Thursday, November 24, 2011

All Voice Begins with Vibration

I started blogging a few months ago by sharing communication tips and strategies gleaned from workshops and classes I’ve taught over the years. I’m shifting the focus of my blog to discoveries I’m making about the interface of communication and culture.

My Singing Bowl
A few weeks ago I purchased a beautiful gold-colored bowl, 12 inches in diameter, forged of seven metals, and made by artisans in a small village in the Himalayas.  Such bowls are called singing bowls, or sometimes Tibetan bells, because of the amazing sounds they produce when struck. 

My bowl has helped me “tune in” to the essence of sound – a vibration set in motion by a “mover,” and “received” by the “antenna” of our ears and entire body.  Whether I strike my bowl with a wooden implement or roll the striker around the bowl’s circumference, the complexity of sound is beautiful and mesmerizing.  

All voice begins with vibration

Anthropologists and linguists have debated for centuries the interrelationship between the speech patterns developed by cultures, and the natural sounds they heard in their environments and eventually imitated with their voices and musical instruments. What, for example, led the peoples of Tibet and Himalayan India to forge metals from their mountainous homes into bowls that could produce such a range of captivating sound? And how did the bowls themselves alter the pitch, intensity, and range of the speech of those very people who created them?

Physicists explain that the human voice begins as vibratory energy produced by the complex forces of our body’s organs on molecules of air. Such vibrations become spoken voices because of factors unique to each body, as well as to learned factors of pitch, breathing, resonance, articulation, etc. Cultures impose their own “likes” upon speech, so that a particular pitch, cadence, and intonation become favored. Musical instruments and objects come to complement that range of voices dominant in a particular culture.

Each voice is unique

When I coach people on how to speak clearly or present more effectively in meetings, I am aware of some of the cultural or geographical influences that forge familiar patterns of speech (i.e. accent). I also am interested in discovering how a person’s voice projects his or her personality. Each voice contains within those molecules of vibrating air the potential to express itself in an individual way. When we speak of a person having “a voice,” we mean more than simply vibration and accent; we hear the person’s essence in the timbre and intensity of the words conveyed in speech.   

The goal of coaching or training, therefore, is not try to change that vibrating, molecular-level essence of the person’s unique voice. Rather, it is to help the person fully utilize the instruments of sound available in his/her body to form words, express thoughts, and evoke responses that we then call communication.

I give thanks for my bowl

Today, Thanksgiving Day, I will “play” my beautiful bowl, an instrument uniquely different from all the other bowls in the little shop where I bought it. I give thanks for its harmonics originally forged and valued by the cultures of the Himalayas. I give thanks for the lessons it’s teaching me about the human voice. 

Note: A helpful book for those interested in singing bowls is Singing Bowl Handbook: Singing Bowls - Tingshaws - Bell - Dorje


No comments:

Post a Comment