‘freedom’ as opposed to consciously applied effort. On the one hand, I find that effort in the body helps me sustain ‘freedom’ in my throat. On the other hand, by resisting the impulse to allow my throat to close or to grunt or to cry out when I lift, I deny the vocal release so fundamental to the free voice approach. 

To grunt or not to grunt? As a natural/free voice practitioner and in the spirit of ‘freeing’ the voice, I am working on cultivating the choice to do either: to lift with an open throat, silencing the effort in my body; or to express the effort, voicing the intensity of the somatic experience of working at the edge of my physical and mental capacity. Both options involve an embodied understanding of effort, where to put it, and how to voice it. Thus, in contrast to natural/free voice practices that focus primarily on developing the voice through muscular release, I propose exploring the voice through muscular effort. I suggest that this guiding principle could form the basis of a new pedagogical approach to spoken-voice training for actors: one that provides the actor not only with the tools and knowledge to protect the voice while engaging in physical effort, but also with the freedom to give voice to that effort. This pedagogy aims to give students a broader toolkit for ‘thinking-through’ and constructing their physiovocal selves.

References

Appelman, D.R. (1967) The science of vocal pedagogy: theory and application, London, Indiana University Press.

Bunch-Dayme, M. (2010) Dynamics of the singing voice, 2nd ed, London, Springer Wien.

Chapman, J. (2017) Singing and teaching singing: a holistic approach to classical voice, San Diego, Plural Publishing.

Houseman, B. (2002) Finding your voice: A step-by-step guide for actors, London, Nick Hern Books.

McAllister-Viel, T. (2019) Training actors’ voices: towards an intercultural/interdisciplinary approach, Abingdon, UK, Routledge.

Rippetoe, M. (2011) Starting Strength: basic barbell training, 3rd edition, Wichita Falls, TX, USA, The Aasgaard Company.

Rodenburg, P. (1992) The right to speak: working with the voice, 1st edition, London, Routledge.