François Combeaun 30 vuoden kokemus feldenkrais®opettajana on tehnyt hänestä kysytyimpiä feldenkrais®opettajia ja -valmentajia maailmassa. Combeaun viikottaiset, kaikille avoimet Awareness Through Movement® (ATM- eli ryhmätunti) tunnit Ranskassa ovat hyvin suosittuja, kuten myös monet hänen pitämänsä seminaarit ja teemasarjat Pariisissa, muualla Euroopassa ja Yhdysvalloissa. Näihin osallistuvat erityisesti taiteen, urheilun, liikunnan ja terveydenhuollon ammattilaiset.
Combeau antaa myös yksityistunteja. Yksityistuntien aikana työstetään oppilaiden henkilökohtaisia teemoja heidän elämänlaatuansa parantamaan.
Ennen kuin Combeau aloitti feldenkrais-koulutuksensa 1984 (M Pfeffer, G Yaron, Ch Chelav, R Alon, A Baniel, J Kazren), hän harrasti tanssia, pantomiimia sekä erilaisia rentoutusmenetelmiä. Combeau on suorittanut perusopinnot kiinalaisesta lääketieteestä, Tao-joogasta, Zen-meditaatiosta ja kamppailulajeista.
”Liike ja ääni” –teema on kiinnostanut Combeauta yli 30 vuotta. Hänellä on klassisen laulun sekä myös ääni- ja puheterapian koulutus, erikoisalana neuropsykologia. Hän on toiminut kuntouttajana yhdessä Pariisin kuuluisimmista aivovammoihin erikoistuneessa sairaalassa, missä hän edelleen toimii konsulttina. Combeau avasi 16 vuotta sitten oman vastaanottonsa Pariisissa, ”Somatic Education”.
Lisää Francois Combeausta www.feldenkrais-au-present.com
Is a Feldenkrais teacher and Trainer.
As teacher/practitioner of the Feldenkrais Method® for 30 years, Francois Combeau has a wide range of teaching experience of ATM® lessons, including weekly classes, theme series, and numerous seminars in Paris, throughout Europe and in Detroit (Michigan), for professionals in the fields of the arts, athletics and health.
He also works with individuals helping them to develop a fuller quality of life – physically, mentally and emotionally.
As an experienced Assistant-trainer and than Trainer, he has been involved in many training in Europe, in Paris with Myriam Pfeffer, in Liege, Belgium with Yvan Joly, in Bad Windshiem, Germany with Mark Reese, and in the U.S. with Anat Baniel. These trainers have in many ways been his mentors. Francois has taught advanced training in France, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and the U.S. He has also the desire to share the experience he developed teaching for 10 years in small continuity educational training’s, creating a very interactive, precise and supportive way of working with students.THE JOINTS IN THE LEG
The human being’s skeleton, as well as the brain, are conceived and organized for movement, whether this involves the handling of a dynamic equilibrium, displacements and spatial orientation, the use of the arms andhands to take, receive, and act, the mobility of the neck to allow the sense organs to move, or the fluidity of opening the mouth. If the bones determine the solidity of the skeleton, the joints, through their configuration and degree of mobility, define the “potential for movement” in three dimensions. They also permit a better distribution of effort and the gearing down of force (like pulleys in a mechanical system).
Habits and traumatisms, along with the tendency to isolate the different parts of the skeleton in their functioning, have reduced the mobility of these joints and thus limited our movements, often increasing the effort needed to act while reducing comfort, fluidity, and efficiency.
Free and fluid Hips:
The hip is the point of intersection between the tip of the femur and the pelvis, and its mobility permits light, fluid leg movements as well as a genuinely differentiated movement of the pelvis. It plays an essential role in the placement of the pelvis on the legs and the resulting equilibrium of the vertebrae. When the hip loses its mobility, the knee and the lower back have to compensate, which soon provokes the fatigue and wearing out of these joints.
Supple and functional Knees :
The knee is a connecting joint. Its hinging and slacking can not be developed by will. It is the result of an dynamic and functional balance inbetween all the leg joints.
Therefore it is necessary to organize in a homogenous way the bending of joints in the legs when walking, climbing stairs, squatting, sitting, etc.
Articulated and solid Feet :
The feet place the human being in a permanent relationship with the ground. Its different joints from the ankle to the toes allow it to adapt instantaneously to the ground on which we are standing or walking. Their freedom contributes to the efficient maintenance of our dynamic postural equilibrium, and by extension, the development of our breathing and opening up to the world. We shall also see the remarkable relations that exist between the active equilibrium of the arches, the flexible mobility of the diaphragm, and the soft palate.
With constantly renewed curiosity and creative attention to his own way of proceeding, each student will feel movement become easier, greater freedom in day-to-day activities and a true and open relationship with the outside world.
The head, a periscope to sense the outside world (keeping head and neck free and mobile)
When true verticality returns, the head, which bears the sensory organs, recovers total freedom of movement, broader visual and auditory fields and the perception of contrast. And Human being considerably expanded his field of observation and action.
This new orientation relative to gravity led to the development of the front of the brain and gave access to the higher functions of the central nervous system.
