Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Fitzmaurice Voicework

Post by Noah Drew

I’ve just arrived in Toronto, after a week in Barcelona at the first international conference of Fitzmaurice Voicework.

Founder Catherine Fitzmaurice and Master Teacher Saul Kotzubei, about 15 Associate and Assistant Teachers (including myself), and around 40 workshop participants from all over the world gathered at the Barcelona Institut De Teatre. Sessions were taught in both English and Spanish, with smatterings of Catalan, French, Russian, German and Japanese bubbling up here and there as people worked.

In the evenings, there were performances which ranged from naturalism to stylized imagistic theatre, in voices that were sometimes simple and authentic, sometimes soaring, sometimes wild, animal-like song. Sometimes breath was the only voice... and the breath was itself a whole language.

Fitzmaurice Voicework is very much about allowing your own moment-to-moment experience -- your spontaneous  individuality -- to be present in your voice, so that the listener feels connected to you when you speak.

Looking ahead to the weekend of teaching at the Volcano Conservatory, I find myself thinking a lot about the idea of community. Because it’s actually, in many ways, what the voice is for. We have this tiny organ in our throats that has the astonishing ability to translate what we are thinking, feeling and imagining through the air and into the bodies of people around us.

When we speak or sing, our bodies and the bodies of our listeners vibrate together, move in sync on a cellular level. And this shared vibration -- when it is allowed to be full of ourselves, our needs, our longings, our humour, our passions and our brilliance -- does something simple and remarkable: it helps us be less alone.

Noah Drew teaching Fitzmaurice Technique
But here’s the thing... we live in a culture in which many of us have learned from a very young age that certain sounds are not okay, because the feelings and ideas those sounds carry are inappropriate. For some of us, it might be that sadness seems weak; for others, aggression is taboo; for some of us, anxiety or confusion are shameful; for others, it might be our sexual energy that we’ve learned to suppress in many circumstances. Et cetera. So we have learned to sculpt our vocal sounds to keep these feelings and energies out of the voice. But that’s hard to do, since the basic physiological function of the voice is to reveal what we’re experiencing. So, many of us have learned to lock away or put to sleep the parts of our bodies that feel the forbidden feelings, to not experience certain parts of ourselves at all. Problem “solved."

Oddly (and frustratingly), this can sometimes be especially true in performers. As we learn vocal skill (“good” singing sound, for instance, or “good” articulation), it can be so comforting to have a “correct” way of making sounds that we sometimes end up showing our skills rather than revealing our selves -- vocal training actually helps some of us hide more effectively. The result may well be a voice that is impressive. But without spontaneous honesty being allowed into the mix, that impressive voice rarely moves us.

Noah Drew
In this weekend of Fitzmaurice Voicework, we’re going to fold and unfold the body in some ways that will help us reawaken parts of ourselves that may have become numb or frozen. We’re going to work on letting the breath be free and responsive so that our vocal work is alive and spontaneous (Catherine likes to say, “Breathing is meaning!”). And we’ll work on allowing more and more of our selves, our humanity, into the sounds we make. We’re going to investigate how to let the voice truly be a conduit between performer and listener, a kind of field that excites us together, calms us together, moves us together. We want our audience to listen, and feel like, “Something that matters is happening RIGHT NOW. And I’m a part of it.”

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like many of us- non performers could benefit from this!