I am blogging! But wait - blog has to be one of the uglier words recently invented. It is voiced in the mouth all the way from front to back: the bilabial plosive, through the lateral approximant, the open vowel, this chunky little word pops its cork on the velar plosive. It could be a caveperson’s word, it’s so…meaty?
I am no cavewoman, and in this www.world I am blogging to learn, and to offer. I have promised myself I’ll never stop learning. And I’ll never stop sharing what I am finding. I love immersing myself in the creative process of exploration and discovery. I recently did a workshop after the marvellous VASTA conference in Singapore, learning about Knight-Thompson Speechwork.
In ‘Speaking with Skill’, Dudley Knight’s provocative introduction sets out Principles ‘– Perhaps’ for engagement. Among them: ‘It is always interesting and useful to learn how to put more activity into speech actions. It is also interesting and useful to learn how to do less. Getting stuck anywhere is never interesting.’ A million miles away from being didactic, his statements are both inspirational and provocative, a real invitation to sensitise ourselves to what we do instinctively when we speak, to open up to possibility and potential.
The course deconstructed the speech movements that we take for granted, and pushed back the boundaries of what is possible in making sound. We explored the oral and pharyngeal (mouth and throat) structures available to us. We tested resonance and places of articulation. This culminated in mapping all feasible sounds on a phonetic chart – a much more expanded chart than we are used to seeing. We were sampling uvular and pharyngeal sounds that we don’t hear in our language, including the pops and clicks heard in Southern and East African languages. (The only language with such sounds outside Africa belonged to the Lardil people of Mornington and Wellesley Islands off Queensland, North Australia. They used similar sounds in the ceremonial and moribund Damin language.)
The Knight-Thompson work has really impressed me – it is a very inclusive, rather than exclusive way to explore voice and accents, encompassing all the sounds that are humanly possible, and focusing on growing the actor’s awareness of how and where different sounds are made.
The impact of this is training is to make the actor or voice student much more aware of the range of choices available to them in articulation and resonance, in order to access different accents. It’s both sensuous and precise, bold and detailed. I loved it. I learnt new skills in voice, accent and dialect coaching and that I can pass on to my students, skills which also enhance my own speaking pleasure.
If you haven’t encountered it yet, here is a link to a master KTS teacher, Erik Singer, using his skills of specificity and analysis to critique a range of accents in popular movies. On the second time through – because I am sure you will want a second helping, take time to appreciate Erik’s own vocality. He’s a great example of a well placed Standard General American accent, and of pleasurable precision in speech.
As Dudley Knight wrote ‘Complexity nourishes art. Reduction of the complexity of speech choices reduces the art.’ Thankyou Dudley. More about the SGA and other accents, the VASTA conference and voice, accent and dialect coaching in future blogs.
Ka kite anō