We will explore that very important part of our spine, C7/T1, as it relates to the upper cervical spine, atlas, axis and the head. It swivels on the seventh cervical vertebra, which provides the unstable stability² for it to remain upright without having to be held up by the neck muscles. That vertebra (C7) is also the link between the shoulder area and the spine, therefore it´s mobility is very important for a free, efficient and functional use of the arms and hands.
When the larynx dropped under the effect of gravity, its suspenders developed while the voice widened its range, became more mobile, and the pharyngeal crossroads opened. The tongue moved back, making room for increasingly differentiated language in terms of phonetics as well as colours (movements of the soft palate, pharynx ...) and intonations etc.
In other words all these functions depend on the balance of the head and the freedom of each cervical vertebra. With constantly renewed curiosity and creative attention to his own way of proceeding, each student will feel movement become easier, greater freedom in day-to-day activities and a true and open relationship with the outside world.
"The speaking and singing voice is basically a gesture, in other words a movement of the body to express a thought or feeling." (Tarneaud)
The vocal gesture is an all-embracing action involving the entire self, both physical and mental. The voice radiates from our innermost self. From the first cry at birth, the symbol of life, to the last breath taken on our deathbed, the voice (closely tied to the breath) is the lifeline bearing our emotions, hopes and fears. As the first vocal expression of the new born baby, the cry is according to Guy Cornut "a fundamental means of liberation tension". It is indeed the expression of a tension, discomfort connected with hunger, pain... It is an instinctive action bringing into play all muscular groups. Just watch the face, hands and feet of a crying baby. The unity of action linking its breathing, tonicity and sound is very striking.
The vocal gesture is a global muscular action
In an adult, a cry is an irrational sound expressing anguish, a call, a prayer, torture or pain; it is the voice in its pure state, over which our conscious mind has no control. But the baby, as it becomes aware of its surroundings and its dependance on them, starts to use its voice as a language of exchange. However inarticulate, the sounds it makes become the expression of feelings that any attentive mother knows how to interpret. Gradually the vocal sounds become differentiated into gurgles of satisfaction, cries of displeasure, howls of anger, moans...
The voice is an emotional bridge between the self and others
From the age of two to three months, a second component of the human voice starts to develop its extraordinary wealth and variety of possibilities. This is when the baby babbles. As it discovers its own body, its movements and its surroundings it emits sounds and noises and plays with them. Babbling is an extraodinarily rich and varied set of vocalisations that are pleasing to babies and that they love to repeat without giving them any special meaning... Noises made by the tongue, the lips, sound frequencies from the larynx appear at random as the baby plays, and constitute practice towards articulation and phonation.
The human voice is blessed with an endless wealth of colours, tones and sounds
The child then begins to attune its vocalizing system to what it is able to hear. It begins to imitate and to give a more precise meaning to the sounds it makes... The idea of vocal play gradually fades away. The sounds produced become poorer, and very soon the spontaneity and globality of the baby's prattle are forgotten. Timbre, tone and sound intensity are evened out, and the conscious mind increasingly takes control. The voice, breath and muscular activity are no longer intimately linked ; slowly but surely vocalization and gesture move further apart.
The first signs of language appear. The child's language becomes standardized, acquires structure and becomes codified. It integrates a cultural system and the voice will accordingly develop in a specific limited direction.
The aesthetic criteria, habits, living conditions and pace of life, languages and oral tradtions in every culture and civilisation channel the use of Man's vocal potential. Our voice is often the outcome of a lengthy process of subconscious learning.
However, the voice continues to be a communication channel directly connected to one's affect and emotions. To speak is to give oneself away, to betray oneself. When fear or surprise sets in, the sound itself is stifled: "I wanted to speak but I lost my voice ; it took my breath away; the feeling left me speechless..." The voice reveals us by amplifying our physical and mental, psychological and cosmic beings, it sticks to our skin while mirroring us. That is its duality.
Through the voice, the inner being is expressed
The testimony of a blind girl, Paula Arbel ("Sorcière" journal on the voice) is extremely revealing in this respect. She wrote: "for the past two years I have been living in the dark night of blindness... The experience has made me realize that in the same way as faces, each voice is an intriguing phenomenon, a mystery, an adventure... For me it no longer represents an accessory but the person as a whole... The voice expresses sensuousness and is addressed to my own sensuousness. The essential, which cannot be seen with the eyes, without doubt is conveyed by the voice... The being springs out through its voice, thereby offering a spectacle that can be watched eyes closed."
We are all capable of making sound movements of incredible complexity, and the discovery of one's own voice is the start of an exciting dialogue both with oneself and with the universe. The mystery of the voice forms part of the mystery of life.
"Beyond music and language, the voice is a permanent emanation of life, a proof of our existence." (Betsy Jolas, Voix et musique)
There is no such thing as a good or bad voice. There are only voices waiting to be discovered. In our work, we try to restore the natural vocal gesture, its incorporation in the body, its capacity to convey our feelings, our sensuousness, and to meet our intentions.
Instead of talking about placing the voice, I had rather talk about awaking the voice.
The voice is sound energy, communication energy...
It connects the person to his or her surroundings and inner being through resonance.
