I have just received an email asking me how and why I developed the voice and movement techniques called ‘Vocal Processing Techniques’ used in the Holistic Voice Therapy and Transformational Voice Therapy Diploma Courses.
Having worked with these techniques for many years they have become second nature to me and I rarely take time to step back and ask myself the ‘how and why’. As I am about to start teaching these wonderful courses again this year I thought the question was perfect timing for a blog post!
How and why do ‘Vocal Processing Techniques’ work?
In 1857 Spencer wrote “the general law is that feeling is a stimulus to muscular action” (p. 400). He was basically saying that emotions influence physiological processes, which affect the acoustic characteristics of singing. This makes complete sense – if we are scared there is tension in the throat, neck and shoulders and this has an effect on the vocal mechanism, often resulting in the voice sounding higher in pitch.
Psychologically the human voice has the ability to move us profoundly. When we sing our bodies become a musical instrument. When we move and sing we literally add a new dimension to our voice, enabling it to become four dimensional (the three dimensions of the physical form moving in space plus the length of our vocalisation in time). In my experience this changes the relationship with our voice. When we are vocalising when sitting still with eyes closed our relationship is an internal one, when we are moving and singing the relationship changes to a connection between the voice, body, mind, emotions, landscape and environment. There is no better or worse technique, they are just different.
The voice moves the body and the body moves the voice – together they work together to express the inner landscape and bring it into reality in the outer landscape – to ‘actualise’ it. We can work with destructive thoughts, painful emotions or pain in the body by moving and vocalising and if we are aware of the movements and what they are telling us, this in turn can move and change the voice. The result is a living, breathing and moving voicescape of human expression, totally original and never to be repeated in exactly the same way.
The effect of using ‘Vocal Processing Techniques’
Much of my ‘style’ of sound therapy is based on using sound to induce an Altered State of Consciousness, or deep relaxed state. In this state there are many benefits to health and wellbeing which you can read about in our research. This technique is perfectly fine for deep relaxation, pain management, tension and a host of other conditions but sometimes you need to explore a situation, problem or pain – to move through it. I discovered the benefits of sound first hand when I became sick and had to leave my job. My voice was the first instrument I experimented with, it was the voice that led to a ‘eureka’ moment (when a severe headache vanished after a few minutes of vocal toning) and resulted in me exploring and developing sound therapy techniques.
When I was in emotional or mental pain I found that my body wanted to rock and the voice groan or wail – it was a movement very similar to the rocking and keening that is often seen at funerals in Asia and the Middle East. The result of this experience was a Vocal Processing Technique (VPT) called ‘Vocal Evolution’ where one starts off on the ground in a foetal position vocalising in a deep, dark and groaning way and ends up standing with arms reaching upwards and the voice expressing joy, freedom and celebration. It can take several sessions to reach the end point as one moves through and explores the issue but the end point is totally freeing!
Some of the VPTS were adapted from vocal warm up exercises, or have echoes of Rudolf Steiner’s Eurythmy movements within them. Some emerged from the aim or intention behind them – such as stepping into ones power or having something important to say for example. There are 22 different VPTs that Holistic Voice Therapy practitioners use – 13 of those are used in Transformational Group Voice Therapy.
We teach our voice practitioners these techniques in more detail during our yearly training courses. For more information on these courses see the links below. Please do ask us any questions you may have and we’d love to see you on our next voice therapy training course.
Written by Lyz Cooper.
Spencer, H. (1857). The origin and function of music. Fraser’s Magazine, 56, 396–408.