Voice in the Pelvic Bowl

This step follows hard on the the previous one, Breath in the Pelvic Bowl. If you haven't read that one yet, be sure to go back and do so now.

To quickly recap, in the last post, we were breathing down to the pelvis, imagining it to be like a ceramic bowl that was quite dirty, and we used breath to metaphorically clean it up. (That's not to say that there is anything wrong with a dirty pelvis, nudge nudge, wink wink…). By swirling the image of breath around in our pelvises, we've discovered that this terra cotta bowl is lined with tarnished silver, and so now we need to use our voices, as polish to bring the shine back.

brassoSo with some metaphorical vocal Brasso, we'll rub the inside of the boney bowl of the pelvis. First, let's dust off any residue that might be there, a little dust that might have collected overnight, with a clean cloth with a gentle /fffff/ sound. Let that sound sustain, and imagine that each incoming breath spreads your dusting cloth on the bowl and then, with the /f/ sound, you wipe the inside clean.

Now, let's add some brasso silver polish to that, bringing the damp cloth to the surface of your bowl with an inhalation, and then wiping the inside of the bowl, circling around and round on /vvvvvv/. Let the sound be deep and rich and resonant. You should feel a buzziness on your lower lip. You may find a certain pitch works well to do this, or you can experiment on different pitches. As the sound warms up, and the inside of your bowl begins to shine, you may feel a richer vibration in your lip, chest, throat and face.

There is a kind of bell used by Tibetan monks and many people who do meditation called a Da Qing bell, or bowl bell. This bowl bell is rung by a little stick wrapped in leather, and it resonates as you run the stick around the inside of the bell. Some bells are made of metal, and some are made of glass or crystal. Let's imagine that this bowl we've discovered in our pelvises is one of these bowl bells, and that by sounding our bells, we let our voices ring out. First, explore the idea of ringing your pelvic bowl on an open "uh" (IPA [ʌ] ) sound. Let each breath be a different note or pitch — unlike a real bowl bell, our pelvic bowl-bell can resonante on any pitch that we are inspired to make. Try a number of different pitches, changing with each breath.

I find that the most effective exploration of this bowl-bell is to imagine dropping thoughts, feelings or images into the bowl, and letting the bowl resonate through me, radiating the vibrations of the bell through my body and out into space. It's as if I'm sharing my image, thoughts or feelings with the world. You might even let your imagination go wild, moment to moment, following your own lead, to randomly pick images that occur to you. They might be people from your past, loved ones, places you know and miss, or images from nature. (Really, they can be anything at all. Just give yourself permission to conjure up the image as vividly as possible, and let it affect you, and put that emotional energy onto sound.) For each thought, find the right vowel sound to go along with it. Perhaps you'll use the vowel that is found in the word that inspires you: Leaf could either be conveyed on the "ee" (IPA [i] ) vowel, or any other vowel that conveys its essence to you. And then your next image, say of a Lake, could be conveyed by the "ey" vowel [eɪ]. Keep exploring, and keep anchoring the images into the core of your body, breathing down into the bowl of your pevlis, and watch the images swirl into life in you.


Next Step: Exploring Upper Range

Eric Armstrong is the voiceguy. Eric is a dialect, voice, speech and text coach based in Toronto, Canada, where he normally teaches full-time at York University’s Dept. of Theatre. Eric has been teaching voice for the actor full-time since 1994, and has taught in Canada and the US, at the University of Windsor, Brandeis University, Roosevelt University, Canada's National Voice Intensive and York University. He has worked for nationally and internationally recognized companies such as Crow’s Theatre, Volcano, SoulPepper, & Canadian Stage in Toronto, and The Court Theatre and Steppenwolf in Chicago. Eric holds a BFA from Concordia University (Montreal) in Theatre Performance, and an MFA from York University (Toronto) in Acting. His mentors were David Smukler (York, Canada’s National Voice Intensive) and Andrew Wade (Royal Shakespeare Company). He has also studied at the Drama Studio, London, and Il Stage Internazzionale di Commedia dell’Arte in Reggio Emilia, Italy. He’s a long time member of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association, where he has served on the board, as a conference planner, photo editor for the Voice and Speech Review, Founding Director of Technology and Internet Services, and has written numerous peer-reviewed articles, essays and reviews for the VASTA Newsletter, the VASTA Voice, and The Voice and Speech Review.

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