This energy once drawn and captured during the intake of breath is then turned into sound energy in the larynx and loaded with an affective message articulated and developed at the level of the resonators and organs of articulation. It is restored during phonic expiration and carried to the ear of the listener. That is its dynamics.
The larynx merely acts as a transformer and not, as too many singers believe, a generator of sound. Its physiological structure does not allow it to create sound energy (consider the power displayed by certain singers, how could the two tiny vocal chords generate such a phenomenon?). Using the vocal apparatus in this way would very soon inevitably lead to exhaustion, vocal fatigue... singing from the throat... pushing sound...
For the energy stored during the intake of breath to become sound, it must be able to circulate freely through the body, without being held up at any point through tension. This is an essential stage in our work.
Rediscovering the natural gesture, the dynamics of voice projection
requirements for it to travel all the way. In his study on the various vocal techniques and their relationship with voice compass, Helmut Lips gives us very useful information in this connection.
Just as the tree rises towards the light from its strongly anchored roots, ensuring stability and strength, the singer finds the body balance and power of projection by anchoring himself to the ground. The spine, fully extended (fight against distortions) participates in :
- the full intake of breath (free movement of the diaphragm, opening of the chest, mobility of the ribs...) ;
- the toning up of expiration, hence breath control (through free and efficient use of the abdominal muscles) ;
- the relaxation of the neck, shoulder and face muscles, on which the flexibiity and mobility of the vocal apparatus, articulation and the opening of the resonators depend.
The voice must radiate from the person's entire body and mind.
It is a gesture, an action, and in these dynamics the entire body is active from head to toes. This is how we will rediscover the spontaneous action of the baby's crying or singing.
TO LIVE EN FREEDOM, BREATHE IN FREEDOM !
«Go beyond what is breathing, there you will find breath» (Shri Aurobindo)
"Breathing with a capital B" is a universal, dynamic process in which man is included. It manifests itself in us through respiration, apparent as inhalation and exhalation. This is indeed a two-way flow between the inner and outer worlds, a gateway to All. This dynamic process does not belong to us. It is a cycle triggered without any intervention of the mind and sustained beyond our control. Yet we can intervene through voluntary muscles which shrink or expand spaces and impose shapes.
This duality can be difficult to accept at times. What I mean to say is that all our work on breathing, the changes we are seeking and the control we are striring to acquire should never relegate breathing to a possession - under the ownership of the Ego - or a creation of the mind. When breathing loses its natural rhythm and spontaneous dynamism, it loses its linking function and rapidly becomes an ill-adapted response to our needs "here and now".
«A man's life is nothing but a concentration of breath.” (Lao Tseu)
Deep breathing is not confined to the chest or diaphragm movements. It involves the entire body. Unicity and balance are the features of healthy breathing. For all parts of the body to live and breathe fully, the chest must be stripped of its armour, the face must allow the passages (nostrils, pharynx, glottis...) to loosen, and the spine must recover its wholeness and flexibility, so as to track the wave of breath as it wells up from the abdomen, travels right through the body and unfurls across the face.
Most of the time the respiratory function proceeds unconsciously under the control of the nervous system in the rachis. Unbeknown to us, it adjusts to all physical, emotional and environmental situations (activity, posture...).
It does so by alterning in:
- Rhythm (e.g. slowing during sleep and the vegetative states, speeding up during physical activity, becoming steady or uneven, or even temporarily suspended as in swallowing) ;
- Location (thoracic, latero-costal, clavicular, costal-abdominal, dorsal or pelvic breathing, depending on the relationship and orientation of the movements involved) ;
- Range, to match the expiratory requirements at any one time as well as the function to be accompanied.
And so on...
Breathing espouses a pattern connected with our condition, past history and memory : this is what is termed tangible breath. Behind thus, however, there is intangible breath.
By embodying universal breath in us, breathing indeed provides a two-way flow between the inner and outer worlds. Consequently, if nothing is there to impede this dynamic process, it can remain free and adapt to the reality of both worlds while meeting our needs, intentions, activities, emotional states and relationships. It faithfully shadows our physical life as well as the subtle changes in our emotional life.
A person's breathing patterns cannot therefore evolve by means of any conditioned learning or by imposing a system but by:
- Recovering freedom of the physical support and actualization site of our bodies and body movements;
- Returning the nervous system's capacity to receive information’s from both inner and outer worlds
- Producing an appropriate response by controlling the opening-up processes and developments leading to its expression.
To achieve this, breathing must be cleared of the fixed ways acquired unconsciously in the cause of our lives, and of its emotional ruts or habits learned through some technique or other (... the "proper way" to breathe ! For whom ? But why ?..).
Who knows only one way to breathe, soon becomes a truly disabled breather.
It is simply a matter of feeding the nervous system with all kinds of experiences to enable it to select here and now, without involving the ego or the mind.
Any conditioning of respiratory pattern, site or rhythm freezes breathing and hence activity, affect and thoughts.
If you want to generate movement from breath, do not begin by setting the breathing pattern.
