Equally, I’ve been thinking a lot about why the voice community, over so many centuries, has developed a belief that each person has a singular voice. The notion doesn’t even hold to the way that the same voice community has habilitated voices, but certainly influences their approaches to habituation. When vocalists are asked to regularly make changes, tradition has it, that those changes act toward the end of fulfilling the “natural” voice of the vocalist. Yet, this sets up a false paradigm, one that can be logically and emotionally challenging.
A vocalist is told “you have a natural voice, one that is beautiful and artful”, but, they are then told “you need me, the voice instructor, to help you understand that voice and how to make it work, and now I'm going to change you.” What paradigms have been established here?
- The vocalist has a beautiful, artful instrument. A lovely thought, but also one that seems like a false promise, since…
- The vocalist needs someone else to help them get to that beauty and artistry, in fact, they need someone to change them, which….
- Leads them to begin to wrestle with questions of blame like….
- “Why am I not able to hear the beauty and artistry if it’s there?”, or
- “Why don’t other people tell me my voice is beautiful?”, or
- “Since I can’t hear it, what if other people tell me it’s bad, and shatter the hope that I might one day find it, even with help?!” and
- “What if I never find it? What will that say about me?!”
- "Must I always depend upon praise or condemnation from others to know whether I'm fulfilling my natural voice?"
- "Why do I have to change it all the time if it's natural?" etc.
And, each change that the instructor asks of the vocalist seems somehow to undermine the vocalists belief in themselves since:
They already have strongly habituated vocal practices (as we all do) that are emotionally attached to their sense of self, which is fed by those practices.
The changes they are being asked to make fundamentally alter the way they feel when they phonate, and therefore, how they feel about themselves.
Now, this paradigm might be a little less significant if we were told that there were a natural way to hold your fork, for example, and the fork holder were instructed to manipulate that tool in their fingers. The change would still be noticed emotionally, but not as critically defining. But we’re talking about the human voice. It’s our primary communication tool, the place where our emotional, autonomic nervous, and sensory motor systems collide, the very source of many people’s identity, whether they realize it or not, and a huge part of everyone’s identity map.
Yet, it doesn’t come from just anywhere. We do identify as our voices. We integrate how our voice feels into our sense of self, we rely on how we sound, and we believe that, as with anything that is essential to our identity, our voice is a reflection of who we are. And here’s the kicker. . .most of us believe that who we are simply IS. We, by “nature” are statically “us”. This thought guides our understanding of self, faith, community, geo-politics, you name it, and so. . .
Might we start to understand the world as a place where we feel the confidence of stasis, while recognizing the ever-present elements of change?
That we can at once have a functioning, habilitated voice, and believe that we have the capacity to learn how it can function in different ways?
And might this help guide humanity to an understanding of self and community that might just, who knows, lead to the end of
That if we can appreciate people for who they are, and believe that we all have have the capacity to learn how to function together in different, ever-changing, ways, then why would we see death and destruction as a viable outlet?
There are multiple ways to get to any vocal solution, and multiple ways to mimic any action.
The key is believing that we can habituate different sounds that can then become our new “natural”. If you want to sound like JFK, Bobcat Goldthwait, and Loretta Lynn all in the same sentence, you can, and they, too, can sound like you (the living ones, at least)! It’s possible because our voices are that amazing. It might not be easy, but it’s doable. Yet, on the way, you may equally choose habituation paths that lead you to a “stuck” feeling, because, the amazingness of the human voice comes at the price of profound complexity.
If we ignore that we need to understand our voice as emotionally ours, we have ignored the essence of identity, and become little more than mimics.