The Truth about Vocal Transformation

One of my greatest blessings are the readers of this blog that connect with me to chat vocal technique and share resources. Edward Foreman is an author that has come to my awareness through Roger Bryant, a loyal reader and supporter.

Roger connected me to Foreman’s work, and I have been in love with it ever since. Foreman’s ideas are inspiring and he captures much of the essence of what I am striving for in my own singing and teaching.

Foreman has written eloquently on vocal transformation in a way that I must share. I’m quoting from his book Transformative Voice, a true gem in vocal pedagogy if you can find it in your university library.

 

Transformative Voice suggests a deep connection here between change, i.e. Transformation, and the Voice in all its definitions and meanings.

For the moment, let’s be content with the following:

  • The Voice is the most direct, accessible and meaningful route to Transformation, to coming home, to the resolution of inner conflict.
  • Conversely, Transformation is the most direct, accessible and meaningful route to finding the Voice with which Nature endowed us at birth.
  • The study of Voice represents the most intense form of the Hero’s Journey, which is always one of inner discovery, revelation and enlightenment.

Can we have the one without the other? The likelihood of a free and expressive Voice without inner freedom and something positive to express is contradictory. Why we would be content with such half measures, why we would try to communicate from a base of conflict and turmoil, is no mystery; this is the movement of the ego, which is a creature of the intellect. Many of us continue to be bound by our egos, afraid to relinquish the familiar pain and frustration whose conquest symbolizes victory and success.

We engage in a war with ourselves which we can’t win, and in which we’re constantly taking prisoners who turn out to be us. Why do we work so hard at something that is essentially so simple?

Transformation is simple, but it’s not easy; partly because the simple is always difficult for those who are smart enough to walk and chew gum at the same time. We mistrust the obvious, the delicate, the direct, the gentle and unforced.

The same is true of the Voice. We seem to feel an obligation to make the Voice come forth, to make it behave, to master it. We have an overactive sense of responsibility. If someone tells us we have a large Voice, we force to make sure it is large. We distance ourselves from the Voice and reveal our fear and mistrust. We try to control the Voice – the expression of the Soul – by a movement of the will alone – which is the intellect in action – which is never to be trusted.

The true simplicity of the process is illustrated by the ease with which some faults can be corrected, releasing tears of joy. Long ago I began to keep a box of tissues on my piano for those moments when an interference suddenly broke free, resulting in torrents of relief.

For the overly earnest learner, it’s sometimes necessary to remind him that after all is said and done, one must just do it. There is no “how,” no trick, no particular “way” to untie this knot. Take your sword firmly in hand, and cut it. It worked for Alexander the Great, and it’s much simpler than being stuck with “technique.” In doing the physical things which count, thought interferes when it asks “How” and “Why” questions, which are irrelevant. The martial arts practitioner who asks these questions while breaking boards will break his hand instead.

What will the vocalist break? Nothing, because where these questions are present, nothing real is present to be broken; it’s all garbage.

Vocal freedom is not a “what.”

It is the absence of any “what” or “how” or “why.”

It is the audible pure ground of Being,

about which there really is nothing at all to say. 

Foreman, Edward. Transformative Voice. Pro Musica Press, 1998.

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