There are no bad ways of breathing but only inappropriate respiratory responses to the accompanied function or to the state we unexpectedly (with raising of the shoulders) might be harmful to the speaker or singer's voice (because of the effect on laryngeal tension), it is a fully appropriate response for the survival of an asthmatic or someone drowning. As for abdominal breathing, which is quiet and deep, it is hardly liable to convey even gentle feeling let alone passion.
As a teacher, I see my role as a guide in re-exploration rather than the possessor of knowledge who would set a model to be imitated or decide what is suitable for others. Who am I to know what is right for another person or what he might really need ? I only feel capable of observing - without always understanding - what is holding back that person, what in that physical support for breath to manifest itself, might freeze and set constraints, or what is ruled by habit, conditioning and set ideas...
My role then consists in suggesting to each concerned a variety of suitable contexts and environments (situations, postures, activities) for him or her to be able to explore further possibilities, as well as differentiated responses to be memorized.
This also serves to enhance the self-image, filling it out with more clearly perceived spaces and shapes, and the mobility of the parts of the body producing the dynamic process (ribs, sternum, spine, shoulder blades, abdominal wall, nostrils...) is re-discovered. Finally, awareness and differentiation games can be suggested so that the person can feel more clearly his or her basic need and unconsciously adjust respiratory response, renewed at every moment and recreated to suit every requirement.
SENSORIMOTOR DEVELOPMENT AND LANGUAGE,
OR THE ADVENTURE OF THE HUMAN RACE
And man stood upright...
This is perhaps one of the most extraordinary episodes in the history of the human race, with man risking unsteadiness on two feet in order to further extend his field of observation and action, and his area of influence. Thus having discovered how to stand upright and having completely revised the relationship of his head to the rest of his body, the way was now open for man to produce articulate language, to develop his singing voice and to increase its range. No longer would man's language be restricted to making sounds or grunts to show his mood, or even his presence.
It would now become a highly complex tool used to establish connections between objects and events, to determine his relationships with other humans, to determine other humans' relationship to them, to make relationships with others more sophisticated, to become organised, to communicate with each other, to become individuals.
One of the brain's functions is to produce language. Language is therefore closely linked to the workings of the brain, but in order to produce language and meaningful speech the brain needs an instrument, or rather a particular organ, namely the vocal apparatus, or glottis. It is here that the brain's messages concerning sound and intonation are articulated. In order to develop language the brain must therefore have at its disposal an organ capable of responding to commands concerning phonation and articulation.
Can any parallel be seen between man's ability to stand upright and the development of the anatomical features necessary for the production of articulate speech ?
Attempts to teach chimpanzees to talk have proved futile. Admittedly after many experiments the chimps managed to understand that "cup" meant a bowl containing drink, and they could express this with gestures. Nevertheless it was still impossible for them to pronounce even such a simple word. They thus revealed themselves to be incapable of producing anything more than grunting noises. Therefore it is not an issue of the brain's abilities, since by their gestures the chimps showed that they could understand. Rather it is a question of the unsuitability of the vocal apparatus, the instrument, and its inability to produce distinguishable sounds.
In monkeys the vocal apparatus is not designed to produce a range of articulate sounds. This is not because the glottis is absent, but because it is positioned too high up in the throat. There is not enough space above the larynx to allow freedom of movement and articulation, restricting language to a series of inarticulate grunts or shrieks. The cervical vertebrae are either posteriorly convex, or very flat. The larynx and the hyoid bone (which enables us to locate the larynx) are situated very high up in the throat. The head is anterior to the central axis of the body. As a result of this very highly placed larynx, the monkey and Neanderthal man were able to simultaneously breathe through their noses and swallow, a feat impossible for modern man.
The position of the hyoid bone in relation to the spinal column and to the lower jawbone at the base of the brain determines freedom of movement for both the larynx and the tongue, and therefore determines the ability both to speak and to develop the higher functions of the brain. Numberous studies seem to show that although Neanderthal man's brain was larger than ours, modern man's brain is capable of far more. Even if Neanderthal man apparently had a wealth of facial expressions, gestures and technical abilities, he was incapable of producing articulate language. Hence it was only with great difficulty that he could make new logical deductions, devise new schemes, and communicate his thoughts and ideas.
Therefore it is indeed the lowering of the vocal apparatus in the throat and the opening up of a large supralaryngeal space, as well as the evolution of the brain, which have made possible the articulation of sounds and the development of human language as we know it today. This new head position and the formation of the anteriorly convex cervical curve came about when man stood erect, in other words it was owing to an optimum organisation of the skeleton in the gravitational field, an organisation which offered the least resistance to gravity and freed lower and upper limbs, making the arms independent and agile, opening up man's field of vision and heightening his sensory perception of the space in which he lived and moved.
Thus, in the relatively flat savannahs he inhabited, his new speed and ease of movement, together with his wide field of vision and the fact that he now looked straight ahead (another consequence of the head's new position and the fact that he walked upright) gave him a distinct advantage over the animals around him (who moved slowly and were only aware of what was in their immediate vicinity) enabling him to follow a bird of prey's flight path so that he could reach the spot where the prey dropped before any other animal. He could then dismember it and carry off chunks of meat (the birds of prey being unable to feast on prey until its skin softened).
