November 17, 2018

A history of using the voice for health and tone poems.

A blog by Lyz Cooper

It is thought that the Hominins of the Middle Pleistocence era (781,000 – 126,000 years ago) were capable of vocalisation, making the voice one of the oldest instruments in existence. Over the hundreds of thousands of years that have followed we have evolved many neural pathways, giving rise to a vastly expressive voicescape that has so much healing potential. The voice can convey emotion – we can distinguish between a cry in pain, fear or excitement for example.

When people first started migrating to other lands they would have come into contact with different people food, dance, music and language.  At first contact there would have probably been some checking out and once we’d deduced that we were not going to end up in a casserole we would have started to share culture and find ways to communicate. I have experienced a version of this ‘communication beyond words’ first-hand. 

Around 25 years ago I was in the centre of Australia not far from Uluru when a group of women arrived after walking through the dessert for days. They greeted the local group and went into a makeshift ‘room’ in the desert created by corrugated metal sheets – one of the sheets being left free to open and close. The local women sat down on the floor quietly, looking intently at the visitors in the centre of the space.  The makeshift door then closed – and opened again a few seconds later when a woman beckoned quietly for a few of us ‘white fellas’ to enter. We quickly sat down and the visiting group began a series of dances which told stories of the gathering of food and finding water.

The whole experience was very moving – I was so grateful to be invited to witness this ancient practice and years later, this experience inspired me to create the ‘Tone Poem’ process that we teach during the Group Voice Arts Therapy course.

Tone Poems are songs without words that are a way of enabling communication, sharing and cohesion between groups.  They are a wonderfully creative, therapeutic and fun process.  All you need to do is to is get a group of friends together and divide the group in 2.  Take some time to each make up a simple melody using non-sensical language – keep it simple so you can easily teach it to the other group. When ready take it in turns to share each other’s songs – it’s great fun!

Here’s one we made during one of our courses.

Application Of Tone Poems

Tone Poems can be used to enable people to have an experience in song without needing to learn anything other than a simple melody and a few words. Within a few minutes you are sharing something you have created and as you could hear, it nearly always brings gratitude and laughter (signing is great for good mental health).  When a group comes together through the same song there is a common ground – reminding us that we all have the same roots. 

Enjoy using your voice for mental, emotional and physical health and the ‘genial flow of spirits!’

If you want to know more about using the voice therapeutically and to transform the lives of others we need more voice therapists than ever before.  Please check out the following courses

Professional Diploma in Group Voice Therapy

Professional Diploma in Group Voice Arts Therapy

Practitioner Level Diploma in Holistic Voice Therapy


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