Wednesday, May 8th 2013 – Voice Workshop #1
Today was my first day back at Making Room. Michael asked me to lead a sound/music activity that developed out of an object. This is an unusal approach for Making Room, because we usually start with a concept. I think that the reason for this approach is to create a piece with few inter-lapping metaphors, and to work more with the tangible as opposed to the conceptual.
I felt a little stuck, because Michael had suggested that I start with breath and the voice. As a performing musician and composition student, I have come to agree with the viewpoint that no art is spontaneously output by the individual. I think that art always references something, and that it is my responsibility as an artist to be aware of my creative lineage. Michael presented the idea of ‘voice’ and ‘breath’ as something essential and basic, but I think that different meanings are inscribed to these, according to cultural context. At times, breath is sacred. Other times it is not. To neutralize or essentialize or universalize – that is dangerous territory for me, because I feel that these actions attempt to remove context, and thus erase meaning. I don’t want to forget what traditions I am working in, and I want to pay honour to those traditions.
(Voices by John and Farah)
At the same time, perhaps a voice can just be a series of physical actions? We all have bodies, worldwide, unless we don’t, as in the case of ghosts and maybe also aliens. This makes me think of the Living Machine as an expanded version of the voice – different parts work together to create great force. I brainstormed ideas for inquiring into the voice without become too caught up in ideas about the voice. I took inspiration from Linklater’s ‘Freeing the Natural Voice’, where the student draws their own voice (without looking at any anatomy books) before doing any physical work with it. The idea behind the drawing is to help students develop a unique visual tool, encouraging them to think about the voice in new ways.
(Voices by Rebecca and Sonja)
We started by checking-in, sitting, warming up our voices, and singing Hal and Tow. We then created pastel drawings of the vocal apparatus. I didn’t provide details as to what this apparatus might be, because I wanted to see how people conceptualize their voices differently. I did provide some hints (what do you use to support the air? Where does the air travel in and out?) In some cases, people drew intricate voices complete with anatomical heart, lungs and diaphragm. Other drawings were closer to a jumble of lines and oblong shapes. We coloured some parts, and then we made marks that identified points of tension and points of opening. My intention behind these checkpoints was to stir dialogue about the different kinds of tension we hold in our voices, without creating a memory-based exercise (ie. When do you first remember losing your voice) When we finished drawing, I asked each person around the table to make a noise associated with tension, followed by a noise associated with openness. Following this activity, we shared words and syllables that we associated with tension or openness in the voice. Finally, we finished the day by chanting a series of long-tones.
(Voices by Brenda and Alice)
The voice pictures are beautiful, and we now have a list of words to be used in writing, and also possibly in sound-poetry. We have all been toying with the idea of the ‘curio’ shop, and I like the possibilities that this activity presents for exposing or dissecting the voice as a fantastical curiosity (in addition to helping us to understand our voices from a different angle). I feel that this is a good starting point for the Living Machine Project, where I would like to work in closer communication with Michael and Sonja. Furthermore, I would like to maintain an interdisciplinary focus, so that music and sound activity is confluent with design and storytelling.
(Voice Words and Voice Sounds)