However the ability to stand upright also made man genuinely unsteady on his feet, forcing him to make permanent reajustments to his balance. He had to develop sensorial and kinaesthetic sensors able to send messages to the brain at all times, including during activity, concerning the way movements are performed and the environment in which they occur. Man's alertness and awareness level also increased as the central nervous system became highly flexible in order to adapt quickly to new situations, and to create motor responses which gave equal consideration to the reason for performing the action, the environment in which it occurred and the underlying emotions involved.
Modern man's brain has therefore moved towards a sensorimotor means of functioning, with differentiation and neuroplasticity being the principal determining factors in the adaptation process.
Let us return for a moment to the head's new position and how it is connected to the development of articulate speech.
In the big apes, as in the human infant, the cervical curve is posteriorly convex. A very flat inferior surface and a hyoid bone placed very high up in the throat eliminate virtually all supralaryngeal space and put the larynx in direct contact with the back of the nasal passages, separating the respiratory airways and the alimentary canal. This arrangement of the organs, which ensures that food cannot go down the wrong way, enables the animal or young child to eat and breathe at the same time. When the human race took this last step towards standing upright the head was pushed backwards and raised and the cervical curve was altered. This led to the larynx dropping to below the level of the chin, thus opening up the supralaryngeal area (forming the pharynx, a crossroads between the oral, nasal, and laryngeal passages) and creating suspensors for this vocal instrument which continued, in a more supple and elastic way than previously, to be linked to the lower jawbone, to the base of the brain, to the cervical column, to the collarbone and to the sternum. These suspensors made it very flexible, enabling it to be rased and lowered, and allowing the vocal cords to be stretched quite significantly (thus giving the voice range and intonation). This suppleness also enabled man to modify the supralaryngeal space and the pharynx, allowing him in particular to produce sounds with ever more distinctive timbres and colours capable of expressing a whole range of emotions.
Similarly it can be seen that just like the larynx, the tongue, which inserts on to the hyoid bone and the epiglottis, moved further back into the mouth. The fact that the tongue's base was now in the throat also helped in opening up the pharyngeal space, which eventually became an area of free movement. This is what made it possible for the first back phonemes, produced using the base and the back of the tongue, and predominantly found in the so-called "primitive" languages, to be produced.
Each new experience enriched the central nervous system with further possibilities for coordinating movement. The range of articulate sounds increased, particularly since once man was capable of moving a particular muscle he was also capable of holding it still. Thus the suppler the back of the tongue became, the more it could be used as a support for movement elsewhere, firstly in the middle of the tongue, with the appearance of mid phonemes, and then similarly at the tip of the tongue with front phonemes, which are so commonplace in modern day language. This tongue previously only been capable of backward and forward movements (which normally occurred when the head moved), was now able to move diagonally upwards and horizontally with increasing precision, thus laying the foundation for language, namely an increasingly controlled use of the tongue enabling it to produce distinguishable sounds.
So it can be said that the development of the tongue was a result of the head's upright position and the alteration in the shape of the cervical curve.
What is happening in infants ?
We have seen that in the human infant the shape of the cervical curve and the position of the head are very similar to that found in the big apes, hence the high positioning of the larynx in the throat, and the ability to simultaneously eat and breathe. The cervical curve becomes anteriorly convex during the child's first year of life. The larynx then moves to the position it will occupy for the rest of the baby's life, and the tongue moves slightly further back in the mouth uncovering the gums at the mouth's opening and developing freedom of movement at its base, thus facilitating free swallowing. It can be seen that in the infant too these developements only occur once he is upright, so there is clearly a parallel, a cause and effect relationship, between the ability to stand erect and the production of articulate language.
The human baby is born into the world with a brain which is already advanced and rich with the experience of the species, and yet he is totally dependent on others and physically very restricted. Therefore in order to be able to stand upright he has to develop his central nervous system through experience and sensorimotor learning. He follows a long process of motor development which, upon close examination, bears a remarkable resemblance to that followed by the human race, from its aquatic origins to modern day man. Starting with the use of flexors he produces his first cries, moves the head and the pelvis closer together and puts the vocal cords in place. Then he uses the extensors to support eye movement and to open the mouth by lowering the lower jaw, thus freeing the soft palate. Next the child learns to turn round and to grasp objects, to make uncoordinated feet movements (with his ankles and toes) and to move his lips backwards and forwards (in relation to gravity). After this he combines all the different ways of crawling and starts to move his tongue mostly in response to movements in the cervical vertebrae, the limbs, and the pelvis. Thus his crawling becomes ever faster, freeing the head and widening this field of observation and movement, releasing the jaw and making the cervical and lumbar curves more pronounced as they are subjected to gravitational forces, bringing movement to the hip area and preparing for the time when the child will stand upright. This process continues until the often eagerly awaited moment when the child stands on two feet, awkwardly at first, stumbling clumsily with undifferentiated movements, then gradually improving until he achieves the simultaneously heavy and light balance of a man standing upright, or the "stable instability" of a head ready to use all its sensorial abilities.
