My writings on voice and the mind & body
Carol Grimes. © Dynamics. THE HUMAN VOICE
To describe a person as having a dynamic personality, or a performer as being dynamic would indicate energy, passion, movement and expression.
On a written score, the signs that specify the music be played very softly or very loudly, are the symbols or directions the musician reads in order to be able to interpret the so-called ‘dynamic range’ of the composer’s music, part of the map, alongside the melody, harmony and tempo.
Dynamics, however, go deeper than the degrees of loudness and are far more than the marks on a score. A singer is in essence, the Dunamikos – from the Greek, meaning powerful, a carrier of the word, and behind the word lays all emotion, a direct line of communication with others.
The voice is the first and primary means of interlocution and disclosure and it is with our voice that we speak: – we sing, we cry, howl, laugh and weep; we croon and roar, whisper and moan.
To sing with heart, and to produce a dynamic performance, is more than simply acquiring good vocal technique, and far more than a collection of sung notes. To sing with your whole voice is to embody the whole person. Finding the many voices that lie within all of us is the way to fully realising the power and passion inherent in the human voice.
A song is also a story, a tale told, and in order that the words hold meaning, the singer must feel the song and communicate that to the audience. If the song is telling a story of yearning or of elation, then surely the audience must share in that emotion, be witness to the story. If your song is one of pain, then your fully released voice expresses that pain.
The song should be truthful; sung with an understanding of that which the song is conveying. If the lyric means nothing to you the singer, then the song is not for you. Melody, harmony, lyrics and rhythm are the foundations, but the song will need the emotional input from the singer in order to exist as a dynamic rendition and an eloquent and inspiring performance.
The body contains the voice, and therefore the body is involved in this presentation of song or story. It is within the calligraphy of the body, the human map, that the history of our lives is stored as memory.
Memory is not only the narrative it is also materialised through sensations and feelings. Words are not applicable here. Not nearly enough. It is from this deep well of memory that we can draw upon our emotions, investing the songs with vitality and significance, thus finding the authentic realisation of the song and its relationship to us both as singers and an audience.
A tense tightly held body resistant to the music, operating purely from the head, fighting the pulse and rhythm and denying access to the emotions, will result in a singing voice using only a fraction of its potential, and a delivery that has limited dynamic range. The message will be contrived and empty; a shallow performance.
In trusting the natural motion of voice and body, a compelling performance can be accomplished. To sing in a way that transmits only an educated singing technique and a polished and rehearsed repertoire, will impart a mere fraction of the singer’s potential.
To sing with emotional commitment is a courageous and sometimes exposing experience, but one which is rewarded by the connection that one has made with the spectators, and the exhilaration of being at one with the music, and your heart and soul. Living in the music.
Vocal dynamics, therefore, are the total embodiment of voice, soul and body; singing from a place of spontaneity and truth; connecting with the inner self, and flying with your voice in full allegiance with your persona in all of its unique temperaments.
Nervousness will often stand as a sentry, guarding the gateway, through which one must pass to personify an uninhibited and integrated performance. The stories of singers, who have confessed to anxiety and insecurity before going onstage to face an audience, are numerous, and yet many of those same singers overcame these apprehensions when in the flow of a performance. Once the music ‘takes them.’ Dr.Footlights etc.
It is crucial for professional singers, actors, in fact, anyone who uses voice in a public way to find the resources within themselves in order to fully focus in on the voice in the body, and in doing so, avoiding the suppression of the full dynamic range of the voice. To stand in fear and rigidity will produce a rigid and fearful vocal delivery, obscuring all that is on the inside, and concealing the full voice lying in wait underneath the nervousness. Breathing into the songs; inhabiting the melody, the lyrics and the rhythm, a singer has the ability to create a whole vocal orchestra. A song can speak of tenderness and of anger, of humour and of hurting, and the human voice can whisper and holler, playing with the cadence, dancing with the melody, and intonating the full range of emotional possibility, bringing the songs to life.
Investing the songs with your understanding and presence will bring the responses to you as a singer that will complete the circle that is the singer the song and the audience. The involvement of the whole voice is an experience that can be stimulating, dynamic and fulfilling. The joy that I have found in singing lies in the pursuit of the truthful utterance of ‘Who I am and what I feel.’ I have found in my singing voice a path towards being entirely myself. We are what we sing.
Everyone suddenly burst out singing.
I was filled with such delight, as prisoned birds must find in freedom winging wildly across the white Orchards and dark green fields;
on, on, and out of sight.
Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted, and beauty came like the setting sun.
My heart was shaken with tears, and horror drifted away.
Oh, but everyone was a bird;
and the song was endless,
and the singing will never be done.