September 1, 2015

The Asperger Voice

I've not forgotten him. The guy with the tight eyes and loud unmanageable voice who sang for me in a masterclass. No matter the suggestion or instruction, nothing made a difference—his voice remained hollow sounding.

His wife told me he had Aspergers. 

About a year later, I worked with another man who had the same tight, wary eyes and analytical nature, and again heard the same hollow quality.

He also told me he had Aspergers.

What's up with this? I wondered. Two guys with the same look and sound. So I started reading and researching, and called a colleague who routinely works with Asperger clients, who told me that, in this case, the biology of the brain trumps everything. 

Apserger syndrome first entered many people's consciousness through Jon Elder Robinson's excellent memoir, Look Me in the Eye, which was published in 2013. Interestingly, that same year, singers and voice teachers learned that Susan Boyle—the popular Scottish singer, was also diagnosed with the syndrome. 

If you've taught singing for a while, you have undoubtedly worked with someone who falls on the autistic spectrum of disorders—in which those with Asperger's are now classified. And if you have, you have encountered the same vocal quality I have observed. 

My advice? Let it be. Why? The face in the photo says it all. 

If we understand that the facial nerve inserts into the ear, and that facial expression reveals how the ear is processing both the inner and outer world of sound (this was the clinical observation of Tomatis), it can be understood that the Asperger voice student experiences a unique audio-vocal expression. 

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