In order to fully develop his nervous system the infant must go through all these stages. And the way in which he experiences them will condition his development. These first sensorimotor experiences and the transition period while the central nervous system goes through the stages of maturity, which are related to the ancient evolutionary pattern, will determine how the child realises his potential. On the basis of these experiences the child, and later the adult, will organise his behaviour, his way of acting and reacting, and more particularly the way he moves from intention to action.
These first experiences will form the bases of a person's self-image. As Moshe Feldenkrais said "Each person acts and regulates his physical and psychological conduct according to his self-image" (conscious and unconscious image in his motor cortex). It is the image of his body, its contours, the relationship between different body parts, temporal and spatial relationships, spaces which will become areas of respiration, sound and movement. A person's self-image is also a representation of their feelings and thoughts, of their relationship to the space around them, to others, to the environment and to gravity.
When a child or adult is referred to you with some sort of disorder or limitation, the first thing to establish is the way he makes the transition from the intention to act and the actual performance of the action, in other words how the intention or thought materialises in a physical organ into "body and movement". Indeed every human function involves a physical organ and it would be foolish to think we could improve a function or alter a behaviour pattern without the organ being free, functional and differentiated in its movements.
From a pedagogical viewpoint
The way a pupil or patient moves (in other words their vocal, respiratory and articulatory behaviour for example) is always by definition the most appropriate way he has found within himself to react to a given stimulus and situation. It is dependent on a person's self-image. It is therefore not for me to say whether it is correct or incorrect but rather to hear, see and feel whether this function is in line with the singer's intention (in terms of producing the expression, colour of note and articulation desired) and whether this intention, whatever it may be, is clear.
If it is not, I examine how the different body parts and functions interrelate in order to determine where and why the limitation is taking place, causing the movement to be unsuccessful. What we can see as observers is often only the final result of a long string of uncoordinated processes which must be performed again if they are to be eliminated.
We then become guides in an experiment, in an adventure in a moving body, a nervous system, a mind, a voice. The work becomes an exchange of information between the pupil (who provides information through his behaviour and his outward appearance) and the teacher who, according to what he sees and hears, then also provides information at the right moment and in as clear a manner as possible. This occasions a new response, a fresh sensation...
Thus a richer and more complete self-image is created, enabling the pupil to more effectively and more expressively use his voice and body, and to make the most of his inexhaustible potential.
Let us also look at how to deal with a respiratory limitation
Firstly we must observe, without necessarily understanding, what is restricting the person, what it is in the physical organ where breath is produced which is stiffening and thus showing signs of constraint, what can be put down to habit, conditioning, and preconceived ideas... Then it is our job to suggest contexts and environments to him (situations, postures, activities) and to restore free movement to the body parts which form part of the respiratory system (ribs, sternum, spinal column, shoulder blades, abdominal wall, nasal passages...). Finally awareness and differentiation games will enable the person to see their basic needs more clearly and to unconsciously modify their respiratory response - a response which is continuously being reinvented and recreated to correspond to his needs, intentions, activities and emotional state.
You can not therefore develop a person's respiratory system by conditioning it to act in a particular way, but rather by :
- restoring freedom to the physical organ, and specifically to our body and its movements,
- return the nervous system to a state where it is ready to receive information from inside and outside the body,
- giving an appropriate response to the restriction. This can be achieved by controlling those movements which are responsible for it.
In order to do this the respiratory system must be cleared of set habits which each person unconsciously acquires during the course of his lifetime, and also of emotional fixations and techniques learnt (such as the "correct" way to breathe, without considering that the respiratory system functions differently in different people and in different situations).
How can we get rid of limitations, redevelop muscle sense and restore flexibility to the nervous system ?
We have seen that in order to make his central nervous system reach a degree of maturity which will enable him to stand upright and to articulate, the infant uses movement as part of a development process similar to that of the human race. Therefore in order to eliminate a habit and the limitations of a self-image which has been restricted and damaged by a person's life experiences, we will use these movements, these ancient evolutionary patterns, these principles of somatic learning and education - reawakening a person's interest and curiosity in his own body and giving him the freedom to coordinate his movements. During each session a movement and its many variations will be suggested as ways of differentiating attention, restoring choice, allowing a person to rediscover what freedom of movement, presence and sensorimotor coordination mean.
human race's extraordinary adventure is an ever
present wealth within us carrying freedom, choice
1)THE SINGING BEING
We are not dealing here with good or bad techniques, but with the notion of vocal, corporeal or breathing behaviour each of which is either adapted or unadapted to a given expression, a literary text, an acoustical context, a related situation, an intention, or even the spontaneity of the moment.
The different vocal techniques used throughout the world often correspond to a specific situation or context whether it be social, cultural, professional, religious or linked to habitat or climate. These techniques are then transmitted by oral tradition, initiation, learned transmission, or are an improvised attempt to adapt to circumstances, to a space, to a "here and now" creation.
A society is partially represented by its music (music of the language, the musical quality of the voice, music of the social, emotional and relational life). Music is an expression on many levels, of the characteristics of the group who create it : its morphology, geographic locality, its type of activity, the relationship with the animal and vegetable world and with the natural elements of water, earth, air and fire. It is also the expression of the type of relationship between individuals and of course the relationship between man and the supernaturel, i.e. religious feeling.
