The Alexander Technique and Body Mapping a Strategy for Voice Teachers and Choral Directors
Pearson, Kathy Shay
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Fine Arts and Communication
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The Alexander Technique and Body Mapping are invaluable additions to vocal studio and choral settings. Understanding the places of balance and the proper use of the body will allow the voice to sing with freedom, resonance and clarity. Frank Pierce Jones explained the Alexander Technique during a lecture given at the Indiana University School of Music, Bloomington, Indiana on March 10, 1975 as follows: "The Alexander Technique is a method for getting rid of, (inhibiting) unwanted habit patterns that interfere with smooth performance – not just musical performance but any performance. For the performer it is a method for using kinesthetic cues – the sensations of tensions, effort, weight and the like – in order to organize his field of awareness in a systematic way, so as to take in the whole of what he is doing instead of just a part, and to accomplish what he aims to do without unwanted side effects." (Jones, 1975) In her book, Voice and the Alexander Technique, Jane R Heirich delineates what the technique is and is not: "The Alexander Technique is not about release of tension per se, but about efficiency of muscle use (i.e. the appropriate use of the appropriate muscles for whatever is the task at the moment). It is not a relaxation technique, but about balanced strength, coordination, and ease of movement… It is not about learning deep-breathing exercises, but about relearning the elasticity of the entire thorax and of the muscles involved in breathing. It is not posture as a static concept, but about dynamic poise in movement…” (Heirich, 2005) Barbara Conable describes body awareness as essential to good singing. Body awareness comes through our kinesthetic sense. Kinesthetic sensations come from special sense organs in our muscles. Kinesthetic along with auditory and visual information comprise our inclusive awareness, which contains all the information needed. In her book What Every Musician Needs to Know about the Body: The Practical Application of Body Mapping to Making Music, she describes the Alexander Technique as: "…a simple and practical method for improving ease and freedom of movement, balance, support, flexibility and coordination. It provides a means whereby the use of a part – a voice, or an arm or a leg – is improved by improving the use of the whole body, indeed, the whole self." (Conable, 2000) James McKinney has written about the Alexander Technique in his book, The Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults: A manual for teachers of singing and for choir directors. "In recent years a system for establishing proper posture and freeing the body, mind and emotions to function as a unified whole has gained wide acceptance. It is known as the Alexander Principle… A practitioner who is trained in this system can solve many of the problems of alignment…" (McKinney 1994) This paper will provide voice instructors and choral directors with specific information on the use of the Alexander Technique and Body Mapping for private studio instruction and choral rehearsals resulting in the attainment of optimum performance.