Voice and the Alexander Technique Paperback
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Heirich, well-known Alexander teacher, taught a voice technique class in Michigan for over 30 years, and learned that not everyone responds to the same approach. She uses whatever it takes to get her message through. I particularly like "Singing to a candle" to clarify the difference between blowing a stream of air and creating a sound wave.
The first half discusses habit, Alexander and his technique, and includes a voice primer describing skills that promote effortless effort, vitality, resonance and intelligibility throughout the vocal range. It also gives examples of postural and vocal problems including the effects of knee-locking, TMJ tension and rib cage corseting.
The interlude connects AT and voice work and includes a beautiful illustration of the "nodding place". It also invites the reader to use the later chapters (which address postural and vocal problems) to have an experience rather than just read about it, and cautions that this takes awareness of existing habits. Naturally, guidance from an Alexander teacher would be helpful here, but the following games and explorations are described with such clarity that a conscientious and motivated reader could discover a lot without a teacher - preferably with a sympathetic friend. Heirich mentions the essential feedback of an observing listener.
By getting out of our own way we can free the voice and learn the resultant sensations so we can choose and enjoy them. Heirich says the voice is one of the most habitual of our daily tools, and inarguably one of our most valuable. With thought and practice, we can change and mold it into something healthy, flexible, beautiful, and alive.
This book is also a terrific introduction to bel canto singing with a foundation in voice science.
Clear textual explanations are enriched in multiple ways, making this book user-friendly for people with a variety of learning styles. There are dozens of anatomical sketches, photos of human figures in motion and diagrams. Sidebar stories of students learning the AT and achieving vocal victory abound. A few poems dot the manuscript. There are numerous "to do's" (vocal explorations) to conduct alone or with a partner. Musical exercises are written in notation with ample explanation. There is a companion CD, most helpful with its piano accompaniment. Could one have asked for more? There is even a diagram of a keyboard with note names.
One can learn neither singing nor the AT entirely from a book, but this one gives the reader ample information and suggestions that will support self study for weeks and even months.
Jane Ruby Heirich, our author, received her training from the hands of two of the most experienced teachers in the U.S.A., Joan and Alex Muray, both former students of mine. I was so fortunate as to receive mine from Mr.F.Matthias Alexander himself. I think that he would not only have approved, but taken pleasure in, this handsome volume. It is the product of Mornum Time Press, the proprietor of which, Jerry Sontag, is also an experienced and skilful teacher of the Technique.
The book's nine chapters are preceded by an introduction, which is one of several times in which she cautions that the "guidance of an Alexander teacher's hands" would be the ideal way for one without previous Alexander training to use this book, while she acknowledges that not all communities have a certified teacher. The first four chapters cover the basics of habit, a short history of F.M. Alexander and what his Technique is and what it is not, a vocal technique primer, and some common postural and vocal problems. The next four chapters apply principles of Alexander Technique via "Games and Explorations". The final chapter is a two page summary of the book. Four appendices follow: an explanation of IPA International Phonetic Alphabet), an additional Alexander exercise called hands on the back of a chair, contact information for teachers and books, and a generous glossary of musical and Alexandrian terms.
"To Do" sections in each chapter explore ways to address vocal and use problems. Use (as defined in the aforementioned glossary) is "the term Alexander used to mean how a person organizes him/herself in daily activities. He often spoke and wrote about the use of the Self in activity, meaning how one responds to a stimulus or does everything he does." The vocal (sung) "To Do" exercises, included on the CD which accompanies the book, are discussed and then played on a piano in several keys.
Voice teachers may quibble with some of the information found in the vocal primer section (Chapter 3), but most will appreciate her multi-sided approach to the art of vocal pedagogy, combining complex mechanistic and anatomical description, while also offering solutions to problems via imagery and movement. In a later chapter she states, " I will not pretend to define what is meant by all voice teachers when they uses these three terms - support, breath support or project." And to avoid Alexandrian semantic squabbles, she often gives several names for one "Alexandrian" term, for example: Alexander Lie-Down, Semi-Supine and Constructive Rest Position. I enjoyed her definition of "up". "Up" at its simplest means the direction in which the head is releasing away from the other end of the spine, the tailbone." And her discussion of the whispered ah as taught by Alexander (Pages 85-91) resulted in several rewarding practice sessions for me and therefore my students.
The book is tall and heavy which presents an Alexandrian challenge (I propped it up on two pillows), but it is this bulkiness which allows the excellent, clear illustrations by Jaye Schlesinger and other sidebars to appear on the pertinent page. These gray shaded sidebars, sprinkled throughout the book, detail stories about students of the author which are relevant to the chapter.
According to Ms. Heirich, the first factor in the process of changing a habit is that the individual must desire to change and the second is that "we must begin where we are". Reading this book is a wonderful place for either the novice or the professional to do just that. Katherine Keyes, certified teacher of the Alexander Technique, voice teacher, singer. VoicePrints-Sept.2005