The freedom of a well-adjusted and genuine response
Singing is always the expression of these ethnic specificities. Primitive societies in which collective work is predominant (agriculture, hunting, fishing) and where social life flourishes, have developed collective singing, their activity expressed by the movements and rythms of the body, and linked to the environment and times of day. During these songs, every voice blends into the collective harmony.
Social evolution entailed the development of individuality and the development of representation and exchange between human groups. Singing followed this evolution and by branching out from the collective form of expression became more individual. Thus singing became representational, was used as a form of communication, a means of social and religious message.
The movement of the body and its projection in space, and from the surrounding environment. Song is now often inspired by emotion, or by a more cerebral aspect where voice becomes a permanent expression of what "I am", "me" as distinct, individual, needing to be attended to and taken care of. This is the expression or my person, its dilatations, retractions, limits and habits ; "singing" and "my voice" search for each other, upset each other, lose each other in their search of a "technique", a reassuring prop, a delimitation.
Never as today has the search for voice been so prevalent, as if it belonged to the intangible, to the realm of the unexpressed, as if it were a reality to be lived out at the instant of its existence, in the coherence of its production, in its truth as an adapted and authentic response to an external or exterior stimulus.
It is a question of finding out whether my body, my thoughts, my breathing are free to respond in an authentic and adapted way. It is not a question of trying to determine what is good or bad for my voice, of drawing up and endless list of things imperative or forbidden. For in many cases, the study of the different vocal techniques used throughout the world will only jeopardize the certainty as to the soundness of such and such a demarcated idea or concept.
I shall quote a few examples :
- the glottal catch used in many vocal traditions, such as in Northern Africa.
- The yodel of mountain folk with that fully attested passing of the voice from head to chest.
- The throat singing found in those countries where space must be crossed, as that of the singing of the Basque shepherds or of the Berbers.
- The strong tremolo in the singing of Korean women, which, under strong pressure, releases the larynx dynamically.
- The open throat of the Fado women singers, their faces like figureheads and their hands nervously fingering the traditional black shawl.
- The nasal singing of Southern Italian popular singers.
- The extreme depth of the voice in the Japanese tradition.
The singer in touch with its being
Each specific type of aesthetics conditions the art of singing and the manner in which it is used. A series of rules are subsequently set down according to which the singer develops and concentrates on certain aspects of the voice, often exclusively concerned with the resonance of the voice, its support, its muscular tone, and articulation.
If we take as an example the heritage of classical singing of the 19th century which if often claimed to have expressed the correct and healthy utilisation of the vocal organ and if pneumophonic dynamics, we can see that the specifications of classical singing might lead the singer to indulge in the exageration of a particular kind of muscular development, of specific bodily organisation and breathing dynamics, and to a use of resonance in its own right.
In my opinion this specificity is linked to :
- a search for homogeneity of timbre throughout the voice's tessitura, a point where many other sets of aesthetics would favour a change of register along with the development and expansion of harmonic areas chosen according to pitch.
- The possibility of performing a crescendo or a diminuendo on any note of the tessitura.
- The capacity to sing with equal roundedness and homogeneity all vowels on each note ; most vocal traditions choose certain vowels specifically for vocalizing, vowels whose openness and impact on the vocal chords are favourable for the production of sound thus allowing an acoustic realisation of the phenomenon.
The acquisition of any given technique within any given set of aesthetics, includes the true awareness of the body which is singing, the body ("my" body) used as an instrument with its structure, its mechanisms and its biodynamics. It also includes an awareness of the body's possibilities and limitations due to the configuration of the skeleton, which enables its movement, and finally of the functioning of the cerebral cortex (which governs the muscles).
There is also the discovery by sensation of the laws of physics (the field of mechanical gravitation of solids and fluids - the air column -) and of acoustic laws (the propagation of sounds, the development of harmonics...) characteristic of the environment in which one evolves and expresses oneself.
As Moshe Feldenkrais says in his work on "Conscious Awareness through Movement" : «each person regulates his behaviour, physically and mentally according to the image he has of himself» (conscious image and unconscious representation for the cortex). This image of the self is a corporeal image, with contours, with the relation between limbs and other areas of the body (relations of time and space), and with notions of spaces (which will become the breathing an resonance areas). This image is also an image of feeling, emotion and thought. The formation of the image comes about according to the evolution, education and personal history of the individual.
When striking an attitude, adopting a posture, bursting out in an expression of oneself, in vocal dynamics, each person presents a totally personal configuration which is felt to be the easiest, the most natural ; it is often felt as an impression of doing nothing in particular ("I'm not doing anything special", the student often says, "for me this is natural").
The usual configurations are therefore deeply imprinted in the nervous system which reacts to external stimuli with a ready answer, an attitude or habit, and is so often incapable of providing another answer in order to correspond to external reality, in other words, incapable of adapting to a given context, situation, acoustic, expression or intention.
It is a question of releasing the nervous system of its compulsive configurations by means of the dynamic change we are considering, and thus to allow for a mode of action and reaction dictated not by habit but a given situation.
