April 2, 2015

The Art of Listening


Need and curiosity. That's what made me go to Toronto, Canada, and sit in a room and listen to the filtered music of Mozart for two hours a day for a month. My need? Genetic hearing loss, which I share with my four siblings. I was curious as to whether Tomatis' method would keep that minor loss from becoming major—which it seems to have done despite subsequent experience with tinnitus. 

The training lengthened my spine and unlocked my tongue, which—surprise, surprise—still held the tensions of a an eleven-year old kid who stammered. Mind you, I had been singing professionally for a decade at New York City Opera, had a good deal of training, and knew my way around the block—or so I thought: which only goes to show that what we know in our heads isn't always reflected in our throats. 

Could I have simply gone to a voice therapist and worked it out? The mechanists among us might think so; but mere mechanics, which might explain the greater range, timbre and ease in singing I experienced immediately after my training, cannot account for how those changes occurred without having sung one note. Nor can mechanics, which many refer to as function, account for the connecting of dots in my brain which found expression in research and writing, and lead me to serve as founding editor of VOICEPrints and blogger at VoiceTalk. No, something else made these things happen, which fall outside the current focus of voice science. Tomatis understood it, however, from clinical observations made while delivering his method of sound stimulation. 

If my listening training experience enabled me to better understand what I had been taught, it also gave me a means to understand the teachings of the Old School, having been introduced to listening as an active process with specific physical characteristics—which Tomatis addresses in Chapter 12 of The Ear and the Voice. But like all forms of training, and believe me—it is a training, these characteristics can only be fully understood after long practice.

Open Throat, Singing on the Breath, Voice Placement. These auditory events make perfect sense to the singer or voice teacher who has learned how to listen. 

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