Saturday, April 7, 2007

Tuning the Sacred Harp: Voice Lesson #2

Those of you who have been practicing that bit from The Bard are probably quite tired of it by now. Good, we can move on to applications.

Our voices, like our visages, are the most intimate parts of ourself. People are oftentimes skittish about being photographed or taped. Many of us don't recognize our own voices on tape. Ventriloquism is closely tied to magic and medicine in lots of cultures: A voice originating out of nowhere is downright spooky. Mediums around the world, Western, Chinese and other could throw their voices with the same skill Edgar Bergen had in carrying on a "conversation" with Charlie McCarthy.

Should you find your own voice unpleasant, there are steps you can take to corrrect this. Some years ago I worked as a TDD (telecommunications for the deaf) relay operator for Washington State. To put it mildly, my voice was unlistenable after an hour or so. I fell into a strategy that worked then that's applicable to self-culture in esotericism:

I selected three or four other TDD relay operators who had voices that people liked. I would find a vacant work station near enough to them to listen during times I was not on a call. One operator, Miss Fricke, radiated what I can only describe as "Grandmother" energy. Listening to her speak, even reading off a mailing address made one think of fresh oatmeal cookies, pies gently cooling in the kitchen window, parties and low key vacations. What amazed me was how well this worked over the phone. The TDD relay service was quite new to the public at that time (1991), and Miss Fricke's voice put suspicious voice callers at ease almost instantly. Gosh, who would be rude enough to interrupt a Grandmother? Not me, and certainly not very many of the recipients of her relay calls either. Her voice was disarming, gentle, and interesting.

Another relay operator, Jim, was from Arkansas. His voice was an exemplar of the best speakers of that particular dialect: His tones were slow, measured, and relaxed. He didn't sound like a salesman, which got the attention of the voice callers who might have otherwise concluded that a relayed call was some sort of sales pitch.

A third operator, April, had almost perfect timing when reading text and typing to calling parties. It didn't sound like she was straining to breathe amidst all that speaking.

After a period of study and application, I improved my own voice. Did I sound like any of my three role models? No, not really. What I got was my voice, improved.

Here's how this applies to esotericism: Lots and lots of folks in Hermetic groups try to memorize passages for use in ritual, spitting the words out from between their teeth with a single breath. What almost all of them need to do is s l o w down and listen for the rhythmn of the passage.

You will need a written or typed copy of your chosen passage, printed large enough to read without straining. You will also need the glass marbles so you can practice with them in your mouth.

Here's one way to start:

1.Find the corner of a room where you can be undisturbed for twenty or thirty minutes a day.

2. Place a rock or shiny object in the corner opposite the one you are standing in.

3. Find a prayer, poem or bit of dialog that you find meaningful.

4. Declaim this passage to the rock or shiny thing. Think of your words as waves on the sea, rising and falling against the object. Remember that in Delsarte Voice culture, the words spoken are inferior to the power that animates them. Think of your words as an expression of a state of consciousness or thought that you hold.

Lots of voice instructors would encourage you to video tape or record your exercises. Not here! People are sufficiently self-conscious. The learning process should not produce anxiety in the student. Once you have some confidence with this one passage, prayer or speech, find someone you trust, and recite it to them.

Projection should NOT be confused with volume. Clarity and listenability are not the same thing as a loud, irritating voice. Enunciate, pause, think. Voice originates from the breath, which begins inside your torso at your diaphragm. In 19th century esotericism and high occultism this region, the solar plexus, was considered the energy center of an organism, so in effect, your speech comes from the heart.

Here's an example of one prayer you might find useful for this:


Make me an instrument of Thy Peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Wtere there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkenss, light;
Whtere there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,

Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.

It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

St Francis of Assisi

Here's a speech that I consider vital for Hermeticists and other ritualists: It is in effect, a "get out of jail free" speech that is good to preface and/or end a ceremony with.

Original language first, close kin to early, Republican Roman Latin:

Dei Grabouie

orer ose persei ocre fisie pir

orto est

toteme Iouine arsmor dersecor

subator sent

pusei neip heritu.

Dei Grabouie

persei tuer perscler uaseto est
pesetomest peretomest
frosetomest daetomest
tuer perscler uirseto auirseto

uas est. . .

This is from the Iguvine Tablets, an early and important source on Roman ritual.

And here's the English--you can remove Jupiter Grabovius and add whoever might be appropriate for your circumstances:

"Jupiter Grabovius, if on the Fisian mount fire has arisen, or if in the nation of Iguvium the owed preparations have been omitted, let it be as if they had been made."

"Jupiter Grabovius, if in your sacrifice there has been any flaw, any defect, any ritual violation, any fraud, any error, if in your sacrifice there is a flaw, either seen or unseen. . . "

For the next voice lesson we'll get into some classical Delsarte acting exercises and then apply them to floor work in a lodge. Until then, practice, practice,practice!

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