There is no ideal jaw position
Let us take a concrete example to illustrate this theory : the position of the jaw and its dynamics for the "singer". Each individual presents an apparent, specific and usual morphology often criticised by the teacher ("don't clench your teeth", "don't open the jaw to that extent", "you're bringing the jaw too far forward and it is upsetting the voice", etc...). The jaw's position is linked to the state of relaxation, retraction of the muscles which attach the lower jaw to the neighbouring areas (upper jaw, clavicle, and sternum, the cervical region of the spine...).
This attitude can be a reaction (that is to say, a response of the moment to a relational and contextual situation i.e. a feeling of agression, the expression of anxiety), usual (corresponding to an image of the self brought about by the individual's history) or acquired (a particular configuration demanded by a specific technique after training where often there is imitation or modelling, or which is the fruit of learning).
If one considers on the one hand the acoustic laws which determine the development of harmonics and the propagation of sound, and on the other, the functional relation between the lower jaw and the larynx (that is to say, the source of vibration), it is obvious that there exists no ideal position of the jaw.
The position will be found to vary according to pitch, intensity, to the vowel sound pronounced and to the desired vocal colour. The lower jaw must at all times, and in every vocal situation, in its relation to the upper jaw, the larynx and the cervical region of the spine, define an equilibrium, adapted, harmonious and free.
This means that the nervous system in its capacity as the commanding organ, must be able to program a response adapted to the acoustic situation of the moment, to command the necessary muscular effort.
In order to do this, it must be freed of compulsive and habit-formed configurations, and relaxes (that is to say, free from syncinetic commands, unconscious and involuntary tension) and able to carry out a morphologically specific configuration. This presupposes an experimentation and memory-integration of a vast number of possibilities which can subsequently be associated in different ways thus enabling an adapted response to external stimuli. The richer one is in possibilities, the more chances we have of finding within oneself the required response. If one knows only one configuration, wether good or bad, habitual or acquired, the response will in most cases be unadapted, unharmonious and limited. It is only adapted behaviour, with minimum effort that will allow free expression, a harmonic richness of sound and the perfect definition of the vowel in clear and precise articulation.
Trying out an array of possibilities and listing out for the differences
If a student when singing has a physical attitude (for instance, the position of the jaw) which obviously impedes the emission of sound and of the harmonic quality of the vowel, I do not suggest some external model, another position of the jaw (a so-called "good position", a mould which he would have to train himself into in front of a mirror) ; but rather, try out with him a large number of possibilities for the position of his jaw and its relation to other areas of the body, all this while listening to the modification of his sound due to these morphological changes(including the unadapted attitudes which limit or impede), he can thus register the difference himself.
I would like to quote en Chinese proverb : "It is by exhausting every manner of walking crookedly that a man will end up by walking straight" ("straight" not in relation to an outside model, but in relation to himself at any given moment). This experimentation with no prior choices is the characteristic of a child's apprenticeship which leads him to maturity ; similarly, the student can rid his nervous system of fixed habits and create a new image of himself (in every area), a richer image, clearer and more complete. As we have already said, this image will then regulate behaviour until it becomes increasingly adapted and harmonious.
To develop the kinaesthetic sense
This preliminary work will also develop (an essential point) the kinaesthetic sense, in other words, the sense that a singer will have of what he is doing. The feedback of this information will enable him to regulate and modify his vocal and breathing activity at all times almost unconsciously ; thus he will be able to seek a new form of adaptation, a more effective equilibrium ; one more coherent as regards the requirements of the desired aesthetic goal.
The development of the kinaesthetic sense, the knowledge and comprehension, in practice, of its mechanisms, of all that the morphological and cerebral structure of man implies, including all that is the individual (habits, attitudes, all psycho-somatic reactions to environment and to other individuals) will lead the singer to greater autonomy in his evolution. The discovery of specific mechanisms linked to different aesthetics will provide him with greater espressivity and a clearer response to a clear intention. The readiness thus acquired leads to a greater adaptation at every moment for each vocal situation, which then leads the singer to a true authenticity of expression.
Exchange of information
Finally, from an educational point of view, the response of the student (i.e. his vocal behaviour, breathing and circulation) will always be the most adapted that he has found within himself when confronted with a stimulus or a suggested situation (according, as we have mentioned above, to the image the student has of himself). It is not a question of judging the response good or bad, but rather of listening, looking and sensing if this realisation is coherent according to the singer's intention (style, expression, colour and articulation), if the intention is clear, whatever it may be. If the coherence is lacking, I observe the relation between the different areas of the body and their functioning in order to try and determine where the trouble lies which leads him to failure. What we observe from the outside is often merely the end result of a series of disharmonius processes which must be unravelled in order to be discarded.
Teaching becomes a guide for experiment, for adventure into the body, the nervous system, the voice. Work becomes an exchange of information between the student (the information he gives by watching his own behaviour, his body) and the teacher who, according to all he has observed and heard, will in turn give information (the clearest information, at the "right" time) which will then motivate a new response, a new set of sensations...
Thus an image of the self is constructed, rich and full which will allow the singer to put to better use those wonderful instruments : the body and the voice.