Thursday, February 8, 2007

Tools For Druid Comrades--voice instructions

Vocal Exercises I

For this exercise you'll need the following items:

A comfortably warm room
Loose clothing
A glass of warm water with lemon juice (half a beer or ONE glass of wine 30 minutes before this exercise is also recommended if you drink)
A print out of this portion of the document
A telephone
A set of new, disposable ear plugs (the kind you'd buy before going to an Anthrax concert, not the sort for swimming)
Half a pound of teardrop, fingertip sized glass beads or marbles. Wash these thoroughly and rinse them in running water for five minutes. Place these in a clean plastic bag and put them to one side. (This is your second piece of altar equipment.)

As discussed in previous installments, vocalization is a skill central to the practice of high occultism. It is through the medium (that word again!) of voice that most of our communication happens. There are manifestations around the voice that define identity and create mystery as well. Ventriloquists in most non-Western countries are mediums, or some other category of spiritual expert. Compounding this is the fact that prior to recording technology, very few people could recognize their own voice. We don't sound the way we think we do. Speech and singing are means of expression that can alter physiology and perceptions, and not merely our own.

Here's the first warm-up exercise:

Swallow an ounce or so of lemon water, slowly. Cough once or twice. Deeply inhale. Close your eyes and listen to the dial tone of a phone. Now hum along with this for a few seconds.

This is the foundation of most vocal music, excepting Mongolian and other non-western vocal performance artists. If you can hum along with the dial tone you can learn to chant powerfully.

This is the first bit that you'll attempt. Read through it s l o w l y. Now, speak it slowly. Listen for the natural breaks in the piece that allow for a quick stop and a breath. Try this two or three times.

"Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you -- tripping on the tongue; but if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as Leif the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently; for in the very torrent, tempest, and as I may say, the whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness."

Now go back to this piece, fix your eyes at head height on the wall that you are facing, and open your mouth wider while speaking this again. Do this three times.

This is where concentration comes in. Think about the acoustics of speech and singing. Humans are analogous to a stereo speaker with one driver (the voice box) and a resonant cavity (the torso) with a variable diaphragm.

For the next part of this exercise you'll need to work on feeling more than speaking. It is time to feel the speech. Listen to the dial tone until you can hear it in your head without listening to the sound. Put the ear plugs back in.

Now, repeat the selection from Hamlet again. Sense how your torso and air spaces in your throat and head respond to this bit. Repeat this several times until you are comfortable with your ability to sense the movement of your torso as you speak and the way that the air spaces vibrate.

Take out the ear plugs for this next section.

"Project damn it, project!" --My 8th grade diction coach

Take a really deep breath or two. You won't be screaming, but your goal is to face the farthest wall from yourself and strike a point on the wall at eye level with your voice. Speak deliberately with crispness. (If you need a model for this, go over to the BBC radio website and listen to the announcers for an hour or so.) Repeat this six or seven times.

Improving the power of the voice

Dipping into one of the traditional bags of tricks from classical academia, here's how to apply the method of Demosthenes, a Greek orator with a stutter. He trained his diction and voice by putting pebbles in his mouth and trying to speak over the sound of a waterfall. Here's the at-home version:

Put four or five of the cleaned glass beads into your mouth. Do not swallow!

Facing the wall as before, speak this speak again, I pray you. Repeat as needed, but not to the point of mental or physical exhaustion.

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