Anatomy of Voice
How to enhance and project your best voice
by Calais-Germain and Germain
A review by David Delaney, MA, CAR, LPC- Certified Advanced Rolfer®
Singing Voice Trainer & Therapist
This book is a gold mine for an experienced singer but more especially for those who teach voice and quite comprehensive in its scope. The drawings are wonderful, they represent real people in real situations, and is well organized. On the back cover, it is suggested that this book is for singers, teachers, actors, lawyers, politicians, or workshop leaders and offers that “this book reveals how understanding your vocal anatomy enables you to express your best voice”. I am sure that this is true to a degree.
It is organized in a very intelligent way, starting with the vocal apparatus, and then looks at the skeleton. It introduces what is known as the ‘generators’ of voice, the larynx, the vocal tract, and finally specific language used in the vocal education professions. From the very beginning, it is an education in itself about the body and structure, and voice production.
A singer myself and someone who has worked over 3 decades with professional singers, I am always left scratching my head when I hear it announced that there is no actual vocal apparatus. This book states that the voice is an event that cannot be broken down and that it is the entire body and more that makes up our voice. I have no contradiction with this statement, that we use our entire body when speaking and singing. But I must insist that there is a vocal apparatus and a human expression system. Yes, our organism is a complex, adaptive system and follows the laws of non-linear reality just as Dr. Rolf taught us with the example of the phase shift or state change that occurs when energy is added to fascia and gel transforms to sol, and so on.
Our human organism follows the principles of non-linear reality which means that there is an unpredictability within the interaction of systems. So, even though my tongue has other functions, if is still part of my vocal apparatus, and has evolved to allow complex and highly nuanced communication that has allowed us to ultimately build society and culture. Our highly complex system of the ear (vestibular and cochlear system) has multiple functions, yet we would never say that it is not a discrete system for hearing and listening (as well as kinesthesia and balance, cortical recharge, vocalization control and so on).
Nevertheless, this book is inspiring for the serious voice student, voice educator or professional who uses their voice in their work, with its numerous drawings of individuals using their voice in various postures and situations.
Any book such as this one is also limited in how far it can take a serious student of voice based on my 40 years as a singer, therapist for singers, and voice trainer. This is because it is unable to demonstrate between the difference in the speech function in the front of the mouth that must be kept independent from the vibratory event that happens in the pharynx, between larynx and spinal column (and that is the primary way that we ‘feel’ our own voice). If you put these two functions together because of a acquired family habits or based on a regionalism, accident or injury, unresolved systemic trauma or just plain misguided training, you can miss the exponential event that happens when these two apparently separate functions transform into one event (that is greater than the sum of the two systems).
For most singers who are serious about uncovering and utilizing their natural voice, which is often inhibited in the process of socialization when we are children, generally only an experienced vocal trainer or teacher, Tomatis® practitioner (I am certified) or incredible Rolfer® or any intervention that can renormalize the body/psyche can help you reverse tendencies that are acquired unconsciously.
Beautiful anatomy pictures, a tremendous overview of the physiology of voice production.
Interesting that she is both a dancer and physical therapist. I have found in my working with professional dancers that there can sometimes be a split between their movement function and their voice (Gene Kelly had a serious glottal fry). The voice function often must be integrated with someone capable of doing this, who can help them use their respiratory/pharyngeal/bucal space function in a more effective and precise manner.
Learning that singing demands the least amount of breath is not easy in the early stages of vocal training since we are often used to over-exerting when we begin to sing, especially in front of others. This use of force (panic state that I can measure using the EEG) in the vocal process reduces the full range of the voice exponentially and limits its range and full spectrum of possibilities. This level of understanding cannot be transmitted in such a book, given what we now know about learning and the mirror neurons. Kinesthetic learning is primarily about learning person to person. In other words, it wasn’t what Dr. Rolf, or our Rolfing instructor said about Rolfing, so much as it was how they were and what she did while Rolfing that really counted in our learning development as Rolf Practitioners.
This book will remain in my voice education library and is useful to me because I already learned the effective and necessary fine motor skills for singing via teacher-to-student transmission, and the anatomy alone is helpful in clarifying what motor/muscles skills are needed by those I am passing on my experience as a singer to.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in furthering their knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the human vocal system.